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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") is, in its broadest sense, any systematic knowledge-base or prescriptive practice that is capable of resulting in a correct prediction, or reliably-predictable type of outcome. In this sense, science may refer to a highly skilled technique, technology, or practice, from which a good deal of randomness in outcome has been removed.[1]

In its more restricted contemporary sense, science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge based on scientific method, and to the organized body of knowledge gained through such research.[2][3] This article focuses on the more restricted use of the word. Science as discussed in this article is sometimes called experimental science to differentiate it from applied science, which is the application of scientific research to specific human needs—although the two are commonly interconnected.

Science is a continuing effort to discover and increase human knowledge and understanding through disciplined research. Using controlled methods, scientists collect observable evidence of natural or social phenomena, record measurable data relating to the observations, and analyze this information to construct theoretical explanations of how things work. The methods of scientific research include the generation of hypotheses about how phenomena work, and experimentation that tests these hypotheses under controlled conditions. Scientists are also expected to publish their information so other scientists can do similar experiments to double-check their conclusions. The results of this process enable better understanding of past events, and better ability to predict future events of the same kind as those that have been tested.

The ability of the general population to understand the basic concepts related to science is referred to as scientific literacy.


Basic classifications

Scientific fields are commonly divided into two major groups: natural sciences, which study natural phenomena (including biological life), and social sciences, which study human behavior and societies. These groupings are empirical sciences, which means the knowledge must be based on observable phenomena and capable of being tested for its validity by other researchers working under the same conditions.[3] There are also related disciplines that are grouped into interdisciplinary and applied sciences, such as engineering and health science. Within these categories are specialized scientific fields that can include elements of other scientific disciplines but often possess their own terminology and body of expertise.[4]

Mathematics, which is classified as a formal science, has both similarities and differences with the natural and social sciences. It is similar to empirical sciences in that it involves an objective, careful and systematic study of an area of knowledge; it is different because of its method of verifying its knowledge, using a priori rather than empirical methods.[3] Formal science, which also includes statistics and logic, is vital to the empirical sciences. Major advances in formal science have often led to major advances in the empirical sciences. The formal sciences are essential in the formation of hypotheses, theories, and laws,[3] both in discovering and describing how things work (natural sciences) and how people think and act (social sciences).

History and etymology

Personification of "Science" in front of the Boston Public Library

While empirical investigations of the natural world have been described since antiquity (for example, by Aristotle, Theophrastus and Pliny the Elder), and scientific methods have been employed since the Middle Ages (for example, by Ibn al-Haytham, Abu Rayhan Biruni and Roger Bacon), the dawn of modern science is generally traced back to the early modern period during what is known as the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries.[5]

The word "science" comes through the Old French, and is derived in turn from the Latin scientia, "knowledge", the nominal form of the verb scire, "to know". The Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root that yields scire is *skei-, meaning to "cut, separate, or discern".[6] Similarly, the Greek word for science is 'επιστήμη', deriving from the verb 'επίσταμαι', 'to know'. From the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, science or scientia meant any systematic recorded knowledge.[7] Science therefore had the same sort of very broad meaning that philosophy had at that time. In other languages, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, the word corresponding to science also carries this meaning.

Prior to the 1700s, the preferred term for the study of nature was natural philosophy, while English speakers most typically referred to other philosophical disciplines (such as logic, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and aesthetics) as moral philosophy. Today, "moral philosophy" is more-or-less synonymous with "ethics". Far into the 1700s, science and natural philosophy were not quite synonymous, but only became so later with the direct use of what would become known formally as the scientific method. By contrast, the word "science" in English was still used in the 17th century (1600s) to refer to the Aristotelian concept of knowledge which was secure enough to be used as a sure prescription for exactly how to do something. In this differing sense of the two words, the philosopher John Locke wrote disparagingly in 1690 that "natural philosophy [the study of nature] is not capable of being made a science".[8]

Locke was to be proven wrong, however. By the early 1800s, natural philosophy had begun to separate from philosophy, though it often retained a very broad meaning. In many cases, science continued to stand for reliable knowledge about any topic, in the same way it is still used in the broad sense (see the introduction to this article) in modern terms such as library science, political science, and computer science. In the more narrow sense of science, as natural philosophy became linked to an expanding set of well-defined laws (beginning with Galileo's laws, Kepler's laws, and Newton's laws for motion), it became more popular to refer to natural philosophy as natural science. Over the course of the nineteenth century, moreover, there was an increased tendency to associate science with study of the natural world (that is, the non-human world). This move sometimes left the study of human thought and society (what would come to be called social science) in a linguistic limbo by the end of the century and into the next.[9]

Through the 1800s, many English speakers were increasingly differentiating science (i.e., the natural sciences) from all other forms of knowledge in a variety of ways. The now-familiar expression “scientific method,” which refers to the prescriptive part of how to make discoveries in natural philosophy, was almost unused until then, but became widespread after the 1870s, though there was rarely total agreement about just what it entailed.[9] The word "scientist," meant to refer to a systematically-working natural philosopher, (as opposed to an intuitive or empirically-minded one) was coined in 1833 by William Whewell.[10] Discussion of scientists as a special group of people who did science, even if their attributes were up for debate, grew in the last half of the 19th century.[9] Whatever people actually meant by these terms at first, they ultimately depicted science, in the narrow sense of the habitual use of the scientific method and the knowledge derived from it, as something deeply distinguished from all other realms of human endeavor.

By the twentieth century (1900s), the modern notion of science as a special kind of knowledge about the world, practiced by a distinct group and pursued through a unique method, was essentially in place. It was used to give legitimacy to a variety of fields through such titles as "scientific" medicine, engineering, advertising, or motherhood.[9] Over the 1900s, links between science and technology also grew increasingly strong.

Scientific method

DNA determines the genetic structure of all known life
The Bohr model of the atom, like many ideas in the history of science, was at first prompted by and later partially disproved by experiment

A scientific method seeks to explain the events of nature in a reproducible way, and to use these reproductions to make useful predictions. It is done through observation of natural phenomena, and/or through experimentation that tries to simulate natural events under controlled conditions. It provides an objective process to find solutions to problems in a number of scientific and technological fields.[11]

Based on observations of a phenomenon, a scientist may generate a model. This is an attempt to describe or depict the phenomenon in terms of a logical physical or mathematical representation. As empirical evidence is gathered, a scientist can suggest a hypothesis to explain the phenomenon. This description can be used to make predictions that are testable by experiment or observation using scientific method. When a hypothesis proves unsatisfactory, it is either modified or discarded.

While performing experiments, scientists may have a preference for one outcome over another, and it is important to ensure that this tendency does not bias their interpretation.[12][13] A strict following of a scientific method attempts to minimize the influence of a scientist's bias on the outcome of an experiment. This can be achieved by correct experimental design, and a thorough peer review of the experimental results as well as conclusions of a study.[14][15] After the results of an experiment are announced or published, it is normal practice for independent researchers to double-check how the research was performed, and to follow up by performing similar experiments to determine how dependable the results might be.[16]

Once a hypothesis has survived testing, it may become adopted into the framework of a scientific theory. This is a logically reasoned, self-consistent model or framework for describing the behavior of certain natural phenomena. A theory typically describes the behavior of much broader sets of phenomena than a hypothesis—commonly, a large number of hypotheses can be logically bound together by a single theory. These broader theories may be formulated using principles such as parsimony (traditionally known as "Occam's Razor"). They are then repeatedly tested by analyzing how the collected evidence (facts) compares to the theory. When a theory survives a sufficiently large number of empirical observations, it then becomes a scientific generalization that can be taken as fully verified.

Unlike a mathematical proof, a scientific theory is empirical, and is always open to falsification if new evidence is presented. Even the most basic and fundamental theories may turn out to be imperfect if new observations are inconsistent with them. Critical to this process is making every relevant aspect of research publicly available, which allows ongoing review and repeating of experiments and observations by multiple researchers operating independently of one another. Only by fulfilling these expectations can it be determined how reliable the experimental results are for potential use by others.


Data from the famous Michelson–Morley experiment

Mathematics is essential to the sciences. One important function of mathematics in science is the role it plays in the expression of scientific models. Observing and collecting measurements, as well as hypothesizing and predicting, often require extensive use of mathematics. Arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus, for example, are all essential to physics. Virtually every branch of mathematics has applications in science, including "pure" areas such as number theory and topology.

Statistical methods, which are mathematical techniques for summarizing and analyzing data, allow scientists to assess the level of reliability and the range of variation in experimental results. Statistical analysis plays a fundamental role in many areas of both the natural sciences and social sciences.

Computational science applies computing power to simulate real-world situations, enabling a better understanding of scientific problems than formal mathematics alone can achieve. According to the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, computation is now as important as theory and experiment in advancing scientific knowledge.[17]

Whether mathematics itself is properly classified as science has been a matter of some debate. Some thinkers see mathematicians as scientists, regarding physical experiments as inessential or mathematical proofs as equivalent to experiments. Others do not see mathematics as a science, since it does not require an experimental test of its theories and hypotheses. Mathematical theorems and formulas are obtained by logical derivations which presume axiomatic systems, rather than the combination of empirical observation and logical reasoning that has come to be known as scientific method. In general, mathematics is classified as formal science, while natural and social sciences are classified as empirical sciences.[18]

Scientific community

The scientific community consists of the total body of scientists, its relationships and interactions. It is normally divided into "sub-communities" each working on a particular field within science.


The Meissner effect causes a magnet to levitate above a superconductor

Fields of science are widely-recognized categories of specialized expertise, and typically embody their own terminology and nomenclature. Each field will commonly be represented by one or more scientific journal, where peer reviewed research will be published.


Louis XIV visiting the Académie des sciences in 1671

Learned societies for the communication and promotion of scientific thought and experimentation have existed since the Renaissance period.[19] The oldest surviving institution is the Accademia dei Lincei in Italy.[20] National Academy of Sciences are distinguished institutions that exist in a number of countries, beginning with the British Royal Society in 1660[21] and the French Académie des Sciences in 1666.[22]

International scientific organizations, such as the International Council for Science, have since been formed to promote cooperation between the scientific communities of different nations. More recently, influential government agencies have been created to support scientific research, including the National Science Foundation in the U.S.

Other prominent organizations include the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Argentina, the academies of science of many nations, CSIRO in Australia, Centre national de la recherche scientifique in France, Max Planck Society and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft in Germany, and in Spain, CSIC.


An enormous range of scientific literature is published.[23] Scientific journals communicate and document the results of research carried out in universities and various other research institutions, serving as an archival record of science. The first scientific journals, Journal des Sçavans followed by the Philosophical Transactions, began publication in 1665. Since that time the total number of active periodicals has steadily increased. As of 1981, one estimate for the number of scientific and technical journals in publication was 11,500.[24] Today Pubmed lists almost 40,000, related to the medical sciences only.[25]

Most scientific journals cover a single scientific field and publish the research within that field; the research is normally expressed in the form of a scientific paper. Science has become so pervasive in modern societies that it is generally considered necessary to communicate the achievements, news, and ambitions of scientists to a wider populace.

Science magazines such as New Scientist, Science & Vie and Scientific American cater to the needs of a much wider readership and provide a non-technical summary of popular areas of research, including notable discoveries and advances in certain fields of research. Science books engage the interest of many more people. Tangentially, the science fiction genre, primarily fantastic in nature, engages the public imagination and transmits the ideas, if not the methods, of science.

Recent efforts to intensify or develop links between science and non-scientific disciplines such as Literature or, more specifically, Poetry, include the Creative Writing Science resource developed through the Royal Literary Fund.[26]

Philosophy of science

Velocity-distribution data of a gas of rubidium atoms, confirming the discovery of a new phase of matter, the Bose–Einstein condensate

The philosophy of science seeks to understand the nature and justification of scientific knowledge. It has proven difficult to provide a definitive account of scientific method that can decisively serve to distinguish science from non-science. Thus there are legitimate arguments about exactly where the borders are, which is known as the problem of demarcation. There is nonetheless a set of core precepts that have broad consensus among published philosophers of science and within the scientific community at large. For example, it is universally agreed that scientific hypotheses and theories must be capable of being independently tested and verified by other scientists in order to become accepted by the scientific community.

There are different schools of thought in the philosophy of scientific method. Methodological naturalism maintains that scientific investigation must adhere to empirical study and independent verification as a process for properly developing and evaluating natural explanations for observable phenomena.[27] Methodological naturalism, therefore, rejects supernatural explanations, arguments from authority and biased observational studies. Critical rationalism instead holds that unbiased observation is not possible and a demarcation between natural and supernatural explanations is arbitrary; it instead proposes falsifiability as the landmark of empirical theories and falsification as the universal empirical method. Critical rationalism argues for the ability of science to increase the scope of testable knowledge, but at the same time against its authority, by emphasizing its inherent fallibility. It proposes that science should be content with the rational elimination of errors in its theories, not in seeking for their verification (such as claiming certain or probable proof or disproof; both the proposal and falsification of a theory are only of methodological, conjectural, and tentative character in critical rationalism).[28] Instrumentalism rejects the concept of truth and emphasizes merely the utility of theories as instruments for explaining and predicting phenomena.[29]

Another aspect is that philosophy is at least implicitly at the core of every decision made. The schools of philosophical thought determine what is a necessity for scientific inquiry to take place.[30] For instance, there are basic philosophical assumptions implicit at the foundation of science - namely, 1) that reality is objective and consistent, 2) that humans have the capacity to perceive reality accurately, and 3) that rational explanations exist for elements of the real world. These assumptions are based in naturalism, critical rationalism, and instrumentalism, within which science is done.[30] Biologist Stephen J. Gould maintained that certain philosophical propositions--i.e., 1) Uniformity of law and 2) uniformity of processes across time and space--must first be assumed before you can proceed as a scientist doing science. Gould summarized this view as follows: "You cannot go to a rocky outcrop and observe either the constancy of nature's laws nor the working of unknown processes. It works the other way around." You first assume these propositions and "then you go to the out crop of rock."[31]

Pseudoscience, fringe science, and junk science

An area of study or speculation that masquerades as science in an attempt to claim a legitimacy that it would not otherwise be able to achieve is sometimes referred to as pseudoscience, fringe science, or "alternative science". Another term, junk science, is often used to describe scientific hypotheses or conclusions which, while perhaps legitimate in themselves, are believed to be used to support a position that is seen as not legitimately justified by the totality of evidence. A variety of commercial advertising, ranging from hype to fraud, may fall into this category. There also can be an element of political or ideological bias on all sides of such debates. Sometimes, research may be characterized as "bad science", research that is well-intentioned but is seen as incorrect, obsolete, incomplete, or over-simplified expositions of scientific ideas. The term "scientific misconduct" refers to situations such as where researchers have intentionally misrepresented their published data or have purposely given credit for a discovery to the wrong person.


Philosophical critiques

Historian Jacques Barzun termed science "a faith as fanatical as any in history" and warned against the use of scientific thought to suppress considerations of meaning as integral to human existence.[32] Many recent thinkers, such as Carolyn Merchant, Theodor Adorno and E. F. Schumacher considered that the 17th century scientific revolution shifted science from a focus on understanding nature, or wisdom, to a focus on manipulating nature, i.e. power, and that science's emphasis on manipulating nature leads it inevitably to manipulate people, as well.[33] Science's focus on quantitative measures has led to critiques that it is unable to recognize important qualitative aspects of the world.[33]

Philosopher of science Paul K Feyerabend advanced the idea of epistemological anarchism, which holds that there are no useful and exception-free methodological rules governing the progress of science or the growth of knowledge, and that the idea that science can or should operate according to universal and fixed rules is unrealistic, pernicious and detrimental to science itself.[34]. Feyerabend advocates treating science as an ideology alongside others such as religion, magic and mythology, and considers the dominance of science in society authoritarian and unjustified.[34]. He also contended (along with Imre Lakatos) that the demarcation problem of distinguishing science from pseudoscience on objective grounds is not possible and thus fatal to the notion of science running according to fixed, universal rules.[34]

Feyerabend also criticized Science for not having evidence for its own philosophical precepts. Particularly the notion of Uniformity of Law and the Uniformity of Process across time and space. "We have to realize that a unified theory of the physical world simply does not exist" says Feyerabend, "We have theories that work in restricted regions, we have purely formal attempts to condense them into a single formula, we have lots of unfounded claims (such as the claim that all of chemistry can be reduced to physics), phenomena that do not fit into the accepted framework are suppressed; in physics, which many scientists regard as the one really basic science, we have now at least three different points of view...without a promise of conceptual (and not only formal) unification"[35].

Professor Stanley Aronowitz scrutinizes science for operating with the presumption that the only acceptable criticisms of science are those conducted within the methodological framework that science has set up for itself. That science insists that only those who have been inducted into its community, through means of training and credentials, are qualified to make these criticisms.[36] Aronowitz also alleges that while scientists consider it absurd that Fundamentalist Christianity uses biblical references to bolster their claim that the bible is true, scientists pull the same tactic by using the tools of science to settle disputes concerning its own validity.[37]

Psychologist Carl Jung believed that though science attempted to understand all of nature, the experimental method imposed artificial and conditional questions that evoke equally artificial answers. Jung encouraged, instead of these 'artificial' methods, empirically testing the world in a holistic manner.[38] David Parkin compared the epistemological stance of science to that of divination.[39] He suggested that, to the degree that divination is an epistemologically specific means of gaining insight into a given question, science itself can be considered a form of divination that is framed from a Western view of the nature (and thus possible applications) of knowledge.

Several academics have offered critiques concerning ethics in science. In Science and Ethics, for example, the philosopher Bernard Rollin examines the relevance of ethics to science, and argues in favor of making education in ethics part and parcel of scientific training.[40]

Media perspectives

The mass media face a number of pressures that can prevent them from accurately depicting competing scientific claims in terms of their credibility within the scientific community as a whole. Determining how much weight to give different sides in a scientific debate requires considerable expertise regarding the matter.[41] Few journalists have real scientific knowledge, and even beat reporters who know a great deal about certain scientific issues may know little about other ones they are suddenly asked to cover.[42][43]


Many issues damage the relationship of science to the media and the use of science and scientific arguments by politicians. As a very broad generalisation, many politicians seek certainties and facts whilst scientists typically offer probabilities and caveats. However, politicians' ability to be heard in the mass media frequently distorts the scientific understanding by the public. Examples in Britain include the controversy over the MMR inoculation, and the 1988 forced resignation of a Government Minister, Edwina Currie for revealing the high probability that battery eggs were contaminated with Salmonella.[44]

See also


  1. ^ "Online dictionary". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2009-05-22. "a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study<the science of theology> . . . something (as a sport or technique) that may be studied or learned like systematized knowledge <have it down to a science> . . . a system or method reconciling practical ends with scientific laws <cooking is both a science and an art>" 
  2. ^ "Online dictionary". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2009-05-22. "knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method . . . such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena" 
  3. ^ a b c d Popper, Karl (2002) [1959]. The Logic of Scientific Discovery (2nd English ed.). New York, NY: Routledge Classics. p. 3. ISBN 0-415-27844-9. OCLC 59377149. 
  4. ^ See: Editorial Staff (March 7, 2008). "Scientific Method: Relationships among Scientific Paradigms". Seed magazine. Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  5. ^ "The Scientific Revolution". Washington State University
  6. ^ Etymology of "science" at Etymology Online. See also details of the PIE root at American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, 2000..
  7. ^ MacMorris, Neville (1989). The Natures of Science. New York: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. pp. 31–33. ISBN 0838633218. 
  8. ^ Locke, J. (1838). An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Printed by Thomas Davison. ISBN 0140434828. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
  9. ^ a b c d Thurs, Daniel Patrick (2007). Science Talk: Changing Notions of Science in American Popular Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0813540733. OCLC 170031241. 
  10. ^ Ross, S. (1962). "Scientist: The story of a word" (PDF). Annals of Science 18 (2): 65–85. doi:10.1080/00033796200202722. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  11. ^ Backer, Patricia Ryaby (October 29, 2004). "What is the scientific method?". San Jose State University. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  12. ^ van Gelder, Tim (1999). ""Heads I win, tails you lose": A Foray Into the Psychology of Philosophy" (PDF). University of Melbourne. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  13. ^ Pease, Craig (September 6, 2006). "Chapter 23. Deliberate bias: Conflict creates bad science". Science for Business, Law and Journalism. Vermont Law School. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  14. ^ Shatz, David (2004). Peer Review: A Critical Inquiry. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 074251434X. OCLC 54989960. 
  15. ^ Krimsky, Sheldon (2003). Science in the Private Interest: Has the Lure of Profits Corrupted the Virtue of Biomedical Research. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 074251479X. OCLC 185926306. 
  16. ^ Bulger, Ruth Ellen; Heitman, Elizabeth; Reiser, Stanley Joel (2002). The Ethical Dimensions of the Biological and Health Sciences (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521008867. OCLC 47791316. 
  17. ^ Graduate Education for Computational Science and Engineering, SIAM Working Group on CSE Education. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
  18. ^ Bunge, Mario Augusto (1998). Philosophy of Science: From Problem to Theory. Transaction Publishers. p. 24. ISBN 0-765-80413-1. 
  19. ^ Parrott, Jim (August 9, 2007). "Chronicle for Societies Founded from 1323 to 1599". Scholarly Societies Project. Retrieved 2007-09-11. 
  20. ^ "Benvenuto nel sito dell'Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei" (in Italian). Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-11. 
  21. ^ "Brief history of the Society". The Royal Society. Retrieved 2007-09-11. 
  22. ^ Meynell, G.G.. "The French Academy of Sciences, 1666-91: A reassessment of the French Académie royale des sciences under Colbert (1666-83) and Louvois (1683-91)". Topics in Scientific & Medical History. Retrieved 2007-09-11. 
  23. ^ Ziman, Bhadriraju (1980). "The proliferation of scientific literature: a natural process". Science 208 (4442): 369–371. doi:10.1126/science.7367863. PMID 7367863. 
  24. ^ Subramanyam, Krishna; Subramanyam, Bhadriraju (1981). Scientific and Technical Information Resources. CRC Press. ISBN 0824782976. OCLC 232950234. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ Petrucci, Mario. "Creative Writing <-> Science". Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  27. ^ Brugger, E. Christian (2004). "Casebeer, William D. Natural Ethical Facts: Evolution, Connectionism, and Moral Cognition". The Review of Metaphysics 58 (2). 
  28. ^ Popper, Karl (2002). Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge. Routledge. ISBN 0061313769. 
  29. ^ Newton-Smith, W. H. (1994). The Rationality of Science. London: Routledge. p. 30. ISBN 0710009135. 
  30. ^ a b A., Kate; Sergei, Vitaly (2000). "Evolution and Philosophy: Science and Philosophy". Think Quest. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  31. ^ Gould, Stephen J (1987). Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 120. ISBN 0674891988. 
  32. ^ Jacques Barzun, Science: The Glorious Entertainment, Harper and Row: 1964. p. 15. (quote) and Chapters II and XII.
  33. ^ a b Fritjof Capra, Uncommon Wisdom, ISBN 0-671-47322-0, p. 213
  34. ^ a b c Feyerabend, Paul (1993). Against Method. London: Verso. ISBN 9780860916468. 
  35. ^ Feyerabend, Paul (1987). Farewell To Reason. Verso. p. 100. ISBN 0860911845. 
  36. ^ Aronowitz, Stanley (1988). Science As Power: Discourse and Ideology in Modern Society. University of Minnesota Press. p. viii (preface). ISBN 0816616590. 
  37. ^ Stanley Aronowitz in conversation with Derrick Jensen in Jensen, Derrick (2004). Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control. Chelsea Green Publishing Company. p. 31. ISBN 1931498520. 
  38. ^ Jung, Carl (1973). Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle. Princeton University Press. p. 35. ISBN 0691017948. 
  39. ^ Parkin 1991 "Simultaneity and Sequencing in the Oracular Speech of Kenyan Diviners", p. 185.
  40. ^ Rollin, Bernard E. (2006). Science and Ethics. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521857546. OCLC 238793190. 
  41. ^ Dickson, David (October 11, 2004). "Science journalism must keep a critical edge". Science and Development Network. Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  42. ^ Mooney, Chris (2007). "Blinded By Science, How 'Balanced' Coverage Lets the Scientific Fringe Hijack Reality". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  43. ^ McIlwaine, S.; Nguyen, D. A. (2005). "Are Journalism Students Equipped to Write About Science?". Australian Studies in Journalism 14: 41–60. Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  44. ^ "1988: Egg industry fury over salmonella claim", "On This Day," BBC News, December 3, 1988.


  • Feyerabend, Paul (2005). Science, history of the philosophy, as cited in Honderich, Ted (2005). The Oxford companion to philosophy. Oxford Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199264791. OCLC 173262485.  of. Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford.
  • Feynman, R.P. (1999). The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman. Perseus Books Group. ISBN 0465023959. OCLC 181597764. 
  • Papineau, David. (2005). Science, problems of the philosophy of., as cited in Honderich, Ted (2005). The Oxford companion to philosophy. Oxford Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199264791. OCLC 173262485. 
  • Parkin, D (1991). Philip M. Peek. ed. African Divination Systems: Ways of Knowing. Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press. .

Further reading

  • Augros, Robert M., Stanciu, George N., "The New Story of Science: mind and the universe", Lake Bluff, Ill.: Regnery Gateway, c1984. ISBN 0895268337
  • Baxter, Charles "Myth versus science in educational systems"PDF (66.4 KB)
  • Becker, Ernest (1968). The structure of evil; an essay on the unification of the science of man. New York: G. Braziller. 
  • Cole, K. C., Things your teacher never told you about science: Nine shocking revelations Newsday, Long Island, New York, March 23, 1986, pg 21+
  • Feynman, Richard "Cargo Cult Science"
  • Gopnik, Alison, "Finding Our Inner Scientist", Daedalus, Winter 2004.
  • Krige, John, and Dominique Pestre, eds., Science in the Twentieth Century, Routledge 2003, ISBN 0-415-28606-9
  • Kuhn, Thomas, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962.
  • MacComas, William F. "The principal elements of the nature of science: Dispelling the myths"PDF (189 KB) Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California. Direct Instruction News. Spring 2002 24–30.
  • Obler, Paul C.; Estrin, Herman A. (1962). The New Scientist: Essays on the Methods and Values of Modern Science. Anchor Books, Doubleday. 
  • Thurs, Daniel Patrick (2007). Science Talk: Changing Notions of Science in American Popular Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. pp. 22–52. ISBN 978-0-8135-4073-3. 
  • Levin, Yuval (2008). Imagining the Future: Science and American Democracy. New York, Encounter Books. ISBN 1594032092
  • Stephen Gaukroger. The Emergence of a Scientific Culture: Science and the Shaping of Modernity 1210-1685. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2006, 576 pp.

External links





Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

There's real poetry in the real world. Science is the poetry of reality -- Richard Dawkins

Science in the broadest sense refers to any system of objective knowledge. In a more restricted sense, science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge based on the scientific method, as well as to the organized body of knowledge humans have gained by such research.



  • The greatest threat that any scientific advances pose is the fiery rhetoric that often surrounds their discussion and implementation. The debate over medical innovations, rather than the technologies themselves, is what threatens to tear us apart.
  • We often frame our understanding of what the space telescope will do in terms of what we expect to find, and actually it would be terribly anticlimactic if in fact we find what we expect to find. ... The most important discoveries will provide answers to questions that we do not yet know how to ask and will concern objects we have not yet imagined.
  • Science, like art, is not a copy of nature but a re-creation of her.
  • The symbol and the metaphor are as necessary to science as to poetry.
  • I'm not anti-science, I'm anti the way science is sometimes used.
  • Politics and Religion are obsolete. The time has come for Science and Spirituality.
    • Often quoted by Arthur C. Clarke as one of his favorite remarks of Jawaharlal Nehru, though some of his earliest citations of it, in Voices from the Sky : Previews of the Coming Space Age (1967), p. 154 indicate that Nehru may himself been either quoting or paraphrasing a statement of Vinoba Bhave.
  • It is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.
  • Fortunately science, like that nature to which it belongs, is neither limited by time nor by space. It belongs to the world, and is of no country and of no age. The more we know, the more we feel our ignorance; the more we feel how much remains unknown; and in philosophy, the sentiment of the Macedonian hero can never apply, — there are always new worlds to conquer.
    • Sir Humphry Davy, discourse delivered at the Royal Society (30 November 1825)
  • All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. It is no mere chance that our older universities developed from clerical schools. Both churches and universities — insofar as they live up to their true function — serve the ennoblement of the individual. They seek to fulfill this great task by spreading moral and cultural understanding, renouncing the use of brute force.
    • Albert Einstein, in "Moral Decay" (1937); Later published in Out of My Later Years (1950)
  • The impression that science is over has occurred many times in various branches of human knowledge, often because of an explosion of discoveries made by a genius or a small group of men in such a short time that average minds could hardly follow and had the unconscious desire to take breath, to get used to the unexpected things that came to be revealed. Dazzled by these new truths, they could not see beyond. Sometimes an entire century did not suffice to produce this accommodation.
    • Charles Fabry, La vie et l'oeuvre scientifique de Augustin Fresnel (1927), p. 13
  • Our freedom to doubt was born out of a struggle against authority in the early days of science. It was a very deep and strong struggle: permit us to question — to doubt — to not be sure. I think that it is important that we do not forget this struggle and thus perhaps lose what we have gained.
    • Richard Feynman, in "The Value of Science," address to the National Academy of Sciences (Autumn 1955)
  • Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.
    • Richard Feynman, in "What is and What Should be the Role of Scientific Culture in Modern Society", lecture at the Galileo Symposium in Italy, (1964)
  • The only way to have real success in science, the field I’m familiar with, is to describe the evidence very carefully without regard to the way you feel it should be. If you have a theory, you must try to explain what’s good and what’s bad about it equally. In science, you learn a kind of standard integrity and honesty.
  • The exception tests the rule." Or, put another way, "The exception proves that the rule is wrong." That is the principle of science. If there is an exception to any rule, and if it can be proved by observation, that rule is wrong.
  • 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 preceding generation ... Learn from science that you must doubt the experts. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.
  • Science is a way of talking about the universe in words that bind it to a common reality. Magic is a method of talking to the universe in words that it cannot ignore. The two are rarely compatible.
  • Results rarely specify their causes unambiguously. If we have no direct evidence of fossils or human chronicles, if we are forced to infer a process only from its modern results, then we are usually stymied or reduced to speculation about probabilities. For many roads lead to almost any Rome.
  • The story of a theory's failure often strikes readers as sad and unsatisfying. Since science thrives on self-correction, we who practice this most challenging of human arts do not share such a feeling. We may be unhappy if a favored hypothesis loses or chagrined if theories that we proposed prove inadequate. But refutation almost always contains positive lessons that overwhelm disappointment, even when [...] no new and comprehensive theory has yet filled the void.
  • Great theories are expansive; failures mire us in dogmatism and tunnel vision.
  • The great tragedy of Science — the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.
    • Thomas Henry Huxley, Presidential Address at the British Association (1870); "Biogenesis and Abiogenesis", Collected Essays, vol. 8, p. 229
    • Paraphrased variant: That's what happens when a beautiful hypotheses meets a brutal gang of facts.
  • The antagonism between science and religion, about which we hear so much, appears to me purely factitious, fabricated on the one hand by short-sighted religious people, who confound ... theology with religion; and on the other by equally short-sighted scientific people who forget that science takes for its province only that which is susceptible of clear intellectual comprehension.
  • Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.
    • Thomas Henry Huxley, Friday evening discourse at the Royal Institution, 1880
    • "On the Coming of Age of the Origin of Species", Collected Essays, vol. 2, p. 227
  • Science ... commits suicide when it adopts a creed.
  • Universe is blind; it cannot see us; we must find a way to show ourselves to it and science is the way to open the eyes of the universe!
  • Obviously something is wrong with the entire argument of "obviousness".
    • Paul Lazarsfeld, about the interpretation of results in social science as obvious, in "The American Soldier — An Expository Review", Public Opinion Quarterly, vol. 13, no. 3, (1949) pp. 377-404, 380
  • This political movement has patently demonstrated that it will not defend the integrity of science in any case in which science runs afoul of its core political constituencies. In so doing, it has ceded any right to govern a technologically advanced and sophisticated nation.
  • We're science: we're all about coulda, not shoulda!
    • Patton Oswalt (track "The Miracle of Childbirth", on Werewolves and Lollipops)
  • A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
    • Max Planck. 'Wissenschaftliche Selbstbiographie. Mit einem Bildnis und der von Max von Laue gehaltenen Traueransprache. 35 pp. (Leipzig, 1948). Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. F. Gaynor (New York, 1949), pp.33-34 (as cited in T.S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions).
  • It may be true, that as Francis Thompson noted, "Thou canst not stir a flower without troubling a star", but in computing the motion of stars and planets, the effects of flowers do not loom large. It is the disregarding of the effect of flowers on stars that allows progress in astronomy. Appropriate abstraction is critical to progress in science.
    • Herman Shugart, in Plant Functional Types (1997 edition) by Smith, Shugart and Woodward, Cambridge University Press, p. 20

Scientific scepticism

  • Scientific skepticism is considered good. […] Under this principle, one must question, doubt, or suspend judgment until sufficient information is available. Skeptics demand that evidence and proof be offered before conclusions can be drawn. […] One must thoughtfully gather evidence and be persuaded by the evidence rather than by prejudice, bias, or uncritical thinking.
  • Isaac Asimov was a famous scientific skeptic. He had this to say:

    Don't you believe in flying saucers, they ask me? Don't you believe in telepathy? — in ancient astronauts? — in the Bermuda triangle? — in life after death?
    No, I reply. No, no, no, no, and again no.
    One person recently, goaded into desperation by the litany of unrelieved negation, burst out "Don't you believe in anything?"
    "Yes", I said. "I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be."

  • To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient truths; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.
    • Henri Poincaré
    • Brown, Harold Chapman (April 23, 1914). "The Work of Henri Poincare". The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 11 (9): pp. 225-236. ISSN 0160-9335.


  • Scientists are supposed to live in ivory towers. Their darkrooms and their vibration-proof benches are supposed to isolate their activities from the disturbances of common life. What they tell us is supposed to be for the ages, not for the next election. But the reality may be otherwise.
    • Simon LeVay, Queer Science: The Use and Abuse of Research into Homosexuality, 1996, Cambridge: MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-62119-3, unidentified page
  • Start by eliminating the possibility of empty models by praying that Heaven will no longer put this invention of the Devil in our way. To do this, we add a constant c to our language ...
    • Proof of the compactness theorem by Henkin's method
    • Bruno Poizat and M. Klein, A Course in Model Theory: An Introduction to Contemporary Mathematical Logic, unidentified edition, page 52
  • Who are we? The answer to this question is not only one of the tasks but the task of science.
  • I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious sensibilities of anyone.
    • Charles Darwin, The Origin Of Species, 1869, unidentified edition/chapter/page
  • One of the greatest gifts science has brought to the world is continuing elimination of the supernatural, and it was a lesson that my father passed on to me, that knowledge liberates mankind from superstition. We can live our lives without the constant fear that we have offended this or that deity who must be placated by incantation or sacrifice, or that we are at the mercy of devils or the Fates. With increasing knowledge, the intellectual darkness that surrounds us is illuminated and we learn more of the beauty and wonder of the natural world.
    • James D. Watson, Darwin: The Indelible Stamp: The Evolution of an Idea, 2005, Running Press, unidentified edition/chapter/page
  • The Scientific Revolution turns us away from the older sayings to discover the lost authorization in Nature. What we have been through in these last four millennia is the slow inexorable profaning of our species. And in the last part of the second millennium A.D., that process is apparently becoming complete. It is the Great Human Irony of our noblest and greatest endeavor on this planet that in the quest for authorization, in our reading of the language of God in Nature, we should read there so clearly that we have been so mistaken.
    • Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, 1976, unidentified edition/chapter/page
  • That Professor Goddard with his "chair" in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react — to say that would be absurd. Of course, he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.
    • About Robert Goddard's rocket work
    • Unidentified New York Times editorial, 1921
    • Eventually retracted in New York Times, unidentified article/editorial, July 17, 1969
  • What have you done for science today? Stop doing things for God! He doesn't need anything. Do something for science, for God's sake!
  • All science is either physics or stamp collecting.
    • Ernest Rutherford
    • Variation: In science, there is only physics; all the rest is stamp collecting.
  • Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.
  • Ethical axioms are found and tested not very differently from the axioms of science. Truth is what stands the test of experience.
  • In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. Therefore ... in the Old Silurian Period the Mississippi River was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long ... seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long. ... There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesome returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
  • of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one's own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought.
  • Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it.
  • Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.
  • Science is the pavement in the pathway to opportunities
    • Jordan Campbell
  • Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else we do.
  • Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.
  • Science may be described as the art of systematic oversimplification.
  • Scientific thought is the common heritage of mankind.
  • The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
  • The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.
  • There must be no barriers for freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.
  • To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.
  • Physics is like sex: Sure, it may have practical results, but that is not the reason we do it.
  • Science is always wrong. It never solves a problem without creating ten more.
  • What is a scientist after all? It is a curious person looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what's going on.
  • Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.
  • Who ordered that?
    • Theorist Isidor Isaac Rabi when the muon was identified
  • Science is nothing but developed perception, integrated intent, common sense rounded out and minutely articulated.
  • Always be ready to explain the hows and whys.
    • Fallout 3 -- in-game content

Science and religion

See also: Creationism and Intelligent Design, Evolution
  • Let's put the genes back in Genesis.
    • Jasper Winkel
  • The Christian church, in its attitude toward science, shows the mind of a more or less enlightened man of the Thirteenth Century. It no longer believes that the earth is flat, but it is still convinced that prayer can cure after medicine fails.
  • A contradiction (between science and religion) is out of the question. What follows from science are, again and again, clear indications of God's activity which can be so strongly perceived that Kepler dared to say (for us it seems daring, not for him) that he could "almost touch God with his hand in the Universe".
    • Walter Heitler
  • The deepest intelligence of philosophy and science are inseparable from a religious view of the world.
    • Rudjer Boskovic
  • The difference between myth and science is the difference between divine inspiration of ‘unaided reason' on the one hand and theories developed in observational contact with the real world on the other. [It is] the difference between the belief in prophets and critical thinking, between Credo quia absurdum [I believe because it is absurd—Tertullian.] and De omnibus est dubitandum [Everything should be questioned—Descartes.]. To try to write a grand cosmical drama leads necessarily to myth. To try to let knowledge substitute ignorance in increasingly large regions of space and time is science.
  • The discovery of natural law is a meeting with God.
    • F. Dessauer
  • I am a Christian which means that I believe in the deity of Christ, like Tycho de Brahe, Copernicus, Descartes, Newton, Leibnitz, Pascal… like all great astronomers mathematicians of the past.
  • I stand before you as somebody who is both physicist and a priest, and I want to hold together my scientific and my religious insights and experiences. I want to hold them together, as far as I am able, without dishonesty and without compartmentalism. I don't want to be a priest on Sunday and a physicist on Monday; I want to be both on both days.
  • It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.
  • Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse.
    • Pierre-Simon Laplace
    • Translation: I have no need of that hypothesis.
    • Reputed reply to Emperor Napoleon I of France, who had asked why he hadn't mentioned God in his discourse on secular variations of the orbits of Saturn and Jupiter.
  • Matter and mind are not separate, they are aspects of one energy. Look at the mind as a function of matter and you have science; look at matter as the product of the mind and you have religion.
    • Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
  • The order, the symmetry, the harmony enchant us…God is pure order. He is the originator of universal harmony.
  • Overwhelming evidences of an intelligence and benevolent intention surround us, show us the whole of nature through the work of a free will and teach us that all alive beings depend on an eternal creator-ruler.
  • Science has never sought to ally herself with civil power. She has never subjected anyone to mental torment, physical torment, least of all death, for the purpose of promoting her ideas.
  • Science seems to me to teach in the highest and strongest manner the great truth which is embodied in the Christian conception of entire surrender to the will of God. Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing. I have only begun to learn content and peace of mind since I have resolved at all risks to do this.
  • Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
  • The scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it, and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful it would not be worth knowing, and life would not be worth living. I am not speaking, of course, of the beauty which strikes the senses, of the beauty of qualities and appearances. I am far from despising this, but it has nothing to do with science. What I mean is that more intimate beauty which comes from the harmonious order of its parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp.
  • Since religion intrinsically rejects empirical methods, there should never be any attempt to reconcile scientific theories with religion. An infinitely old universe, always evolving may not be compatible with the Book of Genesis. However, religions such as Buddhism get along without having any explicit creation mythology and are in no way contradicted by a universe without a beginning or end. Creatio ex nihilo, even as religious doctrine, only dates to around AD 200. The key is not to confuse myth and empirical results, or religion and science.
  • The wonderful arrangement and harmony of the cosmos would only originate in the plan of an almighty omniscient being. This is and remains my greatest comprehension.
  • Those to whom God has imparted religion by intuition are very fortunate and justly convinced. But to those who do not have it, we can give it only by reasoning, waiting for God to give them spiritual insight…
  • Through steady observation and a meaningful contact with the divined order of the world's structure, arranged by God's wisdom, - who would not be guided to admire the Builder who creates all!
  • We may conclude that from what science teaches us, there is in nature an order independent of man's existence, a meaningful order to which nature and man are subordinate. Both Religion and science require faith in God. For believers, God is in the beginning, and for physicists He is at the end of all considerations…..
  • Where there is the necessary technical skill to move mountains, there is no need for the faith that moves mountains.
  • "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."
  • I didn't arrive at my understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe through my rational mind


  • I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.
  • I believe there is no philosophical high-road in science, with epistemological signposts. No, we are in a jungle and find our way by trial and error, building our road behind us as we proceed.
  • Nothing in this world is to be feared... only understood.
  • Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.
  • Since the mathematicians have invaded the theory of relativity, I do not understand it myself anymore.
  • Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality.
  • You should never bet against anything in science at odds of more than about 10 to the 12 to 1 against.

Science and culture

  • Can science ever be immune from experiments conceived out of prejudices and stereotypes, conscious or not? (Which is not to suggest that it cannot in discrete areas identify and locate verifiable phenemonena in nature.) I await the study that says lesbians have a region of the hypothalamus that resembles straight men and I would not be surprised if, at this very moment, some scientist somewhere is studying brains of deceased Asians to see if they have an enlarged "math region" of the brain.
    • Kay Diaz, Z (unidentified periodical, possibly Z Magazine), unidentified article, December 1992
  • The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
  • The general root of superstition is that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss, and commit to memory the one, and pass over the other.
  • It's not exactly rocket science.
    • Said about something easy or self-explanatory.
    • Anonymous
  • A scientist is happy, not in resting on his attainments but in the steady acquisition of fresh knowledge.
  • Tell a man that there are 300 billion stars in the universe, and he'll believe you.... Tell him that a bench has wet paint upon it and he'll have to touch it to be sure.
  • We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.
  • Science is the refusal to believe in the basis of hope.

Mistakes in science

  • I think that a particle must have a separate reality independent of the measurements. That is an electron has spin, location and so forth even when it is not being measured. I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it.
  • The science of Psychiatry is now where the science of Medicine was before germs were discovered.
    • Malcolm Rogers
  • There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.
  • There will never be a bigger plane built.
    • A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin-engine plane that holds ten people
  • I am not accustomed to saying anything with certainty after only one or two observations.
    • Andreas Vesalius

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:
Look up science in Wiktionary, the free dictionary

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to What is science? article)

From Wikiversity

Welcome to the "What is science?" learning project. Participants in this project explore science and the relationship of science to other aspects of human life.


General features of science

Palais de la decouverte dispositifs 3 jnl.jpg

Science is concerned with knowledge that can be objectively verified. Objective verification of knowledge is a social process by which observations and ideas are explained in sufficient detail so that others can verify them. Science depends on careful observation of the world, often aided by contrived experiments and mathematical models that artificially simplify the behavior of complex systems. The results from many special purpose experiments and models can then be combined in order to understand the full complexity of real world phenomena[1]. Thus, science depends on information received by the senses, but subjective experience is constantly tempered by skepticism and systematic doubt. Scientists continually look for new ways to test what we think we know and understand. Scientific ideas are always tentative and are often modified and updated as needed when new observations become possible and new ways are found to combine old observations and ideas[2]. Arguments from authority carry no weight in science. Repeated, independent verification of scientific results by means of multiple methods is the basis upon which scientific objectivity is built.

New sciences arise when new phenomena are discovered or new methods for scientific investigation become available. Some fields of study exist as protosciences with their investigators hoping to observe certain types of phenomena. For example, astrobiologists[3] have not observed life in other star systems, but are attempting to find evidence to support the idea that life might exist beyond Earth and outside of the Solar System. It is not unusual for scientists to make predictions and then spend many years attempting to verify those predictions. As long as scientific methods are used and unverifiable claims are not made, such protoscience can exist as an important part of how scientific knowledge is extended to new domains. In some cases, entire existing academic disciplines attempt to adopt scientific methods and make a transition towards greater scientific objectivity for that field[4]. In contrast, pseudoscience is characterized by attempts to champion unverified claims as scientific without bothering to follow the scientific method.

Exercises and discussion

  • In addition to the "quantum revolution"[2], what are some examples of "scientific revolutions" which resulted in major changes in scientific understanding?
  • What are some currently active protosciences? (Exobiology - searching for data)
  • Discuss this list of pseudosciences.

See also

Nuvola apps kalzium.svg Subject classification: this is a science resource .

External links


  1. "Science and complexity" by Warren Weaver in American Scientist (1948) Volume 36, page 536.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Science and broad points of view" by P. W. Bridgman in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A. (1956) Volume 42, pages 315-325.
  3. "Searching for an alien haven in the heavens" by Bridget C. Coughlin in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A. (2001) Volume 98, page 796.
  4. "Foundations of “new” social science: Institutional legitimacy from philosophy, complexity science, postmodernism, and agent-based modeling" by Leslie Henrickson and Bill McKelvey in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A. (2002) Volume 99, pages 7288-7295.

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

This is a disambiguation page, which lists works which share the same title. If an article link referred you here, please consider editing it to point directly to the intended page.

Science may refer to:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Simple English

Science is a word that can refer to three different concepts, which are related:

  1. It is about gathering knowledge or extending the knowledge gathered. Extending the knowledge gathered is done using a process called research
  2. Education is about teaching knowledge
  3. Science can also refer to all the knowledge gathered so far.

Today, research uses the scientific method. Scientific research is used to gain knowledge by creating theories based on previous knowledge, and then testing those theories using experiments. The word science can also refer to the large amount of knowledge that has been found using this process, so far.[1][2]

People who do science are called scientists. Scientists study things by looking at them very carefully, by measuring them, and by doing experiments and tests. Scientists try to explain why things act the way they do, and are the way they are.


= Scientific method


File:Classical spectacular laser
"Light travels through transparent bodies in straight lines only" — Alhazen in Book of Optics (1021).

The "scientific method" is the name given to the methods used by scientists to find knowledge.

The main features of the scientific method are:

  • The scientific method is a "trial and error" method. (Scientists try something to see if it works or not.)
  • The scientific method depends on data.
  • The product of the scientific process is something called a "theory".

Most people accept the scientific method as the most reliable way to get knowledge about nature, the universe, and the human body.

How does light travel through transparent bodies? Light travels through transparent bodies in straight lines only.... We have explained this exhaustively in our Book of Optics. But let us now mention something to prove this convincingly: the fact that light travels in straight lines is clearly observed in the lights which enter into dark rooms through holes.... [T]he entering light will be clearly observable in the dust which fills the air.[3]

Alhazen took many years to prove his claim, that "light travels through transparent bodies in straight lines only". At the end, he demonstrated his claim by placing a a straight stick or a taut thread next to the light beam.[4]

Other features of science

Not everyone agrees about how science works exactly. Some philosophers and scientists say that scientific theories are only accepted as long as they are the best explanation for the data that exists, and when theories no longer explain the data, they are discarded and replaced. Other people say that sometimes scientists will make a theory better rather than discard it, or that they will keep on using the theory hoping that it will be made better eventually.

Science is a way to get knowledge by discarding what is not true.

Scientists must be very careful to make explanations that fit well with what they observe and measure. They compete to provide better explanations. An explanation might be interesting or pleasing, but if it does not agree with what other scientists really see and measure, they will try to find a better explanation.

Before a scientific article is published, other scientists read the article and decide whether the explanations make sense from the data. This is called peer review. After articles are published, other scientists will also check if the same experiments, observations or tests produce the same data again. Peer review and repeating experiments are the only way to be sure the knowledge is correct.

Science makes models of nature, models of our universe, and medicine. There are many different sciences with their own names. However it is not right to say "science says" any one thing. Science is a process, not just the facts and rules believed at one time.

Some types of science

Biological sciences

Physical sciences

Social sciences

Fields related to science


  1. "Online dictionary". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2009-05-22. "knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method . . . such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena" 
  2. Popper, Karl (2002) [1959]. The Logic of Scientific Discovery (2nd English edition ed.). New York, NY: Routledge Classics. p. 3. ISBN 0-415-27844-9. OCLC 59377149. 
  3. Alhazen, translated into English from German by M. Schwarz, from "Abhandlung über das Licht", J. Baarmann (ed. 1882) Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft Vol 36 as quoted in Sambursky 1974, p. 136
  4. as quoted in Sambursky 1974, p. 136


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