What Science is NOT
1. Science is not
a process which can solve all kinds of problems and questions.
The realm of science is limited strictly to solving problems
about the natural world. Science is not properly equipped
to handle the supernatural realm (as such), nor the realm of
values and ethics.
2. It's not a process
which can ignore rules.
Science must follow certain rules; otherwise, it's not
science (just as soccer is not soccer if the players don't follow
the rules of soccer!)
3. It's not a process
which seeks the truth or facts.
The goal of science is to come as close to understanding the
reality of the natural world as we can. It's never "truth"
or "facts". "Truth" and "facts"
can mean different things to different people.
4. It's not a process
which attempts to prove things.
The process of science, when properly applied, actually attempts
to disprove ideas (tentative explanations)... a process
called "testing", or "challenging". If the
idea survives testing, then it is stronger, and more likely an
accurate explanation. Supernatural causes can never be disproved
("anything is possible"), hence they cannot be part
of any scientific explanation (whether they exist or not).
5. It's not a process
which can produce any kind of explanation.
Science can produce only certain kinds of explanations.
For example, supernatural explanations cannot be used, due to
the fact that such explanations can never be disproved (supernatural
forces, by definition, do not reliably follow the laws of nature).
6. It's not a process
which produces certainties, or absolute facts.
Science is a process which can only produce "possible"
to "highly probable" explanations for natural
phenomena; these are never certainties. With new information,
tools, or approaches, earlier findings (theories, or even facts)
can be replaced by new findings.
7. It's not a process
which can always be relied upon due to its total objectivity
and internal self-correction.
Science can be done poorly, just like any other human
endeavor. We are all fallible, some of us make fewer mistakes
than others, some observe better than others, but we are still
subjective in the end.
8. It's not a process
which is always properly used.
Unfortunately, science is all too frequently misused. Because
it works so well, there are those who apply the name of science
to their efforts to "prove" their favorite cause, even
if the rules of science were not followed. Such causes are properly
labeled "pseudosciences". In addition, some
legitimate scientists have been known to do fraudulent work,
in order to support their pet ideas. Such work is usually exposed
sooner or later, due to the peer review system, and the work
of other scientists.
9. It's not a process
which is free from values, opinions or bias.
Scientists are people, and although they follow certain rules
and try to be as objective as possible, both in their observations
and their interpretations, their biases are still there.
The perceptions by female scientists may be quite different from
those by male scientists. Unconscious racial bias, social status,
source of funding, or political leanings can influence one's
perceptions and interpretations.
10. It's not a process
in which the product (understanding) is based on faith or belief.
The product of science (probable explanations for natural phenomena)
are always based on observations carefully analyzed and
tested. The high confidence we have in science comes from the
many successful applications to real-life problems (e.g. in medicine,
space exploration, chemistry and technology).
11. It's not a process
in which one solution is as good as another, or is simply a matter
In science, there is a rigorous analysis and fair-test comparison
of alternative explanations, using discriminate criteria, e.g.,
confirmation by multiple independent lines of evidence, leading
to one "best" solution.
12. Scientific Theories are
not "tentative ideas" or "hunches".
The word "theory" is often used this way in
everyday conversation, but a theory in science refers to a highly
probable, well-tested comprehensive explanation, usually for
a large collection of observations.