Evolution Logo

close window  

Describing Science Processes

Science is a way of knowing the world. It looks at disparate facts and tries to make meaning.

Science looks for patterns and interrelationships, for cause and effect.

Science is a process of describing, interpreting, and predicting events in the natural world. Scientists use certain procedures: observing and collecting data, creating possible explanations or hypotheses that explain the phenomena observed, then testing the validity of their ideas, revising hypotheses and re-testing, and finally, presenting their hypotheses and evidence to their peers for review and feedback.

Hypotheses are explanations about why something happens, while predictions are educated guesses about what will happen in certain situations.

Scientific explanations must be logical, consistent with the available observable and experimental evidence.

Since not all phenomena are directly observable, science also relies on inference and interpretation. We use inference and interpretation to understand the nature of atoms, and the mechanism for evolution. We accept the theory of heliocentrism -- the planets revolve around the sun -- even though it is based on inference. As Eugenie Scott, Director of the National Center for Science Education, has said, "No one has sat out in space for a whole year and watched the Earth go around the sun. This is not an observation. It's an inference from a lot of measurements." Scientists also accept certain laws, like the law of gravity, but cannot explain exactly how they work. Still, most people who stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon will not attempt to defy gravity because they don't know how it works!

Science is cumulative and constantly changing. It is built, however, on the principle that the same natural laws we observe and measure, and use for current explanations, have been operating over space and time. Science builds on pre-existing knowledge, but continues to test the validity of that knowledge.