Concepts in science

By Juan R. González Álvarez

Descriptive science





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Juan R. González Álvarez
Juan R. González Álvarez
Descriptive science deals with the study of the properties and structure of systems. For composite systems, this includes the study of the components and their interrelationships to form the whole system.

The term “descriptive” derives from the late Latin “descriptivus”, from Latin “descript-”, a past participle of “describere” meaning “write down, transcribe, copy, sketch” a representation or copy of the original. As an illustrative example, consider the part of geology that deals with the description of the interior structure of the Earth and its properties, such as the density, composition, radius, temperature, and speed of rotation of the inner core.
Plant tissue systems - Image by brgfx on Freepik
Plant tissue systems - Image by brgfx on Freepik
Descriptive science not only offers a summary of experimental facts and observations, but its goal includes explaining and understanding the real world by applying the theories developed by fundamental science. Furthermore, descriptive science is central to the development of fundamental science, because a theory is only as good as what it explains and the experimental facts and observations that support it.
The systems under study are not described in a vacuum, but in comparison with other systems. The comparative method assesses the variations between individual systems and organizes them into categories using classifications that are used to make predictions.
When applied to science, the word “descriptive” has acquired dismissive or pejorative connotations in recent years [1], but this academic attitude is based on a “chronic misunderstanding as to what descriptive science actually is, and thus there is ignorance of its significance” [2].
  1. Descriptive Science 2008: Infect. Immun. 76(9), 3835–3836. Casadevall, Arturo; Fang, Ferric C.
  2. Why Descriptive Science Still Matters 2007: BioScience 57(8), 646–647. Grimaldi, David A.; Engel, Michael S.
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Juan R. González Álvarez
Juan R. González Álvarez @juanrga

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