When people think of the word “Science,” they usually visualize a laboratory full of Petri dishes and test-tubes that make the room reek of formaldehyde, sanitizers and other chemicals. The techs working in these labs wear white jackets with pocket protectors and rubber gloves. There is a sense of creepiness to the non-scientist about a science lab-memories of being forced to dissect animals, stories of chemicals blowing up labs, and even Peter Parker being bitten by the spider to become Spiderman influence these ideas. Who could forget the stories of mad scientists like Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Frankenstein that scare the dickens out of you? Science is definitely associated with big words that no one really understands what they mean except for the people constantly arguing about their meanings among themselves-which would lend the question, if these words actually had a congruent meaning at all, why is everyone always arguing, defining and redefining these scientific terms? It seems that in some cases, even the scientist can’t agree on what is science and what is not.
According to the Merriam Webster Thesaurus, “Science n 1 a body of facts learned by study or experience-see KNOWLEDGE 1. 2 the understanding and information gained from being educated-see EDUCATION 2″ (PP. 612). The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines science as, “1: an area of knowledge that is an object of study; esp.: NATURAL SCIENCE. 2: knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through the scientific method” [sic] (pp. 646).
Looking up the word in Watson’s Index, it refers you to “Scientific influences on Psychology,” and “Scientific Method,” which then refers you to “Experiment; Observation” [sic] (Watson, 626).
The definition of science does not appear in Osgood, but English gives the rather long definition of, “the study of natural phenomena by the methods of the physical and biological sciences; natural science (which see). à This usage, while common, arbitrarily excludes most investigations and systemizations of knowledge in the psychological and social disciplines. Such division is not warranted either by historical development or by the contemporary state of affairs, and it gives to science in English a narrower connotation than that of related expressions in other European languages. 2. Organized and systematic knowledge. à This usage, though occasionally useful, is as much too broad as the first is too narrow. 3. A particular body of knowledge e.g., physics, physiology, psychology-distinguished by the special set of operations employed in gathering empirical facts and by a distinctive set of constructs employed in interpreting the data. à E.g., although physiology and psychology deal with the same object-viz., the organism-they utilize different methods and constructs (with some overlapping) and thus develop distinct systems of knowledge” (English, 480).
Tischler defines science as, “a body of systematically arranged knowledge that shows the operation of general laws” (pp. 7).
Science of itself does not require lab work, strange chemicals that can blow up, or even looking inside dead animals to see what is there. Sometimes the best scientific experiments only require interviewing a set number of subjects and organizing their responses in a systematic manner. This would include the sciences of Sociology, and Psychology as well. Math is a science, language is a science, cooking is a science, and even cleaning your bathroom is a science. Electronics is a science, mechanics is a science, physics is a science, chemistry is a science, and even the controversial study of cows farting is in fact a science. These are all subcategories of science.
Tischler seems to have the most fundamental definition of the word, “A body of systematically arranged knowledge that shows the operation of general laws.” “And can be tested for consistency,” should also be added to this definition. Where-as “Logy” is the study of something, science is the knowledge and categorizing of that which is known. Logy follows scientific method, scientific method leads to the body of science. Certain things follow general laws under certain conditions, but vary in other conditions. A perfect example of this is the element of Helium.
Helium follows general laws under normal and even extreme conditions-but when it is liquefied and frozen to a certain temperature, it behaves quite differently by crawling up the side of the container as if it were a living organism trying to escape. This creates the need for a completely different set of general laws concerning Helium under those specific conditions. On the quantum level, there are laws that we don’t even know what they are yet-so if a future researcher observed a subject under these conditions, the subject certainly would vary from known general laws. Einstein argued that if an atom was frozen below the temperature of absolute zero, the atom would become confused and occupy a lot of space instead of the minute amount that it occupies in a normal state. This theory has been tested and proven. An atom was frozen to below absolute zero and observed as a flat, rather smoky substance that immediately disappeared because the temperature of absolute zero is nearly impossible to achieve and even more difficult to maintain. Any light heats the substance and the new state of the atom changes back to “Normal.” We can only imagine what new laws await us in the far reaches of outer space.
For our purposes, however, Tischler’s definition works the best for the current conditions of science.
The Great Psychologists 3d, Robert I. Watson, 1971.
Method and Theory in Experimental Psychology, Charles E. Osgood, Oxford University Press, © 1968.
A Comprehensive Dictionary of Psychological and Psychoanalytical Terms, Horace B. and Ava C. English, David McKay Company Inc., © 1958.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary, © 2004, pp. 646
Merriam-Webster Thesaurus, © 2005, pp. 612
Introduction to Sociology, Henbry L. Tischler, Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, © 2007, pp. 7.