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Science is the formulation of natural explanations for observable phenomena in the universe. In science, an explanation is called a hypothesis. A hypothesis is scientific only if it enables making useful and testable predictions, it is falsifiable, and it can be altered in light of new data.
Scientific method is the process of scientific investigation. It involves observation, hypothesis, prediction, and experimentation. The results of experimentation allow for refinement of the hypothesis, which in turn allows for further predictions and experimentation. Scientific findings should be made available for peer review in order to verify accuracy.
For further information see Scientific method.
In science, a well-established body of facts and tested hypotheses is called a theory. The theory of evolution is an example of a scientifically valid theory. Its hypotheses enable predictions and are falsifiable. It has been refined for almost 150 years and is the best explanation for the diversity of species.
For further information see Scientific theory.
Creationism, however, does not meet the criteria for science. It does not offer predictions and is not falsifiable. As an explanation it is unalterable and only evidence that supports it is presented.
Creationists fail miserably on almost all counts (everything except making it public), so what they do is definitely not science. Systems of ideas masquerading as science are called pseudosciences.
For more information see Why is Creationism not a Scientific Theory?.
In order to make decisions in a technological society, citizens must be able to recognize a scientifically valid argument. A citizenry's facility with concepts of science is measured by that society's scientific literacy. Scientific literacy is maintained through proper science education.
The scientific consensus is the opinion of the experts in a field on a particular issue. In order to promote scientific literacy the scientific community will publish position statements clarifying their consensus on an issue. Examples of issues upon which the scientific community has published a consensus are the age of the earth and the level of support for the theory of evolution.
For further information see Scientific consensus.
Scientific research and experiments
Scientific investigation involves attempting to find things out while making as few mistakes as possible. This means that before you try to find something out, you have to find out how to avoid mistakes. This includes the following:
Study the special mistakes that can occur when you try to find out about a special topic and amass knowledge relevant to the topic. To do this, you normally study a science, such as biology. You can also find out things biological without studying biology first, but this is risky - you will make mistakes a biologist wouldn't make. Scan the literature to find out what other scientists did before you on the same topic.
When testing a hypothesis, make clear beforehand what exactly you want to test. Write down what you find out and make it public so lots of people can check if you got it right. Let knowledgeable scientists review what you wrote before you publish it.
When reading what other scientists wrote, check if they got it right and inform them if they didn't. When quoting what other scientists wrote, get it right give the exact source so your readers can check if you got it right. Note that quoting scientists should not be considered as a substitute for original research.
Some more special methods are:
- If you try to find an explanation for some phenomenon, remember that there is always more than one explanation.
- If you measure something, note how accurate the measurement is. If you do computations using the measurements, calculate how exact the results are, using the accuracy of the measurements.
- If you do a statistical experiment, have a control group and do it double-blind.
- If you work with chemicals, keep your tools clean.
- If you work with microorganisms, keep your tools sterile.
- If you dig up things, take note of where you found them.
"Science is what we have learned about how not to fool ourselves about the way the world is."--Richard Feynman
Many organizations exist for the purpose of promoting scientific literacy. Examples include the National Academy of Sciences, the National Center for Science Education, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
For further information see Organisations.