February 15, 2007

Is computer science science?

Knowing and Doing has a post on Computer Science as Science which has a lot of interesting insights:

Computer science is grounded in a deep sense of empiricism, where the scientific method plays an essential role in the process of doing computer science. It's just that the entities or systems that we study don't always spring from the "natural world" without man's intervention. But they are complex systems that we don't understand thoroughly yet -- systems created by technological processes and by social processes.


As Bertrand Russell wrote a century ago, science is about description, not logic or causation or any other naive notion we have about necessity. Scientists describe things. This being the case, computer science is in many ways the ultimate scientific endeavor -- or at least a foundational one -- because computer science is the science of description. In computing we learn how to describe thing and process better, more accurately and more usefully. Some of our findings have been surprising, like the unity of data and program. We've learned that process descriptions whose behavior we can observe will teach us more than static descriptions of the same processes left to the limited interpretative powers of the human mind. The study of how to write descriptions -- programs -- has taught us more about language and expressiveness and complexity than our previous mathematics could ever have taught us. And we've only begun to scratch the surface.

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