ABSTRACT. The query ‘what is science?’


 is not answered by a clean cut definition or
by a complete set of characteristics. Science is delimited rather from other domains of
human activity by criteria, some of which are made explicit in this chapter: relevance,
consistency and publicity.
Truth is not mentioned among the criteria, because truth is a property of statements,
whereas science as an activity is not a treasury of truth but a method of asking
Relevance, as I call it, is a property not only of statements but also of problems
and methods, and as such it is even more crucial than as a property of statements.
Relevance can also be a property of definitions, notations, concepts, classifications,
and, more globally, of problem complexes, theories, domains of knowledge. In this
global sense it means being related to reality rather than floating in empty space.
As a criterion of what science is, consistency looks more like truth, though it seems
to stress its logical component. But this is only the objective aspect of consistency.
Consistency can also be intended as a property of action and of patterns of activity –
as an attitude which faces consequences, asks relevant questions and pursues promising
leads. For logicians the acme of consistency is the logically closed system. This, however,
is an ideal picture, which is realised only in today’s mathematics – even theoretical
physics is a far cry from this ideal. General theory in physics is not a basis from which
deduction takes place but a repository of organising devices. Physics is like a shop of
mini-theories supervised by, though not dervied from, general theory. It is a pity that a
wrong picture of physics, and natural science in general, has served and still is serving
as a model for the social sciences, and the humanities.
Science is a public property, and in spite of the so-called secret sciences, publicity is
one of the characteristics of true science. Nobody can be obliged to submit to initiation
rites before he can study and practise science. Science is publicly accessible to everybody
who agrees to learn its language, and in the long run neither schools nor prophets succeed
in monopolising a domain of science, though sometimes it may be difficult to decide
whether a particular science means more than the language in which it is expressed.
Relevance, consistency, and publicity are criteria by which science contrasts with its
fringe: pseudo-science and non-science. Flying saucers, the mysteries of the Cheops
pyramid, and the paragnosts are no serious problems to science but the Nazi pseudoscientific
racism was a menace to mankind and new pseudo-sciences may endanger
humanity even more. Pseudo-science often sounds like a protest against public science
as far as publicity means public recognition and is suspected to mean public coercion.
The fringe of science is a social danger worth studying. It may also mean a danger to
serious science. Pseudo-scientific infections may cause a cancer-like growth in serious
science. Language borrowed from serious science may be abused in other sciences; terms
like function, information, model and structure, that originated in mathematics, became
meaningless fashion in many other sciences.

Science should be distinguished from technique and its scientific instrumentation,
technology. Science is practised by scientists, and techniques by ‘engineers’ – a term
that in our terminology includes physicians, lawyers, and teachers. If for the scientist
knowledge and cognition are primary, it is action and construction that characterises
the work of the engineer, though in fact his activity may be based on science. In history,
technique often preceded science. For centuries medicine was a technique with some
background philosophy before it became a science; and even today there are intellectual
activities that call themselves science though in fact they are little more than technique
with a bit of technology and a huge amount of background philosophy. Of course
technique can be a good thing, and technology a valuable instrument; but both should
be carefully distinguished from science; and their background philosophy has no right
to behave as though it were scientifically justified.
Natural science gave us a picture of the world. We need more: a picture of man and a
picture of society. They are a matter of faith. The rational expression of faith is a
philosophy, which may be mere background, or indeed relevant in attributing values to
experiences and actions and in steering technique. We cannot live without values, but
we should recognise that the philosophy by which they are justified is a matter of faith
rather than of science.
It is not my intention to answer the question ‘What is science?’ by a clear
sentence following the pattern ‘Science is . . .’,with a number of subordinate
clauses. I would be disavowing all the facts of methodology which we have
learned over the past century from mathematics if I attempted such a procedure.
Explicit definitions may be allowed and may be effective when a
well-balanced and solid stock of experience and verbal expression has been
achieved, but not at the top of an imaginary system.
Nor should the reader expect a conceptual analysis, or a list of necessary
criteria or of alternatives where crosses are to be put into yes and no squares,
in order to decide whether something deserves the predicate of ‘scientific’ or
‘science’. Where should I look for such an analysis or such criteria while
methodology has hardly transgressed the frontiers of its prescientific stage?
As an empirical science that would take existing science as a subject matter,
methodology hardly exists. With eyes fixed upon some superficial features
of mathematics and mathematical physics, large and pretentious methodological
systems have been created, which unfortunately lack the links to the
real phenomenon that is called science.
I cannot and will not list criteria that would allow us to decide whether
something is science or even in a single case to corroborate that it is not

الاستاذ احمد مهدي
الاستاذ احمد مهدي
الاستاذ احمد مهدي كاتب مقالات ، احب التدوين ، واحاول بكل جهد ان اقدم لكل الطلاب ما هو مفيد لهم واتمنى لكم دوام النجاح والتوفيق محبكم الدائمي ( احمد مهدي شلال ) مقالات منوعه - اخبار تربويه ومنوعه - دروس رياضيات - العاب وترفيه