The three undisputed branches of science, in their broadest definition, are physics, chemistry, and (molecular) biology. Physics investigates the fundamental properties of space, time, and matter; chemistry applies the laws of physics to the study of molecules; and molecular biology explores the (macro)molecules of life. 1
To answer the question raised in the title, I will concentrate only on these three branches. Any attachment of the word “science,” even if modified by adjectives like “soft,” to a nonscientific human activity will distort the true nature of science and allows crackpots and pseudoscientists like Deepak Chopra to take advantage of the distortion and beguile their audience into believing that the nonsense that is being delivered to them has a “scientific” basis.
In their historical development, one branch contributed to the advancement of others. Atomic theory started by chemists as a hypothetical tool for understanding chemical reactions. As evidence for a material existence of atoms accumulated, physicists concentrated on their structure and discovered quantum theory, which thoroughly explained hydrogen atom, and paved the way for a theoretical understanding of all atoms. Equipped with this indispensable tool, chemists, with the invention of ingenious theoretical approximation methods, coupled with equally ingenious observational techniques, explained the existing materials and predicted new products, which subsequently were manufactured en masse. Substances which could be produced only by living matter became the subject of chemical analysis, leading to organic chemistry, which in turn helped biologists to better understand life. Nowhere in the history of any of these sciences did a scientist, or a group of scientists proclaim the birth of “a new kind of science.”
- In naming only these three branches, I do not intend to diminish the importance of other sciences like astronomy, geology, paleontology, archeology, etc. The practitioners of these fields of science apply the tools and techniques of the three main branches in the most inventive inter-disciplinary way to unravel mysteries that are as important as the mystery of atoms, molecules, and life. ↩