ferences, and present and respond to ideas through publications in journals and books, in print and online. Scientists also make use of a wide variety of cultural tools, including technological devices, mathematical representations, and methods of communication. These tools not only determine what scientists see, but also shape the kinds of observations they make.
In fact, the scientific community has its own core values, habits of mind, knowledge, language, and tools. These values include common commitments to questions, research perspectives, and ideas about what a viable scientific stance involves. Making progress in science depends on scientists being open to revising their ideas if called for by the evidence. The complex exchange of information and ideas and eventual evolution in thinking occurs in a community in which scientists also have developed a shared language. This language is added to or modified by scientists from specific disciplines as they work toward their own shared goals.
Scientists from different disciplines sometimes develop their own vocabularies, often by giving common words new meanings or by inventing words to describe a new scientific idea or discovery. Biologists, for example, talk about cells and DNA and genetics, and physicists have developed new meanings for such familiar words as energy, force, and work. Scientists in each discipline also depend on specialized tools to carry out their work. Biologists may use tools such as optical or electron microscopes to collect information, and astronomers may rely on different kinds of telescopes. Despite these differences, all share the larger goal of accumulating empirical evidence to explore or test their ideas.
Some scholars refer to this collective set of norms, practices, language, and tools as the culture of science. This includes specialized practices for exploring questions through evidence, such as the use of statistical tests, mathematical modeling, and instrumentation, and social practices, such as peer review, publication, and debate. In order to “do” science, people must learn these norms and practices.
There is also another sense in which science is cultural or even political—science reflects the cultural values of those who engage in it. The choices about what is worthy of attention, different perspectives on how to approach certain problems, and so on are shaped by the cultural values scientists bring with them and sometimes the political and economic environments in which scientific endeavors are funded and sustained. From this latter perspective, as is the case with any cultural endeavor, differences in norms and practices within and across fields reflect not only the varying subject matters of interest, but also the identities and values of the participants. The recognition that science is a cultural enterprise implies that there is no cultureless or neutral perspective on science, nor on learning science—