Science—What Is It?
According to The World Book Encyclopedia, “science covers the broad field of human knowledge concerned with facts held together by principles (rules).” Understandably, there are various kinds of science. The book The Scientist claims: “In theory, almost any kind of knowledge might be made scientific, since by definition a branch of knowledge becomes a science when it is pursued in the spirit of the scientific method.”
This makes for some difficulty in defining, with any precision, where one science begins and another ends. In fact, according to The World Book Encyclopedia, “in some cases, sciences may overlap so much that interdisciplinary fields have been established that combine parts of two or more sciences.” Nevertheless, most reference works speak of four main divisions: physical sciences, biological sciences, social sciences, and the science of mathematics and logic.
Mathematics a science? Yes, without some unified method of measurement, some way of determining how large, how small, how many, how few, how far, how near, how hot, and how cold, productive scientific investigation would have been impossible. So not without reason, mathematics has been called the “Queen and Servant of the Sciences.”
As for physical sciences, these include chemistry, physics, and astronomy. The main biological sciences are botany and zoology, while social sciences include anthropology, sociology, economics, political science, and psychology. (See box on page 8.)
A distinction must be made between pure science and applied science. The former deals purely with the scientific facts and principles themselves; the latter, with their practical application. Today applied science is also known as technology.
Religion and science are both examples of mankind’s desire to know the truth. But there is a significant difference between how religious truth is sought on the one hand and scientific truth on the other. A searcher for religious truth will probably turn to the Holy Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, the Vedas, or the Tripitaka, depending on whether he is a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, a Hindu, or a Buddhist. There he will find what is considered by his religion to be a revelation of religious truth, possibly deriving from a divine source and therefore viewed as a final authority.
However, the searcher for scientific truth has no such final authority to turn to—neither a book nor an individual. Scientific truth is not revealed; it is discovered. This necessitates a system of trial and error, with the searcher for scientific truth often finding himself in a fruitless endeavor. But by systematically following four steps, he pursues a fruitful search. (See box “Arriving at Truth the Scientific Way.”) Nevertheless, scientific victories are celebrated on the ruins of scientific defeats as formerly accepted views are rejected to make way for new ones viewed as more nearly correct.