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In my search for the definition of science, I came across a couple of things that I hadn't really expected. For one, I learned that it is painstakingly difficult to come across a simple and precise definition for science. I also found that any such definition inherently puts limitations on the "massive" scope that is science.
I came to quickly realize that just like the scientific method, there is simply no set definition of science; or way to define it for that matter, and if you were to do a bit of digging, you will most likely also a find a myriad of definitions similar to those I had the
displeas... pleasure of examining!
So without much further ado, below is a selection of some of the more useful and interesting definitions I came across in my search for the definition of science.
Yes, the humble dictionary... don't underestimate it's ability to provide definitions that cut right to the chase. Here are a couple of useful definitions I came across in my search for the definition of science.
Merriam-Webster Science Definition
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines science as "the state of knowing." This can also be taken to mean knowledge as opposed to ignorance or lack of understanding.
Another science definition offered by Merriam-Webster is that it is knowledge, or a system of knowledge that covers general truths or the operation of general laws. This is especially the case when this knowledge has been acquired through the application of the scientific method.
Oxford Dictionary Science Definition
The Oxford Dictionary defines science as an intellectual and practical activity that through observation and experiment, involves the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world.
Okay that was a bit of a mouthful! It still provides a fairly good definition of science though; once you sift through the gobbledygook.
Sandra Amos and Richard Boohan, authors of "Teaching Science in Secondary Schools" also provide a fairly concise definition of science. In their text, science is said to:
"consist of a body of knowledge about the natural world" The facts that make up this knowledge are derived from accurate observations and experiments. These facts can be checked or verified by anyone through replicating and repeating the experiment, and as time goes on scientific knowledge steadily progresses.
Author Liz Thompson offers an easy-to-follow science definition stating that it is a way of thinking and discovering, not just the act of memorizing an assortment of facts. She goes on to say that:
"science is the process by which humans question, investigate, explore and improve the world around them"
There are quite a number of science definitions I came across; far too many to list here. If nothing else, this probably just highlights the difficulties associated with defining science. Below however, are some of the more interesting definitions I thought deserved a mention.
Science is the identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.
~American Heritage Dictionary
Science is the process of finding-out. It is the art of interrogating nature, a system of inquiry that requires curiosity, intellectual honesty, skepticism, tolerance for ambiguity, openness to new ideas and the sharing of knowledge.
~Roberta H. Barba
Science is forming questions about the way things work and trying to answer those questions through experimentation and observation. It is having an open mind and rejoicing when the outcome is a surprise.
~Meryl Rosenblum, Elementary School Teacher
Where do I start? There are too many benefits to list: it will give you a chance to explore; a chance to satisfy your curiosities; a chance to find answers to your own questions; a chance to carry out your own investigation and check that something "adds up"; and most importantly, a chance to discover and have fun.
Picture these scenarios:
Your curiosity has been kindled: you wonder why these things happen?; how these things happen; what purpose these things serve? Well you can find accurate answers to your questions by using the scientific method to carry out an investigation. This is in many ways the definition of science.
By no means! Although scientific knowledge is in most cases very reliable and although a judicial and objective application of the scientific method can lead to accurate scientific findings, science is by no means absolute and without error. And there are some things that science simply cannot answer; well at least at this current point in time anyway.
The mathematics professor John Allen Paulos said it quite well:
"Uncertainty is the only certainty. It is safe to say that the only thing we will know absolutely is that there are some things that we will never know."
"The most important thing is to never stop asking questions. "
~ Albert Einstein
So in closing, you can see that any definition of science will inherently have its own limitations. One of the best things you can do is to approach each definition with the aim of seeing the bigger picture of what it is that makes science, science. It is more than collecting or memorizing a body of facts, it is a way of thinking.
Did you enjoy this article on the definition of science? Do you now have a good idea of what science involves? If so, that's awesome! Below are a few additional articles covering the scientific method you might also find useful. They cover the steps involved and will show you just how to apply them in your own scientific investigations.
Amos, Sandra, and Richard Boohan. "The Nature of Science."Teaching Science in Secondary Schools: a Reader. London: RoutledgeFalmer, 2002. Print.
Koch, Janice. "What Is This Thing Called Science?" Science Stories: Science Methods for Elementary and Middle School Teachers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2009. Print.
Achinstein, Peter. Science Rules: a Historical Introduction to Scientific Methods. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2004. Print.
Thompson, Liz, and Michelle Gunter. "What Is Science?" Passing the Georgia High School Graduation Test in Science: Written to GPS Standards. Woodstock, GA: American Book, 2008. Print.
The scientific method is by far the tool of choice when it comes to carrying out scientific investigations that are both accurate and credible. But what does it involve and how do you go about applying it to your own projects? Find out more below.
You know that the scientific method is a very important tool in scientific inquiry, but what actually is it? Here are some great scientific method definitions that explain the scientific process and what it involves.