What is science? Most people will associate it with test tubes and experiments and miraculous inventions, but this only points to the unfortunate way we teach science. We neglect to learn the most valuable contribution of science which is the process of science. Ken Low from Action Studies defines science as disciplined knowledge creation. This systematic approach to understanding the world is an outgrowth of the explosion that was the industrial revolution.
What is even more interesting about science is that it is also a form of collective disciplined knowledge creation. New discoveries are shared in journals so that others can challenge it or build on it. Scientists and engineers can then find ways of applying this body of knowledge to new or old problems.
While admittedly human beings have always had a form of open collaborative in the marketplace or in philosophical and political debates, using empirical standards mixed with peer review in pursuit of a deeper understanding of the world is new.
This wasn’t always the case. In the Roman times, many engineers and inventors took their inventions with them to the grave. Without a trusted community of explorers, individuals could not easily learn from other people’s failures. Today, a biologist can spend his whole life discovering the function of a specific hormone which can then contribute to future discoveries.
This is not to say that scientists are altruistic knowledge seekers. There is prestige and fame that comes with being the first to publish in a journal. There is a kind of collaborative competition. This may seem paradoxical until one realizes that the latin root of competition means “to strive together”. Competition is a form of collaboration.
The processes behind science are tremendously powerful. Let’s put it to good use.