DIVERSE DIMENSIONS OF SCIENCE
Science has a very important role to play in everyone’s life. It has radically transformed our life. Even the constitution of India talks about developing scientific temper as one of our fundamental duties.Peculiar facet of science , especially the philosophy of science has impacted the methodologies of diverse disciplines including law. Theologies and classics dominated the world before foregrounding science. Science lacked the cultural prestige like that of classics and theologies. Science is considered as organised in its approach related to knowledge and practice.
Science was initially known by the name “natural philosophy”. Whewell coined the term ‘science’ in the year 1833. In order to establish science as an autonomous discipline, scholars worked in order to popularise the science. Science is derived from the Latin word scientia, meaning knowing. The use of word ‘science’ has a complex history and is associated with various factors. Science is understood in many different meanings and dimensions. It can be understood as method, concept, title, inquiry, as a search for truth, as a criterion for demarcation, as a way of thinking and doing, as a narrative etc.
Understanding science as a concept help us explain what we are doing when we call some subject as a science. Classification is the of the fundamental activities of human brain. Stereotyping and generalisation about people and communities also involve categorising and it is even found economical. Being scientific is a mark of something which can be put under the category of science. Science as a category is a reasonable description of the word how science is used, it explains some aspects of the distribution of subjects that are put under science.
Science as a title is only reasonable to expect spurious claims to science hood. In the beginning of modern times, physicists and mathematicians often invoked the god or religion to validate their work. The example can be taken of Issac Newton who tried to get legitimacy to his physics by claiming that the success of his physics proved the existence of god. But now the roles have been reversed and it is the religion in the present times tries to legitimate itself by saying that its claims are scientific or what religion talks about has some correlation with modern science.
Science is characterized by a special method called scientific method which is the very essence of science. Many historians and philosophers also understand science as a method. This method is defined by the union of experiment and theory. Scientific theories do the job of unifying by finding the commonality in diverse phenomena. Relation between theory and experiment is associated with the ideas of verifiability and falsifiability. It is understood as a logical relation.
Karl Popper laid emphasis on the criterion of falsifiability. His model of science was that ; scientists make hypothesis and then deduce the consequences of hypotheses. These hypotheses are that they are open to being falsifiable, that is they are open to being shown to be wrong. A good scientific assertion should allow for the possibility that it could be wrong and there should be ways to show how it is wrong. His argument that verifiability is not a proper criterion for science. Falsifiability was used as a criterion to find out whether something was scientific or not. The question of demarcating science from non-science has inspired many debates about nature of science. Science often gets equated with truth, logic, rationalities which become the criteria for demarcating science from non-science.
Science is a particular kind of enquiry. Inquiry is seen to be the most basic of human faculties involved in any process of learning, and particularly science learning. Inquiry means ‘search for truth’. Rene Descartes, a mathematical philosopher made doubting the cornerstone of scientific method. Even as a central principle in the Indian philosophical tradition, particularly the Nyaya school had a very refined theory of doubt. Good science is associated with the practice of constantly asking questions and not being satisfied with the answers even if they are given by eminent scientists.
Science has an intrinsic engagement with truth. It is concerned about discovering truths with nature. Scientists continue to associate truth with the activity of science. Truth in science is closely associated related to the idea of scientific knowledge.
Science is also especially associated with critical thinking and is characterized by the spirit of play and performance. Critical thinking is often equated with logic and primarily it is way of going from one thought to another in a reasoned manner. Richard Feynman related science to observation and the capacity to think critically about these observations. Science is also characterized by a particular way of doing. Tinkering is often said to be the spirit of experimentation. One important consequence of the process of tinkering is technology which is very much related to the attempt to tinker with the nature in order to have better control over it and to harness its potential.
Science is also understood as a narrative. It has its own special way to tell a story. Both myths and narratives of science are stories. But they differ in the way which the story is told. The scientific narrative is filled with attempts to explain, using other observations as evidence, making an argument for the phenomenon and so on. The mythical narrative on the other hand just tell a story, and they may even sometimes also try and convince like a scientific narrative and it is not their primary aim. The images that myths use are metaphorical whereas scientific narratives will be primarily literal. Scientific stories define certain kinds of truth in a particular manner and literature often describes other kinds of truth in a different manner. Some of the salient regulatory rules of scientific narrative are : creation of special concepts in its stories, rejection of ‘supernatural’ elements in the story that is not involving anything which is extra natural like involving some divine element, finding a structure of explanation within these stories, no invocation of ultimate purpose and in general no explicit use of philosophical or metaphysical issues in that narrative, the absence of an explicit author of the story thereby indicating the universality of the story.
Science is particularly way of looking at the world. Scientists have got their own version of what science is. What scientists as a group or community say about science is often different from what they say as individuals. It could be in terms of awe, wonder and curiosity. It is mediated by inquisitiveness towards nature and is also characterised by a view of nature which science implicitly or explicitly holds.
Science not only describes the world in a special way, not only is its narrative unique, it even makes an attempt to control the world. Specially the attempt of science in terms of actions and consequences differentiates it from other human disciplines. Science intervenes in the story that it creates. It is not just an another story or narrative about the universe, but it also establishes control over it. There is no comparable ‘ technology of the social science’ that can match natural science’s inventionist capabilities.
The multi-facetedness of science is not limited to how it creates knowledge or how it uses the knowledge to control and fashion the world around us. It is also inherently social in character. The origin of science is as much as a product of creating a social community of scientist as it is a product created by individual scientists. That is the reason it is inherently political. Science is also closely tied with democracy but it is so complex in nature. On the one hand science as a practice is inherently democratic in the members of the community of science are far more open to the pressures of social democracy. Scientists often tend to claim that science is completely neutral with regards to politics and social pressure. Science is inherently tied with scientific class. Very good examples of this are scientists involvement with the Nazi as well as the Stalinist regimes.
There is much ambiguity about what really constitutes science, both the technical definition of science and the public understanding of it. When a community of science attempts to define science, they emphasize the idea of method, evidence and truth. The belief that science is about truth, reason and rationality and it needs superior intelligence to do science are considered to be strong beliefs of a society which are sustained through the public presentation of science, both by the scientists and non- scientists.
Sarukkai, Sundar. 2005. What is science? National Book Trust, India.
Yeo, Richard. 2003. Defining Science. Cambridge University press.
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