Science

Science: the age of reason

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Latin| scientia > ‘knowledge’ | “studying the structure of the world through observation and experiment.”


Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.

In terms of etymology, the word science is now a noun (n.). In English, by the mid 14th century, it meant, “what is known, knowledge (of something) acquired by study; information;” also “assurance of knowledge, certitude, certainty.” This came from Old French where science meant, “knowledge, learning, application; corpus of human knowledge” (12c.) which in turn came from Latin scientia “knowledge, a knowing; expertness,” from sciens (genitive scientis) “intelligent, skilled,” present participle of scire, “to know,” probably originally “to separate one thing from another, to distinguish,” related to scindere “to cut, divide.” This goes back to the Greek skhizein, “to split, rend, cleave.”

From late 14c. as “collective human knowledge” (especially that gained by systematic observation, experiment, and reasoning). Modern (restricted) sense of “body of regular or methodical observations or propositions concerning a particular subject or speculation” is attested from 1725; in 17c.-18c. this concept commonly was called philosophy. Sense of “non-arts studies” is attested from 1670s.

In science you must not talk before you know. In art you must not talk before you do. In literature you must not talk before you think. [John Ruskin, “The Eagle’s Nest,” 1872]

The distinction is commonly understood as between theoretical truth (Greek epistemē) and methods for effecting practical results (tekhnē), but science sometimes is used for practical applications and art for applications of skill.



BBC Radio 4: SCIENCE ARCHIVE (audio)


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