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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Introduction to Sociology: The Discip...

Introduction to Sociology: The Discipline

Sociology does not claim to be a potentially all-inclusive and all-sufficing science of society which might absorb the more specialized social sciences. The late origin of sociology does not mean that its standing as compared with other social sciences is very weak. Its scope has been clearly demarcated right from the early days. Its concepts, terms, typologies and generalizations leading to theories, emerged from the very beginning. Moreover, there are striking similarities between sociology and other social sciences: man as a principal ingredient of their subject matters, applications of some methodological tools like observation, comparative method, casual explanations, testing and modification of hypothesis etc.

When so much is common to sociology on the one hand and the other social sciences it is understandable that there is some amount of commonness in the studies as well as mutual borrowings in the form of data, methods, approaches, concepts and even vocabulary. In brief, sociology is a distinct social science, but it is not an isolated social science as the current trends indicate that every social science is depending more and more on inter-disciplinary approach, that is, historians and sociologists, for example, might even work together in curricular and search projects which would have been scarcely conceivable prior to about 1945, when each social science tendered to follow the course that emerged in the 19th century; to be confined to a single, distinguishable, though artificial, area of social reality.

Human Evolution

In the simplest sense ,evolution means the slow process of change from a simple to a more complex structure. Evolution assumes that all living things are inter-related. Humans are supposed to have developed from some simpler forms. Most of the scientists today accept the basic principle of evolution but they have varying views regarding how evolution has taken place or how far it has gone. The evolution of life began in the oceans. About four hundred million years ago the first land based creatures emerged. Some of these gradually evolved into the large reptiles who were later displaced by mammals. Mammals are warm-blooded creatures having greater capacity to learn from experience than other animals and this capacity has reached its highest development in the

human species.

Our closest relatives are chimpanzee, gorilla and oranguatan. Though similarities between man and other animal forms were discovered by Linnaeus who grouped men ,the great ape and monkeys in a single order, primates, the three main theories are Lamarckism, Darwinism and Synthetic theory.

Lamarck is chiefly remembered for his belief in the inheritability of acquired character which is disputed. But he is credited in the history of evolutionary thought for recognizing and stating for the first time that evolution is a general fact covering all forms of life and it is a gradual process.

The scientific establishment of the theory of evolution was mainly the work of Charles Darwin. In his book 'The Origin of Species'1859 he showed that human evolution has occurred through the process of natural selection. The main points of this theory are:

  • Struggle for existence
  • Variation
  • Survival of the fittest
  • Natural selection

Darwin's natural selection serves as the corner-stone of the modern synthesis, but the mutation theory,Mendelian genetics and the statistics of population dynamics are also very important components of its foundation.

The basic postulate of the synthetic theory is that evolution proceeds principally as a result of the interaction between five indispensable processes-

  • Mutation
  • Genetic recombination
  • Changes in the chromosome number and structure
  • Natural selection
  • Reproductive isolation

This is also called Neo-Darwinism.

Stages in Human Evolution

During the Miocene epoch the family Hominoidea diverged into two sub-families the Pongidae (apes) and the Hominidae(humans).The exact point of divergence between the ape line and the human line is debatable. In general Dryopithecus is considered to be ancestor of both apes and humans.

Dryopithecus: This genus lived in Africa,China,India and Europe. The genetic title dryopithecus means oak wood apes because it is believed that the environmental conditions were such at that time with densely forested tropical lowlands and the members might have been predominantly herbivorous.

Ramapithecus: The first remains of Ramapithecus were discovered from Shivalik hills in Punjab and later discovered in Africa and SaudiArabia.The region where Ramapithecines lived was not merely forest but open grassland. A hominid status for them is claimed on two grounds: Fossil evidence indicating adaptation including robust jaws, thickened tooth enamel and shorter canines. Extrapolation regarding upright posture and the use of hands for food and defense.

Australopithecus: This genus is the immediate forerunner of the genus Homo.The first Australopithecine find was made in 1924 at Taung a limestone quarry site in South Africa by Raymond Dart. They walked erect, lived on the ground and probably used stones as weapons to hunt small animals. They weighed 60 to 90 pounds and were about 4 feet tall.

Home Erectus: The first evidence of the Homo species was discovered in Java by Eugene Dubois in 1891.He named his find as pithecanthropus erectus meaning the erect ape man. It is said to be the missing link. Another find was made in China ,south-west of Peking called Peking man. These had larger cranial capacity then Australopithecus lived in communal existence and used fire. The cranial capacity of Homo erectus which include Java man and Peking man varied from about 775 to nearly 1300 CC.The Acheulean tool tradition is associated with the Homo Erectus way of life. The stone tools were largely made of quartz. Bone tools and wooden tools like wooden spears have also been discovered. There is evidence of big game hunting which indicates that there must have been collective cooperative hunting. The Homo Erectus seem to be cave-dwellers. An important advancement is that there is evidence of the use of fire.

Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis : The Home erectus gradually evolved into the Homo Sapiens. In this transitional event two sub-species of the Homo sapiens have been identified. One the primitive man who has been labeled Homo sapien Neanderthal and two the modern man who is called Homo sapiens sapiens. Most of the evidences about the primitive man that have been unearthed are 75,000 years old. The first fossil that was found of the Neanderthal type was a skull cap found in Germany. The cranial capacity of Neanderthal exceeded that of the modern man.It ranged from 1200 to 1610 c.c.Their culture has come to known as Mousterian culture. A few small hand axes are also found. For the first time pointed stone flakes which seem certainly to be spearheads have also been found. There caves were made more comfortable for winter dwelling by placing a fire work with holes at the entrance of the cave and by covering it with stretched hide. The Neanderthals were capable of big game hunting, including elephants, rhino etc.

Homo Sapiens Sapiens: The first skeletal remains of Homo sapiens sapiens were found in Europe and were named Cro-Magnon. In the Homo sapiens sapiens there is final reduction of the jaws, the appearance of modern man's chin and of the rounded skull.Mean cranial capacity was about 1350 c.c.Modern man is very closely related to Cro-magnon.Their culture which dates back to 35,000 years is also called upper Paleolithic culture. Hunting and gathering seem to have been the primary methods of food gathering. The first appearance of art was during this time. The drawings on cave walls were mainly of animal figures.

Importance of Sociology

Sociology makes a scientific study of society: Prior to the emergence of sociology the study of society was carried on in an unscientific manner and society had never been the central concern of any science. It is through the study of sociology that the truly scientific study of the society has been possible. Sociology because of its bearing upon many of the problems of the present world has assumed such a great importance that it is considered to be the best approach to all the social sciences.

Sociology studies role of the institutions in the development of the individuals: It is through sociology that scientific study of the great social institutions and the relation of the individual to each is being made. The home and family ,the school and educaton,the church and religion, the state and government ,industry and work ,the community and association, these are institutions through which society functions. Sociology studies these institutions and their role in the development of the individual and suggests suitable measures for restrengthening them with a view to enable them to serve the individual better.

Study of sociology is indispensable for understanding and planning of society: Society is a complex phenomenon with a multitude of intricacies. It is impossible to understand and solve its numerous problems without support of sociology. It is rightly said that we cannot understand and mend society without any knowledge of its mechanism and construction. Without the investigation carried out by sociology no real effective social planning would be possible. It helps us to determine the most efficient means for reaching the goals agreed upon. A certain amount of knowledge about society is necessary before any social policies can be carried out.

Sociology is of great importance in the solution of social problems: The present world is suffering from many problems which can be solved through scientific study of the society. It is the task of sociology to study the social problems through the methods of scientific research and to find out solution to them. The scientific study of human affairs will ultimately provide the body of knowledge and principles that will enable us to control the conditions of social life and improve them.

Sociology has drawn our attention to the intrinsic worth and dignity of man: Sociology has been instrumental in changing our attitude towards human beings. In a specialized society we are all limited as to the amount of the whole organization and culture that we can experience directly. We can hardly know the people of other areas intimately. In order to have insight into and appreciation of the motives by which others live and the conditions under which they exist a knowledge of sociology is essential.

Sociology has changed our outlook with regard to the problems of crime etc:It is through the study of sociology that our whole outlook on various aspects of crime has change. The criminals are now treated as human beings suffering from mental deficiencies and efforts are accordingly made to rehabilitate them as useful members of the society.

Sociology has made great contribution to enrich human culture: Human culture has been made richer by the contribution of sociology. The social phenomenon is now understood in the light of scientific knowledge and enquiry. According to Lowie most of us harbor the comfortable delusion that our way of doing things is the only sensible if not only possible one. Sociology has given us training to have rational approach to questions concerning oneself, one's religion,customs,morals and institutions. It has further taught us to be objective, critical and dispassionate. It enables man to have better understanding both of himself and of others. By comparative study of societies and groups other than his existence ,his life becomes richer and fuller than it would otherwise be. Sociology also impresses upon us the necessity of overcoming narrow personal prejudices, ambitions and class hatred.

Sociology is of great importance in the solution of international problems: The progress made by physical sciences has brought the nations of the world nearer to each other. But in the social field the world has been left behind by the revolutionary progress of the science. The world is divided politically giving rise to stress and conflict. Men have failed to bring in peace. Sociology can help us in understanding the underlying causes and tensions.

The value of sociology lies in the fact that it keeps us update on modern situations: It contributes to making good citizens and finding solutions to the community problems. It adds to the knowledge of the society. It helps the individual find his relation to society. The study of social phenomena and of the ways and means of promoting what Giddens calls social adequacy is one of the most urgent needs of the modern society. Sociology has a strong appeal to all types of mind through its direct bearing upon many of the initial problems of the present world.

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