Here is an interesting article regarding the relationship between natural science and social science, specific to public policy.
I recently had an exchange with a sociology major who insistent upon the relevance of Marxist theory in social science (I should be clear though; the immediate intent of this post is not a discussion of Marxist theory, though of course, that discussion can emerge). I was willing to admit that the social scientist can tease around ideas and theories that those in the natural sciences would probably never take too seriously (e.g., I can’t for the life of me think of a single chemist, physicist, or biologist who would use a theory of exploitation within their respectable disciplines). However, I insisted that social scientists ought to be continuous with the natural sciences, specifically biology. I mentioned, for example, that emergent complexity has far more explanatory power than Marxism. Thus, social scientists ought to embrace this theory rather than Marxism, especially since Marxism isn’t even a viable scientific theory. Of course, like many social scientists, he was unwilling for this move and was inclined to think of social science as su generis.
These sorts of debates are popular because of the constant creeping in of radical relativism, interpretative theories, and worst of all, Post-Modernism. This is unfortunate, as the origins of disciplines, such as Anthropology, emerged as explicitly scientific (e.g,, Darwin, Neurath, Tyler, Saussure, and many more). Consequently, we often see departments that have a traditional scientific social scientist alongside a supposed psychoanalytic theorist; we see a social scientist who is skilled in data management, statistical testing, etc. alongside individuals who see science as filtered through a western white male psyche.
To conclude, the philosopher constantly complains of having to explain exactly what it is they do because of peoples’ lack of understanding. Likewise, the dedicated “scientific” social scientist is left with a similar burden.