The word, “science,” is not exempt from our discussion of language – it has many definitions and can be confusing to discuss. Science is commonly defined both as a method of study and a body of knowledge, obtained through the method. For the sake of the Science-Mindedness discussions, I will use the term, “science,” in a methodological context (rather than as a body of knowledge), for two major reasons: 1) I prefer to use “science” to mean the method and discuss its findings as “scientific findings/evidence/conclusions/information/etc.,” as it makes both concepts (the method and knowledge gained through it) appear less vague, and 2) these discussions are intended to improve science-mindedness and critical thinking, which are necessary for the methods of science but not necessarily to learn the information that science has produced (for example, the scientific study of human anatomy indicates that humans have a four-chambered heart – critical thinking is not required to memorize this piece of information). For this series, I use science to refer to a repeatable, systematic method of improving our ability to understand and predict phenomena based upon methodological naturalism, logic, and empirical evidence. Here is a quick breakdown of the terms within the definition:
1) repeatable: For someone to perform science, their methods and results must be possible to duplicate (but they do not have to be duplicated to be scientific).
2) systematic: planned and rigorously adhering to a strategy
3) methodological naturalism: the philosophy that all observations have an explanation to be found within the universe. By this philosophy, all supernatural and paranormal explanations are invalid. Methodological naturalism is a fundamental assumption of science.
4) logic: the process of explicitly defining assumptions and generating conclusions which adhere to the constraints of the defined assumptions.
5) empirical evidence: data collected through repeatable observation and/or experimentation.
I’ll continue with more on defining science in the next post. How does the definition I’ve provided compare with your prior understanding of science? Do you have a definition (or modifications to the one above) of science that you prefer and would like to discuss using?