Why does confusion exist about the definition of a scientific theory? Essay

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Why does confusion exist about the definition of a scientific theory?

When we talk about science, many people hear the term “theory”. The definition of a scientific theory can become confusing since many people interpret the meaning differently. When a person uses the term “theory” in a sentence it is usually used in a non-scientific way. They assume that a theory is something assumed, but not proven. When the term “theory” is used in science, it means an explanation based on observation, experimentation, and reasoning. It has been tested and confirmed as a general principle to explain phenomena. A scientific theory must be based on careful examination of facts. “A theory is a hypothesis or set of hypotheses that has stood the test and (so far, at least) has not been contradicted by evidence” (Suplee 9). What significant contribution did Thales make to the development of science?

Thales of Miletus (c. 624 BC – c. 546 BC) was said to be the first known scientific thinker. Thales was both important and extremely influential. He wanted an explanation without turning to supernatural powers. Thales attempted to explain natural phenomena without reference to mythology. Other philosophers admired his way of thinking and followed him in attempting to explain substance change, and the existence of the world. Thales had two strong beliefs. They were that that “nature must be understood without the supernatural and that humans are capable of discovering nature’s truths through observation and reason” (Adler 33). He was credited to be the first to bring geometry and astronomy to Greece from Egypt. He was best known for his supposed prediction of a solar eclipse that marked the end of the war. “He was able to change the course of a river so an army could cross it” (Adler 31). He claimed that the earth was a flat disk and that an earthquake was caused by a wave in the water. He identified water as the basis of the universe. Thales set a trend for fundamental thinking about matter. Explain the significance of Al-Khwarizmi’s research?

Al-Khwarizmi (c. 790 AD- c.850 AD) was a Muslim mathematician and astronomer. Al-Khwarizmi’s major works introduced Hindu-Arabic numerals and the concepts of Algebra into European mathematics. His work on elementary
algebra was translated into Latin in the twelfth century. This is where the term “Algebra” is derived from. He introduced the zero in mathematics. Al-Khwarizmi introduced a second work to the west. This was an introduction of Hindu-Arabic numerals. His third book contained coordinates of localities in the known world based on the geography of Ptolemy but with improved values of the Mediterranean Sea and the location of cities in Asia and Africa. He assisted in the construction of a world map. He also complied a set of astronomical tables based on both Hindu and Greek sources.

Works Cited
Dorocicz, Irene. “The History of Science”. Faculty of Arts Readings. Kamloops:
Thompson Rivers University, 2005.
The Mactutor History of Mathematics. Biography of Abu ja’far Muhammad Ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi.
06 May 2012 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/3177/al-Khwarizmi … > Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 07 March 2012 http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/Mathematicians/Al-Khwarizmi.html >

Part 2
Describe a prehistoric scientific innovation, and explain whether it is an example of applied science or pure science. Is there evidence that one type of science was more common in the prehistoric era?

The term science does not only refer to a new modern era of amazing new discoveries. The term science in its original sense means knowledge; Knowledge which was shared and communicated with others. Pure science is concerned with the development of theories. On the other hand, applied science tries to solve a specific problem or create a product on the basis of the pure science. One very important prehistoric scientific innovation was the creation of the hand axe. This applied science is the longest used tool in human history.

A hand axe is a stone tool having two different surfaces. A hand axe is hand held and contains a sharp edge. The hand axe was primarily used by prehistoric man during the Stone Age. Hand axes are found in Africa, Western
Europe, Northern Asia and the Indian Peninsula. The use of these tools is estimated to date back to the lower Paleolithic and also the middle Paleolithic era. The hand axes ranged in sizes starting from a few inches long up to and over a foot long. The different types of sturdy stones recognized in these hand tools include quartz, flint, and coarse rocks.

The most popular shapes of the hand axes were triangle, round, and also oval with a sharp boarder all around. Most were shaped to have an off center of gravity. The hand axes were produced by direct percussion with a stone hammer. Chipping bits off of the stone was necessary to form the desired shape and length. The older hand axes were distinguished by their thickness and a curved border. “An experienced flintknapper needs less than fifteen minutes to produce a good quality hand axe. A simple hand axe can be made from a beach pebble in less than three minutes” (Britannica). It is likely that the hand axe tool was used for chopping wood, butchering meat, skinning animal hide, cracking open nuts, chopping down tough root vegetables, and as defense mechanisms.

“Even in the Stone Age he was a mechanic of marvellous skill, as any one of today may satisfy himself by attempting to duplicate such an implement as an arrow-head. And a barbarian who could fashion an axe…. Yet in spite of himself he knew certain rudimentary principles of science, even though he did not formulate them” (Prehistoric Science). The prehistoric hand axe is an example of an applied science. The prehistoric generation had made a discovery of the microcrystalline rock noting its pure texture and form. They turned this pure basic science discovery into the application of tool making.

There is evidence that applied science was more common than pure science in the prehistoric era. Science began in the prehistoric era. Science began in the prehistoric era with the conversion of natural resources into simple tools. Pure science is only justifiable if it is new knowledge and can only be obtained through basic scientific research. Tools were one of the only major discoveries in the prehistoric era. There is evidence however, that several applications were made regarding the advancement of tools. Technique
in tool making was passed down through generation, and apparently through trial and error. “Hand axes at least can be arranged in typological series- that is a logical progression in which each stage is distinguished by ever more finely and accurately trimmed specimens…” (Childe 16) Over time, the hand axes appeared to be sharper, more precise, and neater in appearance.

Works Cited

Acheulean Industry. 13 March 2007. < http://www.britannica.com > Hand Axe. 05 May 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/254085/hand-ax > Technology. 16 February 2007. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology. > Wise Geek, What Is a Hand Axe? 02 March 2012. < http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-hand-axe.htm .> Prehistoric Science. 13 February 2006. < http://www.cosmovisions.com/Williams0101.htm > Dorocicz, Irene. “The History of Science”. Faculty of Arts Readings. Kamloops:

Thompson Rivers University, 2005.

Part 3
What is the influence of medieval science on the scientific revolution?
The medieval era took place between the fifth and fifteenth centuries while the scientific revolution took place in the sixteen and seventeenth centuries. Medieval science was based on the study of nature and was depicted by tradition. When the scientific revolution came to be, people’s views of all existence became extraordinarily different. Although medieval scientific philosophy was abandoned for new thoughts and ideas, it was still the early thinkers that helped “lay the foundation for the Scientific Revolution” (Early Scientific Revolution).

The Scientific Revolution slowly evolved away from the beliefs of medieval science. Most scientific thought concerning the universe was based on a Greek Philosopher of the fourth century BC named Aristotle. Aristotle believed that the earth was located at the centre of the universe. He
believed that there were ten separate crystal spheres around the earth. He claimed the first eight spheres were the moon, the sun, the five known planets, and the fixed stars. He claimed that the moon, the sun, and the planets moved in perfect circular paths around the earth. Ptolemy, Aristotle’s follower, also believed that earth was the centre of the universe. Ptolemy described the universe as “a system of epicycles” (McKay).

After the fall of the Roman Empire in 500 AD, advancement in learning had fallen and became lost to the Europeans. “Europe was suffering in terms of growing and developing.” (Early Science Revolution) Most knowledge was centered on teachings of the Christian Church during the Middle Ages. Aristotle’s views were highly accepted and never questioned. His views “made sense with the Christian doctrine, allowed a place for heaven and God, and put the earth at the centre of the universe” (The Early Scientific Revolution). During the late Middle Ages, scientists had realized that the stars were not in a fixed position. They moved. Still using Aristotle’s beliefs, their answer to this phenomenon was that two more spheres were added which included “Heaven” and the “Throne of God”. The angels supposedly kept all of the spheres moving.

Ancient Greek teachings were finally rediscovered during the Humanistic Movement. Close to the end of the Middle Ages, science again became a popular field of study but philosophy and theology was still the focus. Gradually, medieval philosophers began to develop new ideas that were not directly related to religion. In the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, universities in Italy hired math, physics, and astronomy professors. Many people became interested in scientific thinking. These people ranged from aristocracy, painters, to wealthy Renaissance families. “The recovery of Greek mathematics hugely improved European science and math” (McKay).

Traditional medieval beliefs came to an end during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Aristotle’s and Ptolemy’s ideas were “shattered” (McKay). New theories about the universe and science had surfaced. Copernicus, Brahe, and Galileo were the first famous thinkers who would
change the world forever. These men were striving towards science as opposed to philosophy. Their new methods of experimentation proved that the use of God was not a significant part of science.

Nicolas Copernicus claimed that the sun was an immovable object and that the earth and the stars, and other planets revolved around the sun. Traditional astronomical ideas began to be doubted, leading to more scientific experiments and developments. Tycho Brahe recorded the movements of the planets along with accurate data. His assistant, Johannes Kepler, used a mathematical law to explain planetary motion. He claimed the planets revolve around the sun in elliptical orbits instead of circles. Galileo Galilei created the scientific method. He built his own telescope in 1609 to study the atmosphere. He created controlled experiments that showed results rather than speculation. Galilei discovered that Jupiter had four moons, that the sun had dark spots and that the moon had a rough uneven surface. All of these dramatic changes in world views are what led to the scientific revolution of the eighteenth century.

The influence of medieval science on the scientific revolution was extraordinary. Even though thoughts and ideas of medieval thinkers as opposed to revolutionary thinkers completely contradicted each other, the medieval era set the stage for the scientific revolution. If it were not for philosophers like Aristotle and Ptolemy, other great thinkers would not have been influenced to search for more answers or better explanations. We have to remember what resources earlier thinkers had to work with and rely on. Theology was such a strong influence during the medieval era and virtually impossible to break away from. Finally during the seventeenth century, scientists and philosophers were able to work together to form better experimental methods and advance in their fields. Knowledge became based on experimental observations and advanced mathematics. Science was the most important branch of knowledge by the eighteenth century. Works Cited

Mckay, Hill,Buckler. A History of World Societies. Volume 2.Boston:
Houghton Miffline Company, 1992.
Dorocicz, Irene. “The History of Science”. Faculty of Arts Readings. Kamloops:
Thompson Rivers University, 2005.
Impact of Scientific Revolution. 10 January 2006. < http://cnx.org/content/m13245/latest/ > Early Scientific Revolution. 15 December 2007<
scientific- revolution-a38115 >

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