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Experiment!: Planning, Implementing and Interpreting by Oivind Andersson

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2

What is Science?

The key to the approach is to keep firmly in mind that the classic position of a researcher is not that of one who knows the right answers but of one who is struggling to find out what the right questions might be!

—E.M. Phillips and D.S. Pugh

The purpose of this chapter is to discuss what science is, and what it is not. This is more of a tall order than it first seems, since science spans so many disciplines. Still, if we are going to learn how to develop science, it is important that we at least reflect on what that means.

Scientists at the beginning of their careers are introduced to the methods of science in different ways. Most learn the tools of the trade from experienced researchers but some complement this training with a course in the philosophy of natural science. Philosophy and science are different subject areas, so philosophers tend to see science from a different perspective than scientists do. You could say that they are more interested in the nature of knowledge than in knowledge of nature. Both perspectives are important but it can sometimes be difficult for science students to merge them in a constructive way. This chapter, along with other sections of this book, is an attempt to bridge the gap between some basic ideas in the philosophy of science and everyday scientific praxis.

Since philosophers and scientists approach science differently, I find it necessary to discuss the methods of science from different standpoints. To avoid confusion, ...

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