Perhaps the most obvious characteristic of science today is its success. This is both practical and theoretical. Science has changed our lives considerably, both for better and for worse, since today much of our technology is the product of scientific knowledge. Its great prestige has always lain in the belief that science provides us with a uniquely secure form of knowledge, firmly founded in objective reality. People say: "Scientists have proved… " Unfortunately, things are not so simple.
Science is one of those terms, which we are sure all we understand and which raises no problems until we begin to look at the matter more closely. There is no precise, commonly accepted idea of what constitutes science: * There is no general agreement as to exactly which intellectual disciplines should count as science. * It is commonly held that what makes science distinctive has nothing directly to do with the subject matter, which is investigated, but that it is the method, which is used to acquire scientific knowledge, which gives to science its special authority.
But then, as we shall see, there is no commonly accepted account of the methods that scientists must follow in order to obtain results that are properly scientific. THE ORIGINS OF SCIENCE All ancient peoples had some knowledge of agricultural and building techniques, of healing herbs and poisons. Sometimes this was developed to a high level of sophistication. But such knowledge and skills did not constitute genuine science. Science, properly speaking, originated in ancient Greece. Thales of Miletus is the first person to ask the question "What principle binds together all these diverse apppearances around us?
" His answer was that ultimately was some form of water and it may be treated as a crude statement of what is today known as the principle of the conservation of matter. It was the question he asked which gave birth to science, as we know it today. Another Ionian Greek, Anaximenes of Miletus, asked such questions as: "What is matter? What laws govern the transformations which it undergoes? " In seeking answers to these questions, he made systematic observations and conducted experiments; and he draw inferences form his observations and experiments to general conclusions.
In time, however, math came to win such a prestige of among Greeks that they neglected to develop empirical science Towards the end of Middle Ages there was a return to interest in experimental methods of inquiry. The English philosopher, Francis Bacon (1561-1626), sought to apply the high standards of courtroom procedure to the study of nature. He insisted that we must make observations, form hypotheses, which link the results of our observations, and then test these by experiment.
As in courtroom, the burden of proof must always lie on the shoulders of investigator. Johanes Kepler's (1571-1630) employment of observation and math enabled him to supplant the Pythagorean theories of perfect heavenly spheres by showing how planets moved in ellipses. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was placed under house arrest for agreeing with Copernicus. So proceeded the process of investigation of the world, which has culminated in our discovery of the ultimate constituents of life and matter, and of the first moments of the existence of universe.