The French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798-1857) named the field of sociology when sociologists separated themselves from moral philosophy. Sociologists study human societies, their interactions, the processes of change, social status, and social disorders such as crime, deviance, and revolution. Social life creates institutions such as economies, religions, educational systems, and political parties. Social life also creates special institutions such as the family, the community, the military, peer groups, clubs, and volunteer associations.
The early sociologists aligned their thoughts to Darwin’s evolutionary theory. This alignment introduces one to concepts such as variance, natural selection, and inheritance. Accordingly, social science began as an atheistic field of thought when the early sociologists separated themselves from moral philosophy. This godless path of thought continued in the USA and lured many federally-funded students to our colleges and universities after the US Supreme Court and the ACLU began to separate God from State. So, there is a reason why sociologists have not served the people of the USA well. To serve the people well, sociologists must study the Declaration of Independence and recognize in the Declaration that the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle all humans that life which God gave them. God, not Nature, gives life. By separating themselves from moral philosophy, sociologists separated themselves from the Laws of God’s Nature. With my new book on The First Scientific Proof of God on their side, sociologists could turn their minds onto God and the path of man’s future. They could also conclude that their work has not been lost. In fact, their findings of social conflicts could move the USA into a new political science and fairer economy quickly.
Below, I have extracted from Encyclopedia Britannica 2006 deluxe CD a summary story of sociology. I include this extraction so the reader can become aware of how much waste a nation can accumulate if ‘the people’ turn away from God and do not accept their personal and social responsibilities to God. Instead of thinking about the self development of humans through the growth of intelligence and freedom and accepting their responsibilities to God, the early sociologists thought that evolutionary factors, such as the survival of the fittest, changed societies from stages of savagery and barbarism to civilization.
Thus, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, social Darwinism promoted unrestricted competition and laissez-faire. However, prior to WWI, other social theories were sought. But, instead of seeking God, the new social theories considered social factors such as geography (climates, ecology, etc.), social psychology (human instincts, drives, motives, temperament, intelligence, etc.), and cultures (human ability to innovate, accumulate, and diffuse culture).
To become more scientific and distinguish social science from biology and psychology, the French sociologist, Émile Durkheim (1858–1917), argued that human interactions develop new “social facts” such as sentiments, customs, institutions, and nations. Durkheim’s research on suicide was aligned to the standards of scientific inquiry. He considered the social characteristics of individuals (e.g., religious affiliation, rural-urban residence) that reflected the degree of their social integration in the community. Then, he related these variables statistically. Such social facts gave birth to “functionalism.” So, like a physical scientist, Durkheim predicted that specialization and social contracts would develop and maintain societies. Functionalists even thought that a single personality could produce a general disturbance in the whole society.
After World War II, universities developed advances in survey research application, measurement, and social statistics. At the forefront were Columbia University and the University of Chicago. But, a gap developed between empirical research and theory. To become like the physical sciences, societies had to be given a structure on the basis of their functions. This structural-functional emphasis views a society as a ‘system.’ This system survives based on institutional practices such as selecting the most talented and meritorious individuals to meet society's needs. But, this ‘social system’ was viewed as a conservative ideology that represses the weaker groups. This system thus causes conflicts such as the civil right movement. Conflicts were also found in families, an economy, politics, and education. Accordingly, sociologists saw the need to destroy such conflicts. By 1975, growth and optimism in sociology came to an end because the functionalist-conflict debate was dividing the field of sociology. In time, these divisions were institutionalized with the result that the debate was never solved. So, social theory building declined.
Stratification of people in a society is a central concern of sociology. Unlike Europe, sociologists viewed the USA as a classless society with a high degree of upward mobility. However, during the Great Depression, the working people and business people became divided. Further, in 1941, researchers applied anthropological methods and found six distinct subcultures: upper upper and lower upper, upper middle and lower middle, and upper lower and lower lower classes. Furthermore, in Atlanta in 1953, researchers found that a community power structure controlled the agenda of urban politics. And, in 1956, researchers found that a “power elite” dominated the national agenda in Washington, a cabal comprising business, government, and the military.
In 1966, Gerhard Lenski found that the structures the societies of hunting and gathering, horticulture, agriculture, and industry were associated with stratification. In 1960, Marion Levy found that underdeveloped nations would inevitably develop institutions that paralleled those of the more economically advanced nations. But, in 1974, Immanuel Wallerstein proposed that advanced industrial nations would develop most rapidly and thereby widen global inequality and hold developing nations in a state of dependency. Further, gender and racial inequalities and segregation was found to exist in all societies.
On the method of doing social science, 19th-century sociology had no system for gathering and analyzing data. Early exploitation of statistical materials, such as official records of birth, death, crime, and suicide, provided only moderate advances in knowledge. Unfortunately, data were easily manipulated, often to support preconceived ideas. Significant advances in scientific methodology occurred at the University of Chicago in the 1920s when studies were made on the metropolis and its subareas. But, hypotheses were developed during the research rather than being imposed a priori. This nonscientific practice was corrected by theoretically guided research.
Research techniques vary depending on the social phenomena studied. Data-collection techniques differ from participant observation, content analysis, interviewing, and documentary analysis. In this approach each problem studied requires a specific unit of observation, be it an individual, an organization, a city, a relationship between units, or a statistical rate. Even the way a concept is defined can affect data collection. For instance, when measuring occupational mobility, the definition of occupation is critical. But, sociologists still use Aristotle’s method of defining concepts. Apparently, sociologists either did not know that sense data are primarily symbolic or knew it but did not develop a symbolic language for sociology.
Steps must be taken to collect valid social data. Many obstacles can arise, especially on sensitive subjects such as alcohol consumption in a community that prohibits or looks down upon it. In this instance the problem of gathering valid data might be circumvented by counting liquor bottles in trash receptacles or in the town dump. Similarly, a decline in the number of fictional works checked out of libraries has been used to estimate television-watching habits. Unfortunately, questionnaires, while useful for gathering information from large numbers of respondents, are marked by methodological problems. The wording of questions must be intelligible to the uneducated or uninterested as well as to the sophisticated respondent. Topics that provoke resistance must be presented in a way that yields a complete and unbiased response while keeping the interviewee engaged with the questions.
In face-to-face interviewing, it may be necessary to consider the interviewer's sex or race, appearance, manner, and approach. Questions must be posed in a way that does not influence the response. Interviewers must have steps for handling resistance or refusal. Indirect questioning, for example, may yield information that respondents would hesitate to provide in answers to direct questioning. Because of this, information collected through “canned” telephone interviews often leads to lower-quality data and poorer response rates.
Sampling errors and bias both constitute a continuing concern, especially since so much sociological knowledge is derived from samples of a larger universe. Where bias cannot be controlled, its extent may sometimes be estimated by various methods, including intensive analysis of smaller samples. For example, the population undercount in the United States is well known, as are the methods to estimate its extent, but political obstacles prevent the U.S. Bureau of the Census from revealing the undercount. Possibilities for errors arise in every stage of research, and the methods for reducing them constitute a continuing program of study in sociology.
The divide between mainstream sociologists and those devoted to qualitative analysis seems deep and unbridgeable. Qualitative sociologists feel that their work is under recognized and marginalized, even though it deals more with social reality than does standard sociology. Classical sociologists, in turn, feel that qualitative work can be trivial, philosophical, ideologically driven, or difficult to research. In addition, some members of groups who feel exploited (women, blacks, homosexuals, and the working class) assert that social observations cannot be made by outsiders; they believe that only victims have true insight into other victims and that they alone are equipped to do meaningful research in these areas. Minorities and other groups that locate themselves at the margins of society sometimes come together—often by organizing movements within professional societies—to challenge “establishment sociologists.” This results in the direction of more attention, funding, and research to the more highly focused topics.
Finally, since World War II, sociology has exported much of its theory, methodology, and findings to other divisions of our colleges and universities. For instance, the study of human relations and formal organizations was transferred to business schools. And, the study of socialization, institutions, and stratification was absorbed by departments of education. Outside the university, the empirical methods and sociological theory prompted government agencies to adopt a behavioral perspective. Economists widened the scope of their research by introducing social variables to the analysis of economic behavior. In short, although contemporary sociology is divided, it remains a vibrant field whose innovations contribute to its own development and that of social science in general.