A Suggested Simple Definition Of Science

  • #26
Yes I've said before that I think your definition is fine. Rade may be questioning it. We only differed on what is meant by 'observation' in a scientific sense I think. Your definition only differs from the dictionary one that I posted substituting 'philosophical reflection' for 'theoretical explanation'.
Philosophical reflection on it's own though is for philosophers. For it to be science you have to develop ways of quantifying the conclusions that you draw from your reflection.
 
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  • #27
AKG
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The definition should take into account that scientists want to use their observations to draw out general patterns that can be said to govern the behaviour they observe. We can observe some phenomena and gather mountains of data, and improve our observation techniques so we get even bigger mountains of even more accurate data, but there's more to science than just this. We want to make inferences from this data about how the world works, i.e. what general principles govern the behaviour of things in the world. If science is defined as nothing more than a certain type of observation, then this would be wrong, because the inferences that people try to make from the data is also part of science, and Another God, you may or may not be refering to this process of making inferences as "philosophical reflection," I'm not sure. But regardless of what you mean by "philosophical reflection," your definition says that science is nothing more than observation... and thus does not include making inferences, but making inferences is a part of science. Making inferences might also be considered philosophical reflection, but it cannot be left out of the definition of science.
 
  • #28
AKG I dont see any real difference between philosophical reflection and making inferences. You are each saying 'connect the dots' in your own way I think. I also don't see it worded either way in the dictionary definition.
I would argue that your inferences are only as valid in as much as the quality and amount of your data supports them. Suppose you are an ancient astronomer and you see two comets pass close to the earth in a span of two years. You might infer from this that comets pass the earth about once a year. With better data you would see the great rarity of your observations.
 
  • #29
AKG
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You missed the point. I didn't say that making inferences and philosophical reflection were different things, I said that making inferences was a part of science, and Another God's definition excludes this part. His definition gives that only the observation is science. Whatever we do afterwards with the observation, whether that is make inferences, philosophically reflect, or if the two are one and the same, then both, is the purpose of the observation, but science is nothing more than the observation itself, and whatever activity the observation is used for is some separate activity. This is wrong. Both the observation, and the activities we do afterwards using what we learned from observation, are parts of science.
 
  • #30
If making inferences and philosophical reflection are not different things then you should have no problem with his definition.
What is the difference in saying "Science is nothing more than the continued observation and improvement of observing techniques of a given phenomenon for the application of making inferences."?
 
  • #31
Another God
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I see, sorry AKG but i think u have misread me in much the same way i have had trouble with Rade's definition. I didn't mean the definition to be broken up into 'Science is nothing more than observation. (full stop) This is then available for philosophical reflection. Which is how you ahve taken it.

What i meant was that science is the combination of the observation and the philosophy/inference/reflection/considering/extrapolating etc, and nothing more.
 
  • #32
It's like saying that business is the practice of selling goods for the application of making money. It doesn't imply that making money is separate from business but rather the purpose of it.
 
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  • #33
Rade
Another God said:
...science IS NOT the modus operandi of epistemology...epistemology works through pure reflection/thought/philosophy. Epistemology was discussed long before science was, and is still quite seperate from it. I don't think that that is what you mean though. (or do u?)
What I mean, is that epistemology is defined from the Gr. episteme = knowledge, logy = study of; thus epistemology has always been a branch of thinking (philosophy) that deals with the "study of knowledge". Now, clearly, as you state, science as a word comes along much latter in history, but "science as a method of thinking" has been around exactly the same length of time as epistemology (what I called in my proposed definition) the repetitive and redundant aspects of given phenomenon by application of the laws of nature. Thus, I hold that science is the only way for humans to think that allows them to "study knowledge", to do epistemology--(to gain facts of phenomemon preceived via the senses). Why ? for the very simple reason that the concept "science" comes from the Latin "scire" = to know !, that is SCIENCE = TO KNOW ! ...and as Webster tells us, to "know" something is opposed to have intuition, belief, etc. of some "thing". In other words, if you hold something to be true by belief (1) you are not engaged in epistemology (e.g., you are not seeking to study the facts of phenomenon) and (2) you are not doing science. Look up the definition for "belief"--no mention that you "seek" knowledge of facts--only that you assume, suppose, hope, pray--but no knowledge. However, when a scientists states that something is a scientific fact, they are saying they "know" it is a fact because they have used a very specific method to gain such knowledge, what I called "the repetitive and redundant aspects of given phenomenon by application of the laws of nature". A scientist never holds any fact to be true by "belief" or "intuition"--such "methods of observation of given phenomenon" are outside science, outside fact, outside knowledge, thus outside the branch of philosophy called epistomology. When a person uses a system of "belief" to determine what is true, they do not study epistemology, they study the branch of philosophy called "religion". Study of religion has nothing to do with study of knowledge--by definition. Let me put it bluntly, if all you hold to be true is 100% by belief, then, by definition, you have 0.0% "knowledge" of what is in fact true.
Thus I hold as logically valid and true that..Science is the modus operandi of epistemology
Another God said:
....The obvious problem I have here is that you have assumed that we already know what science is: You place it there as a tool to be used like a hammer or something. I'll stop there so u can correct me if I am way off track.
It can only be the "definition" of the "concept" called science that lets us "know" what science is. I do not "assume" (have belief of) what science is--I defined science--thus by definition, that's what I know it is--my knowledge derives from its definition. Now, of course, definitions can change over time, but new definitions can never remove essential factors of a concept, only refine them. Until you define a concept you cannot know what it is--and this is why I agree with you that this thread is important for anyone that claims they "do science", for without a simple definition of what science is, how is anyone to know what scientists do.

Still, even at this stage of this thread, we only have two proposed definitions of "science", which I find strange. This is a physics forum that includes biology, chemistry--surely we can get a few more definitions of what it is many of us do for a living--SCIENCE. Or do we think that we do biology, chemistry, physics and thus no need to define SCIENCE ?--I hope this is not the case. If so, it helps explain why the Intelligent Design movement is making a serious attempt at this time in history to re-define SCIENCE to include application of laws of god via inference as being what it is we scientists do.
 
  • #34
Rade I think you are right, we had better come up with a definition before Bush defines science in a way that suits his agenda!
Instead of writing the shortest definition or the most profound, I'll aim mine at those schoolkids.
Science is the effort to explain how everything in the universe works by taking measurements to see if something behaves in a way that we expect so that we may change our idea about it if it doesn't.
 
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  • #35
Rade
dontbelievthebull said:
Science is the effort to explain how everything in the universe works by taking measurements to see if something behaves in a way that we expect so that we may change our idea about it if it doesn't.
Very good--practical definitions that are factual are always preferred. Your definition improves the original definition posted by Another God because it includes the part of science that deals with "prediction". It also correctly puts limits on what science can tell us --"limited to taking measurements". Perhaps the only thing I would suggest is that you consider including the term "repeated measurements". I would then use this "simple definition of science" that you suggest in my classroom--unless I hear objections from others.
 
  • #36
Feel free to alter it as you see fit Rade, I haven't copyrighted it. :biggrin:
I would be honored for your students to actually hear it, I just made it up off the top of my head.
 

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