As the American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has once written, “If you cherry-pick scientific truths to serve cultural, economic, religious or political objectives, you undermine the foundations of an informed democracy.”
Defining the concept of “science” is a very tricky business due to nearly endless scopes. There’s also the matter of drawing the line between science and non-science. For this article, we will not be providing any final answers to such debates.
We believe that understanding this systematic enterprise starts with providing the definition of science.
What is Science?
Just the word “science” will probably conjure up many different pictures in a person’s mind. A thick textbook, a white lab coat, Einstein’s equations, a launching space shuttle, a diver surveying corals – all of these images reflect some aspect of science.
However, none of these images can depict the full scope since science has so many facets.
Science refers to the never-ending quest to reach good explanations about the world, the universe and how they work. According to David Deutsch from his book, The Beginning of Infinity, a good and acceptable explanation should be clear, precise and hard to vary. The “hard to vary” part means that the explanation can’t be easily swayed or updated just because of science events articles or new discoveries.
Science separates itself from other branches of human pursuit by its ability to scrutinize and comprehend nature’s behavior. This gives us the ability to accurately predict, if not control, the outcomes of events in our natural world.
So by science definition, anything that’s considered supernatural doesn’t fit into the meaning of science. More than ever, science provides modern humans with enhancements to health, wealth, and security.
The Scientific Method
For every research, scientists make use of the scientific method to gather empirical evidence for an experiment related to a hypothesis. The results of the experiment will either support or contradict a scientific theory. The scientific method can be summarized in one sentence:
Do whatever it takes to avoid fooling yourself into thinking something is true that is not, or that something is not true that is.
The steps of the scientific method will go something like this:
1. Make an observation or observations.
2. Form questions related to the observations and collect relevant information.
3. Form a hypothesis – basically, it’s a preliminary description of what’s been observed, and provide predictions based on the hypothesis.
4. Put the hypothesis and predictions in a reproducible experiment.
5. Analyze the collected data and come up with conclusions. You can either confirm or reject the hypothesis. The hypothesis can be modified if necessary.
6. Repeat the experiment until there are no discrepancies left between the observations and theory.
According to Moshe Pritsker of Harvard Medical School and CEO of JoVE, “The reproducibility of published experiments is the foundation of science. No reproducibility – no science.”
In general, the scientific method can be rather frustrating. In most cases, a theory is almost never proven.
Why is Science so Special?
The scientific revolution has brought so much knowledge to the human race. This can be attributed to three main inherent reasons:
The scientific community is always open to new ideas, potential changes, and criticisms. Scientists respect the opinions of others, provided that their views are well within the realms of rationality. Scientists are also encouraged to uphold integrity and tolerance. They have this belief that science is used for the betterment of the world and any scientific progress is a boon to humanity.
The scientific community believes that knowledge can only come from rational thought, experimentation, and criticism. They are interested in all theories, including those that can be proven false.
Scientists build their knowledge by employing the scientific method. They establish theories that will either be accepted or proven wrong. They’re constantly in a debate with each other. They use all the tools at their disposal to find clear and precise answers to keep them from fooling themselves.
Back then, scientific works can be considered as an error correction process because many theories are just rational hypothesis and even simple guesses. The experiments, shared information, experiments, and results enable us to choose between existing theories and ask the better questions.
Science and Knowledge
At present, science doesn’t and probably never can provide statements that will prove an absolute eternal truth. We just know that existing theories will probably be refined in the future, or some may even be discarded in favor of theories that make more sense.
However, our present theories and scientific truths remain the best explanations of the natural world. These theories have explained and have been tested against an extensive amount of data.
So we’re left with a choice. One obvious option is to accept the current understanding of the natural world – but with skepticism.