Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"WHAT IS SCIENCE?"

"What is science?" Sam asks. He's completing homework and he's been assigned to ask three different people what they think is meant by the word "science."

"Interesting question. Let me think," I say, pausing from my yard work.

"Keep it real, dad," he impatiently insists.

"Okay, okay," I reply. I ask him to help me understand the context and nature of the question, buying time to formulate a succinct description.

Finally, I'm ready. "Got your pen ready?" I ask.

He pulls out his notebook and holds up his pen. "Fire away."

"Science," I say, "is the effort to empirically cast and quantify reality."

Sam's busy writing. "How do you spell 'empirically?'"

I know he has little notion or interest in what I've just stated and he's too ready to get the assignment completed and get on with riding his bike to question me further. But I'll be interested to hear if my response raises an eyebrow with his eighth-grade teacher.

Does it raise your eyebrow? What do you hear in my description of science? And what, to you, is "science?"

2 comments:

  1. I would add "to control reality" to your definition as well.

    science - mankinds effort to understand the beauty and mysticism of the world we were born into.

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  2. I like your addition to my definition, Bobbie. "Control" is a significant factor in the use and application of science, it seems to me.

    I like your description, too. It is free of the baggage of my experiences, readings, and ponderings over my generation's apparent use or misuse of science and the scientific method. If only science were in practice as you have described it. Certainly there are scientists and those interested in science who are more purely trying to "understand the beauty and mysticism of the world were born into." But it is also clear that many--perhaps most--have embraced something more like "scientism"--science subjugated to utilitarian ends, humanistic and religious dogmas, ideological agendas, idols, and cultural prejudices.

    It occurs to me that your description of science might also be a description of what passes, to many, for "religion."

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