Science has no single origin. Rather, scientific methods emerged gradually over the course of thousands of years, taking different forms around the world, and few details are known about the very earliest developments. Some of the earliest evidence for scientific reasoning is tens of thousands of years old, and women likely played a central role in prehistoric science, as did religious rituals. Some Western authors have dismissed these efforts as "protoscientific".
Direct evidence for scientific processes becomes clearer with the advent of writing systems in early civilizations like Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Although the words and concepts of "science" and "nature" were not part of the conceptual landscape at the time, the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians made contributions that would later find a place in Greek and medieval science: mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. From the 3rd millennium BCE, the ancient Egyptians developed a decimal numbering system, solved practical problems using geometry, and developed a calendar. Their healing therapies involved drug treatments and the supernatural, such as prayers, incantations, and rituals.
In classical antiquity, there is no real ancient analog of a modern scientist. Instead, well-educated, usually upper-class, and almost universally male individuals performed various investigations into nature whenever they could afford the time. Before the invention or discovery of the concept of phusis or nature by the pre-Socratic philosophers, the same words tend to be used to describe the natural "way" in which a plant grows, and the "way" in which, for example, one tribe worships a particular god. For this reason, it is claimed that these men were the first philosophers in the strict sense and the first to clearly distinguish "nature" and "convention".: 209
A turning point in the history of early philosophical science was Socrates' example of applying philosophy to the study of human matters, including human nature, the nature of political communities, and human knowledge itself. The Socratic method as documented by Plato's dialogues is a dialectic method of hypothesis elimination: better hypotheses are found by steadily identifying and eliminating those that lead to contradictions. The Socratic method searches for general commonly-held truths that shape beliefs and scrutinizes them for consistency. Socrates criticized the older type of study of physics as too purely speculative and lacking in self-criticism.
Due to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the 5th century saw an intellectual decline in western Europe.: 307, 311, 363, 402 During the period, Latin encyclopedists such as Isidore of Seville preserved the majority of general ancient knowledge. In contrast, because the Byzantine Empire resisted attacks from invaders, they were able to preserve and improve prior learning. John Philoponus, a Byzantine scholar in the 500s, started to question Aristotle's teaching of physics, noting its flaws.: 307, 311, 363, 402 His criticism served as an inspiration to medieval scholars and Galileo Galilei, who ten centuries later extensively cited his works.
By the eleventh century, most of Europe had become Christian, and in 1088, the University of Bologna emerged as the first university in Europe. As such, demand for Latin translation of ancient and scientific texts grew, a major contributor to the Renaissance of the 12th century. Renaissance scholasticism in western Europe flourished, with experiments done by observing, describing, and classifying subjects in nature. In the 13rd century, medical teachers and students at Bologna began opening human bodies, leading to the ﬁrst anatomy textbook based on human dissection by Mondino de Luzzi.
New developments in optics played a role in the inception of the Renaissance, both by challenging long-held metaphysical ideas on perception, as well as by contributing to the improvement and development of technology such as the camera obscura and the telescope. At the start of the Renaissance, Roger Bacon, Vitello, and John Peckham each built up a scholastic ontology upon a causal chain beginning with sensation, perception, and finally apperception of the individual and universal forms of Aristotle.: Book I A model of vision later known as perspectivism was exploited and studied by the artists of the Renaissance. This theory uses only three of Aristotle's four causes: formal, material, and final.
In the sixteenth century, Nicolaus Copernicus formulated a heliocentric model of the Solar System, stating that the planets revolve around the Sun, instead of the geocentric model where the planets and the Sun revolve around the Earth. This was based on a theorem that the orbital periods of the planets are longer as their orbs are farther from the center of motion, which he found not to agree with Ptolemy's model.
Johannes Kepler and others challenged the notion that the only function of the eye is perception, and shifted the main focus in optics from the eye to the propagation of light. Kepler is best known, however, for improving Copernicus' heliocentric model through the discovery of Kepler's laws of planetary motion. Kepler did not reject Aristotelian metaphysics and described his work as a search for the Harmony of the Spheres.Galileo had made significant contributions to astronomy, physics and engineering. However, he became persecuted after Pope Urban VIII sentenced him for writing about the heliocentric model.
The printing press was widely used to publish scholarly arguments, including some that disagreed widely with contemporary ideas of nature.Francis Bacon and René Descartes published philosophical arguments in favor of a new type of non-Aristotelian science. Bacon emphasized the importance of experiment over contemplation, questioned the Aristotelian concepts of formal and final cause, promoted the idea that science should study the laws of nature and the improvement of all human life. Descartes emphasized individual thought and argued that mathematics rather than geometry should be used to study nature.
During this time, the declared purpose and value of science became producing wealth and inventions that would improve human lives, in the materialistic sense of having more food, clothing, and other things. In Bacon's words, "the real and legitimate goal of sciences is the endowment of human life with new inventions and riches", and he discouraged scientists from pursuing intangible philosophical or spiritual ideas, which he believed contributed little to human happiness beyond "the fume of subtle, sublime or pleasing [speculation]".
Science during the Enlightenment was dominated by scientific societies and academies, which had largely replaced universities as centers of scientific research and development. Societies and academies were the backbones of the maturation of the scientific profession. Another important development was the popularization of science among an increasingly literate population.: 82–83 Enlightenment philosophers chose a short history of scientific predecessors – Galileo, Boyle, and Newton principally – as the guides to every physical and social field of the day.
During the nineteenth century, many distinguishing characteristics of contemporary modern science began to take shape. Some of them are: the transformation of the life and physical sciences, frequent use of precision instruments, emergence of terms such as "biologist", "physicist", "scientist", increased professionalization of those studying nature, scientists gained cultural authority over many dimensions of society, industrialization of numerous countries, thriving of popular science writings and emergence of science journals. During the late 19th century, psychology emerged as a separate discipline from philosophy when Wilhelm Wundt founded the first laboratory for psychological research in 1879.
Interdisciplinary science involves the combination of two or more disciplines into one, such as bioinformatics, a combination of biology and computer science.: vii The concept has existed since the ancient Greek and it became popular again in the 20th century.
Scientific research can be labeled as either basic or applied research. Basic research is the search for knowledge and applied research is the search for solutions to practical problems using this knowledge. Most understanding comes from basic research, though sometimes applied research targets specific practical problems. This leads to technological advances that were not previously imaginable.
In the scientific method, an explanatory thought experiment or hypothesis is put forward as an explanation using parsimony principles and is expected to seek consilience – fitting with other accepted facts related to an observation or scientific question. This tentative explanation is used to make falsifiable predictions, which are typically posted before being tested by experimentation. Disproof of a prediction is evidence of progress.: 4–5 : 204 Experimentation is especially important in science to help establish causal relationships to avoid the correlation fallacy, though in some sciences such as astronomy or geology, a predicted observation might be more appropriate.
When a hypothesis proves unsatisfactory, it is modified or discarded. If the hypothesis survived testing, it may become adopted into the framework of a scientific theory, a logically reasoned, self-consistent model or framework for describing the behavior of certain natural events. A theory typically describes the behavior of much broader sets of observations than a hypothesis; commonly, a large number of hypotheses can be logically bound together by a single theory. Thus a theory is a hypothesis explaining various other hypotheses. In that vein, theories are formulated according to most of the same scientific principles as hypotheses. Scientists may generate a model, an attempt to describe or depict an observation in terms of a logical, physical or mathematical representation and to generate new hypotheses that can be tested by experimentation.
While performing experiments to test hypotheses, scientists may have a preference for one outcome over another. Eliminating the bias can be achieved by transparency, careful experimental design, and a thorough peer review process of the experimental results and conclusions. After the results of an experiment are announced or published, it is normal practice for independent researchers to double-check how the research was performed, and to follow up by performing similar experiments to determine how dependable the results might be. Taken in its entirety, the scientific method allows for highly creative problem solving while minimizing the effects of subjective and confirmation bias.Intersubjective verifiability, the ability to reach a consensus and reproduce results, is fundamental to the creation of all scientific knowledge.
Cover of the first issue of Nature, November 4, 1869
Scientific research is published in a range of literature.Scientific journals communicate and document the results of research carried out in universities and various other research institutions, serving as an archival record of science. The first scientific journal, Journal des sçavans by Philosophical Transactions, began publication in 1665. Since that time the total number of active periodicals has steadily increased. In 1981, one estimate for the number of scientific and technical journals in publication was 11,500.
Most scientific journals cover a single scientific field and publish the research within that field; the research is normally expressed in the form of a scientific paper. Science has become so pervasive in modern societies that it is considered necessary to communicate the achievements, news, and ambitions of scientists to a wider population.
The replication crisis is an ongoing methodological crisis that affects parts of the social and life sciences. In subsequent investigations, the results of many scientific studies are proven to be unrepeatable. The crisis has long-standing roots; the phrase was coined in the early 2010s as part of a growing awareness of the problem. The replication crisis represents an important body of research in metascience, which aims to improve the quality of all scientific research while reducing waste.
An area of study or speculation that masquerades as science in an attempt to claim a legitimacy that it would not otherwise be able to achieve is sometimes referred to as pseudoscience, fringe science, or junk science.: 17 Physicist Richard Feynman coined the term "cargo cult science" for cases in which researchers believe and at a glance looks like they are doing science, but lack the honesty allowing their results to be rigorously evaluated. Various types of commercial advertising, ranging from hype to fraud, may fall into these categories. Science has been described as "the most important tool" for separating valid claims from invalid ones.
There can also be an element of political or ideological bias on all sides of scientific debates. Sometimes, research may be characterized as "bad science," research that may be well-intended but is incorrect, obsolete, incomplete, or over-simplified expositions of scientific ideas. The term "scientific misconduct" refers to situations such as where researchers have intentionally misrepresented their published data or have purposely given credit for a discovery to the wrong person.
There are different schools of thought in the philosophy of science. The most popular position is empiricism, which holds that knowledge is created by a process involving observation and that scientific theories are the result of generalizations from such observations. Empiricism generally encompasses inductivism, a position that explains how general theories can be made from the finite amount of empirical evidence available. Many versions of empiricism exist, with the predominant ones being Bayesianism and the hypothetico-deductive method.
Empiricism has stood in contrast to rationalism, the position originally associated with Descartes, which holds that knowledge is created by the human intellect, not by observation.Critical rationalism is a contrasting 20th-century approach to science, first defined by Austrian-British philosopher Karl Popper. Popper rejected the way that empiricism describes the connection between theory and observation. He claimed that theories are not generated by observation, but that observation is made in the light of theories and that the only way a theory can be affected by observation is when it comes in conflict with it.
Popper proposed replacing verifiability with falsifiability as the landmark of scientific theories and replacing induction with falsification as the empirical method. Popper further claimed that there is actually only one universal method, not specific to science: the negative method of criticism, trial and error. It covers all products of the human mind, including science, mathematics, philosophy, and art.
Another approach, instrumentalism, emphasizes the utility of theories as instruments for explaining and predicting phenomena. It views scientific theories as black boxes with only their input (initial conditions) and output (predictions) being relevant. Consequences, theoretical entities, and logical structure are claimed to be something that should be ignored. Close to instrumentalism is constructive empiricism, according to which the main criterion for the success of a scientific theory is whether what it says about observable entities is true.
Thomas Kuhn argued that the process of observation and evaluation takes place within a paradigm, a logically consistent "portrait" of the world that is consistent with observations made from its framing. He characterized normal science as the process of observation and "puzzle solving" which takes place within a paradigm, whereas revolutionary science occurs when one paradigm overtakes another in a paradigm shift. Each paradigm has its own distinct questions, aims, and interpretations. The choice between paradigms involves setting two or more "portraits" against the world and deciding which likeness is most promising. A paradigm shift occurs when a significant number of observational anomalies arise in the old paradigm and a new paradigm makes sense of them. That is, the choice of a new paradigm is based on observations, even though those observations are made against the background of the old paradigm. For Kuhn, acceptance or rejection of a paradigm is a social process as much as a logical process. Kuhn's position, however, is not one of relativism.
Finally, another approach often cited in debates of scientific skepticism against controversial movements like "creation science" is methodological naturalism. Naturalists maintain that a difference should be made between natural and supernatural, and science should be restricted to natural explanations. Methodological naturalism maintains that science requires strict adherence to empirical study and independent verification.
The scientific community is a network of interacting scientists who conducts scientific research. The community consists of smaller groups working in scientific fields. By having peer review, through discussion and debate within journals and conferences, scientists maintain the quality of research methodology and objectivity when interpreting results.
Scientists exhibit a strong curiosity about reality and a desire to apply scientific knowledge for the benefit of health, nations, the environment, or industries. Other motivations include recognition by their peers and prestige. In modern times, many scientists have advanced degrees in an area of science and pursue careers in various sectors of the economy such as academia, industry, government, and nonprofit environments.
Science has historically been a male-dominated field, with notable exceptions. Women in science faced considerable discrimination in science, much as they did in other areas of male-dominated societies. For example, women were frequently being passed over for job opportunities and denied credit for their work. The achievements of women in science have been attributed to the defiance of their traditional role as laborers within the domestic sphere. Lifestyle choice plays a major role in female engagement in science; female graduate students' interest in careers in research declines dramatically throughout graduate school, whereas that of their male colleagues remains unchanged.
Learned societies for the communication and promotion of scientific thought and experimentation have existed since the Renaissance. Many scientists belong to a learned society that promotes their respective scientific discipline, profession, or group of related disciplines. Membership may either be open to all, require possession of scientific credentials, or conferred by election. Most scientific societies are non-profit organizations, and many are professional associations. Their activities typically include holding regular conferences for the presentation and discussion of new research results and publishing or sponsoring academic journals in their discipline. Some societies act as professional bodies, regulating the activities of their members in the public interest or the collective interest of the membership.
Science awards are usually given to individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to a discipline. They are often given by prestigious institutions, thus it is considered a great honor for a scientist receiving them. Since the early Renaissance, scientists are often awarded medals, money, and titles. The Nobel Prize, a widely regarded prestigious award, is awarded annually to those who have achieved scientific advances in the fields of medicine, physics, and chemistry.
Scientific research is often funded through a competitive process in which potential research projects are evaluated and only the most promising receive funding. Such processes, which are run by government, corporations, or foundations, allocate scarce funds. Total research funding in most developed countries is between 1.5% and 3% of GDP. In the OECD, around two-thirds of research and development in scientific and technical fields is carried out by industry, and 20% and 10% respectively by universities and government. The government funding proportion in certain fields is higher, and it dominates research in social science and humanities. In the lesser-developed nations, government provides the bulk of the funds for their basic scientific research.
Science policy is concerned with policies that affect the conduct of the scientific enterprise, including research funding, often in pursuance of other national policy goals such as technological innovation to promote commercial product development, weapons development, health care, and environmental monitoring. Science policy sometimes refers to the act of applying scientific knowledge and consensus to the development of public policies. In accordance with public policy being concerned about the well-being of its citizens, science policy's goal is to consider how science and technology can best serve the public. Public policy can directly affect the funding of capital equipment and intellectual infrastructure for industrial research by providing tax incentives to those organizations that fund research.
The mass media face pressures that can prevent them from accurately depicting competing scientific claims in terms of their credibility within the scientific community as a whole. Determining how much weight to give different sides in a scientific debate may require considerable expertise regarding the matter. Few journalists have real scientific knowledge, and even beat reporters who are knowledgeable about certain scientific issues may be ignorant about other scientific issues that they are suddenly asked to cover.
While the scientific method is broadly accepted in the scientific community, large fractions of society reject many scientific positions or are skeptical about science. Examples are the common notion that COVID-19 is not a major health threat (held by about 40% of Americans in September 2021) or the belief that climate change is not a major threat (also held by 40% of Americans, in April 2020).Psychologists have pointed to four factors driving rejection of scientific results:
Scientific authorities are sometimes seen as inexpert, untrustworthy, or biased.
Messages from scientists may contradict deeply-held existing beliefs or morals.
The delivery of a scientific message may not be appropriately targeted to a recipient's learning style.
Anti-science attitudes seem to be often caused by fear of rejection in social groups. For instance, climate change is perceived as a threat by only 22% of Americans on the right side of the political spectrum, but by 85% on the left. That is, if someone on the left would not consider climate change as a threat, this person may face contempt and be rejected in that social group. In fact, people may rather deny a scientifically accepted fact than lose or jeopardize their social status.
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^Harrison, Peter (2015). The Territories of Science and Religion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 164–165. ISBN978-0-226-18451-7. The changing character of those engaged in scientific endeavors was matched by a new nomenclature for their endeavors. The most conspicuous marker of this change was the replacement of "natural philosophy" by "natural science". In 1800 few had spoken of the "natural sciences" but by 1880, this expression had overtaken the traditional label "natural philosophy". The persistence of "natural philosophy" in the twentieth century is owing largely to historical references to a past practice (see figure 11). As should now be apparent, this was not simply the substitution of one term by another, but involved the jettisoning of a range of personal qualities relating to the conduct of philosophy and the living of the philosophical life.
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^An account of the pre-Socratic use of the concept of φύσις may be found in Naddaf, Gerard (2006) The Greek Concept of Nature, SUNY Press, and in Ducarme, Frédéric; Couvet, Denis (2020). "What does 'nature' mean?". Palgrave Communications. Springer Nature. 6 (14). doi:10.1057/s41599-020-0390-y.. The word φύσις, while first used in connection with a plant in Homer, occurs early in Greek philosophy, and in several senses. Generally, these senses match rather well the current senses in which the English word nature is used, as confirmed by Guthrie, W.K.C. Presocratic Tradition from Parmenides to Democritus (volume 2 of his History of Greek Philosophy), Cambridge UP, 1965.
^ abcLindberg, David C. (2007). "Roman and early medieval science". The beginnings of Western science: the European Scientific tradition in philosophical, religious, and institutional context (Second ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 132–162. ISBN978-0-226-48205-7.
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^Cohen, H. Floris (2010). "Greek nature knowledge transplanted: The Islamic world". How modern science came into the world. Four civilizations, one 17th-century breakthrough (Second ed.). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. pp. 99–156. ISBN978-90-8964-239-4.
^Cohen, H. Floris (2010). "Greek nature knowledge transplanted and more: Renaissance Europe". How modern science came into the world. Four civilizations, one 17th-century breakthrough (Second ed.). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. pp. 99–156. ISBN978-90-8964-239-4.
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^Heilbron, J.L.; et al. (2003). "Preface". The Oxford Companion to the History of Modern Science. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. vii–X. ISBN978-0-19-511229-0. ...modern science is a discovery as well as an invention. It was a discovery that nature generally acts regularly enough to be described by laws and even by mathematics; and required invention to devise the techniques, abstractions, apparatus, and organization for exhibiting the regularities and securing their law-like descriptions.
^Bulger, Ruth Ellen; Heitman, Elizabeth; Reiser, Stanley Joel (2002). The Ethical Dimensions of the Biological and Health Sciences (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN978-0-521-00886-0. OCLC47791316.
^"Coping with fraud"(PDF). The COPE Report 1999: 11–18. Archived from the original(PDF) on September 28, 2007. Retrieved July 21, 2011. It is 10 years, to the month, since Stephen Lock ... Reproduced with kind permission of the Editor, The Lancet.
^"Eusocial climbers"(PDF). E.O. Wilson Foundation. Archived(PDF) from the original on April 27, 2019. Retrieved September 3, 2018. But he's not a scientist, he's never done scientific research. My definition of a scientist is that you can complete the following sentence: 'he or she has shown that...'," Wilson says.
^"Our definition of a scientist". Science Council. Archived from the original on August 23, 2019. Retrieved September 7, 2018. A scientist is someone who systematically gathers and uses research and evidence, making a hypothesis and testing it, to gain and share understanding and knowledge.
^Whaley, Leigh Ann. Women's History as Scientists. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, INC. 2003.
^Spanier, Bonnie (1995). "From Molecules to Brains, Normal Science Supports Sexist Beliefs about Difference". Im/partial Science: Gender Identity in Molecular Biology. Indiana University Press. ISBN978-0-253-20968-9.
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^Philipp-Muller, Aviva; Lee, Spike W. S.; Petty, Richard E. (July 26, 2022). "Why are people antiscience, and what can we do about it?". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 119 (30): e2120755119. doi:10.1073/pnas.2120755119. ISSN0027-8424. PMC 9335320. PMID35858405.