Understanding the Brain


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Science is the systematic attempt to discover and expose nature's patterns. Above, the Greek goddess of poetry unveils the goddess of nature.

Science (from Latin: scientia meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.[1][2][3][4] An older and closely related meaning still in use today is that of Aristotle, for whom scientific knowledge was a body of reliable knowledge that can be logically and rationally explained (see "History and etymology" section below).[5]

Since classical antiquity science as a type of knowledge was closely linked to philosophy. In the early modern era the two words, "science" and "philosophy", were sometimes used interchangeably in the English language. By the 17th century, "natural philosophy" (which is today called "natural science") had begun to be considered separately from "philosophy" in general.[6][7] However, "science" continued to be used in a broad sense denoting reliable knowledge about a topic, in the same way it is still used in modern terms such as library science or political science.

In modern use, science is "often treated as synonymous with ‘natural and physical science’, and thus restricted to those branches of study that relate to the phenomena of the material universe and their laws, sometimes with implied exclusion of pure mathematics. This is now the dominant sense in ordinary use."[8] This narrower sense of "science" developed as a part of science became a distinct enterprise of defining "laws of nature", based on early examples such as Kepler's laws, Galileo's laws, and Newton's laws of motion. In this period it became more common to refer to natural philosophy as "natural science". Over the course of the 19th century, the word "science" became increasingly associated with the disciplined study of the natural world including physics, chemistry, geology and biology. This sometimes left the study of human thought and society in a linguistic limbo, which was resolved by classifying these areas of academic study as social science. Similarly, several other major areas of disciplined study and knowledge exist today under the general rubric of "science", such as formal science and applied science.[9]

History and etymology

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

While descriptions of disciplined empirical investigations of the natural world exist from times at least as early as classical antiquity (for example, by Aristotle and Pliny the Elder), and scientific methods have been employed since the Middle Ages (for example, by Alhazen 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.[10] This period was marked by a new way of studying the natural world, by methodical experimentation aimed at defining "laws of nature" while avoiding concerns with metaphysical concerns such as Aristotle's theory of causation.[11]

Rapid accumulation of knowledge, which has characterized the development of science since the 17th century, had never occurred before that time. The new kind of scientific activity emerged only in a few countries of Western Europe, and it was restricted to that small area for about two hundred years. (Since the 19th century, scientific knowledge has been assimilated by the rest of the world).
— Joseph Ben–David, 1971.[10]

This modern science developed from an older and broader enterprise. The word "science" is from Old French, and in turn from Latin scientia which was one of several words for "knowledge" in that language.[12][13] In philosophical contexts, scientia and "science" were used to translate the Greek word epistemē, which had acquired a specific definition in Greek philosophy, especially Aristotle, as a type of reliable knowledge which is built up logically from strong premises, and can be communicated and taught. In contrast to modern science, Aristotle's influential emphasis was upon the "theoretical" steps of deducing universal rules from raw data, and did not treat the gathering of experience and raw data as part of science itself.[14]

From the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, science or scientia continued to be used in this broad sense, which was still common until the 20th century.[15] "Science" therefore had the same sort of very broad meaning that philosophy had at that time. In other Latin influenced languages, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, the word corresponding to science also carried this meaning.

Prior to the 18th century, the preferred term for the study of nature among English speakers was "natural philosophy", while other philosophical disciplines (e.g., logic, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and aesthetics) were typically referred to as "moral philosophy". (Today, "moral philosophy" is more-or-less synonymous with "ethics".) Science only became more strongly associated with natural philosophy than other sciences gradually with the strong promotion of the importance of experimental scientific method, by people such as Francis Bacon. With Bacon, begins a more widespread and open criticism of Aristotle's influence which had emphasized theorizing and did not treat raw data collection as part of science itself. An opposed position became common: that what is critical to science at its best is methodical collecting of clear and useful raw data, something which is easier to do in some fields than others.

The word "science" in English was still however used in the 17th century to refer to the Aristotelian concept of knowledge which was secure enough to be used as a prescription for exactly how to accomplish a specific task. With respect to the transitional usage of the term "natural philosophy" in this period, the philosopher John Locke wrote in 1690 that "natural philosophy is not capable of being made a science".[16] However, it may be that Locke was not using the word 'science' in the modern sense, but suggesting that 'natural philosophy' could not be deduced in the same way as mathematics and logic.[17]

Locke's assertion notwithstanding, by the early 19th century 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 today 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 19th 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.[18]

Through the 19th century, 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.[18] 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.[19] 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.[18] 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 20th century, 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.[18] Over the 20th century, links between science and technology also grew increasingly strong. As Martin Rees explains, progress in scientific understanding and technology have been synergistic and vital to one another.[20]

Richard Feynman described science, to his students, as: "The principle of science, the definition, almost, is the following: The test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific 'truth'. But what is the source of knowledge? Where do the laws that are to be tested come from? Experiment, itself, helps to produce these laws, in the sense that it gives us hints. But also needed is imagination to create from these hints the great generalizations — to guess at the wonderful, simple, but very strange patterns beneath them all, and then to experiment to check again whether we have made the right guess." Feynman also observed, "...there is an expanding frontier of ignorance...things must be learned only to be unlearned again or, more likely, to be corrected."[21]


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.[22] There are also related disciplines that are grouped into interdisciplinary and applied sciences, such as engineering and medicine. Within these categories are specialized scientific fields that can include parts of other scientific disciplines but often possess their own terminology and expertise.[23]

Mathematics, which is classified as a formal science,[24][25] has both similarities and differences with the empirical sciences (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.[26] The formal sciences, which also include statistics and logic, are 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,[27] both in discovering and describing how things work (natural sciences) and how people think and act (social sciences).

Scientific method

A scientific method seeks to explain the events of nature in a reproducible way, and to use these findings to make useful predictions. This is done partly through observation of natural phenomena, but also through experimentation that tries to simulate natural events under controlled conditions. Taken in its entirety, a scientific method allows for highly creative problem solving whilst minimizing any effects of subjective bias on the part of its users (namely the confirmation bias).[28]

Basic and applied research

Although some scientific research is applied research into specific problems, a great deal of our understanding comes from the curiosity-driven undertaking of basic research. This leads to options for technological advance that were not planned or sometimes even imaginable. This point was made by Michael Faraday when, allegedly in response to the question "what is the use of basic research?" he responded "Sir, what is the use of a new-born child?".[29] For example, research into the effects of red light on the human eye's rod cells did not seem to have any practical purpose; eventually, the discovery that our night vision is not troubled by red light would lead search and rescue teams (among others) to adopt red light in the cockpits of jets and helicopters.[30] In a nutshell: Basic research is the search for knowledge. Applied research is the search for solutions to practical problems using this knowledge. Finally, even basic research can take unexpected turns, and there is some sense in which the scientific method is built to harness luck.

Experimentation and hypothesizing

DNA determines the genetic structure of all known life

Based on observations of a phenomenon, scientists 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, scientists can suggest a hypothesis to explain the phenomenon.[31] Hypotheses may be formulated using principles such as parsimony (also known as "Occam's Razor") and are generally expected to seek consilience—fitting well with other accepted facts related to the phenomena. This new explanation is used to make falsifiable predictions that are testable by experiment or observation. When a hypothesis proves unsatisfactory, it is either modified or discarded.[32] Experimentation is especially important in science to help establish causational relationships (to avoid the correlation fallacy). Operationalization also plays an important role in coordinating research in/across different fields.

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. Thus a theory is a hypothesis explaining various other hypotheses. In that vein, theories are formulated according to most of the same scientific principles as hypotheses.

While performing experiments, scientists may have a preference for one outcome over another, and so it is important to ensure that science as a whole can eliminate this bias.[33][34] This can be achieved by careful experimental design, transparency, and a thorough peer review process of the experimental results as well as any conclusions.[35][36] 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.[37]

Certainty and science

A scientific theory is empirical, and is always open to falsification if new evidence is presented. That is, no theory is ever considered strictly certain as science accepts the concept of fallibilism. The philosopher of science Karl Popper sharply distinguishes truth from certainty. He writes that scientific knowledge "consists in the search for truth", but it "is not the search for certainty ... All human knowledge is fallible and therefore uncertain."[38]

Although science values legitimate doubt, The Flat Earth Society is still widely regarded as an example of taking skepticism too far
Theories very rarely result in vast changes in our understanding. According to psychologist Keith Stanovich, it may be the media's overuse of words like "breakthrough" that leads the public to imagine that science is constantly proving everything it thought was true to be false.[39] While there are such famous cases as the theory of relativity that required a complete reconceptualization, these are extreme exceptions. Knowledge in science is gained by a gradual synthesis of information from different experiments, by various researchers, across different domains of science; it is more like a climb than a leap.[40] Theories vary in the extent to which they have been tested and verified, as well as their acceptance in the scientific community. For example, heliocentric theory, the theory of evolution, and germ theory still bear the name "theory" even though, in practice, they are considered factual.[41]

Philosopher Barry Stroud adds that, although the best definition for "knowledge" is contested, being skeptical and entertaining the possibility that one is incorrect is compatible with being correct. Ironically then, the scientist adhering to proper scientific method will doubt themselves even once they possess the truth.[42] The fallibilist C. S. Peirce argued that inquiry is the struggle to resolve actual doubt and that merely quarrelsome, verbal, or hyperbolic doubt is fruitless[43]—but also that the inquirer should try to attain genuine doubt rather than resting uncritically on common sense.[44] He held that the successful sciences trust, not to any single chain of inference (no stronger than its weakest link), but to the cable of multiple and various arguments intimately connected.[45]

Stanovich also asserts that science avoids searching for a "magic bullet"; it avoids the single cause fallacy. This means a scientist would not ask merely "What is the cause of...", but rather "What are the most significant causes of...". This is especially the case in the more macroscopic fields of science (e.g. psychology, cosmology).[46] Of course, research often analyzes few factors at once, but this always to add to the long list of factors that are most important to consider.[46] For example: knowing the details of only a person's genetics, or their history and upbringing, or the current situation may not explain a behaviour, but a deep understanding of all these variables combined can be very predictive.


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.[47]

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.[48]

Scientific community

The Meissner effect causes a magnet to levitate above a superconductor

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.


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.[49] The oldest surviving institution is the Accademia dei Lincei in Italy.[50] The respective National Academies of Science are distinguished institutions that exist in a number of countries, beginning with the British Royal Society in 1660[51] and the French Académie des Sciences in 1666.[52]

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.[53] 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.[54] Today Pubmed lists almost 40,000, related to the medical sciences only.[55]

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.[56]

Women in science

Estudiante INTEC.jpg

Science is, in general, a male-dominated field. Evidence suggests that this is due to stereotypes (e.g. science as "manly") as well as self-fulfilling prophecies.[57][58] Experiments have shown that parents challenge and explain more to boys than girls, asking them to reflect more deeply and logically.[59] Physicist Evelyn Fox Keller argues that science may suffer for its manly stereotypes when ego and competitiveness obstruct progress, since these tendencies prevent collaboration and sharing of information.[60] As will be seen in the main article, many women have risen above past prejudices to do great things in science.

Philosophy of science

John Locke

Philosophy of science seeks to understand the nature and justification of scientific knowledge. Since it is difficult to distinguish science from non-science, there are legitimate arguments about the boundaries between science and non-science. This is known as the problem of demarcation. There is however, a set of core precepts that have broad consensus among philosophers of science and within the scientific community on what constitutes scientific knowledge. For example, it is generally 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.[citation needed]

There are different schools of thought in philosophy of science. The most popular position is empiricism, which claims that knowledge is created by a process involving observation and that scientific theories are the result of generalizations from such observations.[citation needed] Empiricism generally encompasses inductivism, a position that tries to explain the way general theories can be justified by the finite number of observations humans can make and the hence finite amount of empirical evidence available to confirm scientific theories. This is necessary because the number of predictions those theories make is infinite, which means that they cannot be known from the finite amount of evidence using deductive logic only. Many versions of empiricism exist, with the predominant ones being bayesianism and the hypothetico-deductive method.[citation needed]

Empiricism has stood in contrast to rationalism, the position originally associated with Descartes, which holds that knowledge is created by the human intellect, not by observation.[citation needed] A significant twentieth century version of rationalism is critical rationalism, first defined by Austrian-British philosopher Karl Popper. Popper rejected the way that empiricism describes the connection between theory and observation. He claimed that theories are not generated by observation, but that observation is made in the light of theories and that the only way a theory can be affected by observation is when it comes in conflict with it.[citation needed] Popper proposed falsifiability as the landmark of scientific theories, and falsification as the empirical method to replace verifiability and induction by purely deductive notions.[citation needed] Popper further claimed that there is only one universal method in science, and that this method is not specific to science: The negative method of criticism, trial and error. It covers all products of the human mind, including science, mathematics, philosophy, and art [61]

Another approach, instrumentalism, colloquially termed "shut up and calculate", emphasizes the utility of theories as instruments for explaining and predicting phenomena.[62] It claims that scientific theories are black boxes with only their input (initial conditions) and output (predictions) being relevant. Consequences, notions and logical structure of the theories are claimed to be something that should simply be ignored and that scientists shouldn't make a fuss about (see interpretations of quantum mechanics).

Finally, another approach often cited in debates of scientific skepticism against controversial movements like creationism, is methodological naturalism. Its main point is that a difference between natural and supernatural explanations should be made, and that science should be restricted methodologically to natural explanations.[citation needed] That the restriction is merely methodological (rather than ontological) means that science should not consider supernatural explanations itself, but should not claim them to be wrong either. Instead, supernatural explanations should be left a matter of personal belief outside the scope of science. Methodological naturalism maintains that proper science requires strict adherence to empirical study and independent verification as a process for properly developing and evaluating explanations for observable phenomena.[63] The absence of these standards, arguments from authority, biased observational studies and other common fallacies are frequently cited by supporters of methodological naturalism as criteria for the dubious claims they criticize not to be true science.

Science policy

Science policy is an area of public policy concerned with the policies that affect the conduct of the science and research enterprise, including research funding, often in pursuance of other national policy goals such as technological innovation to promote commercial product development, weapons development, health care and environmental monitoring. Science policy also refers to the act of applying scientific knowledge and consensus to the development of public policies. Science policy thus deals with the entire domain of issues that involve the natural sciences. Is accordance with public policy being concerned about the well-being of its citizens, science policy's goal is to consider how science and technology can best serve the public.

State policy has influenced the funding of public works and science for thousands of years, dating at least from the time of the Mohists, who inspired the study of logic during the period of the Hundred Schools of Thought, and the study of defensive fortifications during the Warring States Period in China. In Great Britain, governmental approval of the Royal Society in the seventeenth century recognized a scientific community which exists to this day. The professionalization of science, begun in the nineteenth century, was partly enabled by the creation of scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, and State funding of universities of their respective nations. Public policy can directly affect the funding of capital equipment, intellectual infrastructure for industrial research, by providing tax incentives to those organizations that fund research. Vannevar Bush, director of the office of scientific research and development for the United States government, the forerunner of the National Science Foundation, wrote in July 1945 that "Science is a proper concern of government" [64]

Science and technology research is often funded through a competitive process, in which potential research projects are evaluated and only the most promising receive funding. Such processes, which are run by government, corporations or foundations, allocate scarce funds. Total research funding in most developed countries is between 1.5% and 3% of GDP.[65] In the OECD, around two-thirds of research and development in scientific and technical fields is carried out by industry, and 20% and 10% respectively by universities and government. The government funding proportion in certain industries is higher, and it dominates research in social science and humanities. Similarly, with some exceptions (e.g. biotechnology) government provides the bulk of the funds for basic scientific research. In commercial research and development, all but the most research-oriented corporations focus more heavily on near-term commercialisation possibilities rather than "blue-sky" ideas or technologies (such as nuclear fusion).

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".[66] 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. Physicist Richard Feynman coined the term "cargo cult science" in reference to pursuits that have the formal trappings of science but lack "a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty" that allows their results to be rigorously evaluated.[67] Various types of commercial advertising, ranging from hype to fraud, may fall into these categories.

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.[68]


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.[69] 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.[70] Science's focus on quantitative measures has led to critiques that it is unable to recognize important qualitative aspects of the world.[70]

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.[71] 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.[71] 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.[71]

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".[72]

Sociologist 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.[73] 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.[74]

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.[75] David Parkin compared the epistemological stance of science to that of divination.[76] 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.[77]

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 may require considerable expertise regarding the matter.[78] Few journalists have real scientific knowledge, and even beat reporters who know a great deal about certain scientific issues may be ignorant about other scientific issues that they are suddenly asked to cover.[79][80]

Politics and public perception of science

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 farmed eggs were contaminated with Salmonella.[81]

See also


  1. "Online dictionary". Merriam-Webster. http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/science. 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 2002, p. 3.
  3. Wilson, Edward (1999). Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. New York: Vintage. ISBN 0-679-76867-X. 
  4. Ludwik Fleck (1935), Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact reminds us that before a specific fact 'existed', it had to be created as part of a social agreement within a community.
  5. Aristotle, ca. 4th century BCE "Nicomachean Ethics Book VI, and Metaphysics Book I:". http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0054%3Abekker%20page%3D1139b.  "In general the sign of knowledge or ignorance is the ability to teach, and for this reason we hold that art rather than experience is scientific knowledge (epistemē); for the artists can teach, but the others cannot." — Aristot. Met. 1.981b
  6. Consider, for example, Isaac Newton (1687) Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica
  7. Andrew Janiak (13 October 2006). "Newton's Philosophy". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/newton-philosophy/. Retrieved 19 March 2011. "Fully understanding Newton means avoiding anachronistically substituting our conception of philosophy in the twenty-first century for what the early moderns called 'natural philosophy'. To be sure, the latter includes much that we now call 'science', and yet it clearly includes much else besides...Newton may have provided physics with its paradigm...Newton's scientific achievement was in part to have vanquished both Cartesian and Leibnizian physics; in the eighteenth century, and indeed much of the nineteenth, physics was largely a Newtonian enterprise." 
  8. Oxford English Dictionary
  9. Max Born (1949, 1965) Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance points out that all knowledge, including natural or social science, is also subjective. Page 162: "Thus it dawned upon me that fundamentally everything is subjective, everything without exception. That was a shock." See: intersubjective verifiability.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Hunt, Shelby D. (2003). Controversy in marketing theory: for reason, realism, truth, and objectivity. M.E. Sharpe. p. 18. ISBN 0765609320. 
  11. "The Scientific Revolution". Washington State University
  12. It is 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".
  13. Etymology of "science" at Etymology Online. See also details of the PIE root at American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, 2000..
  14. "... [A] man knows a thing scientifically when he possesses a conviction arrived at in a certain way, and when the first principles on which that conviction rests are known to him with certainty—for unless he is more certain of his first principles than of the conclusion drawn from them he will only possess the knowledge in question accidentally." — Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 6 (H. Rackham, ed.) Aristot. Nic. Eth. 1139b
  15. MacMorris, Neville (1989). The Natures of Science. New York: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. pp. 31–33. ISBN 0838633218. 
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