Science (from Latin: scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is a systematic enterprise of gathering knowledge about the world and organizing and condensing that knowledge into testable laws and theories. As knowledge has increased, some methods have proved more reliable than others, and today the scientific method is the standard for science. It includes the use of careful observation, experimentation, measurement, mathematics, and replication — to be considered a science, a body of knowledge must stand up to repeated testing by independent observers. The use of the scientific method to make new discoveries is called scientific research, and the people who carry out this research are called scientists. This article focuses on science in the more restricted sense, what is sometimes called experimental science. Applied science, or engineering, is the practical application of scientific knowledge. In the modern world, scientific research is a major activity in all developed nations, and scientists are expected to publish their discoveries in refereed journals, scientific periodicals where referees check the facts in an article before it is published. Even after publication, new scientific ideas are not generally accepted until the work has been replicated. Scientific literacy is the ability of the general population to understand the basic concepts related to science.
What is science after all? Can we give a simple definition as above? I am afraid that definitions change in time and that is the reason why we have to involve philosophy;
Francis Bacon (1561–1626) has been considered to be the father of modern science. He was anything but a scientist; philosopher, statesman, lawyer, jurist, author and some believe that he was also an alchemist. Actually he was one of the first strong supporters of a social, spiritual and financial progress that will be based on knowledge and discovery . This view is described in his book New Atlantis. For this purpose he needed to describe how knowledge and discovery can lead the way to progress, and for that reason he described a system that will help for the production of new knowledge; one of the first descriptions of a scientific method. His scientific method was based
in experiment and induction; a rational procedure that will establish causation between phenomena and will produce principals and theories that will try to explain the phenomena.
Later Isaac Newton tried to improve Bacon’s method with his four “rules of reasoning” in the Principia
Francis Bacon’s scientific method consists of a procedure to compile scientific results in a set of rules or principals which will try to describe all the identical phenomena to the ones under experiment. The step between experimental results and theories involves what we call reason; in order to decide on future events we use reason to study the past events and create a rule that will guide us to the future. So for example, since the sun is rising every day, for the past thousand of years, therefore it is going to rise tomorrow. It’s easy to understand that this is a “tricky” point in the scientific procedure, it involves a little “guessing”.
We either have to assume that nature is really using a set of rules and laws , or even -more extreme- that laws and rules are more important parts of nature than the phenomena and experiences themselves. And if we want to take the second view to a more extreme we can also assume (or believe) that we can trust our own thought and reach these secret ways of nature without experience.
“Humans have knowledge only of things they directly experience”
David Hume (7 May 1711 – 25 August 1776), Scottish philosopher considered as one of the most important figures of Western philosophy. Hume attacked the views that ideas can exist outside of human experience and he tried to show that the root of all ideas is experience. His main “weapon” was the so-called “problem of induction” which can be (rather poorly) described with the above example of the sun. He suggested that something else other than reason suggests us to suppose that nature is uniform (i.e. since the sun is rising every day it is going to rise tomorrow, that the pattern will continue) and this something else is natural instinct. Since knowledge is based on experience, knowledge is subjective. In that view science can only be if there is collective experience that has structure, stability and repeatability. These regularities are the true subject of Science according to Hume.
“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” Albert Einstein