Is computer science a science?

Torin

Well-known member
Experts debate the question:


Pretty interesting!
 

Ontos

Active member
But not so fast. To qualify as a subject of science, a domain of inquiry needs two qualities: regularity and physicality. Reproducible experiments are at the heart of the scientific method. Without regularity they are impossible; without physicality they are meaningless

Could not read beyond this - his physicalism is not scientific...

Anyways, computer science is a science - that is, the science of artificial calculation.
 

Algernon

Active member
The crux of the matter is how to define "science".

Definition per the Science Council:
Science is the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence.
Scientific methodology includes the following:
• Objective observation: Measurement and data (possibly although not necessarily using mathematics as a tool)
• Evidence
• Experiment and/or observation as benchmarks for testing hypotheses
• Induction: reasoning to establish general rules or conclusions drawn from facts or examples
• Repetition
• Critical analysis
• Verification and testing: critical exposure to scrutiny, peer review and assessment
From <https://sciencecouncil.org/about-science/our-definition-of-science/>

Seems like limiting the definition by the verbiage in red is arbitrary. For example, seems likely that at one time it was limited to the "natural world" with "social world" being added later. Ultimately the defining characteristic is "following a systematic methodology based on evidence" - specifically the "scientific methodology". Strike the verbiage in red and "computer science" fits reasonably well. Of course, this should not be confused with "computer engineering" : )
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
... Ultimately the defining characteristic is "following a systematic methodology based on evidence" - specifically the "scientific methodology". Strike the verbiage in red and "computer science" fits reasonably well. Of course, this should not be confused with "computer engineering" : )
I would agree. But how much computer science is then science? I think very little - though I will accept some is.
 

Algernon

Active member
I would agree. But how much computer science is then science? I think very little - though I will accept some is.
Why very little?

Perhaps I need to add that another key characteristic is " the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding". Wouldn't that include pretty much all academia which is where the term is largely used? As opposed to "computer engineering" which is largely where the knowledge and understanding is applied.

Engineering is the application of knowledge in order to design, build and maintain a product or a process that solves a problem and fulfills a need
From <https://blog.eie.org/4-simple-ways-to-explain-the-difference-between-science-and-engineering>
 
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The Pixie

Well-known member
Why very little?
Here is a university computer science syllabus.

Most of that is not science. Things like "Fundamentals of Finance" and "Chinese Business". Other bits could be, but we can look deeper. The "Data science" module says this:

This course unit provides a first approach to answering the following questions. What methods are there that can help understanding complicated systems or programs? How can we make sure that a program does what we intend it to do? How do computers go about recognizing pieces of text? If there are two ways of solving the same problem, how can we compare them? How do we measure that one of them gives the solution faster? How can we understand what computers can do in principle, and are there problems that are not solvable by a computer?

Of that, only the last sentence is what I would consider to be science.

Perhaps I need to add that another key characteristic is " the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding". Wouldn't that include pretty much all academia which is where the term is largely used? As opposed to "computer engineering" which is largely where the knowledge and understanding is applied.
I would agree that science is the pursuit of knowledge, but there is more to it than that. If I look up something on Google I am pursuing knowledge, but it is not science.

I would suggest that (a) it is the pursuit of knowledge formerly unknown to mankind and (b) it is general knowledge about the world .

With regards to (b), inventing a new computer language is not science, even though it was formerly unknown any more than writing a novel is (on one level the novel is made up, but we can still study it as a work of literature - even studied as a work of literature it is still not science). A philosophical treatise about an imagined world or a mathematical model of a theoretical system are likewise not science.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
If we strike the verbiage about the natural and social world, what would distinguish science from, say, history?
I would say science is about generalities (what determines the orbit of a planet, what is light) while history is about specifics. (what happened at he Battle of the Somme, when did Henry II die).
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
"Computer Science" is a term invented by educators, not people actively working in the field. It's more than a little obvious that nearly all aspects of what the average "computer oriented person" deals with is engineering, not science. Some philosophy too, and definitely applied science when it comes to pushing the limits of hardware capacity.

Still, when computers / computing first appeared, the disciplines were alien-looking to most people, such that calling the broad discipline "science" made some sense. These days, though, there's little-to-no experimentation going on. There's only calculation, philosophy and engineering.

Incidentally, the advent of computing is credited with the emergence of symbolic intelligence - the creation and manipulation of symbols to produce novel things. The topic is debatable, but it's also pretty interesting.
 

Torin

Well-known member
"Computer Science" is a term invented by educators, not people actively working in the field. It's more than a little obvious that nearly all aspects of what the average "computer oriented person" deals with is engineering, not science. Some philosophy too, and definitely applied science when it comes to pushing the limits of hardware capacity.

Still, when computers / computing first appeared, the disciplines were alien-looking to most people, such that calling the broad discipline "science" made some sense. These days, though, there's little-to-no experimentation going on. There's only calculation, philosophy and engineering.

Incidentally, the advent of computing is credited with the emergence of symbolic intelligence - the creation and manipulation of symbols to produce novel things. The topic is debatable, but it's also pretty interesting.
Great post, thanks. :)
 
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