Before the age of enlightenment, the term referred merely to systematic, recorded knowledge. It had a broader meaning. In fact, philosophy was once known as “moral science,” which demonstrates the more broad definition used in centuries past.
Scientists generally agree that any scientific investigation needs to adhere to the process for analyzing empirical data. This process is known as the “scientific method,” which operates under the premise of methodical materialism, a notion that seeks to explain observable natural events without assuming any supernatural factors exist. This type of science is often referred to as “pure science,” as opposed to “applied science,” which is an application of research to human needs.
Role of Science
Empiricism maintains that theories in science can be tested and predicted, that they are objective and can be checked and perhaps even contradicted.
Scientific realism, on the other hand, defines science in ontological terms. In other words, science strives to identify entities and phenomena in the environment, their mechanisms and sources.
Predictions refer merely to the results of experiments, and not to a literal prediction of the future. One empiricist philosopher by the name of Karl Popper maintained that science can never be verified completely, but rather it can only be falsified.
One form of empiricism, known as positivism, aims to use science as the regulator of human activities. Sometimes the two terms are interchangeable.
Science helps people know more about their lives and contributes to the development of society.
In science, the words “hypothesis,” “law,” “model,” and “theory,” mean very different things than they do in standard speech. A hypothesis is something not yet proved. A law is a generalization in science, one that is based on empirical observation. A model, in science, refers to any element that can be used to make predictions backed up by observation or experiment. Theories are ideas that are educated guesses, but for which actual proof does not exist. However, in modern times, when a theory has enough evidence to support it over long periods of time, it can be considered proven. Such theories include biological evolution, and atomic theory, not likely to be discredited. The theory of relativity though, has a lot of evidence in its support, but not enough to convince scientists for absolute sure that it is valid. All theories are subject to falsification. Scientists do not claim absolutes.
Philosophy of science
The philosophy of science involves the search for understanding of science and justification of knowledge in the field, as well as its ethical implications. Sometimes the line between science and non-science can be blurred.
Analysis based on reason and awareness is what science is all about. The scientific method cannot work on any topic outside our realm of reality, or that which is observable to us and can be tested through theory and experimentation.
Math in Science
The disciplines of science and mathematics are inextricably linked. Math is crucial to many sciences. Its most critical role in science is in scientific models. Observing measurements, collecting measurements, hypothesizing, predicting: All these require mathematical models and major use of mathematics. The branches of mathematics used most often in science are statistics and calculus, although virtually every type of math is used in science at some point. Formulas employ algebra, others utilize geometry. Topology and number theory are even used. Physics uses math extensively. Chemistry, biology and some social sciences use less math.
The amazing power that we call science allows for dramatic manipulation of the physical world. Despite mainstream impressions, it is not the intention of science to provide answers to all questions. Rather, the goal of physical science is to answer only questions pertaining to reality. Science does not address that which cannot be tested, which does limit its scope. Science seeks absolute truth, but can never truly obtain it. Every conclusion is subject to added data and further testing that may skew the “truth.” Science is about observation and how processes appear to work in the world based on experimentation.
Science is objective, not subjective, but certainly, ethical questions arise all the time in scientific works. Sometimes a proposed scientific method goes against nature to such a degree that it disrupts the public comfort zone and infringes on common morality. The goal of science is to produce useful models, allowing for useful predictions. The goal is to understand and to move society forward.
Science is often broken down into hard sciences and soft sciences. Hard sciences would include physics, biology, geology and chemistry. Soft sciences would include anthropology, psychology, sociology and history.
There are other types of groupings within science as well. Natural sciences refers to biology, earth sciences, physical science, astronomy, chemistry and ecology. Each of those can be broken down further. Physics contains myriad subcategories, from biophysics to vehicle dynamics. Chemistry include biochemistry, organic chemistry, and more. Earth sciences include geography, oceanography and paleontology, to name a few. Biology includes anatomy, immunology, toxicology, zoology and much more.
Social sciences include Economics, education, anthropology, linguistics, history, psychology, sociology and political science. Within anthropology there is archaeology, economics and philosophy. Psychology includes behavior analysis, forensic psychology, and many other sub-branches.
Applied science refers to the cognitive sciences, engineering, health science, computer and information science, all of which have their own subcategories as well.
Finally, there is environmental science, a small but significant field which includes environmental chemistry.
Since science covers so many areas, it is always possible (and probable) that new scientific disciplines will continue to emerge.