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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
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. In a conceived unity of the empirical sciences, a view usually traced to positivism, and especially advanced by the logical positivists, all scientific theories share a knowledge basis in experience. If probing nature at its most fundamental entities while modeling relations among them as unvarying regularities—universal laws—fundamental physics would be the foundation of all empirical sciences and thereby be the fundamental science. All other empirical sciences, then, investigate special domains whose entities and laws emerge solely from the idealized fundamental physics.
Via the unity of science, the special sciences concern entities manifesting at higher levels of humankind's experience of nature, whereby all such scientific theories would network and together collapse into fundamental physics—at least into an idealized, complete, and empirically accurate fundamental physics—altogether one unified, scientific view of nature. Boundary conditions specify which conditions yield the phenomena of interest in a particular science's domain. Bridge laws translate terms in one science to terms in a differing science. Empirically networked, then, all scientific theories' laws would, through further use of bridge laws and boundary conditions, reduce theoretically—though seldom in practice—to the entities and laws of fundamental physics.
Whereas fundamental physics has sought laws of universal regularity, special sciences normally include ceteris paribus laws, predictively accurate to high probability in "normal conditions" or with "all else equal", but having exceptions. Not ceteris paribus, chemistry's laws seem exceptionless in their domain, and developed without the severe metaphysical and epistemological challenges encountered by physics concerning the natures of substance, space, and time, or encountered by biological sciences concerning the natures of life and mind. Yet chemistry was presumably reduced to fundamental physics—to quantum mechanics and then quantum electrodynamics—and so chemistry is special science. Bridging physical sciences to biological sciences via biochemistry and influencing sciences generally, chemistry has been viewed as the central science.
Versus applied science
Basic science develops and establishes information to understand nature or at least predict phenomena, whereas applied science uses portions of basic science to develop interventions via technology or technique to alter events or outcomes. 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.
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.
Common, populist errors mistake medicine, technology, and their uses for science. They can be grouped: STM (science, technology & medicine); STS (science, technology & society). Yet, though interrelated and influencing each other, they have divergent journals, aims, cultures, methods, principles, standards, and knowledge. 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.
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