Sociology as a Science

  • Created by: Ben1230
  • Created on: 31-03-18 10:23


  • Sociology should emulate the methods and procedures of natural sciences.
  • Human behaviour can be studied objectively.
  • Focus on measurable and observable behaviour to establish correlations between social variables.
  • Measure the impact of external stimuli to establish general laws of human behaviour.
  • Empricism.
  • Reject interactionism as 'unscientific guesswork.'
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Positivism and research methods

  • Copy natural sciences to establish cause and effect.
  • Replicable and reliable.
  • Kept as value free as possible.
  • Lab experiments ,but is hard to replicate when studying culture.
  • Questionnaires, Structured Interviews and Official Statistics.
  • Quantitative data.
  • Closed questions.
  • objective
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Karl Popper

  • Scientific knowledge is open to the principle of falsification which means it can be tested.
  • Must be operationalised.
  • Science nor sociology can provide the final truth as it only takes one piece of evidence to overturn the truth.
  • Sociologists should aim to be open to falsification, but its predictions are too vague and inprecise. 
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  • Reject the postivist view that human behaviour is due to external facts.
  • They propose the idea of social actors where people negoiate reality on a moment to moment basis.
  • Interpretation and re-interpretation.
  • cannot be studied by inanimate objects.
  • Meaning and motive uncovered through qualitative data.
  • Verstehen.
  • Cannot uncover meaning and motives through positivism.
  • Favour ethnographic techniques, like observation and unstructured interviews.
  • Increases validity.
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Thomas Kuhn

  • Kuhn argued that science is rarely as objective as it says it is and challenges the view that scienctists always try to falsify hypotheses. 
  • Scientific knowledge is socially constructed and is no more objective than sociology.
  • A scientific revolution refers to a paradigm which has been proved wrong and a new paradigm takes place. This leads to progress.
  • Research is funded by government officials.
  • Value relevance
  • Science ignores failaures and labels them as anomalies.
  • Dominant paradigms will shape what is researched and what questions are asked.
  • Paradigms are rarely questions until evidence has accumulated against them.
  • Lynch: scientists experimented on rats and ignores anything which did not fit the dominant paradigm was labelled was anomalie.
  • Science has a dominant paradigm.
  • Society is pre-paradigmatic. Therefore, it could be questioned whether their is a dominant paradigm as society has a lack of consenus on global warming.
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Other oppositions of science being objective

  • Kaplan: when scientists research it gives a logical impression of rational research which has objective knowledge. Kaplan calls this reconstructed logics. He argued what scientists say they do is different from what they actually do. Scientists adopt an anything goes approach and the write up fails to acknowledge any failures.
  • Sklair argues that 'little science'. Majority of scientists work for the government or large companies which limits the objectivity which invites value relevance.'Big science' is part of the superstructure and can be used to control the working class.
  • Feminists argue that science lacks objectivity and is used as a tool of a partiarchal society. Used to control wife's fertility.
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Realist Position

  • Andrew Sayer distinguished between 'open and closed science'.
  • Closed science takes place in laboratories where everything can be measured and is precise.
  • In this sense, sociology cannot be a science due to being in a more naturalistic environment which means a lack of controll over variables.
  • However, open science does not take place in a laboratory and includes: meteorology, seismology.
  • Focus on finding underlying explanations, events and causes.
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