Science is an epistemological method
Science is the field which applies reason to the study of nature. Science is necessary because knowledge of how nature works is not self-evident, but requires a systematic method to collect evidence and correctly interpret it. Science is different in degree from informal empirical methods such as “trial and error” and in kind from non-empirical methods such as revelation, astrology, or emotionalism.
Science is the application of philosophy to specialized fields
Science is made possible by the acceptance of certain philosophical axioms in metaphysics and epistemology. In metaphysics, science requires recognizing that all entities behave in a causal manner according to their nature. In epistemology, it recognizes that man is capable of perceiving and understanding reality by the use of his senses, and because his consciousness is fallible and not automatic, he needs to actively adhere to reason and logic to reach the right conclusions.
Science is empirical
The scientific method is a formal methodology for using reason to study nature. Proper application of the scientific method can produce a scientific theory — a unifying and self-consistent explanation of fundamental natural phenomena derived from the evidence. Some essential principles of science are:
- Observation: scientists attempt to sample and describe the full range of observed phenomena, ideally including the use of controls which counterbalance the risk of empirical bias.
- Causal explanation: a scientific theory must provide a causal identification of the underlying processes of particular phenomena.
- Prediction: scientific theories must explain nature in a replicable way, so that hypothesized causes correlate with observed events.
- Falsifiability: the ability to eliminate plausible alternatives by repeated experimentation of observation. This requires scientific theories to be formulated in a way which can be independently tested and corroborated by others.
- Integration: new theories must integrate with the existing body of scientific knowledge. When a contraction is found, the theory must be amended or discarded if not compatible with the evidence.
Science is hierarchical
Scientists build on existing work to form a hierarchical body of knowledge. Sometimes new evidence disproves existing theories. In other cases, new evidence may show that an existing theory is not a complete explanation in all contexts. For example, Einstein’s relativity theory did not prove Isaac’s Newton classical mechanism wrong. Classical mechanics is valid in the context of non-relativistic speeds, whereas general relativity theory explains for a wider range of behavior. Quantum mechanics provides evidence that a new theory is necessary on the sub-atomic scale. As scientific knowledge delves ever deeper into the fabric of the universe, new theories build on existing knowledge.
Pseudoscience versus science
The tremendous success of science in learning about the material world and applying that knowledge to benefit mankind has encouraged some anti-scientific movements to adopt a façade of scientific verbiage to mask an anti-scientific, anti-reason ideology. Some indicators of non-scientific reasoning are:
- Use of vague and untestable claims which cannot be independently corroborated.
- Reliance on testimonials and anecdotes rather than carefully structured, large-scale studies.
- Argument of ignorance: placing the burden of proof on skeptics.
- Evasion of peer review combined with claims of institutional conspiracies to suppress results.
- Lack of progress beyond the initial theory. For example, in the case of astrology and religion, claims can remain unproven for thousands of years.
- Steven D. Schafersman: An Introduction to Science: Scientific Thinking and the Scientific Method
- The One Minute Case For Technology
- Wikipedia: Philosophy of science
- Wikipedia: Scientific Method
- Wikipedia: Francis Bacon
- Wikipedia: Pseudoscience
- Are philosophical claims scientifically provable? by David Veksler