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Political Science as a Science (Essay Sample)


Write about political science with arguments to prove that it is a science and opposing views.

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A science is defined by a predefined set of hypothesis that through experiment, have proved to lead to a known outcome or an expected result. Therefore, a scientific statement or data can be systematically proven to be either true or false by a series of experiments. On the other hand, there exists a different kind of science, political science, which does not conform to the traditional definition of science. Political Science can be defined as the study of power in societies, government, political behavior and states. It covers institutions, the people, power and the interrelationship among the three elements. As a result, there is a conflict about whether political science should be regarded to as a real science or just a different discipline altogether. Unlike the traditional definition of science that relies on hypothesis and experiments, political science is a rather unique discipline that deals with human behavior and in most cases leads more questions than answers.
Political Science as a Science
Political science can be categorized as a science due to some similarities it shares with the modern definition of a science. While in a great part, political science is seen as an art, it relies on some basic laws that define political behavior which can be formulated through the scientific method. It is possible to develop a hypothesis in political science, test it and eventually prove it, just like what the scientific method postulates. This means that the use of a scientific method can yield similar results to what the scientific method requires. This, in essence, makes political science a true science. Clarke and Primo observe that, “political science can be defined as the systematic observation of behavior” (73). These observations are usually based on the sociological theory that tries to explain political behavior. This makes political science very much a science like any other.
Throughout time, there have been political publications that can be described as scientific in nature. A good example of this is a book by Lawrence Lowell (1908), The Government of England. This book provides a comprehensive and quantifiable analysis of the government of England of the 19th century. In the book, Lawrence presents statistics to prove his case with clear examples of the time. However, the author makes it clear that in political science, no two similar events should be assumed to lead to the same outcome. He presents a solution to that by the use of statistics to support a certain premise or conclusion. In the absence of statistical data to back a certain point, a conclusion from a situation may be flawed. This makes it a great work of political science.
One can also argue that political science is a science still in its early stages as compared to the modern definition of science. Considering that political science cropped up in the early 20th century whereas the definition of science has been around since the 16th century, this premise holds some level of truth. Moreover, those against the classification of political science as a real science fail to consider the time factor in their arguments. This is not an insignificant argument since the passage of time plays an important role in the scientific method. Hence, political science can be looked at as a science still in its infancy, but developing to a more mature science with proven facts and theories. And so, it may be untimely to dismiss political science without considering the evolution of ideas with the passage of time
Druckman, Green and Kuklinski observe that, “until the mid-twentieth century, the discipline of political science was primarily qualitative-philosophical, descriptive, legalistic, and typically relied on case studies that do not provide any measurable way of probing results” (78). For a political science student, the notion of carrying out an experiment is often considered impossible and unrealistic. Clarke and Primo observe that this difficulty can be overcome because political processes are always ongoing. Since the process is still ongoing, it is possible to come up with theories and hypothesis which can later be verified or discredited with repeated observations. This is a way of introducing experiments in the art of political science which supports the view that it is indeed a developing science. Those opposed to the notion that political science is a real science solely on the fact that it is not possible to perform experiments in this field are therefore wrong.
Political Science as not a proper science.
There are two main opposing sides to the debate on whether political science is a real science or whether it is just an art. Proponents of the idea argue out that the use of the scientific method in disseminating political information in essence makes political science a real science. On the other hand, those opposed to the idea argue out that political science is simply the art of resolving conflict through erratic means that vary in random ways. The unpredictable nature of human beings makes it difficult to define standard solutions or hypothesis for others to follow. Druckman, Green and Kuklinski argue out that every situation in political science provides a unique problem that has to be provided with a unique solution of its own (28). It is rare to find any two situations that may be similar in nature but with the same solution. This means that it is not easy to describe political science as a real science when in essence, it leads to different outcomes to similar situations. Even though some circumstances may be similar, the results produced may be totally different, depending on the number and type of people involved in the situation. Therefore, political science fails the reliability and replication principle of the scientific method.
Another important fact to consider in this debate is that, the work of a scientist is to come up with new ideas and test them using an existing method. This means that a scientist has to come up with a theory and then go ahead and prove its legitimacy or invalidate it. For that reason, a scientist focuses on justifying principles through testing and repeated experiments till a pattern emerges. On the other hand, political scientist usually deal with situations where it is not possible to define relationships between ideas or situations. In most cases, the situations presented may be illogical with no clear flow of events constrained by human emotion and uncertainty. The information that political scientists must deal with is not easy to relate and break down in a scientific manner. Therefore, the whole premise of using the scientific method to study such information is invalidated.
One of the most widely used reasoning to discredit political science is the issue of evidence or research to support claims. Many publications in the field deal with matters that are easily explained using legal terms and understanding with no evidence or research to support such claims. This points to the fact that political science does not conform to all the principles of the scientific method. The scientific method requires the use of evidence and facts to prove or disapprove information. In this case, only a single viewpoint is presented and it is not easy to go against the stated principle since it is the acceptable way of doing things. This also goes against the general principle of science Popper indicates that, “disproving false hypothesis is helpful in science since it helps eliminate dead ends and allows for more promising explanations” (8). On the other hand, most political science books provide legal facts that cannot be disapproved or challenged in society. This is what in part, makes it hard to classify political science as a true science. Chalmers observes that, “scientific information must both be objective and fallible” (25). Objectivity requires that such information should be verifiable and proven to be true by available means and fallibility implies that such information can be invalidated with the development of better, more advanced ways to verify the information.
The Scientific Method and the differentiation problem.
There are two main definitions of science, in the old times, science was just defined as knowledge from observations. However, after the 18th century, the scientific method was developed which changed the definition of science to include the use of the scientific method. In the recent times, the study of politics has found a new meaning with the introduction of the scientific method. Political science can be accepted as a proper science when the scientific method is applied to get new information, define and ascertain events in politics. Popper affirms that science and politics can intermingle to come up with a new discipline which presents information and facts in a quantifiable, helpful manner. This is what is largely referred to as political science.
Clarke and Primo provide a very interesting view to the discussion. According to them, political scientists as well as social scientists in general, know very little about the mechanics of the modern natural sciences. They argue that philosophers of...
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