What is science?

Science simply means: Knowledge.
Just as God used his intelligence to create the universe, humans who are created in the image of God have a tiny amount of intelligence. When God said in John 8:32 “Then you will KNOW the truth and the truth will set you free”, He knew humans would use that intelligence to learn (education). Therefore, whoever learns will know. In the end, because every human being can learn, every human being is a scientist, because everyone can KNOW (the Truth).
God created mankind “with science” (CON-SCIENCE)!..

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Science is a method of obtaining knowledge that is always open to further refinement.

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Science means seeking natural explanations for natural phenomena.

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Science is not just “knowledge.” If science were just “knowledge” then astrology, homeopathy and Nostradamus would be science. They are anything but.

No, science is an umbrella term for a collection of methods and techniques for acquiring and establishing knowledge. These methods and techiques are characterised by the fact that their approach is systematic, disciplined, repeatable and consistent. This means in particular that:

  1. Science is evidence-based. It is not a matter of opinion or unsubstantiated assertions, but established on the basis of verifiable material facts.
  2. Science has rules. Interpretation of scientific evidence is not a free-for-all; it must be mathematically coherent and consistent. It is these rules that tell us that some interpretations of the evidence are legitimate while others are not. It is these rules that tell us which assumptions can legitimately be challenged and which ones can not.
  3. Science is not intuitive. It is very mathematical and technical. There are a lot of arguments that sound good rhetorically, but that turn out to be totally incorrect when you do the maths.
  4. Science does not depend on your worldview. The rules of science are the same whether you are a Christian, a Muslim, an atheist, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or a bottle nosed dolphin. Mathematical and experimental techniques work in exactly the same way whether you are Donald Trump or Joe Biden, whether you are Richard Dawkins or Ken Ham, whether you are the Dalai Lama or the Pope.
  5. Science knows its limitations. Science isn’t omniscient and doesn’t have the answers to everything. But the fact that there are questions that science can’t answer does not justify claims that the answers that it does give could be wrong.
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Aye, knowledge, including carnal, can only be obtained by experience. Preferably repeatable experience. Of course pseudoscience yields comforting placebo effects too, which is how knowledge gets blurred.

do you personify science often?

Sounds a bit like “science says” when in fact “scientists say”

Not really. It’s just a shorthand way of saying that error bars are a thing. But I think you know that already.

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Yes, when I used to lecture on “what is science” to university biology students I’d tell them that an “old” definition of science, i.e., 1600-1800s was simply “a collection of facts” or “knowledge resulting from study” but a more modern definition centers around the method used. I liked to hightlight these 5 traits of science gleaned from a website for undergraduates at Berkeley-- I’ll give the link to the full webpage below but this is the “meat” of the article (note bullet point 3 which doesn’t mention the words directly but alludes to the key role of hypotheses and predictions—hypothetico deductive methodology)

  • Science focuses exclusively on the natural world, and does not deal with supernatural explanations.
  • Science is a way of learning about what is in the natural world, how the natural world works, and how the natural world got to be the way it is. It is not simply a collection of facts; rather it is a path to understanding.
  • Scientists work in many different ways, but all science relies on testing ideas by figuring out what expectations are generated by an idea and making observations to find out whether those expectations hold true.
  • Accepted scientific ideas are reliable because they have been subjected to rigorous testing, but as new evidence is acquired and new perspectives emerge these ideas can be revised.
  • Science is a community endeavor. It relies on a system of checks and balances, which helps ensure that science moves in the direction of greater accuracy and understanding. This system is facilitated by diversity within the scientific community, which offers a broad range of perspectives on scientific ideas.

here’s the link to the full page:
https://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/0_0_0/intro_01

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The problem with this statement is that it is all too easily misunderstood. There are many Christians (not just YECs) who believe that science is built upon the a priori belief that supernatural events do not happen, period – in other words, that it is a fundamentally atheistic endeavour whose very intention is to attack and undermine faith. Making a statement such as this without qualification just reinforces perceptions such as that, and puts them on the defensive, and they end up throwing out not just methodological naturalism but a whole lot of other more important stuff with it, such as rigour, discipline, and accurate and honest weights and measures. Next thing you know, you have a Church that is plagued with the likes of Answers in Genesis, climate change denial, covid denial, and a whole lot worse.

This being the case, it sounds especially jarring when it’s made by Christians.

If you do feel the need to make this point, it needs to be accompanied by an explanation of why science doesn’t consider the supernatural – it needs to explain that supernatural phenomena can not be reproduced and studied in a controlled and disciplined manner, after all if they could then they wouldn’t be supernatural. It also needs to be stressed that that is a very different thing from claiming that they don’t happen, period.

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Good point, you’re absolutely correct. Sadly, many people (both theists and non-theists) conflate philosophical naturalism with methodological naturalism. In my lectures (in a secular university), I actually did try to flesh out the difference for 1st year undergrads to help them understand the nuances. I sometimes used the analogy of a metal detector. It’s built for detecting metal but can tell you nothing of the existence of plastic. By definition, anything “supernatural” exists outside of the natural, and so the toolbox of science simply can’t detect or address the existence or function of supernatural causes which are immaterial, outside of natural laws, and non-testable. I would tell my students that this doesn’t necessarily mean that a supernatural god(s) doesn’t exist or act, only that he/she/it can’t be studied scientifically.

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If you look at the science | Etymology, origin and meaning of science by etymonline
you find:
“” From late 14c. in the more specific sense of “collective human knowledge,” especially that gained by systematic observation, experiment, and reasoning. The modern (restricted) sense of “body of regular or methodical observations or propositions concerning a particular subject or speculation” is attested by 1725; in 17c.-18c. this commonly was philosophy.

The sense of “non-arts studies” is attested from 1670s. The distinction is commonly understood as between theoretical truth (Greek epistemē) and methods for effecting practical results (tekhnē), but science sometimes is used for practical applications and art for applications of skill.

The predominant modern use, “natural and physical science,” generally restricted to study of the phenomena of the material universe and its laws, is by mid-19c.

To blind (someone) with science “confuse by the use of big words or complex explanations” is attested from 1937, originally noted as a phrase from Australia and New Zealand.""

this shift in meaning causes problems like the one below.

The problem is that it can not investigate the physical world without making use of the metaphysical - e.g. math and logic - thus the metaphysical is presumed.

The problem of using natural instead of physical is its conflation with normal and thus confusing the metaphysical with the abnormal and irrational. A lot of people do not want to be associated with the abnormal and use the claim of miracles to discredit the rationality of believers, but this does not need to be the case. As miracles are events pointing to God, e.g. events rooted in Gods action upon the world, one does not have to look at these events as defying the laws of physics, nor that they can not be investigated systematically and logically. The question is if ones concept of miracles is rooted in wishful thinking or in critical/logical thinking.

Let us take my favourite example of a miracle and investigate it systematically

Imagine you are at a wedding feast of a friend and everyone had already plenty of food and drink. Imagine you sit there having had already plenty of good wine and heard the master of ceremony compliment the groom on his honesty not to cut the wine to pretend wealth, after people had to much already to notice, but serve good undiluted wine all the way through and that he was now serving the best wine one could get - and you were served water. Not just simple surface water, but the pure water from a sacred well, that which was permitted to be used for ritual cleansing to become clean enough to approach table of the Lord, the ultimate “reparaturwein”. In fact we as readers of the story in retrospect are actually told were the water came from and as usual, the bible acts as a mirror that reveals who’s image one reflects.
Do we want to interpret the achievement of Jesus to fiddle with the OH molecules in the jars and magically speed up the industrial process of wine making? Do we want him to satisfy the materialistic expectations of a greedy crowd, thus creating a fake reality and let the wedding guests leave with the impression that the groom did not need to cut the wine because he was filthy rich? Do we want Jesus to hide the fact that someone is honest by pretending he didn’t need to be? Worst of all, do we admire a Jesus for defiling the water of ritual purification or “Weihwasser” by turning it into alcohol because that reflects our materialistic value scale? Would drinking fine wine make us presentable to the Lord?

As you can see, investigating miracles “scientifically” ,as in methodologically and logically, does not end well for those who claim to be intellectuals and demand God to perform miracles that defy the laws of nature to make him worthy of their admiration. On the other hand I find looking at miracles as events that turn our materialistic concept of reality upside down to be an enriching experience.

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Yes, as I mentioned in my original post, the meaning of “science” has shifted over the centuries and Thomas Aquinas even called theology “The Queen of the Sciences” because it was a philosophical framework which ordered and explained all knowledge. This is why in the “five points of science” listed above (e.g., from the Berkeley website), science is distinguished not only by being a “systematic and logical” study of a topic but something from which you can generate “expectations” (predictions for how an event in nature will go in the future) and then see whether it holds true (it is testable or falsifiable). A particular miracle is unpredictable (not repeatable) and is unfalsifiable so hence outside the scope of scientific study. As I see it.

Important point 1: Yes, science means knowledge, and it never changes. Human minds may change, which makes them say different things at different times. The method is only a vehicle to get to the end. It’s the same method that is used in any human activity. The method has 2 basic components: Induction (putting in information or data) and Deduction (or conclusion), after analysis, observation, etc… using human senses). For instance, Day 1: Small animal, small ears, bushy tail. Day 2: Small animal, small ears, bushy tail. Day 1000: Small animal, small ears, busy tail. Deduction or conclusion: A squirrel! And people must agree on the term for it to be a communication tool. Even in language, sometimes one has to choose intelligeable words that make sense, that has some logic, and can communicate some truth to others. How many times one writes a letter or a contract and changes the words, before getting to the final version?
Important point 2: Science and faith belong to completely 2 different worlds. Science is in the materialistic world while faith is in the immaterial or spiritual realm. Both are created and ruled by their creator, namely God. Science has no effect whatsoever on spiritual matters. Science is NOT needed to prove God who is self-evident! His creation declares His Glory. Everything exists because God created all. God does NOT exist because he is NOT created. Instead, God IS. He told Moses His name. (Exodus 3:14)!
God created mankind and equipped him with some intelligence, which mankind uses to study and know (science) EVERYTHING He created. EVERY HUMAN BEING IS A SCIENTIST if he studies! It all depends on each one’s field of interest. - Enough of those who think they are some kinds of “special” human beings because they call themselves “scientists”. - TO KNOW GOD IS THE SUPERIOR KNOWLEDGE! The more you know the Creator, the more you know the creature!

Do you mean external reality never changes in the sense of uniformitarianism? Because the method of science may be consistent but its findings or what we refer to as scientific knowledge does change. We don’t need to go beyond Newton’s Law of universal gravitation and the orbit of Mercury to make this point.

Be ye humble. Like God in Christ Jesus, and God in science.

Science is defined by two methodological ideals which we shall name honesty and objectivity.

Honesty: In this methodological ideal the scientist insists on testing hypotheses instead of seeking to prove conclusions by whatever evidence they can find. This is different than the vast majority of human activities like politics, lawyers, preachers, and salesmen. What these people do is notoriously dishonest because their arguments only tell one side of the story – what they want you to hear in order to convince you of something – in order to sell you something. This is the methodology of rhetoric quite different from that of science. It is an important part of human civilization, but it does not belong in science.

Objectivity: In this methodological idea the scientist presents its findings in written procedures that anyone can follow to get the same result regardless of what one wants or believes. This is different than the the vast majority of activities like sports, business, marriage/love, and religion. These sorts of activities require you to believe before you can expect its procedures to work. It is not unreasonable because life does not consist of objective observation – it requires subjective participation where what you want is important. But it has no place in science.

Well… there are both experimental and theoretical sciences. But before something can be called fact it must be demonstrated with a procedure others can follow to get the same result.

Well… you might have a hard time telling us what those supposed rules are. Same as trying to tell us what methods it consists of. Science is not quite a paint by the numbers sort of activity. This is why I phrased the above in terms of methodological ideals. Ideals are things we strive for rather than a set of instructions.

Wrong. Intuition certainly does has a place in science. Its role is limited to the beginning of the process and is not a part of the end. In the physical sciences we call it scientific visualization. We try to visualize what cannot be visual because we seek inspiration for our investigations.

99.99% correct. It does assume that the evidence isn’t lying to us – that it is not an elaborate deception by supernatural entities (i.e. beings whose interference cannot be detected).

Science is limited by its methodological ideals. In order to subject its hypotheses to testing, the claims of science must be limited to what can be tested – i.e. things which are measurable. And in order to make written procedures others can follow to get the same result, the claims of science must be limited to what is repeatable.

Mathematics and measurement for starters. And accurately reporting what the evidence consists of.

Sure, there is more to it than that, and sure, some studies are qualitative rather than quantitative, but if your theory requires one plus one to equal three, or error bars of just ±5% to justify a claim that hundreds of thousands of other measurements are all consistently out by six orders of magnitude, or rock formations to be not fractured when in reality they are, then your theory is wrong.

I think you’re missing the point here. Yes, intuition has its place, but the point is that some scientific discoveries fly in the face of what you would expect from “common sense” and intuition alone. Look at quantum mechanics for starters. Or the fact that more entropy means more information – which is the exact opposite of what most people who have never studied the subject properly expect.

In fact this is the exact point that Darwin was trying to make when he described the evolution of the eye as “absurd in the highest possible degree.” He was making the point that common sense and intuition are not a reliable guide to what is “absurd in the highest possible degree” and what isn’t.

When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei , as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science.

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Although I have disparaged human intuition in the past, it is still an important part of a scientist’s toolkit. After all, we have to decide to do one thing over another at some point, and that is often where intuition comes in.

As a more general statement, I would like to add my own thoughts on what science is. Science is what scientists do (best said while impersonating Ze Frank).

This is the most subjective and probably worst definition of science in this thread, but I still think it is an important one. As a general rule, experienced scientists have a very sensitive nose for good science. There are exceptions, of course, but scientists are no different than any other profession. A good baseball scout can quickly pick out talented players. A good horse breeder knows a strong runner when they see one. A good doctor can sense a health problem where others would not see one. Scientists are the same, at least the good ones. This is why the scientific consensus holds weight, and why we look to scientists to guide the future direction of discovery and research.

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You mean mathematics and measurement have rules – and science certainly should follow those rules when it uses mathematics and measurement. Doesn’t that apply to anything where you use mathematics and measurement whether it is science or not?

That is true.

I think that claim is problematic (note that the link there is not to some authoritative source but to another Biologos discussion and thus to someone’s opinion). It might be true in some restricted sense of the word “information.” It certainly isn’t true in information theory and data science.

Of course it should. I’m not claiming otherwise. Besides, that’s what I mean when I say “science has rules.” Mathematics and measurement have rules. Science relies on mathematics and measurement. Therefore science has rules.

That’s news to me. Could you perhaps explain why it isn’t true in information theory and data science? In particular, could you explain specifically what is wrong with his claim that entropy == information is the whole point of Shannon’s classic 1948 paper?

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