Science Definitions


Science is the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
Origin [Middle English denoting knowledge, from Old French, from Latin - scientia, from sciens, pr.part. of scire, to know.]

Oxford American Dictionaries


Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers in the preceding generation . . .
As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way:
Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

Richard Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out


Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.

Richard Feynman, Nobel-prize-winning physicist


Real science is always more like auto mechanics - getting the damned thing to work - than is dreamed of by philosophers in their texts on scientific method.

Michael Ruse


I think that we shall have to get accustomed to the idea that we must not look upon science as a "body of knowledge", but rather as a system of hypotheses, or as a system of guesses or anticipations that in principle cannot be justified, but with which we work as long as they stand up to tests, and of which we are never justified in saying that we know they are "true".

Karl R. Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery


Science is a wonderful thing, if one doesn't have to earn a living at it.

Albert Einstein


A carpenter, a schoolteacher, and scientist were traveling by train through Scotland when they saw a black sheep through the window of the train.

"Aha," said the carpenter with a smile, "I see that Scottish sheep are black."

"Hmm," said the school teacher, "You mean that some Scottish sheep are black."

"No," said the scientist glumly, "All we know is that there is at least one sheep in Scotland, and that at least one side of that one sheep is black."

From a lecture in one or more of my science classes


Science is the process of "finding out." It is the art of interrogating nature, a system of inquiry that requires curiosity, intellectual honesty, skepticism, tolerance for ambiguity, and openness to new ideas and the sharing of knowledge.

Roberta H. Barba


To do science is to search for repeated patterns, not simply to accumulate facts.

Robert H. MacArthur, Geographical Ecology


The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure Nature hasn't misled you into thinking you know something you don't actually know.

Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


The stumbling way in which even the ablest of the scientists in every generation have had to fight through thickets of erroneous observations, misleading generalizations, inadequate formulations, and unconscious prejudice is rarely appreciated by those who obtain their scientific knowledge from textbooks.

James Bryant Conant (1893-1978), Science and Common Sense


Contrary to popular belief, scientists are not detached observers of nature and the facts they discover are not simply inherent in the natural phenomena they observe. Scientists construct facts by constantly making decisions about what they will consider significant, what experiments they should pursue, and how they will describe their observations.

Ruth Hubbard and Elijah Wald, 1993


The nature of science which is in essence:

“epistemology of science, science is a way of knowing, or the values and beliefs inherent to scientific knowledge and its development. ”

Lederman 2007, P. 833


Science is the use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process.

National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine 2008 p. 10


The nature of science has these common characteristics:

  • Science requires empirical evidence. Evidence based on observable and verifiable data; both which can be quantitative and qualitative descriptions of the natural world.
  • Science is tentative, not absolute. Subject to change. Change based on new evidence and or new ways to evaluate existing evidence. This is not weakness, but strength in that it suggests there is always more to know.
  • Science is subjective. People's backgrounds influence what they investigate, what they observe, and how they interpret the evidence.
  • Therefore, scientific knowledge comes from both observations and the inferences made about both of them.
  • Science is creative imagination. Imagination used throughout the process: in the questions asked, the investigations performed, and in the explanations made of the findings.
  • Science is influenced by social and cultural values of scientist and scientific communities as their values guide the questions ask in asked, the research conducted, and the explanations given. All which have the potential to advance or impede scientific progress.


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes
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