I came, I saw, I understood    (Brian Whitworth, 2018)

What is science? To think that science must be based on empirical observations leads to the view that mathematics is not a science as it is not based on observables! Others define it as the study of natural thingsbut then is astrology a science because it studies how stars affect people, both natural things? Or is quantum theory that describes non-physical quantum events not science? Some call it thestudy (of) a body of facts or truths systematically arrangedbut then what religion doesn’t claim to systematically arrange what is true? And are computer simulations not science if they don’t claim to represent facts? To say the purpose of science is to discover general laws diminishes sciences like history, as when Feynman said “”Social science is an example of a science which is not a science… They follow the forms… but they don’t get any laws.” Others call it the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment” but this excludes cosmology, as who can “experiment” on stars? Definitions like that science is “a systematic and logical approach to discovering how things in the universe work means physical geography is not a science because it doesn’t discover how things “work”.

On the other hand, some are more general, calling science a “state of knowing: knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding”  so is a painter in a state of knowing how to paint a scientist, or a monk who knows himself? Even broader is science council view that science is the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence”. By this definition, cooking is a science because it has systematic method and is based on evidence, even though it does not claim to be so.

It is all very confusing as by some definitions mathematics, which Gauss called the queen of the sciences, is not a science at all, while by others, cooking, which doesn’t claim to be science, is one. Isn’t it odd that scientists can’t agree what science is? The approach taken here is that science is an activity not a product, so it isn’t defined by its output, just as farming isn’t defined by the wheat, meat, wool, etc. that it produces. Science is no more a “body of knowledge” than farming is a “body of farm product”.

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