Fundamental science

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Fundamental science is either fundamental physics or basic science. The term fundamental science attributes to a scientific specialty a causal or conceptual priority by either of two, differing distinctions. Within philosophy of science, the many empirical sciences are often posed such that fundamental physics is the foundation underlying all others, which thereby are the special sciences that rest upon and in principle are derivable from, or conversely are reducible to, the objects and laws of the fundamental science.

In science's planning and practice, fundamental science is an infrequent synonym of basic science, also termed pure science, which yields theories and predictions—principally in natural sciences such as physics, chemistry, and biology, yet even in other empirical sciences, too, such as cognitive sciences and behavioral sciences—not the technology and techniques developed in applied science. Using some theories and predictions from basic sciences—a scientific foundation—applied sciences, such as engineering and biomedicine, yield products and services.

Versus special science[edit]

Modeling fundamental interactions, fundamental physics is presumed to underlie all other sciences—such as astrophysics, chemistry, biology, geology, psychology, and economics—categorized as special sciences.[1][2][3] In a conceived unity of the empirical sciences, the special sciences investigate domains whose entities and laws emerge from the domain of the idealized fundamental physics.[4]

Whereas fundamental physics seeks laws of universal regularity, special sciences usually include ceteris paribus laws, predictively accurate to high probability in "normal conditions" or with "all else equal", but having exceptions.[2] Although exceptionless, chemistry's laws were presumably reduced to fundamental physics—to quantum mechanics and then quantum electrodynamics[5][6]—and so chemistry, presumed to emerge, is a special science.[4] Bridging physical sciences to biological sciences via biochemistry, and influencing sciences generally, chemistry has been viewed as the central science.[7][8]

Versus applied science[edit]

Basic science develops and establishes information to predict phenomena and perhaps to understand nature, whereas applied science uses portions of basic science to develop interventions via technology or technique to alter events or outcomes.[9][10] Although applied and basic sciences can interface closely in research and development, applied science is commonly termed engineering, whereas basic science is also termed pure science or sometimes fundamental science.[11][12]

Basic science includes fundamental physics and many special sciences—natural sciences like astrophysics, biology, chemistry, geology, and perhaps cognitive sciences, too, but generally excluding behavioral sciences like psychology and social sciences like economics—and excludes engineering, medical sciences, and epidemiology, for instance, which are applied sciences, set apart from the basic/pure/fundamental science.[10][11][13][14][15][16]

Common, populist errors mistake medicine, technology, and their uses for science.[9][10][16][17][18] They can be grouped: STM (science, technology & medicine); STS (science, technology & society). Yet, though interrelated and influencing each other,[13][14][15][19][20] they have divergent journals, aims, cultures, methods, principles, standards, and knowledge.[10][16][20][21] Although the Nobel Prize committee, since 1901, mixes basic with applied sciences for its annual award in Physiology or Medicine, the globe's longest continuing scientific society, the Royal Society of London, awards while holding natural science—that is, physical sciences and biological sciences—apart from applied science, including medical sciences.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wolfgang Spohn, The Laws of Belief: Ranking Theory and Its Philosophical Applications (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), p 305.
  2. ^ a b Alexander Reutlinger, Gerhard Schurz & Andreas Hüttemann, "Ceteris paribus laws", sec 1.1 "Systematic introduction", in Edward N Zalta, ed, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Spring 2011 edn.
  3. ^ Vítor Neves, ch 12 "Sciences as open systems—the case of economics", in Olga Pombo, Juan M Torres, John Symons & Shahid Rahman, eds, Special Sciences and the Unity of Science (Dordrecht, Heidelberg, London, New York: Springer, 2012).
  4. ^ a b Anita Traninger, "Emergence as a model for the study of culture", pp 67–82, in Birgit Neumann & Ansgar Nünning, eds, Travelling Concepts for the Study of Culture (Berlin & Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2012), pp 70–71.
  5. ^ Richard P Feynman, QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, exp edn w/ new intro by A Zee (Princeton & London: Princeton University Press, 2006), p 5.
  6. ^ "Figure 1: Contradictions lead to better theories".  in Schwarz, John H (1998). "Recent developments in superstring theory". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 95 (6): 2750–7. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.6.2750. PMC 19640. PMID 9501161. 
  7. ^ Theodore E Brown, H Eugene LeMay et al, Chemistry: The Central Science, 12th edn (Upper Saddle River NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2012).
  8. ^ Maria Burguete, ch 7 "History and philosophy of science: Towards a new epistemology", 7.3 "History of contemporary chemistry", in Maria Burguete & Liu Lam, eds, Science Matters: Humanities As Complex Systems (Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, 2008), p 139: "Considering the extent that chemical methodology has contributed to other disciplines, it is tempting to take the charge that chemistry is in danger of losing its identity, or, to turn it around and proclaim instead that chemistry—today more than ever before—is the 'central science' ".
  9. ^ a b "Limited scope of science".  & "Technology" in Bernard Davis (Mar 2000). "The scientist's world". Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews 64 (1): 1–12. doi:10.1128/MMBR.64.1.1-12.2000. PMC 98983. PMID 10704471. 
  10. ^ a b c d James McCormick (2001). "Scientific medicine—fact of fiction? The contribution of science to medicine". Occasional Paper (Royal College of General Practitioners) (80): 3–6. PMC 2560978. PMID 19790950. 
  11. ^ a b Gerard Piel, "Science and the next fifty years", § "Applied vs basic science", Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 1954 Jan;10(1):17–20, p 18.
  12. ^ Ruth-Marie E Fincher, Paul M Wallach & W Scott Richardson, "Basic science right, not basic science lite: Medical education at a crossroad", Journal of General Internal Medicine, Nov 2009;24(11):1255–58, abstract: "Thoughtful changes in education provide the opportunity to improve understanding of fundamental sciences, the process of scientific inquiry, and translation of that knowledge to clinical practice".
  13. ^ a b Eric Holtzman (1981). "Science, philosophy, and society: Some recent books". International Journal of Health Services 11 (1): 123–49. doi:10.2190/l5eu-e7pc-hxg6-euml. PMID 7016767. 
  14. ^ a b P M Strong PM & K McPherson (1982). "Natural science and medicine: Social science and medicine: Some methodological controversies". Social Science & Medicine 16 (6): 643–57. doi:10.1016/0277-9536(82)90454-3. PMID 7089600. 
  15. ^ a b Lucien R Karhausen (2000). "Causation: The elusive grail of epidemiology". Medicine, Health Care, and Philosophy 3 (1): 59–67. doi:10.1023/A:1009970730507. PMID 11080970. 
  16. ^ a b c Richard Smith (Mar 2006). "The trouble with medical journals". Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 99 (3): 115–9. doi:10.1258/jrsm.99.3.115. PMC 1383755. PMID 16508048. 
  17. ^ Leon Eisenberg (Mar 1988). "Science in medicine: Too much or too little and too limited in scope?". American Journal of Medicine 84 (3 Pt 1): 483–91. doi:10.1016/0002-9343(88)90270-7. PMID 3348249. 
  18. ^ J N Clarke, S Arnold, M Everest & K Whitfield (Jan 2007). "The paradoxical reliance on allopathic medicine and positivist science among skeptical audiences". Social Science & Medicine 64 (1): 164–73. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.08.038. PMID 17045377. 
  19. ^ K Bayertz & P Nevers (1998). "Biology as technology". Clio Medica 48: 108–32. PMID 9646019. 
  20. ^ a b John V Pickstone & Michael Worboys (Mar 2011). "Focus: Between and beyond 'histories of science' and 'histories of medicine'—introduction". Isis 102 (1): 97–101. doi:10.1086/658658. PMID 21667777. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Medals, Awards & Prize lectures", The Royal Society website, accessed 22 Sep 2013.