What is Science?

Monday, May 05, 2008 Manila

Princeton
A particular branch of scientific knowledge: ‘the science of genetics’ (wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn)

FAH
Notice, you define science as ‘scientific knowledge’ – which is a tautology. Essentially, you are defining a word by the same word.

Merriam-Webster
1. state of knowing: knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding. 2a. department of systematized knowledge as an object of study. 2b. something (as a sport or technique) that may be studied or learned like systematized knowledge. 3a. knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method. 3b. such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena. 4. system or method reconciling practical ends with scientific laws

FAH
1. Defining ‘science’ as ‘knowledge’ is not defining it. How do you define knowledge? Who says what is knowledge and what is not? What is ignorance? What is misunderstanding? Whose criteria are you going to use? 2a. Defining science as ‘systematized knowledge’ is the same thing as defining it simply as ‘knowledge’ If knowledge is vague, what you systematize is vague. 2b. If science is something that may be studied, then everything is science (except perhaps faith or religion). We are not getting anywhere. 3a. What is a ‘system of knowledge’ and what is a ‘general truth’ and a ‘general law’ and what is ‘scientific method’ – do not define a word or term where I have to look at the definition of that other word or term. 3b. Everything is concerned with the physical world and its phenomena – everything is science? 4. Is ‘cooking’ simply ‘practical end’ and what is a ‘scientific law’ – I don’t see any proper definition of science in this long list.

American Heritage Dictionary
1a. the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena. 1b. such activities restricted to a class of natural phenomena.
1c. such activities applied to an object of inquiry or study. 2. methodological activity, discipline, or study: I’ve got packing a suitcase down to a science. 3. an activity that appears to require study and method: the science of purchasing. 4. knowledge, especially that gained through experience.

FAH
As I have always known, my favorite dictionary is intelligent. This is better! To summarize: Science is the method of inquiry or study or experimentation; it is also the knowledge gained.
What I don’t get is #4. If science is knowledge gained through experience, then folk wisdom is science; each one of us has science within us? Can’t be. I would differentiate knowledge gained through experimentation from knowledge gained through experience.

Or insight gained through experience? Insight is what? American Heritage Dictionary:
1. the capacity to discern the true nature of a situation; penetration; 2. the act or outcome of grasping the inward or hidden nature of things or of perceiving in an intuitive manner.

My insight:

Using that definition of insight, I now have this definition:
Science is the formal method of study to gain insight into the nature of things as well as the insight gained from such study.
You can call the insight knowledge if you like; I have no objections. I hasten to add that such insight need not be systematized to be called science.
Experience is a non-systematized sensing of natural phenomena. Experience may or may not result in gaining an insight into the nature of things. Insight gained from experience may be called what?

Another insight:
Intelligence is the ability to gain insight into the nature of things; it is also such insight gained.

Now then:
Science is insights acquired in a formal, systematized manner; experience is insights gained through trial and error, without system or method.


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