Philosophy of Science: What is Science?

What is science? This is a reasonable question, but it isn't easy to provide a simple, definitive answer. There is no entity with the authority to define science. Coming up with a proper definition of science is not unlike coming up with a proper definition of other human institutions, like religion or family: there is so much going on that long, complex books are written to explain it all - and still people disagree. In a real sense, science is what scientists do. There are disagreements among scientists and philosophers of science on the finer points, but many of the broader issues are usually agreed upon.
The definition of science poses some problems for people. Everyone seems to have an idea of what science is, but articulating it is difficult. Ignorance about science isn't a viable option, but unfortunately it's not too hard to find religious apologists spreading misunderstanding. Because science is best defined by scientific methodology, an accurate understanding of science also means understanding why science is superior to faith, intuition, or any other method of acquiring knowledge. More »

The Philosophy of Science is concerned with, obviously enough, science - specifically, how science operates, what the goals of science should be, what relationship science should have with the rest of society, the differences between science and other activities, etc. Everything that happens in science has some relationship with the Philosophy of Science and is predicated upon some philosophical position, even though that may be rarely evident. More »

Science is defined by the method scientists use to make discoveries and produce knowledge. The scientific method separates science from unsuccessful attempts to produce knowledge which people try to sell: faith, religion, pseudoscience, etc. Understanding science means understanding how the scientific method works, how scientists work, and so why science is superior to the alternatives. We rely too much on science to pretend it's no better than or different from the alternatives. More »

Scientific observations are the fuel which power scientific discoveries and scientific theories are the engine. Theories allow scientists to organize and understand earlier observations, then predict and create future observations. Scientific theories all have common characteristics which differentiate them from unscientific ideas like faith and pseudoscience. Scientific theories must be: consistent, parsimonious, correctable, empirically testable/verifiable, useful, and progressive. More »

It's common to see religious apologists preaching about allegedly scientific "laws" as if they were absolute, definitive truths. This sort of argument is very appealing to religious apologists because the existence of scientific laws implies the existence of a lawgiver. It also seems to make it easier for them to construct arguments that appear to undermine genuine science, but the reason why these arguments don't work is the fact that they don't represent real science. More »

There's a lot of confusion over use of the terms hypothesis, theory and fact in science. We have popular usage, popular impression of how scientists use the terms, and how the terms actually get used in science. All three share some things in common, but none match. This confusion is no minor matter because popular ignorance about how the terms are really used in science makes it easier for creationists and other religious apologists misrepresent science for their own ideological purposes. More »

Common thinking among secularists and nonbelievers of various sorts tends to be that religion and science are fundamentally incompatible. This incompatibility is also imagined to extend to the relationship between religion and technology, since technology is so often a product of science and science cannot proceed without technology, especially today. But it can be argued that promoting technology is often caused by religious impulses. More »