4. Historical Continuity
Science evolves. Each generation of scientists creates milestones upon which the next generation erects new milestones. That is how the edifice of science is fashioned. This historical continuity is the fourth characteristic of science. The accumulated knowledge of the present era becomes the raw material of the next era from which new knowledge emerges and to which this new knowledge is added. Therefore, science is as old as the humans themselves. There is a continuous line that connects the knowledge contained in Einstein’s general theory of relativity to the knowledge that harnessed fire more than half a million years ago.
A discipline whose present generation of experts tramples the knowledge of the previous generation and creates new knowledge only to be trampled by the next generation of experts, is not science, irrespective of the -ics or -ology or any other such suffix attached to its name.
The fifth characteristic of science is that, at its most fundamental level, i.e., at the level of theoretical physics, and to some extent theoretical chemistry – if there is a way of distinguishing the two! – it speaks in the language of mathematics. In the same way that language – abstract, symbolic language – is the means by which we communicate with other members of our species, mathematics – abstract, symbolic mathematics – is the means by which our species communicates with nature. This has been demanded by nature itself. In fact, this demand has been so strong that nature has set aside a part of our brain specifically for math, just as it has set aside an area for language. If nature has changed the anatomy of our brain to accommodate mathematics so that we can communicate with it, then we should expect more and more usage of (more and more sophisticated) mathematics as we discover deeper and deeper secrets of the universe. And this expectation has been borne out over and over again as physics has progressed from the fall of an apple to the creation of new particles and antiparticles in mammoth accelerators around the globe.
6. Communication in Science
Every human being has an instinctive fascination with the mysteries of the universe, and a sublime desire to untangle them. The joy that comes with the discovery of the solution to a puzzle of nature is second to no other joy. Combine this with the fame associated with that discovery, and you get a swarm of crackpots who think that they have discovered the ultimate secret of the universe, and want to tell the world of their discoveries. That is where the sixth characteristic of science comes in. To separate sense from nonsense and true science from crackpot science, peer-reviewed journals have been created. The team of editors, associate editors, assistant editors, and an army of reviewers – all belonging to the scientific mainstream – go through thousands of articles they receive daily to ensure their validity and accuracy. The prestige of a scientific journal is in direct proportion to the rigor with which the submitted articles are reviewed. This process of publishing scientific articles has worked for centuries now, and is the only way that discoveries are reported. To the crackpot, however, the process is elitism, and the mainstream scientific community is a bunch of personal enemies conspiring to stop his/her ideas from reaching humanity.