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There is a wrong notion of what science is. People focus on technology, inventions, computer, waves and some disciplines like Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics when they hear the word ‘science’. This is not totally true because science transcends scientific disciplines, discoveries and inventions. Science is derived from a Latin word ‘Scientia’ which means knowledge advancement. It is the system of acquiring and advancing knowledge which is attained through study or practice. Any intellectual activity carried out by humans in order to discover information about the natural world is science. Thus, any discipline that involves collection of facts and acquisition of knowledge is scientific. Many people need to be educated on what science is, what science is not and the extent to which we can regard a discipline as scientific.
There are two major classifications of science. They are the physical and social science. The physical science is also known as the natural science. This classification of science deals with natural, concrete and inanimate objects. Experiments are conducted by physical scientists with the relationship between cause and effect established. They are precise, concise and less dubious. No external factor or force can act on the objects of experiment except if introduced by the scientist. Physical scientists study the universe and the physical environment to establish universal laws such as the law of gravity, Archimedes principle and so on. Disciplines in the physical sciences include Astronomy, Geology, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics. On the other hand, social sciences study the social environment, man and his society. In contrary to the physical scientists, social scientists study the environment we live in, social interaction, human behaviour, and social circumstances that influence human act. Disciplines in social science include Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Geography, Demography, and Economics among others.
How do we know if a subject or discipline is scientific or not? Any discipline that deals with the acquisition of knowledge is scientific. Science is the passionate pursuit of knowledge. Secondly, if the methods, techniques and tools used by any disciplines are scientific, then the subject can be treated as a science. Scientific methods are not limited to experiment and the use of laboratory. There are various methods shared by both natural and social sciences. One of them is observation. The two categories of science make observations of the environment (physical and human). Physical scientists make observations in the physical laboratory while the whole world is being observed by the social scientists although not in a laboratory. Another point of consensus is the ability to observe things. Concentration on things that can be seen is made by a scientist.
Furthermore, a scientist seeks after the truth and facts. He never confines himself to a narrow scope or learning. There is curiosity to learn new things and uncompromising attitude so far the truth is concerned. They both carry out research. Research is a way of getting detailed study of problem in order to have vast understanding of that problem. Queries arise from the existing facts, questions are asked about the observation mode and data collected. All statements are put to test. New theories established stand the test of time which can be overthrown as new theories and facts emerge. Tentative statements not yet proven to be true are falsified. In physical and social sciences, existing statements, facts, ideas, theories are reviewed, replaced, modified and disposed off with the arrival of new facts.
Both the natural and social sciences are analytical in nature. Problems about the physical and social world are studied and solved. A scientist goes deep into the nature of problems to provide answers to questions like what, why, how?. For instance why is the world spherical and not flat (Geography), what is the nature of the society (Sociology), how are multiple births formed, (Biology), What is the structure of the brain (Anatomy), how do we manage stress (Psychology), how do we manage our scare resources (Economics)? Proper studies in order to have the basic knowledge on how to solve these problems are made.
Despite the similarities between the social and physical sciences, they are slightly different. Physical science is objective while social science is subjective. A physical scientist does not allow his preconceived knowledge, values, and beliefs to interfere in his studies. Objects of study or those under experiments are totally value-free and they retain their identities. They cannot be influenced by external values, results expected are constant and are as expected. On the other hand, a social scientist can influence his studies by his own values, beliefs and preconceived knowledge. Results gotten from research (experiment) are not always totally correct, concise and value-free but instead are value-laden although the interference of the observer’s value(s) on the studies are not deliberate. But unlike in physical science where the observer is objective, a social scientist gives room for subjectivity.
If we want to classify disciplines as scientific on the basis of how difficult or complex they are, we will be wrong to say that physical science is more difficult than social science. This is because the subject matter of study in physical sciences, the inanimate objects, are not complex. They do not have values, emotions, attitudes that varies or that can change with time, they are constant and their constitutions are not dynamic. The compositions of water will always be hydrogen and oxygen.
On the other hand, this is not so in social sciences. Here, the subject matter, human being, is complex. They cannot be studied under constant conditions and circumstances. They have different values, emotions and attitudes that vary. This dynamic nature of the subject matter is very difficult and complex to study. Human behaviours are influenced by various factors. For instance, the behaviour of a student in the classroom will be different from the one outside the classroom or when with friends. A child may be seen as quiet when he is sad or due to the presence of teachers or parents and the same child might be seen as playful or stubborn when he is happy or when these fearful personalities are absent.
It is not correct to say that there is no possibility of a social discipline to be scientific. Accurate scientific research could be carried out in both worlds (Physical and Social), accurate evidence could also be gathered on both animate and inanimate objects. As a result of this, equal attention and prestige should be given to all disciplines. Many parents want their children to be in ‘science class’ where disciplines like Biology, Physics and Chemistry are being taught. It is believed that students in such category are more brilliant, talented and smart than their other counterparts. Students in other category of study are labeled as being dull, lazy and inferior. There is a need to put a stop to this segregation. All disciplines have equal prospect as they are all scientific. They are all concerned with the advancement of knowledge. Physicists, Chemists, Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, Economist, Psychologists, Philosophers and others are all scientists.
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