Science is essential knowledge. The word “science” is derived from the Latin word Scientia which means “knowledge”. But science is a particular kind of knowledge, that is, knowledge that has been obtained through the ‘scientific method’. One or two definitions of science may be cited here.
1. In a more general sense, science refers to “any systematic study of physical or social phenomena.”
2. In a more restricted sense, science can be understood as “The study of physical and social phenomena where this involves observation, experiment, appropriate quantification and the search for universal general laws and explanations.”
3. From a sociological stand point, “Science is a body of knowledge about the natural world and a method for discovering such knowledge and a social institution organised around both.”
4. In simple words, “Science is a systematic body of knowledge”.
Two Main Branches of Science:
Science is customarily divided into two branches namely “pure sciences” and “applied sciences”,
(i) Pure Science is concerned mainly with the acquisition of knowledge and not its application. It is scientific investigation that is devoted exclusively to the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. It has no immediate concern or pressure for using that knowledge to solve practical problems.
Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science, Economics, Psychology, etc., are all pure sciences.
(ii) Applied Science, in contrast, is the application of known scientific principles to a practical problem, and the outcome in many cases is new technologies. It may thus be stated that if pure science is interested in the acquisition of theoretical knowledge, applied science is concerned more with the task of applying the uneoreucan knowledge, for human utility and service.
Each pure science, however, may have one or more applied fields. Engineering is an applied field of physics, pharmacology is the applied field of chemistry, and social work is the applied field of sociology, and so on.
Nature and Characteristics of Science
1. Science is concerned with Knowledge:
The ultimate objective of science is acquisition of knowledge. Exploring the different horizons of knowledge is not only a challenge but also a matter of great intellectual delight to a scientist. Knowledge is as vast as an ocean. The more a scientist acquires it, the more it remains to be acquired. A scientist is not only more interested in acquiring knowledge but also is better equipped to do so.
2. Division of Sciences into Two Types or Branches:
The sciences are conventionally divided into two main branches: 1) natural sciences, and 2) social sciences.
The Natural Sciences study physical and biological phenomena. They are said to be more precise, exact, and objective. Examples: Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Biology etc. The Social Sciences refer to “a related group of disciplines that study various aspects of human behaviour” They are mainly concerned with man, his social life and society. Examples: Sociology, Economics, Political Science, Anthropology, etc.
Characteristics of Science:
Science is not based on imagination. It is based on facts. “A fact is an observed phenomenon itself” It may be about a thing, an event, a measurement, etc. “Any statement which is true can be described as a fact.”
Example: 1) Stone is a solid substance. 2) Hindus constitute a major religious community in India.
Science tries to find out the causal relationship between the events or things. In other words, it explores causation. Causation states that “the occurrence of events is determined by cause-and- effect relationships.” Causation assumes that events do not occur in a random fashion. It also assumes that events are associated in a one-way relationship.
(1) Harmful bacteria’s cause diseases. (2) Poverty is one of the causes of economic backwardness. The function of science is to uncover the laws of cause and effect relationships.
Scientific findings or truths or laws are expected to have universal validity. They are not supposed to be limited to any race, nationality, religion or region, social class or political ideology. It means scientific laws or findings must allow themselves to be evaluated purely in terms of their scientific worth.
(1) Fire burns, water flows, wind blows, etc…, (2) Hindus are polytheistic, Muslims and Christians are monotheistic, and so on.
Prediction refers to the “foretelling of an event or set of events.” Prediction is generally understood as foretelling’ or ‘making’ “statement about the future”. It is an estimation of what the future will look like. Making prediction is one of the tasks of science.
(1) Physical scientists make predictions about earthquake, rainfall, cyclones, eclipses, and so on.
(2) Though predictions are difficult, if not impossible, in the field of social sciences, attempts are being made to make predictions. Predictions are being made about demographic trends, rate of economic growth, rate of increase in literacy, and so on.
Science is based on verification principle. According to this principle, a proposition or hypothesis or statement can be accepted as “scientific”, only if it is verifiable. “Verification refers to any procedure regarded as establishing the truth of a proposition or hypothesis”. To verify a statement is to provide evidence generally of an empirical or observational kind for believing it to be true.
(i) Earth revolves round the Sun, and the Sun is bigger than the Earth,
(ii) All men are mortal.
6. Objectivity and Value Neutrality:
Science expects scientists to be objective. Objectivity implies “an absence of bias in making or interpreting observations. Objectivity means interpreting the facts in such a way that our personal judgements are eliminated from them. A scientist should allow facts to speak for themselves. He should not attribute his personal views to them.
Value-neutrality is closely connected with objectivity. This concept was first explored by Max Weber. He insisted that a scientist / researcher should not choose methods and interpret data in ways that favour his values or ideological stance. The principle of value neutrality implies that the researcher must control whenever possible the influence of values on his studies or research.
In fact, it is highly challenging for a social scientist to become objective and value-free in his studies. He must try to guard against his own views and values affecting the study of topics such as role of love in marriage; consequences of racism, sexism, improvement of worker productivity in work place, role of communism in economic development, and so on.
7. Insistence on the Scientific Method:
A branch of knowledge can be called a science only if it relies on the scientific method. Francis Bacon who laid the foundations of modern scientific method insisted that science should follow a systematic method in its studies.
As Karl Pearson has remarked, “The unity of all science consists alone in its method, not in its material. The man who classifies facts of any kind whatever, who sees their mutual relation and describes their sequences, is applying the scientific method and is a man of science.”
While scientific methods are more or less same for all sciences, scientific techniques differ. These techniques refer to the particular ways in which scientific methods are applied to a particular problem. Each science must therefore, develop a series of techniques which fits the body of material it studies.
i. Scientific method can be understood as a systematic and organised series of steps that ensures dependable results in researching a problem with maximum objectivity.
ii. Scientific method refers to “the building of a body of scientific knowledge through observation, experimentation, generalisation and verification.”
Meaning of Technology:
1. Horton and Hunt:
“Technology is the use of scientific discoveries to solve practical problems”.
2. William Kornblum:
Technology which is an aspect of culture can be defined as – “the use of tools and knowledge to manipulate the physical environment in order to achieve desired practical goals.”
3. Technology refers to “The practical application of knowledge and use of techniques in productive activities.” – Collins Dictionary of Sociology
4. In simple words, “technology refers to the practical application of knowledge about nature.”