What is science?

We meet somewhere The Miserables this quote from Victor Hugo: She immediately knew all the science of the hat, the dress, the cape, the boot, the cuff, the right cloth, the right color, that science which makes the Parisian woman so charming, so profound, and so dangerous. It’s pretty and talks a lot about science, and even various sciences. But what is science? What are the sciences?

There is probably no precise definition of science, because science is not.

The sciences differ from each other by their objects, their means, their methodologies, their history, their status. However, it is assumed that they all respond to this characterization forged by the philosopher Charles Popper, which is certainly imperfect because it is self-referential, but which is very useful and very important to remember in these times: the sciences are the culmination of the collective organization of scientific controversies. These are not individual proclamations urbi et orbi, but proceed, he says, from “the friendly and hostile cooperation of the citizens of the community of knowledge”. To be able to say “scientific” in the end, a result must first pass through the caudine forks of the “peers”, which can give rise to discussions, even long Homeric disputes.

Of course, this does not protect against possible more or less persistent errors, because scientists never manage to emancipate themselves from the human condition to which, like everyone else, they belong: they are therefore capable of making mistakes, of not being objective, of be influenced. by multiple biases, cultural, philosophical, ideological or even frankly delusional. But it is thanks to this preliminary test, and not to a cure of personalized disinterest that scientists would have followed, that science can finally claim to have spoken, more or less clearly, of an end to reality. Thus, the objectivity of science does not come from the spontaneous objectivity of the scientists themselves: it is always the result of a slow and laborious collective objectification. (…)

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