1. What is Science?

Consensus opinion

Science is a rational, never-ending and unique process of producing tested, evidence-based explanations for the full range of natural phenomena that we observe to occur around us.
  • Science is creative

    Science requires attention and curiosity to notice things, imagination and creativity to invent hypotheses to explain them, and then skill, patience, ingenuity and honesty to design and carry out the observational/experimental tests of those hypotheses. This is often a long and collaborative process.

  • Science builds consensus

    Scientific hypotheses and their supporting observational and/or experimental evidence are recorded and shared via the publication of peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals, at scientific conferences and via the internet. Other scientists then attempt to reproduce the same conclusions in order to make them more reliable. Eventually, this leads to the acceptance or rejection of the hypothesis by the scientific community (ie the majority of mainstream scientists). If accepted, the explanation is then referred to as a scientific theory or model.

  • Science provides better explanations

    Science comprises a very large set of observational statements that summarise what we could call 'scientifically discovered facts' about the Universe (e.g. "antibiotics kill bacteria", "the Sun appears in the same place in the sky every 365.25 days", …)

    Science creates a set of tested and accepted explanatory models (scientific theories) that each explain a wide range of these statements.These theories have predictive powers (sometimes predicting that some of the observational statements will only be true for a limited time) and are thoroughly and rigorously tested by comparing their predictions to the outcomes of further observations (often via experiments). In this way they are shown to be 'not false at this point in time', but may well be honed (or even subsumed by more encompassing theories) in the light of future observations.

    As such, scientifically obtained knowledge should be considered far more valid than any 'mere guess' or opinion (or any untestable pseudo-scientific ideas), but should never be regarded as anything like "ultimate truth". A scientific "fact" is an observation or conclusion confirmed to such an extent that it is reasonable to regard it as being "highly unlikely to be wrong".

  • Science transforms society

    Scientifically obtained knowledge has value: Practically, the models enable us to make predictions and hence create new technologies, materials, products and methods, thereby allowing us to exercise some control over our surroundings. Philosophically, the models help us to consider our existence in the wider context of the Universe, often surprising us by describing things as being actually quite different from how they appear to be.

Contribute your opinion

Please click the link below to add your own opinion on What Science Is.

It will be very helpful to those reading your comment if you have altered your Forum signature to include your Science specialism, your number of years of teaching experience and any post of responsibility that you hold. Click here and then select My Profile to do this now.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License