By the nature of Rural Sociology, as we generally mean, it is not clear whether it is a science or not. Augusta Comte, the father of Sociology, called Sociology as the queen of sciences. Some sociologists have come to view Sociology in terms of natural sciences. Most of the sociologists opine that Sociology possesses all the characteristics of science and it is, no doubt, a science. Since Rural Sociology is a specialised branch of Sociology, therefore it is also a science.
Before we proceed to elaborate Rural Sociology as a science, it is essential to know what science is. Science is a method and way of looking at things consisting of systematic steps like observation, collection and classification of data, hypothesis, testing, theory and conclusion. Science possesses six basic ingredients.
Firstly, science employs the scientific method. Secondly; it is a study of facts. Thirdly scientific principles are universal. Fourthly, scientific laws are vertical. Its validity can be examined at any time and it proves true in every place. Fifthly, science discovers the cause-effect relationship in its subject-matter and in this connection provides universal and valid laws. Finally, science can make predictions on the basis of universal and valid laws relating to the cause-effect relationship in any subject. The function of science is based upon a faith in causality.
The nature or Rural Sociology as a science can be examined on the following grounds.
(1) Use of Scientific Method:
Rural Sociology employs scientific method. All the methods used in Rural Sociology are scientific in nature. These methods are observation, interview, case study, schedule, and questionnaire and so on. In these methods, the first step is collection of data through observation. Then the date is classified and finally the results are brought out on the basis of accepted data. The validity of these results is verified.
(2) Factual study:
Rural Sociology is always based on factual study. It studies rural social relationship and activities in a factual way. It makes a scientific study of facts, general principles and theories involved in them.
(3) Universal Principles:
The laws and principles of Rural Sociology are universal in nature. Because they prove true at all times and at all places and produce the same results. For example, the principles of family disorganisation and social disorganisation are correlated, it true every where.
(4) Vertical Principles:
The principles of Rural Sociology prove true at every verification and re verification. Their validity can be examined by any one. For example one can consider the law that and increase in the rate of divorces indicates acceleration of family disorganisation. This principles can be examined any where by anyone.
(5) Discovery of cause-effect relationship:
Like Sociology, Rural Sociology also discovers a cause effect relationship between the phenomena. For example, in the modern society, the rate of divorce increases rapidly due to the family disorganisation. Similarly, due to the rapid growth of population the rate of poverty and unemployment increase in the Rural Society.
In these illustrations, family disorganisation and population growth are two causes and divorce as well as poverty and unemployment are their effects. Rural Sociology has discovered a cause effect relation between the phenomena and population growth and divorce. Thus Rural Sociology traces cause-effect relationship in social disorganization and other incidents, activities and relationship in Rural Society and then formulates laws concerning them.
Finally, on the basis of cause-effect relationship. Rural Sociology can anticipate the future and make predictions concerning social relationship, activities, incidents and so on. For example, if disorganisation in the families becomes pronounced, it can make predictions concerning the number of divorces and many other things. Knowing the cause-effect relationship, Rural Sociology can determine ‘what will be’ on the basis of ‘what is’.
Thus, it is evident from the above analysis that Rural Sociology, by nature, is a science. It possesses all the essential characteristics of science.
But a lot of objections against the scientific nature or Rural Sociology are found. Some sociologists have raised their views against the nature of Rural Sociology as a science. They have strongly objected to the scientific nature Rural Sociology on the basis of the following grounds.
(1) Lack or Objectivity:
The first objection rose against the nature of Rural Sociology being called a science is that, an unbiased and objective study cannot be made in it. The main cause of this is that the sociologists have to play dual role of both the doctor and the patient in society. They are the members of that very society which they studies. From this point of view, they have established a very close relation with the contents, very beginning of society.
The sociologists study religion, family, marriage, economic system etc. But they possess their observation lacks the ingredient of objectivity, which is so much essential to science. The sociologist being a member society can study it just like a teacher can teach himself.
(2) Lack of experiment:
The second objection against the scientific nature of Rural in it. Rural Sociology is not a science just because of the term, science used in it. If science is used for physical sciences, then Rural Sociology cannot claim to be a science. The term science is used for physical sciences includes the twin process of experimentation and prediction.
Rural Sociology, in this context, is not a science because its subject matter, the human relationship and behavior and they are abstract in nature. We can neither see nor touch, neither weighs nor analyse in the test tube of the laboratory. It does not possess the instruments like the microscope and the thermometer to measure the human behavior as science does. It is not possible to verify and test the theory and the principles of Rural Sociology like science.
(3) Lack of measurement:
The third argument against the nature of Rural Sociology as a science is that it lacks measurement. In natural sciences, definite and standard measurement is used to measure and weigh. The different measurements like units, grams, meters, centimeters etc, by which the subject matter of natural sciences can be measured the units or Rural Sociology. Due to the lack of measurement, the results of Rural Sociology vary from time to time which is no possible in the case of natural sciences.
(4) Lack of Exactness:
The fourth objection is. Rural Sociology lacks exactness. It is not possible to follow the laws and principles or Rural Sociology universally as the principles of natural science can be followed. Its law and principles vary on the basis of time and place concerned. For example, the rural social problems of one country may be different from the other country. In India untouchability is a serious rural problem but in America it is not so.
(5) Lack of Prediction:
The fifth and final objection against the nature or Rural Sociology being called a science is that it lacks prediction. Observation and hypothesis are the two basic ingredients of science. On the basis of observation and hypothesis, science has formulated many laws and through which any prediction can be possible about any experiment. But due to the lack of objectivity and electivity, the principles that are formulated by Rural Sociology are not always correct.
As a result, nay prediction cannot be possible about the laws and principles of Rural Sociology. For instance according to the standing principles of natural science we can predict that the combination of two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule produces water. But such type of prediction is almost impossible in the field of Rural Sociology.
It is evident from the above analysis regarding the nature of Rural Sociology, that it is very difficult to determine whether, by nature it is science or not. Because there are dual opinions both in favour and against the scientific nature of Rural Sociology. The laws and principles of natural sciences so far as the ex activity, laboratory experimentation and prediction are concerned, Rural Sociology is day-to-day handing towards that.
There can be no doubt over the question that rural Sociology use scientific technique like observation, experimentation, classification and tabulation in the collection and interpolation of data systematically. The conclusion drawn by the Rural Sociology is based upon empirical realities. The sociologists are prospects of Rural Sociology. Therefore Rural Sociology, no doubt can definitely be a novel branch of science having the subject-matter and methodology of its own.