In an earlier post, I tried to define the word 'science', but I now disagree with my previous definition. Here is my previous definition:
Science is the systematic analysis of realityI believe this definition is too broad to accurately capture the concept of 'science'. There are many types of systematic analyses that do not qualify as science. For example, a telephone bill statement which has many statistics, allows you to systematically analyze your telephone usage, but intuitively we know this is not science. Another example is systematically analyzing baseball player statistics, but intuitively we also know this not science.
I believe the reason why my previous definition was so open-ended, was due to Paul Feyerabend's influence. Feyerabend believed that the distinction between science and non-science is counterproductive for establishing knowledge because it causes researchers to neglect certain methods of inquiry. I now reject Feyerabend's view of science and have adopted a more narrow definition. Here is my new definition:
Science is knowledge established through a formal process involving a hypothesis, experimentation and verificationWhen people talk about science, I believe this is what they are talking about. This definition is based on the scientific method (hypothesis, experimentation and verification). Another thing to mention is that this definition does not create a strict boundary between science and non-science because the word 'formal' is subjective.
Is economics a science? It depends on what economic analysis you are referring to. Analysis you hear on the television or read in a magazine is usually not science because there is no formal hypothesis or experimentation going on. But when economic analysis has a formal hypothesis and experimentation, I would consider that science.
The rest of this post is a collection of definitions of science from philosophers and dictionaries.
Definitions of science from philosophers
Karl Popper (1902-1994)
1. "...statements or systems of statements, in order to be ranked as scientific, must be capable of conflicting with possible, or conceivable observations." (Conjectures and refutations. The growth of scientific knowledge, 1962)
Thomas Kuhn (1902-1996)
2. "...the role in scientific research of what I have since called 'paradigms'. These I take to be universally recognized scientific achievements that for a time provide model problems and solutions for a community of practitioners." (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962)
Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994)
3. "...the separation of science and non-science is not only artificial but also detrimental to the advancement of knowledge. If we want to understand nature, if we want to master our physical surroundings, then we must use all ideas, all methods, and not just a small selection of them." (Against method, 1975)
Larry Laudan (1941-now)
4. "...there is no demarcation line between science and non-science, or between science and pseudo-science, which would win assent from a majority of philosophers. Nor is there one which should win acceptance from philosophers or anyone else." (The Demise of the Demarcation Problem, 1983)
Paul Thagard (1950-now):
5. "A theory of disciplines which purports to be scientific is pseudoscientific if and only if it has been less progressive than alternative theories over a long period of time and faces many unsolved problems; but the community of practitioners makes little attempt to develop the theory towards solutions of the problems, shows no concern for attempts to evaluate the theory in the relation to others and is selective in considering confirmation and disconfirmation." (Quoted in Science Education by John Gilbert)
William Cecil Dampier (1867-1952)
6. "[Science is] ordered knowledge of phenomena and of the relations between them." (Wikipedia)
Marshall Clagett (1916-2005)
7. "[Science is] first the orderly and systematic comprehension, description and/or explanation of natural phenomena and secondly, the mathematical and logical tools necessary for the undertaking." (Wikipedia)
David Pingree (1933-2005)
8. "Science is a systematic explanation of perceived or imaginary phenomena or else is based on such an explanation. Mathematics finds a place in science only as one of the symbolical languages in which scientific explanations may be expressed." (Wikipedia)
Definitions of science from dictionaries
1. "The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment."
Merriam Webster Dictionary
2. "the state of knowing"
3. "a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study"
4. "a knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths"
5. "a system or method reconciling practical ends with scientific laws"
6. "acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles as from study or investigate"
7. "familiarity or conversance, as with a particular subject or branch of learning"
8. "acquaintance or familiarity gained by sight, experience or report"
9. "the fact or state of knowing"
10. "awareness, as of a fact or circumstance"
11. "something that is or may be known"
12. "the body of truths or facts accumulated in the course of time"
13. "the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation and theoretical explanation of phenomena"
14. "a systematic method or body of knowledge in a given area"
15. "knowledge, especially that gained through experience"
16. "the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the natural and physical world, or knowledge obtained about the world by watching it carefully and experimenting"
17. "the field of study concerned with discovering and describing the world around us by observing and experimenting"
Oxford Learner's Dictionary
18. "knowledge about the structure and behavior of the natural and physical world, based on facts that you can prove, for example by experiments"
19. "a system for organizing the knowledge about a subject"
20. "the study of the nature and behavior of natural things and the knowledge that we obtain about them"