What is Science?
Definition of Science
The English word science originated from the Latin word "scientia" meaning knowledge. Based upon this literary origin, science may be defined as knowledge. However, in the strict definition, science is the systematic study of the universe, its constituents and their interaction through observation and experimentation. Science involves logical reasoning, experiments and approximations to discover the absolute truth. Some times we may find it defined as "an enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the world." This may be partially correct; science does not need to be an enterprise, as enterprise as we know it is as an undertaking with some scope, complication and risk.
Evolution of Science
Philosophy is also a study of general and fundamental problems through logical interpretations; thus, science and philosophy intersect and overlap. In fact, at one time these two terms were used interchangeably.
In the relentless pursuit of science, man began to understand the universe and engineer it to his benefit. Since the discovery of fire and the wheel, he never took a rest from unraveling the mysteries of the world. In ancient times science was a way of life for these adventurous folks. Discoveries from meticulous experimentation began challenging myths and beliefs of the science of religion leading to confrontation. When and where church and state were not separated, the pursuit of objective science faced constant challenge. Despite such challenges, man emerged victorious with each new discovery and invention. Now science has been transformed to an enterprise. Science is no more the quest of individuals pursuing their dreams and goals themselves. Now discoveries in sciences emerge from collective efforts of groups of scientists. Science has journeyed through distances and evolved to be self-standing; that modern man separates it from religion with all civility.
Famous scientist Richard Feynman, the 1965 Physics Nobel laureate, said, "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. ...there is an expanding frontier of ignorance...things must be learned only to be unlearned again or, more likely, to be corrected." Feynman was an American physicist well known for his work in quantum electrodynamics. For his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman, jointly with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. For those interested in science, his two famous books, "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" and "What Do You Care What Other People Think?: Further Adventures of a Curious Character," are worth reading.
Though in general, experimental results by themselves are true, interpretation of the results and implication of the scientific findings to society become subjective and debatable. This is because no two beautiful minds are the same. Many social and political issues that are debated may also be of interest to scientists as social acceptance and political decision making can influence investment in science and technology as well as the direction of institutionalized science. When science is funded by the public, there is increasing pressure on the scientist to study problems important to the society, more than problems that arouse his curiosity. Examples are high speed rail network, green energy, stem cell research and health care. Every day professional science journals and science news publications publish hundreds of articles and news stories. The science news stories allow common man to understand these findings in lay terms. These science stories also initiate debates. In this era of information technology, such debates are now more visible in the electronic media, more specifically social networking sites. With the advent and popularization of mobile technology, opportunities to share opinions exist 24/7. It is a sincere hope that this socialization of information will create renewed interest in science among the public.
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