Meaning of Science: What it is, Concept and Definition

Meaning of Science
Meaning of Science

Science is called all the knowledge or knowledge constituted through observation and the systematic and reasoned study of nature, society and thought.

The objective of science is to discover the laws that govern the phenomena of reality, understand them and explain them. Hence it follows that the function of science is to describe, explain and predict such phenomena in order to improve human life.

Science produces scientific knowledge. This is defined as all knowledge that has been obtained through the scientific method, that is, through systematic observation and analysis. Consequently, scientific knowledge offers reasoned and valid conclusions that can be tested.

The word science derives from the Latin scientĭa , which means ‘knowledge’ or ‘knowing’ and as such is not restricted to a specific area.

In this sense, science includes all fields of knowledge and study (including formal, natural, social and human sciences) that lead to the development of particular theories and methods for each area.

Science is also closely related to technology, especially since the second half of the 19th century. Hence the importance of scientific studies aimed at creating or perfecting technology.

Science features

The sciences are very different in their specific purposes. However, they all share in common the search for general laws; fundamental methodological principles; systematic character and utility for civilization. Let’s look at each feature separately.

Apply the scientific method. Science applies norms and verifiable criteria to study phenomena, which are called the scientific method. The scientific method is based on:

  • observation,
  • proposition,
  • Hypothesis formulation,
  • experimentation,
  • demonstration and
  • conclusions.

You tend to look for general laws. Science tries to understand the laws or general principles that govern phenomena. Some sciences, such as mathematics, seek that these laws have a degree of certainty. Other sciences, such as natural or social, build laws subject to constant revision. An example of a general law in science is Newton’s law of gravity.

It is cumulative and systematic. Science values ​​the accumulated knowledge of previous investigations, that is, the antecedents. These are always a starting point, either as sustenance or as questioning. At the same time, all new knowledge becomes part of the scientific heritage. For example, the heliocentric theory of Copernicus replaced the geocentric theory of Ptolemy, while Kepler’s laws of elliptical orbits perfected the Copernican theory.

It is useful. All science produces useful, necessary and essential knowledge to interpret reality and to stimulate human and social development in any of its aspects: cultural, intellectual, technological, industrial, etc. For example, science allowed the discovery of penicillin and electricity.

Types of science

At present, the most widespread classification model is the one that distinguishes between formal sciences and factual sciences, called in other models “experimental or empirical”.

Formal sciences

They are those that have mental abstractions as their objective and, therefore, are analytical, such as mathematics and logic.

They are called formal sciences because they do not deal with concrete contents, but with axioms or abstract concepts that human beings grasp thanks to deduction and inference, which are called “forms” or “ideal objects.”

The formal sciences are:

  • logic;
  • math;
  • statistics;
  • computing;
  • computer’s science;
  • theoretical computational science.

Factual science

The factual sciences are those that study natural, social or human facts, according to Mario Bunge’s classification. Some theorists call them empirical and experimental sciences because they can be verified in reality, either by observation or by experimentation. They are subdivided into natural sciences and social and human sciences.

Natural Sciences

The natural sciences are those that describe, order and compare natural phenomena, that is, the objects of nature and the processes that take place in it, of which laws and rules can even be formulated.

The field of activity of the natural sciences is constituted mainly by the investigation without a specific application.

The natural sciences are as follows:

  • Chemistry
  • Physical
  • biology
  • Astronomy
  • geology

Social and human sciences

The social and human sciences are those that study the human being and society. That is, they systematically study sociocultural phenomena and processes, the product of human activity and their relationship with the environment.

In this sense, it divides its field of study into different areas, which can range from the norms of coexistence and the modes of its social organization, to the forms of communication.

The following are social and human sciences:

  • sociology;
  • economy;
  • history;
  • geography;
  • linguistics;
  • anthropology;
  • psychology.

Applied Science

The applied sciences are those that use the knowledge developed by the formal sciences or the empirical and experimental sciences in specialized fields of interest.

Among applied sciences we can mention the following:

  • engineering;
  • architecture;
  • medicine;
  • nutrition and diet;
  • pharmacy;
  • archeology;
  • Social psychology;
  • bioanalysis, etc.

History of science

The origin of science proper dates back to Ancient Greece, where it was consolidated thanks to philosophy. Greek philosophy had the merit of separating the understanding of nature from mythical thought, and gave rise to differentiated areas such as logic, mathematics, physics, geometry, astronomy, biology, etc. Since then, science has evolved in its concept and scope.

The sciences in ancient times

Greek scientific thought, whose influence was dominant until the 16th century, trusted that every question could be answered by abstract rational thought. Consequently, he did not experiment or stop to evaluate the social function of the knowledge obtained.

During the Middle Ages, when the influence of the Greek approach was still dominant, the central concern was to reconcile science and faith, at the same time as developing the exercise of reason (scholasticism).

The birth of modern science

Everything changed after the 16th century. On the one hand, the heliocentric theory of Copernicus, deduced by observation, questioned creationism. Later, Galileo refuted Aristotle’s theory of motion through experimentation.

These and other efforts, like those of Kepler, gave rise to the so-called Scientific Revolution, which led to the rationalist thought of Descartes and the empiricism of Francis Bacon, John Locke, and David Hume.

Thus, in the Modern Age, science separated itself from theological thought and the mere deductive exercise and was seen as a promise of liberation and sociocultural progress.

Sciences in the Contemporary Age

In the Contemporary Age, the evolution of science brought new theories and discoveries that transformed the world. In addition, his alliance with technology, especially since 1870, took the industrial revolution to another level.

Towards the 20th century, science is witnessing a process of differentiation and specialization. In the 21st century, the limits of hyperspecialization have evidenced the need for dialogue between various disciplines, under interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary approaches.

Currently, while the achievements of science are celebrated, its practices and scope are questioned, especially with regard to its alliance with the technology industry (including the arms industry) and the model of the consumer society.

Scientific method

The scientific method is a study protocol that is applied to obtain objective knowledge of scientific value. It starts from observation, experimentation, measurement, hypothesis demonstration, analysis and conclusions of the information, in order to expand or obtain new knowledge.

However, it is important to mention that the scientific method adapts to the type of study that is carried out. For example, the same method of study that is used in the natural sciences cannot be applied to the social sciences.

Therefore, the scientific method will vary according to the area of ​​knowledge in which it is applied, since not all studies can be carried out in the same way according to their scope.