Course:KIN570/TOPICS/Doing Science/What is Science?

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Research Methods
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KIN 570
Section: 001
Instructor: Dr Nicola Hodges
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WHAT IS SCIENCE?

DEFINING SCIENCE
"Science" has several definitions listed in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Perhaps the definitions that best describe the science for these purposes are:
- the state of knowing; knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding.
- such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena.
(Other, more comprehensive and artful definitions are abundant.)

These definitions highlight two key concepts in science: knowledge and observable phenomena. The roots of the modern scientific method are rooted in the relevance of our human senses and their alleged ability to perceive universal truths about the nature of the physical world. Observation is the cornerstone of data collection for scientific discovery and justification.
OBSERVATION
While observation is a convenient way to gather information, it becomes an issue for philosophers of science in that observation is highly subjective. Indeed, the mechanism of sight is common to all observers (i.e. light enters the pupil, is sensed by the retina and stimulates the optic nerve), but "seeing" in itself is not objective. Take for instance this illusion. While two observers are focused on this same image, one may perceive a duck and the other may perceive a rabbit. This illustrates the issue that human senses may not be at closely tied to "truth" as early modern scientists would have hoped.

PURPOSE
Inherent in the meaning of science are the reasons for which it is conducted. These include but are not restricted to:
- improvement of daily life (e.g. vaccination development)
- resource efficiency (e.g. efficient farming techniques, energy/fuel generation)
- preservation and maintenance of the environment
- satisfy human curiosity (e.g. general understanding of the nature of life and the physical world)

Publication is the line between scientific results and knowledge.