Science - Term Overview

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Science is the set of organized, hierarchical and verifiable knowledge, obtained from the observation of natural and social phenomena of reality (both natural and human), and also from the experimentation and empirical demonstration of the interpretations that we give them.

This knowledge is also recorded and serves as a basis for future generations. So science nurtures itself, questions, refines, and accumulates over time.

The concept of science contains different knowledge, techniques, theories and institutions. All this, in principle, aims to discover what are the fundamental laws that govern reality, how they do it and, if possible, why.

It's a cultural product of modern humanity, perhaps one of the most celebrated and recognized in its history, whose roots have nevertheless been with us since classical antiquity.

Science is a model of thought inspired by human rationality and the critical spirit, philosophical values ​​that had their heyday from the European Renaissance. This is why the profound philosophical and cosmological changes that took place between the 16th and 17th centuries are often referred to as the Scientific Revolution.

Characteristics of science

In all its complexity, science is characterized by the following:

  • It aspires to discover the laws that govern the universe that surrounds us, through rational, empirical, demonstrable and universal methods. In that sense, it values ​​objectivity and methodicality, and moves away from subjectivities.
  • It analyzes his objects of study both quantitatively and qualitatively, although he doesn't always use experimental verification models (depending on the subject).
  • It's based on research, that is, on a critical and analytical spirit, as well as on the steps established by the scientific method, to formulate laws, models and scientific theories that explain reality.
  • It generates a significant amount of specialized knowledge that must be questioned and then validated by the scientific community itself, before being accepted as true or valid.
  • It's made up of a significant number of branches or specialized fields of knowledge, which study natural, formal or social phenomena, and which as a whole make up a unified whole.

Origin of science

The word "science" comes from the Latin scientia, which translates "knowledge", but its use to refer to the critical study of nature is recent: in the 19th century the British William Whewell (1794-1866) began to use the term "scientist " To refer to those who practiced what throughout life was called" philosophy "," naturalism "," natural history "or" natural philosophy ", that is, the study of the laws of nature.

In fact, under some of these names scientific knowledge was cultivated in antiquity, that is, the interest in finding out how things in the world work and why. But in ancient times, scientific research was inseparable from religious thought, since mythology and magic were the only forms of explanation available to humans.

This changed significantly in classical Greece, with the emergence of philosophy: a doctrine of non-religious thought, the purpose of which was to reflect and try to find the answers logically. The great Greek philosophers were also "scientific" in some way, because together with formal logic and existential thought they cultivated mathematics, medicine and naturalism, that is, the observation of nature.

Aristotle's dissertations (384-322 BC), for example, were held to be unquestionable truth for centuries. They ruled even throughout the Christian Middle Ages, in which religious discourse once again dominated Western thought.

Around the 15th century the Renaissance took place and new minds began to question what the biblical texts dictated. A umentó confidence in the rational and empirical interpretation of the evidence, producing an important break that allowed the gradual rise of science.

Many Renaissance and post-Renaissance thinkers played an important role in this, influenced by Humanism, which, for the first time, convinced humanity that it could find its own answers to the eternal questions about the why of things. The names of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), René Descartes (1596-1650), Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and Isaac Newton (1643-1727), among others, stand out.

Thus was formally born scientific thought that was gaining more and more relevance in the cultural order of society. In fact, from the 18th century onwards, he profoundly and radically transformed it in combination with technique, thus creating technology and starting the Industrial Revolution.

Branches of science

Science encompasses a huge set of organized knowledge, which is distributed along three main branches, which are:

  • Natural sciences: This is the name of all those scientific disciplines that are dedicated to the study of nature, using the scientific method to reproduce experimentally (that is, under controlled conditions) the phenomena in which they are interested. They are also known as experimental sciences, hard sciences or physical-natural sciences, and are examples of this: biology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, etc.
  • Formal sciences: Unlike the natural sciences, the formal ones aren't dedicated to studying nature, but purely abstract objects and systems, which however can be applied to the real world. Thus, its objects of study exist only in the world of the mind, and their validity derives not from experiments, but from axioms, reasoning, and inferences. Examples of this type of science are: mathematics, logic, computing, etc.
  • Social sciences: Also known as human sciences, this set of disciplines is dedicated to the study of humanity, but preserving an empirical, critical perspective, guided by the scientific method. Is, well, away from the humanities and the world of subjectivity, but also from the experimental world, resorting instead to statistics, transdisciplinarity and analysis of the speech. Examples of this type of science are: sociology, anthropology, political science, economics, geography, etc.

The scientific method and its steps

A methodology of scientific thought is known by this name, initially proposed by Sir Francis Bacon, but the result of years of rationalistic and empirical thought, and the collaboration of later thinkers, such as David Hume (1711-1776) or William Whewell ( 1794-1866), to name just two names.

This method requires the construction of knowledge according to criteria of falsifiability or refutability (that is, that it can be subjected to potential tests that contradict it) and of reproducibility or repeatability (that is, that others can make a verification more than once and find the same result).

The steps of the scientific method are as follows:

  • Observation: Go looking for the phenomenon you want to study in itsnatural context, in order to obtain data and information with which to analyze it.
  • Hypothesis: Formulation of a tentative or "working" explanation that allows us to continue investigating the nature of the phenomenon, already having a direction and an interpretative possibility.
  • Experimentation: Carry out tests, already in acontrolled environment (for example, a laboratory), to replicate the phenomenon and to be able to study its internal mechanisms or its responses to certain modifications.
  • Theory: Resume the most probable hypothesis and proceed to explain it according to the experimental results and the total information obtained, giving meaning to the phenomenon within the scientific framework of the time.
  • Conclusions: The final conclusions of the formulated theory are expressed.

Scientific knowledge

Scientific knowledge encompasses the set of verifiable facts and supported by evidence that science considers valid at a given moment in its history. It's a set of laws, theories and models for the interpretation and explanation of the phenomena of reality. While they are duly documented and subjected to specialized judgment, they are also open to reinterpretation and rebuttal.

This means that scientific knowledge updates itself, fine-tuning its perspectives, discarding outdated looks, and keeping itself in a constant state of checking. That is why it differs greatly from other doctrines of interpretation of reality, such as religion, in which knowledge is tight and unquestionable.

It must be taken into account that the validity of scientific knowledge isn't permanent or unquestionable, but that they are considered as such as long as they aren't refuted. The knowledge obtained is constantly being contrasted and questioned.

Scientific knowledge is organized based on a hierarchy of principles, which differentiates between:

  • Theoretical hypothesis: An unverified statement, but in principle acceptable or credible, that is formulated when addressing a problem from a scientific perspective, which implies data collection and prior information.
  • Scientific law: A proposition that establishes a relationship between a cause and an effect, proposing a formal language to demonstrate it. In it the ideal of the scientific method is carried out: formulation of the hypothesis, observation, experimentation and demonstration.
  • Scientific theory: An explanation that is formulated from a set of principles or laws, to give coherent meaning to empirical observations. It's a totalizing abstraction, that is, an empirical interpretation supported by the laws. In this sense, a scientific theory already always has real and proven support, and should not be understood as “one more theory” or “one theory among many”, in the sense in which we use the word theory.
  • Scientific model: A conceptual or visual representation of knowledge, which allows to analyze, simulate or explore the operation of scientific theories in a given context. Scientific models are clippings of reality that allow us to put into motion what is established in previous theories and hypotheses.

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