You are here


""The investigation of natural phenomena through observation, theoretical explanation, and experimentation, or the knowledge produced by such investigation. Science makes use of the scientific method, which includes the careful observation of natural phenomena, the formulation of a hypothesis, the conducting of one or more experiments to test the hypothesis, and the drawing of a conclusion that confirms or modifies the hypothesis."" -- science. The American HeritageĀ® Science Dictionary. Houghton Mifflin Company. (accessed: January 30, 2007).

Science started as a branch of philosophy. See natural philosophy.

Metaphysics, natural philosophy, and science --
Before the development of modern science, scientific questions were addressed in metaphysics under the natural philosophy branch. This practice continued until up to the time of Isaac Newton (who was a natural philosopher himself) straight through the 18th century (the term ""science"" simply meant knowledge prior to the 19th century). However from the 19th century onwards natural philosophy became science, thus changing the definition of metaphysics to mainly include subjects beyond the physical world.

Wikipedia contributors, ""Metaphysics,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 31, 2007).

It is interesting to note that the term 'science', meaning knowledge, appears, in essence, to have been hijacked by the empiricist natural philosophers who claimed the term as their own, thus depriving all the other branches of philosophy of that term. This sent the message, if you want to produce 'knowledge', you must use our empirical methods, more specifically, the scientific method. The scientific method applies to natural phenomena, 'objects,' things that can be studied from the third-person perspective. That seems to have put the rest of philosophy, with the development of knowledge by any other means, in the category of 'not knowledge,' thus not legitimate. (Korn's observations).

Pure natural science --
Those who view science as totally objective, view facts only as scientific data if these facts are 'garnered from the outside.' If something cannot be verified by a third person observer it does not belong among scientific data. Since the subjective aspects of mental states are, by definition, known only to the person experiencing them, these cannot be scientific facts. (Malik, 2000, pp 337).

Scientific to a fault --
The logic of an unrestrained mechanistic approach inevitably takes one into very strange waters. Once you stop viewing human beings as special and distinct, and start viewing them as just animals and machines - as Beasts and Zombies - then the bizarre can seem rational. In the past a mechanistic view of Man has been restrained by a humanist vision. Today, these restraints are much weaker. Hence the balance between a naturalist (naturalism) and humanist (humanism) idea of human nature - between human beings as subjects and as objects - has been lost. (Malik, 2000, pp 337).

Purpose and limits of natural science --
Natural science has been developed for the understanding of inert objects (animals included), objects which only exist as objects. Its tools are inadequate for the full understanding of human beings, who are not simply objects, but subjects too. Understanding such beings requires not just the tools of natural science but also those of other disciplines: the social sciences, history, philosophy. None of these is less valuable or less rational than physics, biology, or chemistry. They are simply more, or less, useful in different circumstances. (Malik, 2000, pp 339).

Reductionism and science --
Natural science is rightly reductionist (see reductionism): that is how it has made such tremendous advances over the past half millennium. But natural science cannot answer all questions because there are aspects of the world that cannot be reduced to the physical world. Human subjectivity is one of them (see subjective). (Malik, 2000, pp 340).

Management implications --
When it comes to understanding humans and human organization, science, in the form of science for the past 200 years, does not have the answers. Humans have a dual nature - being both inside of and outside of nature. Some aspects of humans and organizations, the objective aspects, are amenable to traditional scientific research, while the subjective aspects are not. Not everything done to develop effective organizations will be based on traditional scientific methods. See subjectivity.