Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Science and Scientific Thinking in Human History

-- Nasir Khan

“Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.”

― Carl Sagan (1934 - 1996)

When did the 'science' start in human history? And when did the 'scientific thinking' start? These seemingly simple questions can only be answered by a historian of science who has acquaintance with historical data relating to the issues. In other words, to find an answer we need the expertise of specialists.

However, we should keep in mind that science is not any static body of knowledge but rather an active process through the ages. Man's use of his near environment and his attempts to understand the phenomenon around him goes back to the times when he started to use his hands and much later in the history of his social evolution he started to use stones and flint, for instance, to hunt and skin off the animals for food and clothing. That is the time when man started to affect his near environment intentionally that was primarily to meet his practical needs for his survival. These can be called man's first steps towards 'science' in a general sense.

But the question of scientific thinking has a dialectical relationship with man's relationship with nature as he started to form some ideas about how things work. These were his early steps towards understanding how things worked. That process has gone on in history for long.

What we associate with scientific thinking' in contrast to idealistic, speculative and mythical thing (eventually becoming religious thinking) belongs to the period after the Renaissance period. But to a historian of ideas and science any such periodization is only for our convenience, not for its historical accuracy.

No comments: