BY : FESTUS OPPONG K. ASANTE.
A science is a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged & showing the operation of general laws. The chief characteristics of science are: The possibility of a concise, consistent & connected formulation. The capacity to form generalizations & make predictions. The possibility of the verification of data as well as of generalizations. An agreement on methods or methodology. The adequate training of those who are engaged in a scientific work. According to G.N Singh, sciences may be of four kinds : Abstract or mental sciences eg. Mathematics & Logic Physical sciences eg. Physics, Chemistry & Geology Biological sciences eg. Botany & Zoology Social sciences eg. Sociology, Economics & Psychology. Prominent Political Scientist like Philip H. Pollock, David Easton, Max Weber, Thomas Hobbes and Karl Marx argue that Political Science is a science. This piece seeks to ascertain the truth or falsity in this statement.
First, We have sciences of an exact nature like physics & biology, but we have also some inexact (based on guess) sciences like meteorology. If so, political science cannot be likened with physics, it can certainly be likened with meteorology. Hence, we may affirm that some laws of meteorology may not be put to empirical observation or investigation. Second, An astonishingly large number of studies based on facts have led to the emergence of a very wide stock of empirical political theory. Generalizations based on such a wide array of fact have led to the laying down of some irrefutable conclusions as democracy is the best form of government, separation of powers is necessary to ensure liberty of the people, an elective office is better than an appointed office.
Also, It is said that, a science has the quality of making predictions. As political science has no said quality, it cannot be branded as a science. However, political science is a social science & cannot have this quality of the natural sciences. Social science deals with human behavior in its diverse manifestations & since human mind is always changing, predictions cannot be made on that basis. But recent studies have shown that, the element of prediction can be made in a social science on the basis of certain laws of social development. Marx & Engels where able to predict the emergence of socialism at the fall of capitalism that happened in the 20th century.
Moreover, Political Science can legitimately claim to be a science in so far as it shares with the natural sciences the use of the scientific method. The essential features of this method are; (a) It takes nothing for granted; (b) It insists that all generalisations made be based on observed facts; (c) It will not accept any generalisation as final and irrevocable; (d) Besides a scientist, so far as humanly possible, is not swayed by his personal preferences or subjective bias in the formulation of his findings. He should be objective.
Lastly, As theory building involves testing hypothesis through empirical observation. Empirical testing suggests falsifying can take place. Popper states in the year 1959, “An empirical theory or hypothesis cannot be scientific unless there is at least the possibility of proving it wrong. Being proven wrong in science is not the worst thing that can happen and proven wrong is useful as it brings to end a certain story and starts to look for more promising explanations. A theory that can’t be proven wrong has no benefits. The scientific method does not begin by proving what is true, but rather by eliminating the thing that is false.
In Conclusion, the study of politics using the scientific method was present since the formative years and then started to become increasingly popular during the 1920’s. Politics becoming a science is less a revolution but rather a trend that is evolving from its early days. The reason that political science is slow from developing is because of the fact that it is truly a “hard” science. The challenges faced to measure and observe main concepts might be a lot more difficult than what the other sciences face. But by learning increasingly complex and complicated statistical methods, it will help in abundance in Political sciences’, scientific development.