What is Science?
Science has many definitions and understandings. When asked for the first time in class at the very first lecture of this course, it sounded a little weird. It was weird because, it is shameful for a PhD student not to think about the meaning or concept of what science after those years doing science (maybe just an illusion of doing science).
Science might be defined as the joint human effort to understand the nature and the phenomenon going around over the world which affects or have the potential to affect the human beings.
The underlying phenomena of why people do science might be investigated mainly in two groups. In other words, the benefits of doing science might be classified in two groups.
One big motivation of doing science corresponds to the benefits associated with doing science in the individual level. For instance, people do science in order to feel themselves nobler than other people. In addition to this self satisfaction/motivation some scientists chose that path because they earn their paychecks by doing science. As long as they produce and research for new things they got paid. The same is also true for the scientist those work for for-profit-organizations. They got their salaries or earn bonuses based on what they have added to the organization they are working for.
Of course the reasons to do science are not limited only to the above mentioned motivations or aims. There are also societal causes and motivations. This is also the reason behind why some nations pay people who are doing science.
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One of the main underlying facts about doing science is that doing science improves people’s lives. By collecting and accumulating information people have a chance to understand what is going around them. The other reason/motivation of doing science is that science also adds to the economic development of the nations. By doing science and learning why things happen, nations or civilizations have a chance to manipulate and control what s going around. This helps them be more effective and efficient, thereby helps them prosper.
Some of the formal definitions of science is as follows:
1. The systematic observation of natural events and conditions in order to discover facts about them and to formulate laws and principles based on these facts.
2. The organized body of knowledge that is derived from such observations and that can be verified or tested by further investigation.
3. Any specific branch of the above mentioned general body of knowledge, such as biology, physics, geology, or astronomy.
Academic Press Dictionary of Science & Technology
According to this definition of what is science, we understand that science has to be systematic. Scientist or the people dealing with any kind of science have to show some structures and persistent efforts in order to meaningfully interpret the out setting.
Moreover, the Multicultural History of Science page of the Vanderbilt University proves the systematic nature of the science as follows:
“Science involves more than the gaining of knowledge. It is the systematic and organized inquiry into the natural world and its phenomena. Science is about gaining a deeper and often useful understanding of the world.”
“Science is an intellectual activity carried on by humans that is designed to discover information about the natural world in which humans live and to discover the ways in which this information can be organized into meaningful patterns. A primary aim of science is to collect facts (data).
Environmental Science - Human Population It is a truth that many people, in developing countries, starve on daily basis, while being unable to break the vicious circle of poverty. But it just never occurs to the whining liberals, in our government, who come up with different plans of how to provide these people with food, that the constant starvation and high children's mortality in Africa, for ...
An ultimate purpose of science is to discern the order that exists between and amongst the various facts.”
According to the Dr. Sheldon Gottlieb (University of South Alabama), the purpose of science is to discover the factual information and laws governing the sytemn in this world so as to use these rules in order to use these processes and manipulate them if possible to make the humanity better off.
Below are some other explanations as to how science can be described:
“Science consists simply of the formulation and testing of hypotheses based on observational evidence; experiments are important where applicable, but their function is merely to simplify observation by imposing controlled conditions.”
Robert H. Dott, Jr., and Henry L. Batten, Evolution of the Earth (2nd edition)
“Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers in the preceeding generation . . .As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”
Richard Feynman, Nobel-prize-winning physicist, in The Pleasure of Finding Things Out as quoted in American Scientist v. 87, p. 462 (1999).
Science is really a broad term and it is hard to confine science and its prerequisites in a single category of science. However, before going into details about the categories of science, we might talk about two broad categories.
Firstly according to the positivists who always associate science with empirical sciences, there is always a human nature within the science. Also known as, human science, humanistic social science, moral science, and human sciences are the coherted effort in order to investigate human life and human behavior via a rational, systematic, and verifiable methodology.
As long as human is the subject of science we might not be talking about a universal truth in moral or social sciences. There may also be universal truth in the science of human nature, however, it is nearly impossible, to find an exact setting in which we might expect the same activities to be observed again.
... proposed the first modern political philosophy.Hobbes returned to human nature as the basis of the ... subject to interference from outside ourselves. (Leviathan II 21)As Hobbes acknowledged, this account of human nature ... there is some proportion of reality, truth and distinctness between the invisible and ... natural science, which rejected the Aristotelian world-view, Hobbes declared the human being ...
But can we be sure about the existence of a universal truth in every subcategory of science? Or how realistic the assumptions of an underlying theory are? What about the methodology employed by the researcher when reaching a particular conclusion? How a scientific theory does changes our lives and what are the implications?
All of the questions above pertains to the field of Philosophy of Science. In wikipedia the concept of philosophy of science is defined as following:
“The philosophy of science is concerned with the assumptions, foundations, methods and implications of science. It is also concerned with the use and merit of science and sometimes overlaps metaphysics and epistemology by exploring whether scientific results are actually a study of truth. In addition to these central problems of science as a whole, many philosophers of science also consider problems that apply to particular sciences (e.g. philosophy of biology or philosophy of physics).
Some philosophers of science also use contemporary results in science to reach conclusions about philosophy.”
However according to some of the scientists, the field or study of the philosophy of science is not of practical use to people doing science. The above quoted physicist Richard Feynman puts that way of thought very neatly:
“Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds”
1. CHURCHMANC, . W., AND ACKOFFR, . L., Psychologistics (mimeographed) Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1946.
2. HAYEK, F. A., The Counter-Revolutiono f Science: studies on the abuse of reason, Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press, 1952.
3. MILL, JOHN STUART, A Science of Human Nature: Human Nature A Subject of Science. London: Longmans, 1843, Vol. II,.
4. MILL, JOHN STUART, A System of Logic: Ratiocinative and Inductive. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1893, Bk. VI, Ch. IV.
5. RUDNER, RICHARD S., Philosophy and Social Science, The Philosophy of Science Association: Chicago Journals, 1954
Teaching science in the elementary schools is an important subject that should begin being taught an early age. There are many articles on science in the elementary schools. I have chosen four articles that I feel have high levels of importance to the topic. The first article I read was, "What's the Buzz" by Laurie A. Hinman. This article was written by a student teacher of a second grade ...