What is Science?
The Academic Press Dictionary of Science and Technology defines science as “the systematic observation of natural events and conditions in order to discover facts about them and to formulate laws and principles based on these facts.” It also says “the organized body of knowledge that is derived from such observations and that can be verified or tested by further investigation” is also a possible definition of science. In layman’s parlance we can define science plainly as observation and hypothesis.
Since the time of Newton, science has held that all phenomena can be described (at least in principle) in terms of measurable quantities that can be calculated using simple mathematical laws. This premise, which we can call the principle of reductionism, implies that reality is essentially simple and that human beings, through the power of their minds and senses alone, may ultimately be able to fully understand the nature and origin of all phenomena in the universe. Even though the principle of reductionism is certainly unprovable to start with, it has provided the underlying strategy for scientific research, and as scientists have gone from one success to another, their faith in the universal applicability of this principle has grown stronger and stronger.
What Constitutes Science?
As aforementioned, science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge. This system uses observation and experimentation to describe and explain natural phenomena. The term science also refers to the organized body of knowledge people have gained using that system. Less formally, the word science often describes any systematic field of study or the knowledge gained from it. The requisite condition would be that the field of study under discussion should follow the underlying principles of science such as universality, generality and repeatability.
For instance, we have learnt in school that a combination of Hydrogen and Oxygen molecules produces water molecules. This is theory unless we perform an experiment in a laboratory to prove this theory. This is called the experimentation phase. This experiment will work in India, in America, or on the moon, Venus or Pluto, provided the governing environmental conditions are favourable. Thus we can say that this phenomenon—of Hydrogen and Oxygen producing water—follows the principle of universality.
The same experiment may be performed by anyone—a man, woman, Negro, American, Greek, Russian, a Viking or a Neanderthal. The result would always be the same. Two molecules of Hydrogen and one molecule of Oxygen would not yield anything other than two molecules of water. Thus this observable fact follows the principle of generality too.
You may repeat this experiment once, twice, a ten times, thousand times, a million times, or a two billion thirteen thousand six hundred and seventy five times. The result would always be the same: Oxygen and Hydrogen combine to produce water. Thus we can say this phenomenon passes the test of repeatability too.
Any field of study or system of knowledge is to be accepted as science or to be scientific if these three governing conditions are satisfied by the postulates, laws or rules governing that field or system.
Read more to understand about consistency of modern science and Spirituality as a science.