Transcript
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IS SOCIOLOGY A SCIENCE?

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Learning objectives

• Explain the difference between a natural and a social science

• Outline the three positions of the debate that sociology is a science

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Most scientific Least scientific

PHYSICS

CHEMISTRY

ANATOMY

GEOLOGY

PSYCHOLOGY

SOCIOLOGY

Can you decide which of these sciences is MOST and

LEAST scientific in their methodology?

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This implies that there is one form of science that applies rigorous methods

but another that is less rigorous.

HARD ANDSOFT

SCIENCES

HARD SCIENCE SOFT SCIENCE

Most Physics Chemistry Anatomy Geology Psychology Sociology Least  

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Auguste Compte 1798 - 1857

• POSITIVISM – – all knowledge is based on

science and scientific thought– All behaviour is subject to

general laws

• PHENOMENOLOGY – – People possess free will– All behaviour is influenced by

how we understand our situation and put meaning to it

DETERMINISTIC

INDIVIDUAL IS PASSIVE

ACTIVE

IN CONTROL

QUANTIFIABLE

QUALITATIVE

Weber

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Difficulties of Studying people

So any techniques that are used must yield data that is VALID and RELIABLE

•Laboratory experiments are artificial and pose ethical issues when studying people

Field experiments are good but

difficult to repeat.

•At best sociologists can make correlations but they cant assume cause and effect

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• Karl Popper –’good science’ is all about building scientific knowledge (similar to biology, physics and chemistry) by gathering data from the senses (empirical evidence) otherwise known as hypothetico-deductive reasoning

• POSITIVIST SOCIOLOGY uses this method a great deal

So What is a science?

Science is about what we KNOW to be true not

what we BELIEVE to be true.

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All smelly socks attract mice

If it doesn’t then we can amend the theory or perhaps

reject it

If it does we can add more knowledge

to the theory

Hypothetico – deductive

model

Place dirty socks in a glass jar for a few

days

Operationalise

the varia

bles

Gather empirical data

Test the hyp

othesis

Knowledge of theory

is built, refined,

amended

No mice!!!!

Smelly socks DON’T

attract mice

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How do we find scientific truth?

• The scientific method is NOT perfect, but it is the best method available today.

Observations

Conjecture

Hypothesis

Testing

Generalising

Theory formation

The Hypothetico deductive method uses the following stagesThe researcher must be neutral at all times to remain objective

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REALISTS• Scientists are always faced with

uncontrollable variables• With all the technology in the

world we still get the weather forecast wrong, we cant see the spread of viruses or predict a tsunami.

• To this end sociologists are just as engaged in the same scientific projects where complex variables are at work.

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PHENOMENOLOGISTSPeople think for themselves and have reasons for their behaviour

Sociologists shouldn’t be concerned with ‘cause and effect’ but instead looking at how people try and make sense of their world

The social world cannot be measured

objectively

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3 POSITIONS

Science should be studied as a social

construct

There is always going to be unpredictability's so it is no different to

any other science

Although our methods are not quite the same as

natural sciences its close enough

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quick quiz?

1. What is the realist view of social science?2. What does it mean to say that knowledge is

socially constructed?3. What is the difference between natural and

social science?4. Who was the first to consider sociology as a

social science?5. Name one difficulty that sociologists face when

carrying out research on people

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Learning objectives

• Explain what is meant by a paradigm

• Outline the difference between induction and deduction methods

• Evaluate the feminists view of science

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What colour are swans?

How many wheels does a car have?

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What colour are swans?

The fact that a black swan exists leads to the certainty that ‘all swans are white’ as

false

White?

Logical positivism is aimed at description rather than explanation. For example ….. No amount of observing white swans can support the contention that all swans are white. The observation of a single black swan is enough to disprove the theory.

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THE PROBLEMS WITH INDUCTION

Therefore we should be looking to disprove a

hypothesis.

You cant always assume that what has happened and has always happened in the past will happen in the future.

There will always be one ‘black swan’ around the corner.

Just one instance is enough to disprove a theory

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“Science aims to FALSIFY not VERIFY”

FALSIFICATION

“nothing can be proved”

Carl Popper 1963

Logical positivists described what they observed in terms of natural laws, but it was not possible to disprove such laws.

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FALSIFICATION AND MARXISM

• Popper rejected many sociological theories as being unscientific

• He was critical of Marxism because they failed to specify the exact circumstances of the proletariat revolution.

• Marxism cannot be falsified because ‘come the revolution’ is always being pushed further into the future.

The longer a theory has stood the test of time, and that researchers

have failed to falsify, the closer it is

to the truth.

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• Instead of making theories fit the facts (induction) the deduction method suggests that facts can only be accepted through the process of falsification

Induction and Deduction

Newton started by observing physical objects

And then produced laws

Darwin started with a theoryThen went out to test it by

observation

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PARADIGM

KUHN 1962

According to Khun a science should have a shared set of :

1. Assumptions

2. Scientific methods

3. Terminology

Everyone is in

agreement

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PARADIGMOnce a new theory comes along a ‘shift’ occurs

The earth is flat

Its round I tell you!

There then follows a period of revolutionary science and a dominant paradigm emerges

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Kuhn proposed two phases in science.

1. 'normal science‘ -one theory remains dominant despite occasional challenges by dis-confirming studies which are resolved within that theory.

2. The dis-confirming evidence then accumulates until the theory can no longer be maintained and is overthrown. This is the second phase- a revolutionary shift.

Kuhn spoke of paradigm rather than theory. A science (e.g. physics, biology) has a interconnected set of assumptions and methods.

PARADIGM

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Positivism Interpretivism

SubjectivityObjectivity

Qualitative

Quantitative

Correlation

Generalisation

empirical Validity

Reliability

Causal relationship

hypothesis

operationalisationrepresentativeness

bias

Hypothetico-deductive- method of enquiry

OBJECTIVE REALITY

VERSTEHEN (Max Weber)

AUTONOMY

MEANING

External constraint