Principles of Science

Science is Different from Other Ways of Understanding the World

If someone asks you “what is science?” you might say that it’s a bunch of facts and explanations. But that’s only part of the story. Science is a knowledge base. But science is also a way of learning about the world.

Science is different from other types of information because scientists follow rigorous methods to learn about the world. A scientific idea must be testable and falsifiable. Ideas that are not supported by observations and data are revised or thrown out. The distinction between science and other ways of understanding the world is important because scientific information has been obtained with much more rigor than ideas that are the result of opinion, gut feelings, or faith. Scientists use the scientific method to answer questions about the natural world. The scientific method is not linear but takes on this basic structure: Ask a question, do background research, propose a hypothesis, test the hypothesis using data from observations and experiments, continue testing the hypothesis if it holds up or find a new hypothesis if it does not, eventually create a theory. A theory is an explanation of a complicated set of phenomena that fits virtually all of the available data. The theories of evolution, plate tectonics, and climate change are crucial to understanding earth science.