There is a continuing controversy about the nature of sociology. According to some sociologists it is a science, while others strongly refute this claim.
What is a Scientific Study?
For a scientific study it is essential that the whole study should be systematic and without any subjectivity. A scientist is supposed to have a clear vision and a pointed approach. He should have capacity to record unbiased decisions and properly classify the data. He should also have vision to collect only such data that is useful for his study. He should conclude his findings after verification of data and not on morality or certain pre-supposed philosophies, notions and ideas.
The most important element of a scientific study is that a scientist should deal with bear facts and not with ideal situations. Thus this study should be both factual and systematic. Then another element is that its results should have universal application. Then in a scientific study there should be cause effect relationship and it should also be capable of making certain safe predictions.
Is Sociology a Science?
Now a question arises as to whether sociology is science or not. Those who support the cause of sociology as science plead that a present day sociologists must be methodological. He must base his conclusions on impartially collected, analyzed and interpreted data. He should also be willing to get his data tested anywhere to establish its validity. They also argue that like natural scientists, Sociologists are concerned with hard facts and not with ideal situations. They try to analyse facts of social life as they are. They also believe that there are many social facts and theories which the sociologists have developed after hard laborand these are universally applicable, under similar circumstances. They also point out that like natural scientists, the sociologists are very much concerned with cause effect relationship e.g. social stratification and social disorganizations are the outcome of certain causes, which have their effects as well. As with the natural scientists, so with the sociologists, it is equally that like the former the latter can make some safe predictions. They thus argue that “sociology is a science which attempts the interpretative under- standing of social action in order to arrive at a casual explanation of its causes and effects.”
Sociology – Not a Science
There is other side of the picture as well. Many believe that society is not a perfect science. Like the results of natural sciences, the results obtained by social scientists cannot be generalized and these also cannot be same under all circumstances and at all places. The conditions always differ from society to society and social changes are unavoidable. These are also very complex. Then it is said that each human being has his own limitations and he provides information keeping those limitations into consideration. He is not prepared to disclose secrets and thus the information provided is not factual. It is also said that the many situations are not within the control of sociologists and repeated experimentation is almost impossible.
Each sociologist has subjective approach to the problem under investigation. There is no stage of investigation in which there is no subjectivity. Each one has some secrets which he is not prepared to disclose to the investigators. Unlike natural scientist, a sociologist has no laboratory facilities and also has no control over material to be experimented i.e. human beings. Not only this, but it is not possible to repeat experiments. It is more or less not possible to make the safe predictions because nature of social problems with which the sociologists are not the same all over the world.