Systems of Knowledge (Module 3) What is Science? Science is derived from the Latin word scienta which means knowledge. Science is a particular way of understanding our natural world. Science is based on assumptions of our senses and the use of instruments to help us be precise. It is empirical [it falls beyond our senses]. Science follows very specific rules. Science does not exclude creativity and imagination, all inventions started from the inquiring mind. methods of science are Observation, Experimentation and Measurements. Steps in science are Observation, Comfort (help and make lifestyle easier) and labour or energy saving. Science involves different branches example social science, natural science, statistical science. The term science is very vast. Scientists are investigators: they look for facts. Answers may only be achieved on temporary basis: they can change.
Science is based on objectivity (once proved by experiment it is true) example King Fredrick 2 Stupor Mundi made an important study on falconry due to observation. Science is a systematic search for facts. Science asks 3 basic questions: 1. What is there? [example what is in the centre of the world] 2. How does it work? [example how nature works] 3. What is its history? [how it developed] Characteristics of Science Scientific conclusions are reliable but tentative-(Copernicus theory of the Earth) * Science is not democratic- (What idea is proved is accepted not what is most popular to people is chosen) * Science is not dogmatic, it is not religion- (Both science and religion can help each other) “Science without religion is lame, while religion without science is blind” * Science is not art involving emotions and feeling- ( example interpretation of a poem) An artist can express something from his heart but a scientist can’t as he has to express what he has rightfully proved in an experiment not what he feels is right in his heart.
Scientists focus on change- change for better understanding. Science is a rapidly changing activity. Science and Culture Culture is said to be the matrix of humanity. It is the product of human thought and action. It comes from a Latin word. Values are an important part of culture since they provide guidelines for cultures. Science is the quest for truth however it does not provide a direct line towards the truth.
Find examples of how culture used to influence science *example Galileo, Columbus and Nazi culture [Karl Brandt] other* Culture effects science occurs as a result of manipulating science. If society wants to obtain certain types of science basal, medical or technological applications, this will influence the type of scientific research that society supports with its resources. Politicians and Capitalists tend to prefer scientific theories that agree with their cultural personal theories.
Example Soviet government supported the Science of Lysanko because his theories supported Marxist philosophy. Find examples of how science influences culture *example Florence Nightingale, medicines and hospitals, Science effects culture nowadays science is shaping our values and is giving new definitions on the human person through genetics, medicine and information technology. Advertisements, media, gadgets, entertainment, workplace, education, communication, environment development are all examples of how science is influencing our lifestyle.
The most obvious effect of science has been its medical and pharmaceutical applications. Science also has been playing a major role in shaping cultural concepts and thinking patterns. Great scientific discoveries seldom happen by accident. They are nearly always the result of keen observation, accurate experiments and a great deal of hard work. As Thomas A. Edison puts it; 2% inspiration and 98% perspiration. Ockham’s razor; It Is expressed as the law of the economy. The principle is popularly interpreted as “the simplest explanation is usually the correct one”.
When Wilkins saw the DNA model made by Watson and Crick he stated; “it is simple but it is true”. Modern science can explain a great deal about the world we live in but there are numerous facts that have not been explained or at least not fully explained such as origin of life, dark matter and what happened prior the big bang. Essential Characteristics; * It is guided by natural law * I t has to be explanatory by reference to natural law * It is testable against the empirical world * Its conclusions are tentative and not necessarily the final world * It is falsifiable
Weaknesses in Science; * It needs a theory to function. The theory is the edifice that science is built on. * False assumptions will lead to wrong research leading to false theories and conclusions. * Polarization and the influence of Capitalism that provides funds and thus influences scientific research. * Something that cannot be measured by scientific instruments is regarded as non-existent. The basic principles of Science; 1. Empiricism; we can learn about the world by careful observation of empirical (real and observable) phenomena. . Uniformitarianism; basic patterns and processes are uniform across time and space. The same forces that shaped our world are the same forces that are acting now on it. 3. Parsimony; when 2 plausible explanations are reasonable, the simpler one is preferable. 4. Uncertainty; knowledge changes as new evidence appears, and explanations (theories) change with new evidence. 5. Repeatability; tests and experiments should be repeatable. If the same results cannot be produced then the conclusions are probably incorrect. 6.
Proof; is elusive as we rarely expect science to provide that theory is correct because new evidence can always undermine our correct theories. 7. Testable questions; to find out whether a theory is correct it must be tested. Apriori knowledge is knowledge gained from books, not from experience. Before doing an experiment one must have a degree of knowledge. Posteriori knowledge is knowledge gained from experience, knowledge gained from a long scientific career. Five ways to acquire knowledge; * Perception of the senses especially the brain Memorize; we have the ability to memorize things and experiences and benefit from them * Communication; the sharing of ideas and interaction example scientific community * Association; we tend to associate things and give meanings to such associations * Rationalization; “I think therefore I am” Rene Descartes Einstein; “Look deep into Nature, and then you will understand everything better. ” Scientists have developed concepts, principles (laws), theories and methods of investigation. All products help us to gain a deeper understanding of the physical world.
Concepts are abstract ideas that scientists create in order to describe the phenomena that they discover. Examples of scientific concepts of modern times that have become part of normal language of science including; atoms, radioactivity, nuclear fission, electromagnetic spectrum, gene, virus and galaxy. In most cases science begins with observation. Consider the fact: Galileo came up with the laws of the pendulum (known as isochronism which means uniform in time or occurring at regular intervals) after observing for hours the hanging oil lamp in the Cathedral of Pisa swinging.
Galileo always wanted to know; Why? Observation alone is not enough. Furthermore it involves also the senses as well as the use of instruments. Consider that with the invention of the telescope coming from the Latin word (far seeing) it made distant objects appearing 33 times larger than to the naked eye. Thus Galileo although not the first one who discovered the telescope was the first person to systematically study the sky. He saw that the moon has mountains and valleys and revealed that the moon and the planets reflected the light from the sun rather than gave off their own light (non-luminous objects).
The role of instruments in science; * They extend our power of observation example telescope, microscope and x-ray * Instruments are used to quantify observation- they enable us to measure the exact quantities. Results of measurements are expressed in standard numerical scales * Instruments help us to achieve conditions and perform manipulations required. Observations and instruments on their own are not enough. A scientist must also learn how to obtain, record and present data.
Thus numerical tables, maps, graphs and stylized drawings are all part of observation. There are sites of observation like and astronomical observatory, and anatomy theatre, a laboratory or a Safari itself. Science is not built on casual observation. Galileo proposed the modern scientific method where the results of experiments should form the basis of mathematical formulations of new theories and the theories should themselves be tested by further experiments. A scientific fact is a fact that is universally acclaimed.
However due to progresses in Science it is said that half of the information in a science text book within a few decades. Aristotle stated that a heavy object falls faster than a light one. Galileo disagreed- Tower of Pisa experiment of a cannon ball and musket bullet- both reached the ground at the same time. Thus a new principle, new scientific fact was made after 2000 years. A scientific fact, unless falsified, becomes universal and indisputable. Through observation and mathematical calculations Galileo proved Aristotle and common sense wrong.
Facts do not exist in isolation but are the fruits of concepts, culture and language. Example in biology each type of organism is given a Latin name. Thus in order to understand this fact one must have a grasp of the meaning of every individual word or symbol. Otherwise it will make no sense at all. A theory is a scientific explanation of an observed phenomena example Theory of Evolution and Theory of Big Bang. Unlike scientific theories laws actually explain why things are the way they are. Laws and Theories; * Both are based on tested hypnotises Both are supported by a large body of empirical data * Both help to unify a particular field * Both are widely accepted by a majority of scientists * Both could be shown wrong if new evidence suggests so Some theories will become consolidated other will become obsolete example the long history of astronomy, provides the best warning, no matter how established a theory is; today’s truth can quickly turn into yesterday’s myth. Obsolete theories; * Geocentric universe- Heliocentric universe * Spontaneous Generation- Evolution history Absolute Space and Time(Newton)- Einstein time and space are relative * Phlogiston Theory- (Cause of inexistent fire like element )Theory of Combustion * Psychogenic history- (Autistic children were seen as the result of bad parenting) Genetics * Maternal impression- belief that bad defects where the result of mental influenced mothers All theories are composed of two parts; Qualitative Part: This should explain the evidence and fact observed and is internally consistent. This should answer why and how type of questions Quantitative Part: This should explain mathematically the given facts Tested) Scientific law on the other hand does not seem to explain but only to describe the nature. Scientific laws describe how the physical world behaves and enable us to predict future behaviour. A scientific law is a description of an observed phenomenon, an empirical generalization that has been consolidated by repeated successful testing. A law describes what nature does under certain conditions example Boyle’s law and Hook’s law. Classical cultures knew how to predict eclipses but they did not know how to explain them, they thus had a law not a theory.
Conversely, modern science has a good theoretical grasp of how stars explode but it does not necessarily mean we can predict the next supernova. We have a theory but not a scientific law. Furthermore scientific laws are often expressed in the form of mathematical equation. What is model building? A model is a representation mirroring some object or event in the real world. One has to build a model of the real situation in which the essential aspects are separated from “unnecessary complications”. Model is there for a better understanding since daily phenomena are very complicated.
There are two types of models; Physical and Symbolic Physical: as in a model airplane or architect’s model of building Symbolic: as in a set of mathematical equations or a computer program or a diagram of a circuit (scientists had once been wrong about the positive and negative flow in the circuit) 2 types of science: 1. Experimental science- doing science for research/ gains knowledge 2. Applied science- doing science for a particular purpose example Technology and Industry Robert Boyle was a firm believer in the importance of experiment and the experimental method of science.
Antoine Lavoisier (killed during the French revolution) was regarded as the father of modern chemistry. Trained as a chemist he conducted experiments with air, gas and heat which lead in turn to many discoveries including his combustion theory which replaced the phlogiston theory. “Supress as much as possible the use of reasoning in order to follow as much as possible the path of observation and experiment. ” What is an experiment? A scientist after observation and collecting of facts and formulate the hypostases then he experiments. He makes careful tests to find out just how true his hypostases are.
A scientific experiment is a formal way of testing theories. It involves examining. That is why the experiment is repeated several times in order to achieve a table of results. A graph is usually made to show results universally. Errors can be made in experiments such as random errors (inaccurate readings and unstable set up of apparatus) and apparatus –systems errors (outdated apparatus and defected apparatus) Richard Feynman argued that: “The test of all knowledge is experiment and the experiment is the sole judge of the scientific truth. A thought experiment is an experiment that is impossible to perform in an actual experiment example traveling at the speed of light. Einstein was one of the best in thought experiments. Thought experiments are the fruit of thought and mathematical calculations. The scientific method: * Induction * Deduction * Hypo-deduction * Paradigm shifts Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.
To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypothesis. Scientific researches propose hypotheses as explanations of phenomena, and design experimental studies to test these hypotheses. Induction method (inductive approach): includes chronologically observation, collection of facts, hypothesis, experiments which leads to a theory.
In the induction method you start from the particular and arrive to the general. In this case experiments will lead to theories. The Englishman Francis Bacon demanded a new standard of precision, he proposed a scientific method that required the patient accumulation of data in three steps which where observation, experiments and theories. He published his method in his book which influenced Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke. Deduction method (deductive approach): includes chronologically theory, hypothesis, observation and confirmation.
In this method you know the theory and you are going to test it to confirm the theory. Therefore deduction works from the general to the specific. Example of this is secondary school physics experiments. Hypo-deductive method (falsification method) : Karl Popper proposed that proper science is accomplished by deduction. Deduction involves the process of falsification. Falsification is a particular specialized aspect hypothesis testing. The methodology proposed by Popper is commonly known as Hypo-deductive method.
Included chronologically observation, formulation of hypothesis (limited statement of cause and effect and mathematical calculation), prediction, experimentation and publication. If experiments do not disprove he hypothesis, it may come to be regarded as a theory or law of nature. According to Karl Popper for Popper scientists can develop theories however they wish. What is important and what makes them scientific is the ability to be tested and make predictions. The scientific community can be described as a group of scientists who adhere to specific paradigm or set of paradigm (models).
A paradigm is a central group of beliefs that are shared by the members of a scientific community. The scientific community consists of the total body of scientists, its relationships and interactions. It is normally divided into “sub-communities” each working on a particular field within science. Objectivity is expected to be achieved by the scientific method. Peer review, through discussions and debate within journals and conferences, assists in the objectivity by maintaining the quality.