[ASC-list] definition of science

Mike.Mcrae at csiro.au Mike.Mcrae at csiro.au
Tue Dec 9 00:07:47 UTC 2008

Good luck with that one. There seems to be as many answers as there are people on this planet. That, and it depends on what school of philosophy you tend to follow.  Do you tend to agree more with Popper?  Kuhn? Lakatos? Dare I say, Feyerabrand? Do we describe it as Bacon did? Or do we go with modern expressions, keeping in mind the recent so-called 'science wars'?

The tricky part is succinctly saying how science differs to any other endeavour which attempts to describe our universe. Is it uniquely rational? Internally consistent? Honest? Falsifiable? Pragmatic? Non faith-based?

In my experience, the closest we can come to some sort of common ground on a definition is not to describe it as a single method or series of processes, but an aim or intention. IMO (for what it's worth) the best, all-encompassing explanation of science is 'the aim to describe a set of objective laws that appear to govern our universe'. Of course, there are many aspects of science this fails to consider, such as the recognition of the limitation of human senses, self-correction, reliance on predictibility etc., but it might offer a start.

Unfortunately any definition you come up with that's shorter than a book would be insufficient to convey what the term means to everybody's satisfaction.

From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au [mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Michael David Moylan
Sent: Monday, 8 December 2008 6:29 PM
To: list at asc.asn.au
Subject: [ASC-list] definition of science

Hi ASCers

Does anyone have a good definition of science?

I'm helping to write a response to the National Science Curriculum Framing paper

They define science as "a way of answering questions about the natural world" (paragraph 12, page 5), and I am very uncomfortable about that definition.

The majority of the research chemists I work with do not investigate the natural world. Some make and study artificial molecules to cure well-understood diseases. Others investigate nanometer-sized objects that don't form naturally. They might be manipulating the natural world or trying to improve the the natural world but they are not answering questions about the natural world.

I would also like to have an adjective between "a" and "way". Something like "a useful way", or even "a systematic way"...

I'd appreciate your suggestions.



Mick Moylan
Chemistry Outreach Fellow
Victorian Institute for Chemical Sciences
School of Chemistry
University of Melbourne, VIC, 3010
p +61 (0)3 83446465 f +61 (0)3 93475180
e mmoylan at unimelb.edu.au<mailto:mmoylan at unimelb.edu.au>

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