Figure 1: Scientists themselves have often been portrayed as eccentric monsters, who are so absorbed with their discoveries and creations that they lose grasp of the 'human touch' of things, as illustrated in Mary Shelly's Frankenstein.
The first definition for science on Dictionary.com is “a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws.” Yet it seems that this definition cannot and does not acknowledge human sentience into its provisions. Therefore, I’d like to propose a definition of science that appeals to the mainstream while still broad enough that it can encompass the physical, social, and humanitarian science (including my philosophy of study: natural history)2.
In the broadest sense, science could perhaps best be defined as learning about the world (or universe) through accurate information. On an application level, science could be defined as learning about the world (or universe) through accurate information in order to do good. See Figure 2.
Figure 2: Breakdown of my proposed modification of a broad definition of science.
What does it mean ‘to do good’? This could mean a variety of things, from learning more about ecosystems, to inventing a new product, to creating equality among a socially marginalized group. This description of applied science, however, is highly debatable and much like the amendments of our constitution, it is open to multiple interpretations. In ether case, my hope is that “good” implies actions and analyses based upon ‘accurate information’ about our world.
It is unfortunate that science has been viewed in large part as arbitrary reductionism, as illustrated by my nature walk with my friend. In my field, it is important to learn the names and categories for each individual species so that we can learn about and manage for that organism or group of organisms. Each species in nature has its own uniqueness that must be distinguished from other forms of life. Doing this allows habitat managers and conservationists to peace a puzzle together to see the connections, problems, and solutions about our actions on earth. We’re not doing this because we want to be brainy, apathetic scientists. We are doing this because we care about the health of the environment that YOU live in.
1 People in the United States often take on an anthropocentric view of humans and the environment, believing that a higher power controls the access the Earth’s natural resource for use and consumption by us.
2 I am not necessarily claiming that this is what the true definition of science is or that this definition the only one that I am going to follow. Rather, like most of the topics on my blog, I am proposing an idea for public viewing and comment.
science. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved March 20, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/science