Point-Countapoint: Is Political Science a Science?


Politics is one of the most watched and noticed aspects of American society. Political science as a subject has become an object of focus and an important career for making informed policy analyses. Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash.

Point: Nel

Political science is a science; in fact, it is an example of what it means to practice science. Traditional “sciences” seek to answer the fundamental questions of our world and beyond through experimentation and study, and political science is no different. Biology sets out to unravel the mystery of life. Physics deals with the subtleties of space and time. Similarly, political science attempts to deconstruct how and why people organize themselves into political structures—how to maintain old ones and create new ones—by doing so through the same scientific method used by the traditional sciences.

First, you form a hypothesis based on existing observations about political structures and behavior. For example, large bureaucracies are less popular in countries with more politically active populations. Second, you conduct a multiple-trial study and record data to test the strength of this hypothesis. Finally, you analyze this data and draw a conclusion. If the data supports your hypothesis, you can run another experiment with a different set of data to see how consistent it is; if not, scrap it and make a new one.

Counterpoint: Sam

Can political science be called a science? Sure! However, if this is the case, all fields in which an argument can be made and then proved should be called ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​cialistic. There is an idea in modern society that all relevant, published content should fall under the umbrella of science, especially given that many institutions—including UConn—are making a push to advance STEM fields. While treating political science as a science can certainly give it more opportunities to be more adequately funded and supported, pulling more fields out of the humanities and moving them into STEM will only invalidate the other humanities.

History is not a science, but the work done in it is incredibly important to society—as is the work that goes into political science. In both examples, sciences such as psychology and anthropology can be applied, but they are complementary to the humanities and do not make the humanities a science. What needs to be emphasized is that humanitarian work, along with scientific work, should both be taken seriously and exalted.

With the ever-changing nature of politics in America, it’s easy to say that the topic is impossible to quantify. However, politics is tracked through statistics and data recording, making it a possible modern science. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

Nell:

While I agree that “science” does not and should not imply superiority over fields traditionally considered the humanities, and that the two should be valued equally together, I would reject the idea that expanding the scope of science invalidates other professions. Although this may happen in practice due to the financial interests of universities, we need to start understanding science as something we do every day, rather than as a definition controlled by an institution.

Although history is not a natural science, the methods of uncovering and recording it certainly use the scientific method. This is the understanding at the heart of all “social” sciences. Therefore, studying the French Revolution is as scientific as studying the parts of a cell or the laws of thermodynamics; these are recorded observations that can inform today’s experiments and tomorrow’s conclusions. Although the cold reality of science is that finance and rigid categories reign supreme, recognizing the connections between the natural and the social is the greatest service we can do to science.

Sam:

One problem with applying the moniker of science to all research that uses anything resembling the scientific method is that there are fundamental differences between science and some research within the humanities. With sciences like physics, biology, and chemistry, there are demonstrable truths that can be arrived at without room for debate. With disciplines like political science, the landscape of the field can change dramatically and the rules can be completely reworked. Regarding topics that traditionally fall under the humanities category: While there are some truths that may appear to be 100% accurate, they may only be so according to today’s society. For example, if I drop a rock, the force of gravity pulling it toward the ground is and has always been 9.8 m/s^2. If one tries to make a statement today about the political environment in America and examine it 100 years from now, not only may the parties and other entities be completely different, but the parameters of the political spectrum may also be different. In short, the humanities are best maintained as a discussion informed by science and other truths of the time, not science itself, as this can only show part of the picture.

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