• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Assess the view that sociology can and should model itself on the natural sciences

Extracts from this document...


´╗┐Sociology is defined as a social science, however the status as a science is questionable when compared to natural sciences such as physics and chemistry. If sociology should and can be a science depends pretty much on the definition of science and how it links together. Many sociologists disagree and take a different point of view of how sociology should be seen. So in this essay I am going to assess the view that sociology can and should be model itself on the natural sciences. The question arose as part of the "Englightment Project" in the 18th century, as the belief in science over religion became more important. Science was seen as a provider of true and objective knowledge about the world, which could be used for progress . So the early modernist sociologists thought the same scientific principles could be applied to the understanding and betterment of society. Positivists believe that it is possible and desirable to apply the logic and methods of the natural sciences to the study of society. Society, is like the nature, an objective factual reality ; it is a "real" thing made up of social facts that exists "out there", independently of individuals. They seek to discover the causes of patterns they observe to produce general statements or scientific laws, like natural scientists do. ...read more.


To illustrate sociology as a science, Emile Durkheim conducted a study on suicide. He believed if he could show this highly individual act had social causes, it would establish sociology's status as a distinct and genuinely scientific discipline. Durkheim observed patterns in the suicide rate, by using statistics. For instance, he stated that the suicide rate in Protestant countries like Germany is higher than in Catholic countries like Italy and Spain. He explained it with Catholicism being more successful in integrating individuals. Thus Durkheim claimed to have discovered a real law, that different levels of integration produce different suicide rates. However, Jack Douglas rejects the positivist idea of external social facts determining our behaviour and therefore the view of sociology as being a science. For Douglas the suicide verdicts and the statistics based on them are the product of interactions and negotiations. He argues, we need to use qualitative methods to build up a typology of suicidal meanings. Atkinson even argues that we can never know the real rate of suicide, as all we can study is how the living come to classify a death as a suicide. Although the interpretivists reject the positivist view that sociology is a science, they tend to agree with positivists about the definition of science. Natural science is the inductive reasoning or verificationism applied to the study of observable patterns. ...read more.


So on Kuhn's definition sociology can only become a science if such basic disagreements were resolved. A third view about sociology and science comes from the realist approach. Realists such as Russel Keat and John Urry define science in terms of the degree of control. They distinguish between closed and open systems. In a closed system all variables can be measured and controlled, whereas in an open system the researcher cannot measure all relevant variables, e.g. a meteorologist cannot normally predict the weather with 100% accuracy. Sociology would fit in to the open system, as it is way too complex to have an influence on every factor. In general they say , science studies unobservable as well as observable facts. So to some extent they see sociology as a science, as sometimes we can only observe the effects, e.g. like scientist have never seen a black hole, sociologist can only study the effects of social class. In conclusion, each of these views has implications for whether or not we regard sociology as a science. While positivists adopting natural sciences as a model, interpretivists reject the view that sociology can be scientific. The division is based in the disagreement of the nature of sociology and subject matter. So in fact, if sociology is a science or not depends on the definition of science, the methods being use and the conclusion the researcher states, as you cannot just ignore a whole perspective with valid aspects. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Sociological Differentiation & Stratification section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Sociological Differentiation & Stratification essays

  1. Can and should sociology be a science?

    Philosopher Karl Popper argued that it is impossible to prove a scientific theory true by induction because no amount of evidence assures that contrary evidence will not be found. Instead, he suggested that proper science is accomplished by deduction. Instead of looking for the proof of their hypothesis, scientists should look for their disproof.

  2. Sociological theories and Healthcare.

    Conclusion The graph shows that more women are surviving breast cancer than ever before. In the 1970s around 5 out of 10 breast cancer patients survived beyond five years. Now it's 8 out of 10 this shows the health and NHS are improving and more and more technology is being created helping to kill off cancer.

  1. Can and should sociology be science?

    To phenomenologist, human beings make sense of the world by imposing meanings and classifications upon it, in the sense that interpretations of facts are dependent on subjective judgment. For instance, a fact to a person does not necessarily be a fact to another.

  2. Key Perspectives in Sociology

    Sociologists also use secondary research methods such as other people's research. These tend to be of a quantitative nature. The following is an example of a piece of research used by sociologists: Types of assault occurring between family members Number % Wife assault 791 75.8 Husband assault 12 1.1 Child

  1. Sociology independent project - mormons

    Education - Will have graduated from college and gone to university. Occupation - Will be a professional or manager. Income - $10,000 per year - 15% earn more than $50,000 per year. Health - Will have longer life expectancy than any other religious group as lower rate of cancer and heart disease.

  2. Emile Durkheim - suicide

    resulting directly or indirectly from a positive or negative act of the victim himself, which he knows will produce this result" (1982, quote from Suicide).

  1. An investigation into people(TM)s belief about Hell

    Karl Marx provides the viewpoint that religion is 'the opiate of the people' as it teaches that the bourgeoisie deserve their place at the top of society and that the proletariat should be content with their place, it also,

  2. Major Theories in Sociology

    this is the subject of sociology so here it can be said that the way sociologists look at society. There are many perspectives to sociology but this assignment will look at feminism, functionalism and Marxism. Feminists believe in woman?s rights, they think that there is inequality of power, cultural values and believes which alienate and oppress women.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work