What Is Scientific Knowledge?
The purpose of science is to create scientific knowledge. Scientific knowledge refers to a generalized body of laws and theories to explain a phenomenon or behaviour of interest that are acquired using the scientific method. Laws are observed patterns of phenomena or behaviours, while theories are systematic explanations of the underlying phenomenon or behaviour. For instance, in physics, the Newtonian Laws of Motion describe what happens when an object is in a state of rest or motion (Newton’s First Law), what force is needed to move a stationary object or stop a moving object (Newton’s Second Law), and what happens when two objects collide (Newton’s Third Law). Collectively, the three laws constitute the basis of classical mechanics – a theory of moving objects. Likewise, the theory of optics explains the properties of light and how it behaves in different media, electromagnetic theory explains the properties of electricity and how to generate it, quantum mechanics explains the properties of subatomic particles, and thermodynamics explains the properties of energy and mechanical work. An introductory college level text book in physics will likely contain separate chapters devoted to each of these theories. Similar theories are also available in social sciences. For instance, cognitive dissonance theory in psychology explains how people react when their observations of an event is different from what they expected of that event, general deterrence theory explains why some people engage in improper or criminal behaviours, such as illegally download music or commit software piracy, and the theory of planned behaviour explains how people make conscious reasoned choices in their everyday lives.
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