What should we call science?

The term for science – scientia (knowledge) is terrible. Science is not knowledge. It is simply not (just) a bunch of facts. The German term “Wissenschaft” is slightly better, as it implies a knowledge creation engine. Something that creates knowledge, emphasizing that this is a process (and the only valid one we have as far as I can tell) that generates knowledge. But that doesn’t quite capture it either. Science does not prove anything, nor create any knowledge per se. Science has been wrong many times, and will be wrong in the future. That’s the point. It is a process that detects – via falsification – when we were wrong. Which is extremely valuable. So a better term is in order. How about uncertainty reduction engine? But incertaemeíosikinitiras probably won’t catch on. 
How about incertiosikini? Probably won’t catch on either.

This entry was posted in Pet peeve, Science. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to What should we call science?

  1. Anonymous says:

    It is too late to change the term. It is too catchy and too entrenched. All we can do is modify our understanding of the term. And that is where the problem starts, because we all have different understandings of the term. We bring background assumptions to our understanding of the term.

    For better or worse, these are my assumptions:
    1) the world is orderly and predictable, despite the surface sheen of chaos.
    2) this order is calculable and observable.
    3) therefore the tools of calculation and observation gives us access to and understanding of the basic order of the universe.
    4) the striving to understand the basic order of the universe, using the tools of calculation and observation, is what we call science.
    5) but science is also a social phenomenon, chiefly characterised by
    – peer review
    – the use of falsification to test hypotheses
    – the competition for attribution and recognition.
    6) like all social phenomena, it is subject to abuse or misuse. In the case of science we call this abuse or misuse scientism.

    Can a single phrase do justice to all of these meanings? I doubt it. The best we can do is educate people so that these meanings are attached to the existing term – ‘science’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

1 + = ten