Thursday, November 13, 2008

What is Science?

Wikipedia says, “Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge" or "knowing") is the effort to discover, and increase human understanding of how the physical world works. Through controlled methods, scientists use observable physical evidence of natural phenomena to collect data, and analyze this information to explain what and how things work. Such methods include experimentation that tries to simulate natural phenomena under controlled conditions and thought experiments. Knowledge in science is gained through research.”

I find this definition problematic. If the word ‘science’ is derived from the Latin word for ‘knowledge’, then we cannot restrict science to mean knowledge of the physical world. While this has come to be the most accepted meaning of science, I think it involves acquisition of knowledge in the physical, mental and spiritual realms. Scientists engage, in most cases, in pulling down the mental and spiritual states of a human being to the physical state. The physical domain is characterized by quantity. The mental and spiritual domains are characterized by quality. The physical manifestation of happiness might correspond to the release of endorphins by the brain and vice-versa. But to equate happiness to endorphin-surge is preposterous. Happiness is a quality of life. Endorphins are chemical molecules whose concentration can be measured. I cannot measure the concentration of happiness. It would be churlish, then, to say that happiness is an imaginary construct of mind because it cannot be measured. Similarly, the brain produces what are known as the alpha-waves when in a state of relaxation or meditation. When I measure the alpha-waves, I measure the physical manifestation of meditation and not the actual experience of being in a meditative state.

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