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"Whether or not Sociology is Scientific Depends on which Definition of Science we choose" Explain and Discuss

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"Whether or not Sociology is Scientific Depends on which Definition of Science we choose" Explain and Discuss Bex Lycett Sociologists have been divided on the issue of whether or not sociology is a science for as long as anyone remembers. It is a very controversial topic in sociology, due to the number of conflicting views about what it is to be scientific and according to the definitions of what is scientific, whether sociology can be categorised as a science. Durkheim and Compte, positivist's believed that sociological studies should be based on the same logic and methods as natural science; they stated that this would create a "positive science society" and would allow us to discover laws of human behaviour, similar to the way scientists discovered the laws of gravity. Positivists believe that human behaviour, like that of a plant is influenced by external factors, that society shapes us and therefore that these factors can be isolated, controlled and measured. Durkheim believed that he had done just this when he had studied suicide, isolated the factor of being isolated as the cause of suicide. ...read more.


They held this view because like natural science investigations, sociology tries to explain the causes of behaviour in terms of underlying causes, which are not visible in everyday life. Sayer focussed on the fact that in all areas of science there were "open" and "closed" systems, for example in some situations, a lab can be used where variables can be controlled, but also in areas such as meteorology, experiments cannot always be fully controlled, he argued that sociology faced the same problem, studying issues which were relevant but complex, like meteorologists, sociologists had to deal with the fact that there may be "other" influences, but this does not mean that the studies they do are not scientific. Both study hidden causes of things relevant to their field, in ways that can be seen as scientific. The realist definition of science is "Being scientific involves explaining behaviour in terms of underlying structures, mechanisms and processes." They believe that natural scientists and sociologists do, therefore sociology should be classed as a science. In contrast to these viewpoints, Kuhn believes that sociology cannot be scientific because the field shares no single paradigm. ...read more.


example a phenomonologist who believes human behaviour is a result of personal motives, morals ad norms will argue that there is no accurate way to measure behaviour, unlike a positivist who will regard societies influence as being the cause of behaviour, and so will be able to control situations, and in turn measure results, which is to the general world, a scientific based experiment, manipulating cause and effect, therefore in that light sociology would be scientific. It should also be noted however, that even some natural science investigations cannot be seen as entirely objective, in all conditions, for example in meteorology, the results may be manipulated by factors, other than the ones the meteorologist is investigating. In conclusion it could be said that the best sociologists, and the most scientific way to conduct a sociological study would be to gather data in a way which is both systematic and as highly objective as possible, record the research and findings in an accurate manner, and allow others to judge the studies validity, based on the evidence, so it would be plain to see whether the study had flaws, or was done in a scientific, reliable and representative way. ...read more.

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