Why the Social Sciences are Science

Political science, and more generally social science, is not able to find concrete evidence or answers such as those found in mathematics or geometry. In one view, political science is more a “science” in the methods it employs, rather than the observations it makes. Another view is that it is a “science” in the sense that it shows probable relationships between variables, rather than creating general laws (such as the law of gravity). A stark contrast between the hard sciences and social sciences is that the social sciences cannot use a controlled experiment- it cannot be tested over and over in a controlled lab. The variables in the social sciences are real, living, autonomous things-people, countries, societies- with different emotions, values, and interests. When we observe these variables, we can hold some variables constant, but none are truly set as the normal. The sheer amount and complexity of all these variables make it incredibly difficult to ascribe any given hypothesis “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and makes it hard to find even one variable that holds true across the world.

Despite these odds, comparative politics strives to achieve scientific inference, while admitting the number of limitations that are held against it. There are a number of ways to approach cases in political science, such as qualitative and qualitative approaches, but is not limited to only these. This comparative work can also contribute to conceptualization, of both ideas and terms, as well as identifying cases. Previous theories and critiques can be reflected upon, analyzed, and improved, constantly improving and building upon the work of political scientists in the past. The methods used all throughout the process of comparative politics and political science remains consistent with the scientific method- a socially scientific endeavor.


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