Is Social Science Science?

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There exists the dispute of whether or not social science is science. Here, I intend to provide assertions gathered from reading Malcolm Williams’ Science and Social Science: An Introduction, on whether social science should be classified as a science or not. In conclusion, I provide a brief application to Philippine setting.

With natural science, variables may be controlled and manipulated. Conversely, the social scientist, who works with social variables, would have to deal with greater indeterminacy because of psychological or biological variables which sometimes cannot be subjected to manipulation.

The dilemma is that social science is more often than not, given its dependency on the individuality and innate changeability of human, subject to causal explanation, which natural science tries to do, by explaining how things come about and why with definite variables at hand.

Williams says that “the early aim of social scientific knowledge was to produce truths about the social world with the same status as truths about the physical world” (2000). Since social science was spawned from the desire to know and because “natural attitude towards the social world leads to everyday discovery” just as with natural science, I am inclined to assert that social science is science.

Natural science studies the elements of the natural world and its objects to try to understand their meaning and their purpose in order to have learned anticipation of what is to come. The difference is in what is being studied. In social science we study human behavior and their outcomes for very much the same purpose, and that is to understand and interpret things that come or are to come with knowing anticipation.

I do not believe that there is a need for social science to find its equivalent in the natural science or even try to be equal to it, to prove the strength and veracity of its studies. Let us be secure that although as scientists say, most social laws are probabilistic, the point is it still answers questions and phenomena to an extent of finding out its likelihood, therefore helping the human race read behavior and understand it. And who says that natural sciences are definitely correct? Scientific method is an evolution of different methods used. Facts that were for a long time accepted were eventually proved otherwise in the passing of time through new discoveries and learnings. In the same token, social sciences do their job in making us come close to fathoming the complexity of human behavior.

We can deduce that this question of whether science is a social science stems much from the fact that a social scientist works with so much diversity or heterogeneity. From psychological, physical variables to cultural ones, etc. Yet in this aspect of multivariability do I contend that social sciences are wonderful, in that it tries to understand something so complex and changing. It works with the physical, mental, sociological, cultural and other aspects of the most complex creation, Man.

Application to Philippine Setting:

The Philippines’ rich culture makes social sciences even more challenging for our social scientists. One discipline that comes to mind is our anthropology. Even if it is not as popular a field as engineering or IT, there are people out there who immerse themselves in far-flung places to learn more about our indigenous culture. So on the question of social science’s contribution to the enhancement of life, let me say that I have learned to appreciate our Philippine race even more upon reading the accounts of these anthropologists who painstakingly worked to introduce our countrymen who, more often than not, live in obscurity.

The contribution of social science is too great to be dismissed as mere folk psychology, just as we cannot say of science that it is a series of trials and errors that resulted to good guesses.

Reference:

Williams, M. (2000). Science and social science: an introduction. New York: Routledge.

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