natural Science

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The term natural science summarizes sciences that work empirically and deal with the study of nature . Scientists observe , measure and analyze the conditions and behavior of nature using methods that are intended to ensure the reproducibility of their results with the aim of recognizing regularities. In addition to explaining natural phenomena, one of the most important tasks of natural science is to make nature usable. The natural sciences form z. B. Part of the theoretical foundations of such diverse disciplines as technology , psychology , medicine or environmental protection .

In the 17th century, the natural sciences made a decisive breakthrough in the intellectual classes of society. In connection with the Enlightenment, this triggered a scientific revolution, which in the 18th century led to the industrial age with many new discoveries and inventions and which greatly changed society, especially in the western world . To this day, it has been so strongly influenced by the general scientific activity that sociology speaks of a scientific and technical society.

Sub-areas of the natural sciences include astronomy , physics , chemistry , biology , as well as some environmental sciences such as geology , but also agricultural sciences . The technical usability of natural laws has always been treated in different engineering sciences .

Classification and demarcation

According to a classic view, the natural sciences can be classified alongside the humanities and social sciences . Due to the emergence of a variety of new branches of science in modern times, there is no consensus on a general classification of the individual sciences . The classification proves to be difficult, especially because of the many overlaps between different scientific fields. The natural sciences belong to the empirical sciences . Above all, they are characterized by the subject of their research, animate and inanimate matter. Some natural sciences are characterized by a mathematical approach to their research subject. These are called exact sciences . Mathematics is also an exact science, but with its study of abstract structures it encompasses areas of both the humanities and the natural sciences. For this reason it is often next to the computer science the structure Sciences assigned.

Scientific research is primarily concerned with questions that can be answered by examining regular relationships in nature. The focus is on the description of the process itself and not on finding a meaning. In simplified terms, it can be presented with the question of how instead of what for. The question why is there rain? does not find its explanation with So that plants can grow , but is answered objectively : Because water evaporates , rises, gathers in clouds and finally condenses , which leads to precipitation . In the first place, natural science does not answer any teleological (purpose or goal-oriented) questions, but traces the processes under investigation back to laws of nature or to known facts. Insofar as this succeeds, natural science is assigned not only a descriptive but also an explanatory character.

History of science

Natural philosophy of antiquity

Depiction of the Ptolemaic worldview by Andreas Cellarius (1660)

Scientific knowledge began on the one hand in manual and technical activity and on the other hand in the spiritual transmission of the learned tradition of man. Observations of nature in ancient cultures - especially in astronomy - often produced correct quantitative and qualitative statements, but were predominantly interpreted mythologically - as in astrology . The Greek natural philosophy brought decisive progress with the development of a methodology which was based on philosophy and mathematics. The perceptible world was thought of, as in the four-element theory, as a combination of the "elements" fire, air, water and earth and various transformation processes were described. The idea of ​​the smallest, indivisible particles ( atomism ), of which the whole world is composed, was also developed. Periodic movements of the celestial bodies known for a long time were interpreted geometrically and the idea of ​​a world system was developed in which the sun, the moon and the planets known at the time moved on circular orbits around the earth at rest in the center ( geocentric world view ). The spherical shape of the earth was assumed and conclusively justified by Aristotle at the latest , the occurrence of solar and lunar eclipses was explained, the relative distances between the earth, sun and moon were estimated and even the circumference of the earth was determined quite precisely through angle measurement and geometrical considerations.

In the Roman Empire , most of the intellectual achievements of Greek culture were adopted, but were largely lost with the fall of the empire in the 5th century AD. In medieval Europe, under the primacy of theology and philosophy , the natural sciences could only develop slowly in both the Christian and the Islamic world and within the framework of ideological premises.

Copernican turn and scientific revolution

Nicholas Copernicus. Engraving from 1597 by Robert Boissard . The Latin inscription means: "Copernicus does not teach that the orbits of the sky are unsteady, rather he states that the orbit of the earth is unsteady."

It was not until the Renaissance that there was a renewed interest in nature observation. As science approached the craft tradition in the empirical method, new knowledge was gained in all areas. The interaction of alchemy and medicine enriched both disciplines in their development into empirical sciences. The correction of the old Julian calendar and the navigation in ocean-wide shipping required intensive study of astronomy. Based on a movement of the earth around the sun, Nicolaus Copernicus developed a world system that explained the heavenly orbits of the planets, which appeared complicated from the earth, and, compared to the Ptolemaic system, enabled an easier but not more precise calculation of the positions. Francis Bacon and Galileo Galilei demanded that natural research should be based on experiments , with Galileo driving the mathematical evaluation of numerical measurement results with particular success. However, the Copernican world system only began to assert itself over the geocentric worldview after Johannes Kepler determined elliptical orbits of the earth and the other planets from precise measurements by Tycho Brahe , Galileo Galilei had observed the moons of Jupiter and the phases of the planet Venus and Isaac Newton had all this in Could theoretically confirm the framework of the mechanics developed by him through his law of gravitation . For these revolutionary discoveries of the 16th and 17th centuries, the term the Copernican turn was coined. Science historians are also starting this scientific revolution as pioneers of modern natural science.

Modern science

Experts do not agree on a precise definition and the time when modern natural science began . Often times, in overlap with the scientific revolution, the 17th century is given as the time frame for the beginning of modern natural science. Professionalized scientific operations , the development and application of scientific methodology and later the development of specialist areas through specialization are seen as important features .

With the establishment of scientific societies, academies and new universities , the establishment of an independent scientific tradition began in Europe. In France, scholars - influenced by Descartes ' rationalist philosophy - devoted themselves to the theoretical description of natural phenomena with an emphasis on the deductive method. In England, on the other hand, due to Bacon's influence, the interest was in the empirical method, which is why the experiment posed more technical challenges. This is also considered to be one of the reasons why the Industrial Revolution began in England in the second half of the 18th century. Numerous groundbreaking discoveries and inventions ushered in an unmistakable social and economic change that spread to mainland Europe and America in the decades that followed.

With the sharp increase in knowledge since the 18th century, a basic understanding of the structure of the empirically accessible world could be gradually developed, which made it possible to divide the natural sciences into subject areas such as biology, chemistry, geology and physics. Although differences in the methodology of the disciplines developed, they influenced and complemented each other. The metabolic processes examined in biology could, for example, be explained and researched in more detail using organic chemistry . In addition, modern atomic theories of physics provided explanations for the structure of atoms and thus contributed to a better understanding of the properties of elements and chemical bonds in chemistry . In addition, disciplines such as medicine, agricultural or engineering sciences developed , which developed possible applications for theoretical knowledge.

In the first half of the 20th century, physics experienced a remarkable upheaval that was to have serious consequences for the self-image of natural science. With the establishment of quantum physics , Max Planck and Albert Einstein established that energy - especially in light waves - only occurs in discrete quantities, i.e. is quantized . Furthermore, Einstein developed the special (1905) and general relativity theory (1915), which led to a new understanding of space, time, gravity, energy and matter. Quantum mechanics , which was founded in the 1920s and 30s, marks another upheaval , which in the description of objects at the atomic level shows marked differences to the classical conception of atoms. There it was found that certain properties of particles cannot be measured at the same time as precisely as desired ( Heisenberg's uncertainty principle ) and, for example, electrons of an atom cannot be precisely localized, but can only be described with certain probabilities via their location. Most of these discoveries elude human perception, but they develop their expressive power in their mathematical formulation and are of great importance for numerous applications of modern technology.

During the Second World War and during the Cold War , scientific research - particularly nuclear technology - was strongly promoted because it was a prerequisite for the technical and military superiority of the great powers. Since then, the term large-scale research has established itself for the massive expansion of research facilities .


Metaphysical and epistemological premises

The theoretical methods of the natural sciences as well as their requirements and goals are described and discussed in the philosophy of science . They are mainly based on mathematics , logic and epistemology , but also on culturally shaped methodological and ontological assumptions that are the subject of natural-philosophical reflection. The objective of the natural sciences - the study of nature - presupposes as a basic metaphysical assumption that nature exists and that natural processes take place according to law. Furthermore, natural scientists start from the epistemological premise that the systematic generation of knowledge about nature is possible within certain limits. On the question of where exactly these limits lie, there are different points of view, the most common variants of which can be roughly divided into two groups, the empirical position and the position of scientific realism . Empiricists assume that the possibility of scientific knowledge is limited to empirical observations. Theories or models, however, according to empiricism, do not allow any statements about nature. A difficulty associated with this view is the demarcation between empirical observation and theoretical statements, since most observations in the natural sciences are indirect. For example, electric fields , atoms , quasars or DNA molecules cannot be observed directly; rather, the properties of these objects can only be derived using complex experimental aids, with the theoretical interpretation of the measured data playing an indispensable role.

Scientific realists, on the other hand, take the position that scientific theories or the models derived from theories allow an idealized, but approximately accurate description of reality. According to this, DNA molecules, for example, really exist, and the current theories on heredity are approximately correct, but this does not rule out future extensions or even partial changes to these theories. Scientific realists therefore regard their statements as the best secured knowledge about nature available, but do not claim to be the formulation of unreservedly valid and ultimate truths. Some critics of scientific realism - the positivism movement of the early 20th century was particularly influential here - reject all metaphysics as speculative. Other critics point to specific epistemological problems of scientific realism, including in particular the problem of the underdetermination of theories.

Empiricism and experiment

The distance covered by the falling ball increases quadratically over time - the ball is therefore accelerated.

In order to gain objective knowledge about the behavior of nature, either tests are carried out or processes already taking place in nature are intensively observed and documented. In an experiment, a process is often carried out under artificially created conditions in the laboratory and analyzed quantitatively with the help of various measuring devices . In field research , on the other hand, natural processes are empirically examined or random surveys are carried out. The experiment or nature observation can be repeated anywhere in the world, regardless of location and time - provided it is carried out under the same, relevant conditions - and must lead to the same results within the scope of the measurement accuracy ( reproducibility ). The empirical approach has been an important pillar of the philosophy of science especially since its theoretical description by Francis Bacon and its practical application by Galileo Galilei and guarantees that research results can be independently checked and thus meet the requirement of objectivity.

Often empirical facts contradict everyday experience. For example, light objects like a sheet of paper always seem to fall more slowly to the floor than heavy objects like a piece of metal. As represented Aristotle the view that every physical body has its natural place he seeking to achieve. Heavy bodies would fall because their natural place is below. He assumed that every body falls at a constant speed , which depends on its mass . However, Galileo did not first ask the reason for the fall, but examined the process himself by recording the time of fall, the height of the fall and the speed of various bodies and putting them into relation. Among other things, he found that the fall time does not depend on the mass of the body - as previously assumed - but on its shape and thus on the air friction that occurs . So if you drop a table tennis ball and a lead ball of the same size from the same height, contrary to an intuitive guess , you will find that both hit the ground at the same time.

The significance of the experiment depends on various factors. When using a measuring device , its accuracy must be known in order to be able to assess at all how reliable the data measured with it are ( reliability ). The validity of the entire experiment concept must also be checked and the results often evaluated using statistical methods in order to decide whether the result can actually justify a fact. Galileo was already aware of the inaccuracy of his instruments and the associated measurement uncertainty. For this reason, he improved his measurements by examining the movement on the inclined plane , analogous to free fall .


When using the induction method, the investigation of a phenomenon leads to a general knowledge. The empirical data are evaluated and examined for generally describable processes. If quantitative measurement results are available, a search is made for mathematical relationships between the measured quantities. In the above example of free fall , Galileo found a linear relationship between time and the speed of the falling body, which is expressed in the constant acceleration of gravity .

Although inductive inference is often used in science, it is controversial in the theory of science ( induction problem ). Galileo was already aware of the difficulties involved in the approach. David Hume set out in detail that a general law experience alone is not sufficient to justify. For example, it would be fatal to try to determine the height of a child in adulthood from the speed of growth. For this reason, attempts have been made (for example by Rudolf Carnap ) to weaken the informative power of inductive inferences by assigning a probability value to their validity , which should exist on the basis of empirical experience. Such approaches are also rejected by representatives of critical rationalism such as Karl Popper , because they are either based on a priori assumptions or lead in their argumentation to infinite regress and do not solve the original induction problem.


The method of deduction describes a logical conclusion from a hypothesis assumed to be true . If a certain regularity is suspected in nature, various statements can be deductively derived from this and again checked empirically. Again, this process can be illustrated using free fall. From the assumption that the speed of the falling body is directly proportional to its fall time, one can mathematically deduce that the distance covered by the body increases quadratically with time. This conclusion can now be verified experimentally and proves to be correct, whereby the assumed hypothesis proves itself. Clearly the result in a number of is periodically carried snapshots of a falling object. The body covers a longer distance with each shot, which vividly refutes Aristotle's hypothesis of a constant rate of fall.

Another observation is that light objects with a large surface area, such as a feather, fall much more slowly. The assumption can be made that this fact is due to air friction. To check this deductively, a trap experiment can be carried out in an evacuated glass cylinder, which Robert Boyle succeeded in 1659. He demonstrated that any body of different mass, such as a feather and a stone, could reach the ground in a vacuum when falling from the same height.

There are various methods of deducting conclusions from known data or laws. Models that indicate how reliable they are are also important. If, for certain reasons, the behavior of a system cannot be investigated in one area, but statements for the development of the system can still be made with the help of known laws, this is called extrapolation . For example, election results can be estimated ( extrapolation ) before the election by obtaining relatively representative values from random surveys . If, on the other hand, a statement is made about the state of a system that was not directly investigated but lies within the range of the already known behavior of the system, this is called interpolation . If one obtains a deductive statement about an event that is to take place in the future, one also speaks of predictability . One such example is the calculation of the dates and times of lunar and solar eclipses from the equations of motion of the celestial bodies .

Verification and falsification

The initially plausible statement All swans are white is falsified by a counterexample

In contrast to mathematics, statements, laws or theories cannot be definitively proven in natural science . Instead, one speaks of proof in the event of a positive test. If a statement or theory is supported by a lot of evidence and there is no evidence to the contrary, then it is considered true. However, it can be refuted at any time (falsification) or its scope restricted if new research results can show corresponding results. Whether a theory is verifiable d. that is, can finally be found to be true, is controversial in the philosophy of science. Karl Popper cites a well-known example in his work, The Logic of Research , in order to critically illustrate the possibility of verifying theories. The hypothesis All swans are white should be verified. Proponents of logical empiricism would infer the correctness of the statement from the empirical fact that all swans known to them are white. But they have not seen all existing swans and do not know their number either. Therefore, they can neither assume that the hypothesis is true nor make statements about the probability of its correctness. The cause of the problem of verification lies originally in the induction step. Many swans known to us are whiteAll swans are white . For this reason Popper rejects the verifiability of a theory as unscientific. Instead, theories should never be seen as final, but should always be questioned, whereby they either remain proven or are ultimately falsified.


If several laws about processes in nature are known, it can be assumed that they are interdependent, for example have a common cause and can thus be reduced to a general principle. Using this approach, a growing number of issues can be traced back to simple mechanisms or laws. Isaac Newton achieved an impressive reduction in the formulation of his law of gravitation . Two bodies exert a force on each other that depends on their masses and their distance. The force of gravity, which causes a stone to fall to the ground, can therefore be described by exactly the same law as the force of attraction between the sun and the earth. Many other observations, such as Newton's first correctly explained phenomenon of the tides , can also be traced back to the law of gravitation. Since then, the reduction has proven itself and has become of great importance, especially for physics. However, up to which limits and in which sciences this method can be used is controversial.

In the philosophy of science, reductionism as a science program is controversially discussed. Put simply, it is about the question of whether all sciences can ultimately be reduced to one fundamental science - such as physics. Proponents of consequent reductionism, such as many proponents of physicalism, argue that human consciousness can be fully described by neurobiology , which in turn can be explained by biochemistry . Biochemistry can then finally be reduced to physics, whereby in the end the human being as a complex living being can be fully explained from the sum of its individual parts and their interaction. Critics express their concerns at various levels of this logical construct. One strong objection is the occurrence of emergence ; H. the development of properties of a system that its components do not have. The philosophy of mind deals with this and related questions .

The body is pressed upwards with the weight of the water it displaces

Mathematical description

The Queen Mary 2 on the Elbe

In spite of existing mathematical knowledge, no laws in mathematical formulation in nature were recognized for a long time, because the systematic investigation with the help of the experiment could not prevail. Until the end of the Middle Ages, people were convinced that basic observation was enough to understand the essence of nature through pure thought. With this way of thinking, however, one could hardly make quantitative statements about nature. It was known, for example, that light materials like wood tend to float on water, while heavy materials like metal sink. But why, for example, could a gold cup, which is made of a heavy metal, float on the surface of the water with the opening facing up? Even Archimedes discovered the eponymous principle of Archimedes , he could formulate mathematically, but that was forgotten. It says that a buoyancy force acts on every body in the water , which is exactly as great as the weight of the water displaced by the body. So as long as the gold cup displaces an amount of water that is heavier than the cup itself, it will float on the surface. This principle can be generalized to any liquid or substance and enables precise calculations in numerous areas of application. This explains why large ships weighing thousands of tons do not sink. The Queen Mary 2, for example, displaces so much water at a diving depth of just under 10 meters that the resulting buoyancy force can compensate its weight of up to 150,000 tons when loaded, which intuitively seems incredible.

Especially since the 17th century, the mathematical description of nature has developed as the most precise method in natural science. Some mathematical methods were developed specifically for application, others were known in mathematics long before an application area was opened up. Immanuel Kant regarded mathematics in his reflections on the natural sciences as the basic structure and content of natural science:

"But I maintain that in any particular theory of nature only so much real science can be found as there is mathematics in it."

- Immanuel Kant : Metaphysical Beginnings of Natural Science , A VIII - (1786)

Although mathematics is not primarily assigned to the natural sciences, but rather to the structural and sometimes the humanities , in engineering and natural sciences it is the most powerful tool for describing nature and is part of most models . For this reason, it is often referred to as the language of science.

Formation of hypotheses and theories

Process of gaining knowledge

If a statement about a natural process or one of its properties is assumed to be valid, this is called a hypothesis, as long as there is no empirical evidence for the correctness. Hypotheses are mostly set up and discussed as assumptions in order to check their plausibility from different perspectives and, if necessary, to propose an empirical investigation. If a hypothesis is finally tested experimentally and proves itself, one speaks of a confirmed hypothesis.

A system of many confirmed, generally recognized and mutually consistent statements is called a theory. Every theory is based on certain requirements or principles, which are also called postulates (e.g. Einstein's postulates ) or axioms (e.g. Newton's axioms ). It is assumed that these cannot be derived from any further, more general principle. A meaningful theory is characterized above all by the description and explanation of as many nature observations as possible through a greatly reduced number of such fundamental requirements. Well documented and central statements of a proven theory are called laws of nature , especially in physics . These are largely formulated mathematically and contain so-called natural constants - important measured values ​​that do not change spatially or temporally. Since the theory is a complex construct of mathematical-logical structures on the one hand and empirically verified facts on the other and can itself consist of several consistent theories, one often speaks of a theory structure .

The scientific community is in an extensive, dynamic process in which empirical data is collected, evaluated, discussed, interpreted and theories are developed from the knowledge gained. Existing theories are repeatedly questioned, checked by new experimental findings, adapted or discarded in the event of major deficiencies and finally replaced by better theories.

areas of expertise

Subject area Subject area
cosmology universe
geophysics earth
physical geography
Geoecology Ecosystem
Environmental physics
Environmental chemistry
Soil science
Human medicine human
Human biology
Human genetics
Movement science
Food chemistry
Behavioral biology Life forms
microbiology cell
Cell biology
Organic chemistry
Molecular biology Molecules
Supramolecular Chemistry
Physical chemistry
Molecular physics
Inorganic chemistry

Condensed Matter Physics
Quantum chemistry
Quantum physics
Radiochemistry Atomic nuclei
Nuclear physics
High energy physics
Particle physics Elementary particles

Scientists mainly work in the following positions:

Main directions

Interdisciplinary departments

Computer-aided visualization of a protein interacting with a DNA molecule

Mechanisms in nature are often so complex that investigating them requires interdisciplinary knowledge. With increasing specialization , the competence to effectively combine different specialist areas becomes more important. This creates interdisciplinary research areas for which, over time, separate courses will also be offered. In addition to the classic, interdisciplinary area of biochemistry , other interdisciplinary directions have emerged in the last few decades that deal intensively with biological processes. In biophysics, the structure and function of nerve cells , biomembranes as well as the energy balance of the cell and many other processes are examined by using physical processes and detection techniques. The bioinformatics deals inter alia with the preparation and storage of information in biological databases , their analysis and the 3D simulation of biological processes.

Another interdisciplinary research field is opened up in environmental science . The effects of human management on the environment are examined in a broad context, ranging from environmental physics and chemistry to environmental psychology and sociology . In environmental medicine , the consequences for the physical and mental state of health of humans in connection with the environment are researched, taking into account not only local factors such as place of residence and work, but also global influences such as global warming and globalization . With the environmental movement , the public interest in these studies has increased and their political influence demands higher standards in environmental law . The Environmental Engineering develop new approaches to improve taking into account the findings of these disciplines infrastructure while protecting the environment.

Applied Sciences

There is a long way to go from the pure exploration of nature to the economic use of the findings, which involves a lot of effort. Companies often do not have the financial means and resources to explore new areas of research, especially when they cannot know whether there will be an application in their field in the future. In order to accelerate this development, the applied natural sciences are dedicated to bridging basic research and economic implementation in practice. The universities of applied sciences in Germany particularly value application-oriented training for academics and are often referred to as the University of Applied Sciences (HAW) or University of Applied Sciences .

Computer animation of the lotus effect

A far-reaching and application-oriented science is medicine . It is interdisciplinary and specializes in the diagnosis and therapy of diseases , using the fundamentals of physics, chemistry and biology. In medical physics , for example, devices as well as diagnostic and therapeutic techniques such as X-ray diagnostics , various tomography methods or radiation therapies are developed. Biochemistry is widely used in pharmacology and pharmacy , which mainly deal with the development, manufacture and effect of drugs . The agricultural sciences mainly transfer knowledge of geography, biology and chemistry in the cultivation of plants and the keeping of animals into practice. In overlapping with engineering, there are numerous subject areas such as materials science , semiconductor and energy technology . An unusual approach is followed in bionics , a combination of biology and technology. When examining biological structures and processes, a targeted search is made for possible technical applications. When examining the lotus plant , it was discovered that drops of water roll off its leaf surface and at the same time remove dirt particles ( lotus effect ). By imitating the surface structure, it was possible to produce water-repellent and self-cleaning coatings and materials.

Influence on culture and society

Scientific progress has influenced both worldview and practically every area of ​​everyday life. Different schools of thought led to positive and critical assessments of the social consequences of this progress. Some constructivists assume that scientific findings are only images of social processes and reflect hierarchical and power relationships. Scientific research therefore does not produce any knowledge, but only images of social realities (→ sociology of  science ). In 1959, CP Snow postulated the thesis of two cultures . The natural sciences are the humanities and the social sciences over which are separated by difficult to overcome obstacles. However, this thesis is now considered obsolete, as the upgrading of interdisciplinary and pluralism has resulted in many intermediate areas.

School, studies and work

The imparting of scientific knowledge in schools , universities and other educational institutions is an important prerequisite for the further development of the state. In Germany is already in the primary school in the home and social studies provides a simplified picture of the nature and brought with historical and social content associated. According to the structured school system in the secondary level , different schools are attended in Germany, the curricula of which differ depending on the federal state. In the secondary school, in addition to elementary mathematics, a synthesis of physics, chemistry and biology is usually taught as one subject (e.g. PCB in Bavaria). The main focus here is on practical application in the training occupation. In secondary schools such as grammar schools or secondary schools , natural sciences are taught in separate compulsory and elective subjects such as biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, geography and computer science. In addition to the basic knowledge of arithmetic and geometry , sub-areas such as trigonometry , linear algebra , stochastics as well as differential and integral calculus are treated in the subject mathematics in order to convey creative and problem-solving thinking to the students and thus prepare them for studying a science.

After obtaining the higher education entrance qualification ( Abitur , Fachabitur ) , studies can be started at the university or technical college , whereby depending on the course there are further requirements such as numerus clausus , letter of motivation or aptitude tests . During the course of study, essential content is conveyed in lectures and seminars , which are then deepened in tutorials and self-study and tested in various exams . Application-oriented experience should be conveyed through subject-related internships . If the course successfully, the ceremony will be an academic degree (z. B. Bachelor , Master , Diploma , State Examination for student teachers , etc.) to the graduates . The program can continue through to a successful conclusion Promotion deepened. The academic qualification to teach in his scientific subject is granted through the habilitation .

Of the 361,697 graduates at 386 universities in Germany in 2010, 63,497 (17.6%) took their final exams in mathematics and science. Another 59,249 (16.4%) successfully completed their studies in engineering. The proportion of women among graduates in mathematics and science was 41.0% and in engineering 22.2%.

The professional field of the natural scientist is very diverse. He works in teaching at universities and schools, at research institutions , for companies in the development of products and processes and often as a management consultant . With numerous institutions, societies and foundations , Germany offers natural scientists good location factors that are also recognized internationally. These include in particular the Helmholtz Association , the Max Planck Society , the Fraunhofer Society and the Leibniz Association . Government spending on research and development in scientific institutions in the public sector totaled 12.7 billion euros in 2009. Of this, 4.67 billion euros (36.7%) were spent on mathematics and science and 3.20 billion euros (25.2%) on engineering.

Science and ethics

The natural sciences themselves do not make any ideological or moral statements. However, with the increase in knowledge, the opportunities to misuse scientific knowledge for ethically questionable purposes grow . The extent of the irresponsible misuse of technical progress became clear for the first time in the two world wars . After the discovery of nuclear energy , weapons of mass destruction were increasingly built and used at the end of the Second World War . In the context of the arms race , the question of the scientist's responsibility for the consequences of his research has come into the public interest. To what extent can natural science give mankind knowledge that it cannot or cannot yet deal with? Are technologies allowed to be used whose potential risks are not yet well known and could therefore harm society? Today, the following questions in particular are controversially discussed in the media :

Science and religion

Education (1890) by Louis Comfort Tiffany - Science and Religion in Harmony

With the emergence of the philosophical currents of naturalism , materialism and their influence on the philosophy of science, more and more areas of conflict arose between science and religion. Both claimed to make true statements about the world, religion from revelation and science through experiment. An important requirement of logical empiricism is a consistent rejection of all metaphysical or transcendent concepts with the conclusion that the whole existent world consists only of matter and energy. In connection with reductionism , this implies that the human being in his individual is only a product of atoms whose consciousness, thoughts, feelings and actions come about through neural processes in his brain. Consequently, his belief in a god is only a projection of his consciousness and his free will , to which religion appeals, an illusion .

Other scientists and theologians take the view that science and religion do not oppose one another in an antagonistic (conflicting) sense, but rather in a complementary (complementary) sense. Their opposition is canceled out by assigning both ways of looking at different parts of reality , a subjective one from within and an objective one from outside. Both find their justification, and an objective decision as to which of these approaches is the “more important” is fundamentally not possible because every argument is based on questions of worldview .

Influence on literature

The writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt dealt intensively with the role of the natural scientist in society.

The natural scientist becomes a popular topic in literature with the reception of the fist material . In Goethe's Faust I , the historical Johann Georg Faust is portrayed as an intellectual striving for knowledge and liberating himself from religious tutelage , who, however, reaches his limits and thus concludes a pact with the devil . The progressive development of natural science influences the philosophical worldview and is also reflected in the literature of realism . The representation of the plot focuses on the outside world and finds an objective but artistic description. Furthermore, there are also critical discussions about the idea of mastering nature and its social consequences, which manifest themselves in the industrial revolution, for example. In the postmodern era , progress and reason are strongly questioned and schools of thought of pluralism and relativism are taken. The accident gained central importance in many works. In Max Frisch's novel Homo Faber , fate overtakes the protagonist Walter Faber, an engineer with a technically rational worldview in his orderly course of life . Through a series of fortuitous events that are closely related to his past, he enters into a love affair with his own daughter, about whose birth he knew nothing. On a trip together, she dies of a head injury. Some time later, Faber was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Before the operation, the outcome of which is open, he reflects on his failed life.

An important work that, shaped by the Cold War , deals with the responsibility of the natural scientist in the atomic age is the tragic comedy Die Physiker by the Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt . In his revolutionary discovery of the world formula , the brilliant physicist Johann Wilhelm Möbius states that its application would give mankind means that could ultimately lead to its ultimate annihilation. Because of this, he leaves his family and pretends to be insane in a madhouse. The drama takes its worst possible turn when it turns out in the end that the mad chief doctor has copied Möbius' manuscripts and wants to use the formula to gain world domination. In his 21 points about the physicists, Dürrenmatt once again gives a decisive position to chance: “The more planned people proceed, the more effectively chance can hit them.” The international success of the work led to increased discussions about the topic in the media. A well-known work that historically depicts the scientist in the context of society is Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht .

The influence of natural science in the genre of science fiction can be clearly seen. Future worlds with highly developed technology and radically different settings are characteristics of numerous works of high and popular literature . The natural scientist as a literary figure is also very popular in contemporary literature . Scientific research itself is made accessible to the public in a simple language by science journalists , book authors and bloggers ( popular scientific literature ).

Movie and TV

Popular science programs such as milestones in science and technology or alpha-Centauri are enjoying increasing popularity among those interested. There, scientific topics are conveyed in a presentation that is understandable for laypeople, which is intended to arouse interest and encourage further discussion. In films and series, science is a popular subject far beyond the science fiction genre. In the US crime series Numbers - The Logic of Crime , Charlie Eppes, a math genius , solves crimes in an advisory capacity for the FBI using mathematical and scientific methods. In many representations, the ingenious scientist with his special skills takes on the role of an alternative hero . The conflict between personal identity and social role is thematized in the film Good Will Hunting . Will Hunting is a genius who grew up in a foster family in a socially disadvantaged environment , has a few criminal records, and gets by with odd jobs. After a professor discovers his talent, all paths are open to him. It may, however his identity conflict not handle until a psychologist of his takes. Another representation is the fact-based life story of the well-known mathematician John Nash, processed in the film A Beautiful Mind - Genie und Wahnsinn . As an outsider, he falls into schizophrenia and believes he is being followed by agents because of his work as a code breaker . Stereotypical for the natural scientist is often the lack of social skills , which either leads to tragic consequences or is used for entertainment in comedies, for example . In the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, the lives of two young physicists and their neighbor, who works as a waitress, are contrasted. Physicists dimension is a cliché by their strange jokes, discussions, clothing style and other characteristics, and are often considered nerds or geeks called. Sometimes they fail to see the most obvious connections or misunderstand idioms and sarcasm , which is ridiculed. When they do something with their friends and their neighbor Penny, two different worlds seem to amusingly collide. The characters are heavily caricatured , with each Prejudice seems to confirm.


Science in general and reference works


Popular science

Web links

Commons : Natural Sciences  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikibooks: book on the scientific worldview  - learning and teaching materials
Wikiquote: Science  - Quotes
Wiktionary: Natural science  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikibooks: Open questions in the natural sciences  - learning and teaching materials
Wikisource: Natural Science  - Sources and Full Texts

Individual evidence

  1. See J. Habermas: Knowledge and Interest. In the S. (Ed.): Technology and science as "ideology". Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1969, pp. 146-168.
  2. Stephen Mason : History of Science in the Development of Its Thoughts . GTN, 3rd edition 1997, p. 15.
  3. ^ Mason: History , p. 49.
  4. CF v. Weizsäcker : The Scope of Science. , Hirzel, 6th ed. 1990, p. 60.
  5. Mason: Geschichte , p. 65 f.
  6. Mason: Geschichte , p. 166 f.
  7. ^ Mason: History , p. 153.
  8. ^ Mason: History , pp. 154–158.
  9. Mason: Geschichte , p. 335 f.
  10. See e.g. BTS Kuhn's theory of paradigms or disciplinary matrix and I. Lakatos' theory of the hard core of research programs
  11. See http: //; / G. Schiemann, M. Heidelberger: Naturphilosophie . In: HJ Sandkühler (Ed.): Encyclopedia Philosophy. Meiner, Hamburg 2010: pp. 1733–1743.
  12. ^ " Scientists aim to discover facts about the world - about the regularities in the observable part of the world. ”( Bas van Fraassen : The Scientific Image , Oxford University Press, 1980, p. 73.)
  13. “For the sciences, naturalism is not an arbitrary positing, but is, as it were, enforced by their methodological principles. Scientific hypotheses and theories should [...] be verifiable. But only something that can be checked, with which we can at least indirectly interact and which behaves according to the law. " M. Bunge , M. Mahner , About the nature of things , Hirzel, 2004, p. 9.
  14. “We claim that scientists behave like realists regardless of their philosophical utterances. That is, they assume that there are [...] objective (subject-independent) facts and that some of them can be recognized [...] ”. M. Bunge , M. Mahner , Philosophical Foundations of Biology , Springer, 2000, p. 68.
  15. a b Anjan Chakravartty, Scientific Realism , Section 4.1 Empiricism, entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , 2011 ( online ).
  16. Jim Bogen, Theory and Observation in Science , Section 4 How observational evidence might be theory laden , entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , 2009 ( online ).
  17. ^ Anjan Chakravartty, Scientific Realism , Section 3. Considerations Against Scientific Realism (and Responses), entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , 2011 ( online ).
  18. Kyle Stanford, Underdetermination of Scientific Theory , entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , 2009 ( online ).
  19. Wolfgang Demtröder : Experimentalphysik 1 , Springer, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-540-43559-X , p. 7.
  20. Karl R. Popper : Assumptions and Refutations , Chapter 5, Section XII. Back to the pre-Socratics.
  21. CF v. Weizsäcker : Time and Knowledge , Hanser, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-446-16367-0 , pp. 73-78.
  22. Karl R. Popper: Logic of Research , Chapter 1, Section 1. The problem of induction.
  23. Karl R. Popper: Logic of Research , Chapter 10, Section 79. About so-called verification of hypotheses.
  24. Wolfgang Demtröder: Experimentalphysik 1 , Springer, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-540-43559-X , p. 6.
  25. Queen Mary 2: A ship of superlatives (PDF; 40 kB). Cunard Line website . Retrieved September 27, 2011.
  26. ^ CP Snow : The Two Cultures. 1959. In: Helmut Kreuzer (Ed.): The two cultures. Literary and scientific intelligence. CP Snow's thesis under discussion. dtv, Munich 1987, ISBN 3-423-04454-3 .
  27. Exams at universities . Website of the Federal Statistical Office Germany, Fachserie 11 Reihe 4.2, pp. 12-13, accessed on November 12, 2014
  28. ^ Federal Statistical Office - Publications in the field of universities - Examinations at universities
  29. Expenditure, income and personnel of public and publicly funded institutions for science, research and development . Website of the Federal Statistical Office Germany, Fachserie 14 Reihe 3.6, p. 22, accessed on November 12, 2014.
  30. Federal Statistical Office - publications in the field of research and development - expenditure, income and staff of public and publicly funded institutions for science, research and development
  31. Wolf Singer , Free will is just a good feeling , Sü, 2006 online article .
  32. Hans-Peter Dürr , Physik und Transzendenz , Scherz Verlag, 1986, p. 17.
  33. ^ Friedrich Dürrenmatt : Die Physiker , Diogenes, Zurich 1998, p. 91.