What is science? There is no short answer. It is not, as some, even some scientists, claim just this:
(1) Look at the world and find some question to ask.
(2) Form a testable, falsifiable hypothesis that can be experimentally formulated and you can control most of the variables.
(3) Run the experiment.
(4) Accept or Reject the hypothesis.
(5) Publish the result.
This is called the hypo-deductive method (HDM). You betcha, it can be a part of science, but is certainly not sufficient or necessary to science. It is many a creationist’s idea of science though. It lets them, they imagine, to claim that evolution is not a science. If it can’t be done in a test-tube sort of experiment it ain’t science. They need to say that because science as brought about some truly awesome advances. So if they can say that evolution is not a science then they can place it in the same camp as, say UFOology. Conversely, if they can smuggle ‘Intelligent Design’ (ID) into the science camp they get to claim its legitimacy. (And it is fun to watch the very same groups trying to delist evolution as a science and A-list ID. It’s like watching the proverbial monkeys trying to get their fist out of the jar while holding onto the nut.)
The claim that HDM is science is sort of like saying running a bow across a violin is an orchestral work. It may play a part, and it even may play an important part for some pieces, but it takes more (or less) than running a bow across a violin to make such a work of symphonic magic.
But what is science? It turns out not to be an easy question. Why for example do we call Astronomy a science but not Astrology? What marks the boundary between a science and a non-science? This is called the ‘demarcation problem,’ coined by an influential philosopher of science named Karl Popper. There are genuinely some boundary issues here. Why is ‘Intelligent Design out’ and ‘looking for a God-module in the brain’ in?
Let’s see if we can begin to form a better understanding of what science is. We will make a start by looking at sort of an anthropology of scientists and explore what scientists do. This will form a beginning salvo in exploring the question. Then we will see if we can glean any principles that will give us a stab at the demarcation problems. By the end of this you should have a feel for why we can dismiss ID. We should also have a feel for why a strict materialism should be embraced in science, even by scientists who believe in God (and there are many)?