Is sociology a science?
Positivism: States that human behaviour should be researched through principles of natural science. Objective facts and theories are produced on the basis of empirical research, which produces quantitative data. Theories and laws are tested through replication and become accepted as scientific knowledge.
Criticisms: Reductionist and deterministic with simplistic conclusions e.g. poverty causes crime. Critical theory: Fails to explain why correlations exist between variables
Feminists: Uses universal research methods without tailoring the method to understand unique experiences of women.
Comte: A positivist. He argued that the social world should resemble the natural physical world and they’re both made up of objective facts and are governed by external laws. Sociology could be a science of society that discovers the social laws governing human behaviour.
Positivists developed a ‘model’ scientific approach to research called the ‘ Hypotheticodeductive Approach’, which involves logical steps in carrying out research in lab settings:
· Observation: Problem is observed to exist and needs explanation.
· Hypothesis: A possible explanation is put forward.
· Experiment: The hypothesis is rigorously tested to see if it holds up.
· Theorising: If confirmed by the experiment, a law is created which explains the problem.
Positivists like objectivity, reliability, quant data, standardised, generalisable, official statistics and social surveys.
Popper: Says scientific statements are capable of being falsified by evidence; this is what allows scientific understanding of the world - build on the achievements of previous scientists to develop a greater understanding. For a theory to be falsifiable it must be open to criticism from other scientists. Sociology is unscientific as theories cannot be put to test e.g. Marxism predicts there will be a revolution but nothing has happened yet- prediction cant be falsified. Sociology can be scientific as it’s capable of producing hypotheses that can be falsified.
Kaplan: When scientists write their findings, they fail to account for all the false starts, luck, blind alleys and guesses, which are part of their everyday science.
Sayer (Realist): Says positivists and Popper are mistaken about the nature of science. Many sciences study unobservable phenomena like evolution. Sciences like seismology are based on unobserved structures rather than hard empirical data.
Keat: Many sciences cant make a precise prediction, seismologist’s cant predict exactly…