The Greek philosopher Aristotle in Nicomecan Ethics, Book 10 said that in politics one must not expect the same rigor as in the sciences, because much of politics is subject to debate, opinions and uncertainty.
But here, from Aristotle, I beg to differ. The sciences have always dealt with approximations and theories which have built with opinions and experimentation. The scientific method is but a systematic means of testing a conceived idea. The idea is then accepted as truth, if other people under the same conditions can arrive at the same result (reproducibility) and if the error involved is minimal.
Physics attempts to model the interactions in the real world at least at a macroscopic level. Even if we take the famous Newton’s laws*, they are simply an approximation of how moving objects function. The objects are reduced to mere points and all forces on it are attributed to be acting on the center of gravity. This approximation works well, the results of the calculation closely approach the actual values. To accurately describe the functioning of all objects we need an accurate model of the world and it is very well known that such a thing has never been achieved.
In mathematics we take another creation of Newton’s, Calculus which is extensively used in other sciences. Since calculus is very vast, I shall take the example of integration. Simply put, we use integration to find the area under the graph of a positive function. To do this we divide the area under the graph into various rectangle and add their areas up.
As shown in the figure, there is a lot of error involved in this, to reduce the error we increase the number of rectangles and decrease their breath. The result approaches the actual value of the area under the graph of a function.
Many more examples can be found in all the different branches of the sciences. Thus, we come to see that mathematics or physics or any other science is precise only in theory and entails a lot of ‘reasonable’ assumptions, approximations and other errors when actually applied to real life situations. Similar things can be said about political science. It, like it’s more ‘rigorous’ counterparts, arrives at a conclusion through logic and thought. It is open to debate, just like the sciences, which have an elaborate system of publishing articles and many people testing them for validity and then agreeing upon them, to establish a theorem. In political science, the debate is publicly known as they deal directly with society, but it too has various people with various ideas arrived upon logically with some assumptions and approximations. The ways of experimentation may differ, but both the sciences have the same error when dealing with real life. And thus, when we take all this into consideration, one can say that the rigor in political theory is as fundamental to it as it is to the sciences.
*Dear physicists, I have taken Newton’s laws as an example even though there have been other theories developed which give better results, as they are more famous and many people have come to understand them and their assumptions. If this doesn’t convince you, I urge you consider the example of the flow of a river. Though it is consistent at all points, it is not rigorously describable.