Research Report #1:
Revised December 2011
What Is Science?
For centuries, the intellectual community has discussed anddebated a definition of science and its method, most commonly called "thescientific method," resulting in a large body of knowledge on thesubject.
The purpose of this report is to present, after 18 years ofresearching the literature, some of the most practical definitions of sciencethat should be considered in establishing standard definitions of science andthe scientific method, urgently needed for teaching in schools and to thegeneral public.
What Is Science?
To teach science, it is practical to describe it. Here aresome of the better descriptions I found.
From A CulturalHistory of Education (1947) by R. Freeman Butts, Teachers College Columbia University:
As a result of these great advances, science gainedtremendous prestige and authority in the intellectual life of the world. The "term" "science" came to have at least three meanings.
(1) It referred to the various bodies of organizedknowledge, each with its own systematic and consistent statements of testedbeliefs.
(2) . . . a method for the discovery and refinement ofexperimental knowledge, relying upon careful observation, the formulation ofhypotheses, the elaboration of consequences, and the testing and verifying ofthe hypotheses under controlled and measurable conditions.
(3) . . . a whole philosophy, or world view, according towhich events follow orderly procedures that can be discovered by the senses,measured accurately, and expressed in quantitative terms.
From Living Issues inPhilosophy: Fourth Edition (1964) by Harold H. Titus:
Three possible meanings of the term Science
The word scienceis used, first, to denote the many sciences. These include physics, chemistry,astronomy, geology, biology, and psychology. Mathematics and logic aresometimes referred to as formal or abstract sciences, and disciplines likebotany and mineralogy are often called descriptive or empirical sciences. Thereare, then, a great many sciences, and their fields overlap.
Second, the term sciencemay be used for a body of systematic knowledge including the hypotheses,theories, and laws that have been built up by the work of numerous scientiststhrough the years. This knowledge is mainly theoretical, in contrast with thepractical skills and the arts. Conant appears to have this use of the term inmind when he defines science as "an interconnected series of concepts andconceptual schemes that have developed as a result of experimentation andobservation and are fruitful of further experimentation and observation."
Third, for a considerable number of people the term science is used to designate a method ofobtaining knowledge that is objective and verifiable. In this sense the term ispractically synonymous with scientificmethod.
From The ScientificApproach (1967) by Carlo Lastrucci:
An examination of scores of standard books about sciencefails to elicit a clear and comprehensive definition; but . . . does ratherclearly suggest a consensus among authoritative writers with regard to theessential attributes or processes of science. According to such a consensus,science may be defined . . . as: an objective, logical, and systematic methodof analysis of phenomena, devised to permit the accumulation of reliableknowledge.
From Problems of Analysis (1954) by Max Black:
. . . to search for a definition of scientific method– or, for what is nearly the same thing, science itself.