Before we proceed to study the nature of Rural Sociology, it would be proper to study the nature of science which is nothing but a ‘body of systematised knowledge of systematised body of knowledge.’ Science is special methodology and that determines its nature. Sociology attempts at scientific study of the social phenomena. It cannot be a science like a natural science say Physics, Chemistry of Biology but is certainly a Science.
Generally that science which applies a scientific method is called a science. Form this point of view sociology and also Rural Sociology is a science. Smith has rightly remarked. Thus the question of what is and what is not science resolves difference into the question of whether or not the scientific method has been employed.
In essence, the term science denotes a systematically organised body of knowledge obtained through the use of scientific method.
Emphasis on methods:
The nature of a branch of knowledge or a scientific study determines much on its method or methodology. Whether a particular branch of knowledge is science or not determines more on its method and less on the material. This is what Nelson has pointed out:
‘Method is the crucial quality of science because it determines the availability of resources.’
Most of the scholars while defining the science and is nature has led the students on its approach than its contents. Science is a way of investigation. This investigation is carried out through a scientific method. It is this method through which the classification of the data is made and the hypothesis is formulated. Bertrand and his Associates have correctly pointed out.
The procedure followed in determining and classifying regularity in nature is called the scientific method.’
Thus we find that it is the scientific method that is important in determining the nature of science of a particular branch of knowledge. Therefore, before we proceed to study the nature of sociology and particularly, Rural Sociology in relevance to the science and the scientific method, we should be clear about the scientific method.
Main steps of Scientific method:
Scientific method is that organised and systematised methodology through which the collection and classification of data are made according to the definite standards. These stages may further, be classified under the following heads:–(1)Selection of the problem,(2)formulation of a hypothesis, (3) Observations ,(4)Description, (5) Classification,(6) Generalisation .
Let us study these stages in details.
(1) Selection of the problem:
The first stage of the scientific study of scientific method of study is the ‘Selection of the Problem’. Investigator or the Researcher has to be very cautious in selecting the problem. He has to study the problem with certain objectives and in doing so he has to be clear about the object which would facilitate the selection of the problem.
(2) Formulation of the Hypothesis:
It is necessary to formulate and laid down a hypothesis, before a problem is studied. In fact hypothesis is a pre-thought about the problem whose verification and outstanding is necessary.
The investigator or the student has to make deep through hand cautious study of the data and their problem. The method that are employed, in this study have to be objective. Without objectivity observations will not be scientific and unbiased.
The observations have to be put down into black and white. After writing down all the observations, it is possible to test its objectivity and scientific character. This is what Nelson has said in the following lines:-
“These concepts become a language, “universe of discourse” maintain status and facilitate communication of ideas.”
After the collection of data, the classification takes place. Classification is done on the basis of the nature of the data collected. In this respect Karl Pearson has remarked:
“Classification was one of the earliest and the simplest way of determining order in nature, it remains today one of the most important ways.”
East away in this respect has enumerated the following rules of classification:
(1) There must be only one basis of the division, (and the subclasses will, therefore, be mutually exclusive) (2) the division must be exhaustive (3) in continued division, each step be approximate one, and (4) the division must be appropriate”.
At this state certain general rules and conclusions are arrived at as a result of study and on the basis of data collected. When this generalisation proves to be correct after verification, they are given status of laws. This is what MacIver has said.
Such a law is simply another study for a carefully described and uniformly recurring sequence of facts.”
From these discussions we can very safely say that the knowledge that is acquired through scientific method and is based on verified facts and as a Universal importance is called science. It is based on cause and effect, relationship and so prediction in this respect is possible.
Nature of Rural Sociology:
Having studied the science and the scientific method, we now proceed to study the nature of Rural Sociology. Whether rural Sociology is a science or not can be decided only when we study the methods applied by it and certain factors on its methodology. Generally it is believed that sociology and also Rural Sociology employ the scientific method. It can be determined on the basis of the following facts:
1) Use of scientific methods, 2) Factual study, 3) Discovery of cause and effect, relationship, 4) Universal laws, 5) Predictions.
Let us look at them in detailed manner:
1) Use of Scientific method:
It is a uniform fact that Sociology and also Rural Sociology employs the scientific method. Almost all the methods of scientific study viz. Observation, interview, schedule and Questionnaire method, case history method and statistical method etc. Are employed in the study of sociology. Like other sciences, in Rural Sociology, also, generalisation is formed on the basis of accepted facts.
2) Factual Study:
Like other sciences, Rural Sociology is also factual study. It studies the social events, social relationship and process in a factual manner. It also studies and analyse the facts and the underlying general principles and theories. From this consideration also the Rural Sociology is by nature a science.
3) Discovery of cause and effect:
Like other science Rural Sociology formulates its theories and laws on the basis of cause and effect relationship.
4) Universal Laws:
The laws formulated by Rural Sociology are universal in nature because they under normal and similar conditions prove to be correct and produce the same results. When there is change in the circumstances there is change in the laws, which is true of other sciences well. Thus from this point of view, Rural Sociology is also a science.
Science the laws formulated by Rural Sociology are based on cause and effect relationship; it is possible to predict the results. It means that in certain conditions, the results shall be the same.
On the basis of the conditions enumerated above, it can be safely said that Rural Sociology is by nature a science but certain scholars have raised certain objection against the scientific nature of Rural Sociology. The study of the nature of Rural Sociology shall be incomplete unless these objections are studied.
Objections against the scientific natural of Rural Sociology: Sociology thinkers and sociologists have also objected to the recognition of rural sociology as science. These objections the based on the following grounds:
1) Lack of objectivity, 2) Lack of laboratory, 3) Lack of measurement, 4) Lack of exactness, or exactitude, 5) Lack of prediction.
1) Lack of objectivity:
While studying the Rural Sociology and its problems, the investigator continues to remain a part of the society that he is studying. Because he is a living being, he has his own ideas and he is also influenced by the subject matter. That is why it is not possible to have objectivity in the study or Rural Sociology as in the case of natural sciences.
2) Lack of Laboratory:
Sociology and particularly Rural Sociology is not studied in laboratories as the natural sciences are. Because of this it is not possible to verify and test the theory and the principles of Rural Sociology like the principles of natural sciences.
3) Lack of Measurement:
In Natural sciences, there is definite and standard measurement through which it is possible to measure and weigh. Different units: Grams, Centimeters, Meters etc, are the measurements through which, the subject matter of natural science can be measured but there are no such measurements for measuring the units of the Rural Sociology. Because of lack of measurement the results than are put forward by the Rural Sociology are sometimes not very dependable.
4) Lack of Exactness of Exactitude:
Rural Sociology lacks exactness of exactitude. It is not possible to follow its laws and principles universally as the principles of natural science can be followed. It lacks the exactitude because of which, it is not acceptable at every point. Due to this weakness, Rural Sociology is not regarded as a science.
5) Lack of Prediction:
Because of lack of objectivity and exactitude, the principles that are formulated by the Rural Sociology are not always correct. That is why on the basis of these principles and laws, predictions are not possible. In natural science this is not the case. There on the basis or rules and regulations and principles prediction is always possible. On account of this weakness also Rural Sociology is not given the status of science.
While discussing the nature of the Rural Sociology, it has to be kept in mind that there is a vital difference between the subject matter of the natural science and Rural Sociology.
The subject matter of Natural Sciences:
So far as the exactitude is concerned and the use of laboratory is concerned Rural Sociology is every day heading towards that. Now every attempt is being made to study the subject matter of sociology in the laboratories and formulate exact rules and laws. It is quite possible that in very near future, the sociology may also become sciences like the natural science. So far as the use of scientific method is concerned, Rural Sociology is a science even today.