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How Scientific is Sociology
Sociology is one of the social sciences, which are concerned with the study of human thought and behavior and human social institutions. The social science share the common stance that human social behavior can be studied scientifically. social scientist believe that certain patterns and regularities in human behavior enable them to predict and explain human behavior validly and reliably. The question here is: can human behavior be studied scientifically? the answer is yes, though very many will argue to the contrary. The fact is that observations will enable us identify the regularities in patterns of human social behavior. Drivers rely on the predictability of other drivers to obey traffic laws. Student and lecturers in their interactions have predictable relationships of status and role. Religious services, football matches, marriage ceremonies, dinner parties e.t.c. a reasonable amount of experience will enable one have a very good idea of how to behave or how interaction and activities will go.
An ingredient of scientific knowledge is the reliability of such knowledge. Sociology is a relatively new discipline when compared with physics and chemistry. Sociology do not use telescope, microscope, test tubes and beakers, when they study human behavior. However each science must develop its own techniques as each considers different subject matters. Sociology has developed its own techniques which include planned experiments, sample surveys, case studies and observation. Each of these techniques follow the laid down procedures of scientific enquiry. Beyond such obvious cases of predictable behavior it is obvious that individual human behavior is influence by complex social situations unlike in the physical sciences. On this premise it becomes very difficult to make precise statements about individual or group behavior.
However through careful and systematic measurement, sociologist can and do predict human social behavior, though the rate of error may be significant in particular situations. There is also the problems of change over time and place occasioning cultural differences. This creates the problem of generalization of knowledge. The knowledge acquired by physical scientist are applicable at all times and as a result they have established universal laws. Very little of the social scientists knowledge can be applied so generally since he is dealing not with constant but with variables. It is for this reason that sociology is commonly consider less scientific than the physical sciences.
However the point is already made that this handicap is due to the variable nature of human behavior which is the subject matter of sociology. The sociological approach to science, can be likened to the meteorologist scientific prediction of whether though there may not be an accurate prediction of what will happen at a particular spot, but they are far too accurate on predictions over a larger area of land. Thus one can conclude by stating that sociologist can predict the behavior of groups of people with a high degree of accuracy, although individual behavior is often unpredictable. Even with this handicap, research has shown that high level of generalization still obtain in sociology within some margin of error bearing in mind situational and individual differences.