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natural science[′nach·rəl ′sī·əns]
a system of the sciences of nature, or natural sciences, taken interrelatedly and as a whole. Natural science is one of the three fundamental fields of scientific knowledge of nature, society, and thought. It is the theoretical basis of industrial and agricultural technology and medicine, as well as the natural scientific foundation of philosophical materialism and the dialectical understanding of nature.
Subject and goals. The subject of natural science consists of the various forms of the motion of matter in nature: their material bearers (substratum), forming a scale of successive levels in the structural organization of matter; their interrelationships, inner structure, and genesis; the basic forms of all existence—space and time; and the regular link between natural phenomena both general (embracing a number of forms of motion) and specific (relating only to individual aspects of various forms of motion, their substratum and structure). “The subject of natural science is matter in motion…. The knowledge of different forms of motion … is the chief subject of natural science” (F. Engels; see K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 33, pp. 67–68).
Nature, which is the subject of natural science, is viewed not abstractly, outside of man’s activity, but concretely, under the influence of man, since cognition of nature is achieved as a result not only of the theoretical but also of the practical productive activities of individuals. Natural science, as a reflection of nature in human consciousness, is perfected during the process of its active transformation in the interests of society.
The goals of natural science are twofold: (1) to discover the essence of natural phenomena and their laws and, on this basis, to foresee or to create new phenomena; and (2) to reveal the potential for utilizing in practice the known laws, forces, and substances of nature. It may be said that the cognition of truth (that is, of the laws of nature) is the direct or most immediate goal of natural science and that facilitating the practical use of such laws is the ultimate goal of natural science.
Thus, the goals of natural science coincide with the goals of human activity itself. “The laws of the external world, of nature … are the basis for man’s purposive activity” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 29, p. 169).
Patterns and characteristics of development. The regular patterns of natural science are those which are characteristic of any science but take into account the specific nature of the subject being studied, including the following features. (1) Dependence upon practice (in the final analysis). (2) Relative independence, which is manifested in the fact that the practical solution of the problems that arise may be implemented only by attaining, in conformity with its own logic, particular stages in the very process of cognition of nature, a process that is accomplished from phenomena to essence and from a less profound to a more profound essence. (3) Continuity in the development of the ideas and principles of natural science, its theories and notions, and methods and techniques of investigation; and the inseparability of all knowledge of nature. (4) Gradual development of natural science with the alternation of periods of relatively placid evolutionary development and periods of abrupt revolutionary breakthroughs in its theoretical bases, the entire system of the concepts and principles of natural science, and the entire natural-scientific picture of the world. The content of previous knowledge of nature is further developed and generalized; previous universalization and absolutization of laws and principles, which in reality have only a limited and relative character, are surmounted. (5) The interaction of all sciences and the interconnection of all branches of natural science, whereby one subject is studied simultaneously by many sciences (that is, using their methods) and the method of one science is applied to the study of subjects of other sciences. (6) The contradictory nature of the development of natural science approximating a division into ostensibly in-compatible concepts, whereby, as a means of resolving their conflict, an essentially new concept replaces the contending, one-sided old ones, the new concept embracing the subject as a whole, dialectically. (7) The recurrence of ideas, concepts, and conceptions with continual returns to that which has come before (including the point of departure for scientific development); hence, the comparison of scientific development with a “circle of circles,” with movement along a spiral.
A necessary condition for the development of natural science is freedom of criticism, unhindered discussion of all vague and arguable questions of natural science, the open clash of opinions for the purpose of clarifying the truth through free discussions, facilitating the creative solution of emerging problems.
Attempts not to take into account the regular patterns of the development of natural science entail serious shortcomings in the activities of individual scientists and entire scientific schools and bodies of thought. Isolation from the inquiries of technology and production gives rise to withdrawal into scholasticism. Ignoring the relative independence and inner logic of natural science leads to blind orientation toward narrow practicality, underestimation of theory, and an inability to consider the real potentials of natural science. Failure to apprehend the continuity of the development of natural science implies the nihilistic attitude toward natural science that was characteristic of preceding ages and a loss of the ability to discover the historic roots of contemporary attitudes. The inability to distinguish stages in natural science (evolutionary and revolutionary) leads to either delays at the stage being traversed or to running ahead and proposing ideas that are not ready to be received. Ignoring the integrity of natural science and failing to understand the nature of the interaction of the branches of natural science give rise either to denial of the applicability of the methods of certain sciences in studying the subject of others or, conversely, to denial of the specific nature of the subject of one science on the grounds that it can be studied by using the methods of other sciences. Failure to appreciate the contradictory nature of the cognition of nature entails the danger of falling into one-sidedness and of running to extremes. Ignorance of the fact that the development of natural science proceeds in a spiral fashion, with returns to the point of departure, leads to the mistaken idea that each such return is a regression. Finally, any administrative injunctions in natural science, the re-placement of scientific arguments with decrees and organizational measures, attempts to shackle the freedom of criticism and discussion, and imposing on science a single approved point of view, supposedly as the only correct one and not subject to dispute, lead to the stagnation of natural science.
Methods. In natural science it is possible to distinguish three aspects: the empirical, the theoretical, and the applied. These aspects correspond to the general course of the cognition of truth, which proceeds “from lively perception to abstract thought and from this to practice” (V. I. Lenin, ibid., pp. 152–53). The empirical aspect of natural science includes the functions of collection (establishing, registering, and accumulating facts) and of description (summarizing and preliminarily systematizing the facts). The functions of the theoretical aspect consist of explanation, generalization, discovery (creating new theories, proposing new hypotheses and concepts, accumulating new laws), and prediction (prognostication); these functions are the reason that the theories of natural science are referred to as “compasses” in scientific research.
The ideological function of natural science is inseparably linked with its theoretical functions. It is aimed at producing a natural-scientific picture of the world that excludes the possibility of reactionary-idealistic and religious views of nature. The practical-production aspect of natural science manifests itself as a direct productive force of society. The contemporary scientific and technical revolution demonstrates that natural science paves the way for the development of technology.
The means of natural science correspond to all the stages that are traversed by natural-scientific knowledge and in which the functions of natural science find expression: empirical and experimental research presupposes an entire system of experimental and observational methods (devices, including calculating and measuring instruments, install ons, tools) by which new facts are ascertained. Theoretical research presupposes the abstract work of scientists directed at explaining the facts (presumed, by means of hypotheses that are verified and proved by means of theories and laws of science) and at forming concepts that generalize the experimental data. Both of the above jointly (frequently using pilot-plant equipment and pilot installations, as well as design bureaus) verify the new knowledge in practice.
The unity of its empirical and theoretical aspects constitutes the basis of the methods of natural science. The aspects are interlinked and mutually dependent. Their rupture, or even the preferential development of one at the expense of the other, blocks the path to the proper cognition of nature; theory become objectless and experience becomes blind.
The methods of natural science may be subdivided into groups.
(1) General methods deal with all of natural science, any object of nature, and any science. They include various forms of the dialectical method, which makes it possible to join together all aspects of the process of cognition and all of its stages—for example, the method of ascent from the abstract to the concrete. Those systems of the branches of natural science that have a structure corresponding to the actual historical process of their development (for example, biology and chemistry) do, in fact, adhere to this method. Dialectics also appears in that “the method of presentation must differ in form from that of inquiry. The latter has to appropriate the material in detail, to analyze its different form of development, to trace out its inner connections. Only after this work is done can the actual movement be adequately described. If this is done successfully and the life of the subject matter is ideally reflected, then it may appear as if we had before us a mere a priori construction” (K. Marx; see K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23, p. 21). Such a situation arises most frequently in the formal, mathematicized branches of natural science, such as mechanics and thermodynamics.
In natural science the dialectical method is given concrete expression as a comparative method (in biology, geography, and chemistry) by means of which a universal link between phenomena is disclosed; hence, the comparative disciplines of anatomy, embryology, and physiology. In zoogeography, phytogeography, and physical geography the dialectical method has long been applied successfully. In natural science the dialectical method also emerges as a historical method, applied in astronomy (all progressive cosmogonic hypotheses, stellar and planetary, are based on it), in geology (as the basis of historical geology, incompletely expressed in the method of actualism), and in biology, where it is the foundation of Darwinism. Sometimes both methods are combined in a single comparative-historical method that is more profound and more interesting than either method taken separately. This method, as it is applied to the process of cognition of nature, and especially to physics, is also linked with the principle of correspondence and facilitates the construction of modern physical theories.
(2) Specific methods are also used in natural science; they concern not natural science subject matter as a whole but one of its aspects (phenomena, substance, quantitative aspects, structural ties) or a specific method of research (analysis, synthesis, induction, deduction). Specific methods include observation, experiment, and comparison and its particular case, measurement. Mathematical methods and procedures are extremely important as specific means of investigating and expressing the quantitative and structural aspects and relations of objects and processes in nature; this is true as well for statistical methods and probability theory. The role of mathematical methods in natural science is growing steadily as calculators and computers are used more widely. On the whole, a rapid mathematicization of modern natural science is taking place. The methods of analogy, formalization, simulation, and industrial experimentation are connected with this process.
(3) Partial methods are specialized methods that operate either within the limits of an individual branch of natural science alone or beyond the limits of the branch in which they originated. Thus, the methods of physics, used in other branches of natural science, have led to the creation of astrophysics, crystallophysics, geophysics, chemical physics and physical chemistry, and biophysics. The extension of chemical methods has led to the creation of crystallochemistry, geochemistry, biochemistry, and biogeochemistry. Frequently a complex of interconnected partial methods is used in the study of a single subject; for example, molecular biology simultaneously makes use of the interconnected methods of physics, mathematics, chemistry, and cybernetics.
In the course of the progress of natural science, methods may make the transition from a lower to a higher category: partial methods may turn into specific methods, and specific methods may become general. This case is a concrete expression of the proposition that any real cognition consists solely in raising “the individual thing in thought from individuality into particularity and from this into universality” (F. Engels, ibid., vol. 20, p. 548).
A most important role in the development of natural science belongs to hypotheses, which are also a “form of development of natural science, insofar as it thinks”(ibid., p. 555).
Aspects and structure. The aspects of natural science have a strictly objective character, determined either by the very object of cognition or by the method of cognition—which, in terms of its content, is adequate for the object. Hence, there are two basic aspects, or profiles, of natural science: (1) the subject matter aspect, corresponding to the logical connection between objects in nature (for example, their development and transitions); and (2) the methodological aspect, corresponding to successive stages traversed by cognition in the study of a given object, from its manifestations to its essence and from its external aspects to its internal aspects. Consequently, all of natural science may be divided, according to the first aspect, into inorganic and organic, since all nature is divided into inanimate and animate.
The structure of natural science is determined by the aspects of natural science. The interconnection between the branches of natural science reflects the general course of development of all of nature from simpler, lower stages to higher, more complex ones. The division of nature into inanimate and animate, which first appeared in chemistry (since chemical compounds are differentiated into inorganic and organic) may be diagramed:
Such a division is grounded in the atomic level of structural organization of matter itself. Aggregates are formed from molecules (aggregates that are gaseous, liquid drops, and solid, both amorphous and crystalline). These aggregates constitute the basis of the various spheres of the earth. On the other hand, the increasing complexity of carbon-containing molecules leads to the formation of biopolymers (proteins, nucleic acids), which constitute the basis of animate nature. Physics, chemistry, geology, and biology are among the fundamental branches of contemporary natural science. They form the core for the classification of sciences.
The principle of the subject matter (nature) development is basic to the above-cited (divided) set of sciences. But this principle may also be applied to objects of nature of various scale, from cosmic systems (astronomy) to individual planets (geology, including, generally, the study of particular planets and their satellites) to the individual aspects (geography) and components (biology) of a given planet. Another set of sciences is thus constructed:
astronomy — geology — geography — biology
A large number of transitional, intermediate, or interdisciplinary branches also exist in natural science. This fact testifies to the absence of sharp boundaries between the sciences and to their interpenetration. Under modern conditions, the tendency toward differentiation of the sciences is supplemented by the tendency toward their integration: newly emerging sciences do not lead to the further separation of the sciences but to a situation in which previously sharp breaks between the sciences (for example, between physics and chemistry) are filled in through the appearance of new sciences of an intermediate character (physical chemistry, chemical physics).
Both aspects of natural science, subject matter and methodology, are interwoven within each branch of natural science at the very beginning of the above outlined set of sciences (before physics). The mechanics of a point and a system of points is isolated by abstracting from material (qualitative) nature of a moving body and considering its movement only from the point of view of its displacement in space under the influence of the external forces of physics. Further abstraction, not only from the material, physical con-tent of the processes of nature, but also from the factor of time, leads from mechanics to mathematics. A transition to logic from mathematics (through mathematical logic) is effected during the course of further abstraction. If the set of sciences to the left of physics is now continued, a segment is then formed that characterizes the movement of thought from the concrete (physics) to the increasingly abstract, concluding with logic:
logic — mathematics — physics (including mechanics)
This set is also constructed according to the subject matter principle, since the sciences are juxtaposed here in the sequence in which their objects are arranged.
Place in society. Natural science in the life and development of society proceeds from its connections with other social phenomena and institutions—primarily technology, and through technology with production, productive forces in general, and philosophy; and through philosophy with class struggle in the sphere of ideology. Given the inner wholeness that proceeds from the unity of nature itself, as well as from the unity of theoretical views of nature, natural science is a very complex phenomenon, with aspects and links that are frequently contradictory. Natural science is neither part of the base nor part of the ideological superstructure of society, although in its most general part (where a picture of the world is constructed) it is associated with the superstructure. The association of natural science through technology with production, and through philosophy with ideology, rather fully expresses its significant social links. The association of natural science with technology evolves as a result of the fact that “… technology serves human ends just because its character (essence) consists in its being determined by external conditions (by laws of nature)” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 29, p. 170). In modern times natural science is out-stripping technology, because totally new, previously un-known substances and forces in nature are more frequently becoming the objects of its investigation (for example, atomic energy). Therefore, before the question of their technical application may be posed, a “frontal” study of these objects by natural science is required. Nevertheless technology, with its requirements, remains a driving force for the development of natural science. According to Marx, its link with technology is a basic factor in defining natural science as a direct force of production.
Natural science is associated with philosophy since “naturalists cannot make any headway without thought and for thought they need thought determinations” (F. Engels; see K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 20, p. 524). The broader the nature of the theoretical generalizations in natural science, the more closely are they linked with philosophy. Hence, the need arises for unity and mutual assistance between philosophers and naturalists. A. I. Herzen wrote of the alliance between the two. Engels devoted his “Dialectics of Nature” to this issue. Lenin noted that without the support of materialist philosophers “eminent natural scientists will as often as hitherto be helpless in making their philosophical deductions and generalizations. For natural science is progressing so fast and is undergoing such a pro-found revolutionary upheaval in all spheres that it cannot possibly dispense with philosophical deductions”(ibid., vol. 45, p. 31).
General course of development. The general course of the development of natural science includes the basic stages of the cognition of nature. “Human thought goes endlessly deeper from appearance to essence, from essence of the first order, as it were, to essence of the second order, and so on without end” (V. I. Lenin, ibid., vol. 29, p. 227). The cognition of immediate phenomena “reveals the essence (the law of causality, identity, difference)—such is really the general course of all human cognition (of all science). Such is the course also of natural science…. All these moments (steps, stages, processes) of cognition move in the direction from the subject to the object being tested in practice and arriving through this test at truth”(ibid., pp. 298, 301).
Engels demonstrated that the overall course of the cognition of nature, as of cognition in general, passes through the following basic states. (1) The direct contemplation of nature as an indivisible whole. The picture as a whole is seen faithfully, but the individual parts are entirely vague. Such a view characterized ancient Greek natural philosophy. (2) The analysis of nature, the division of nature into parts, the elaboration and study of individual objects and phenomena, searches for individual causes and effects (for example, the anatomy of living organisms), and the identification of the component parts of complex chemical substances; however, beyond the details, the general picture and the universal link between phenomena disappear. (3) The reconstruction of an integral pattern based on known details by means of putting into motion that which has stopped, reviving that which has grown numb, and linking that which was previously isolated—that is, by actually combining analysis with synthesis (see K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 20, pp. 12–23).
Marx characterized the process of cognition as one proceeding from an initial concept of the concrete object as an indivisible whole to its analysis through abstract thought and, further, from the results of its analysis, and on the basis of abstract ideas thus obtained, to the mental reconstruction of the object in its initial wholeness and concreteness, as a diverse unity, by unifying and combining (synthesizing) the numerous definitions (see K. Marx and F. Engels, ibid., vol. 12, pp. 726–27). The general course of development of natural science is the basis for its periodization.
Periods and stages in history. The history of natural science is inseparably linked with the history of all society. A unique period in the history of natural science corresponds to each type and level of development of productive forces and technology. Natural science emerged in the second half of the 15th century as an independent, systematic study of nature. Earlier periods of natural-scientific knowledge may be considered embryonic or preparatory to the systematic study of nature. Accordingly, the following periods are identified.
The initial, preparatory period—natural philosophy, the birth of the elements of the future natural science, was characteristic of antiquity. On the whole, technology was still weakly developed, although there were outstanding individual technical achievements. Statics and astronomy and, as an attendant field, mathematics began to evolve into independent branches of knowledge. Chemistry began to emerge (in the form of alchemy) later. Anatomy, medicine, and physics were in an embryonic state. All natural scientific knowledge and ideas were joined in a single undifferentiated science under philosophy. Differentiation of the sciences was first outlined at the end of this period (Alexandrine science).
The second preparatory period is characterized by the dominance of Scholasticism and theology in Western Europe and by sporadic discoveries by Arabic-speaking peoples. Science in the West became an adjunct of theology (astrology, alchemy, magic, cabalism). Technical progress in the West was made extremely slowly. Technology had almost no need of a systematic study of nature; therefore, it had no noticeable influence on the development of natural-scientific knowledge. But although the pace had slowed, new facts even during this period were being accumulated, preparing for the transition to the following period. On the whole, this constituted a transitional period between the first and second phases of the general course of natural science.
The period of mechanical and metaphysical natural science, which began with the emergence of natural science as a systematic, experimental science during the Renaissance, corresponds to the period of the formation and consolidation of capitalist relations in Western Europe (between the second half of the 15th century and the end of the 18th century). Natural science of this period was revolutionary in its tendencies. Natural science of the early 17th century (formation of mechanical natural science—Galileo) and the turn of the 18th century (completion of the process—I. Newton) are outstanding examples of this. Since metaphysics became the prevailing method of thought, this period may be referred to as the metaphysical age. But even at this time, discoveries were being made in natural science that revealed the presence of dialectics. Natural science was associated with production, which was being converted from handicraft to manufacturing; the energy base of the latter was mechanical movement. Hence, the problem arose of studying mechanical movement and discovering its laws. Seafaring required celestial mechanics, and military affairs, the development of ballistics. Natural science was mechanical since mechanical criteria were applied to all processes in nature. But a number of scientific advances were preparing the downfall of the metaphysical view of nature: in mathematics, the creation in the 17th and 18th centuries of the analysis of infinitesimals (I. Newton, G. Leibniz) and the development of analytical geometry (R. Descartes), the Kant-Laplace cosmogonical hypothesis, the atomic-kinetic theory of M. V. Lomonosov, and K. Wolffs idea of development in biology. The basic contradiction in natural science of this entire period was that “natural science, at the outset revolutionary, was confronted by an out-and-out conservative nature” (F. Engels, see K. Marx and F. Engels, ibid., 2nd ed., vol. 20, p. 509).
The period of discovery of the universal association and affirmation of evolutionary ideas in natural science is characterized by the spontaneous penetration of dialectics into natural science; thus, this may be referred to as the spontaneously dialectical period. Industry entered a phase of large-machinery production at the end of the 18th century— the technical and industrial revolution. The steam engine became the power base for industry. The preferential development of mechanics ceased to satisfy the demands of production. Physics and chemistry, studying the interconversions of forms of energy and types of matter (chemical atomic theory), became of foremost importance. The theory of the gradual development of the earth emerged in geology (C. Lyell), and biology saw the rise of evolutionary theory (C. Lamarck), paleontology (G. Cuvier), and embryology (K. Baer). The need arose to combine analysis with synthesis for purposes of explaining accumulated experimental material theoretically. Three great discoveries in the second third of the 19th century—the cellular theory, the theory of the conversion of energy, and Darwinism—struck the final blow at the old metaphysics. Discoveries followed that more fully disclosed the dialectics of nature: the creation of the theory of the chemical structure of organic compounds (A. M. Butlerov, 1861); the periodic system of the elements (D. I. Mendeleev, 1869); chemical thermodynamics (J. H. Van’t Hoff, J. Gibbs); the principles of scientific physiology (I. M. Sechenov, 1863); and the electromagnetic theory of light (J. C. Maxwell, 1873). However, while making discoveries and confirming dialectics, naturalists continued to think metaphysically. “This conflict of result of discovery with preconceived modes of thinking” (ibid., p. 22) constituted the basic contradiction in natural science of the period—the gap between its objective and subjective aspects, between its content (its discoveries) and the form of thinking of the scientists themselves.
The period of the “latest revolution” in natural science coincided with capitalism’s entrance into the stage of imperialism. In the 20th century, the development of physics most of all has been accelerated (atomic energy, radar, electronics, communications, automation and cybernetics, quantum electronics, lasers, electron optics, and so on). Physics, as the leading branch of all of natural science, performs the function of stimulator and springboard in relation to the other branches of natural science; for example, the invention of the electron microscope and the introduction of the method of tracer atoms have brought about a revolution in all of biology, physiology, and biochemistry. The methods of physics have made possible advances in chemistry, geology, and astronomy, and they have to a significant degree facilitated the development of space science and the mastering of outer space. The basic occupations of chemistry include the synthesis of polymers, especially those that can be used in the role of strategic raw materials (rubber, artificial fibers), and the development of synthetic fuels, light alloys, and metal substitutes for aviation and astronautics. The power base for industry in the early 20th century increasingly became electricity (the generator), chemical energy (internal combustion engines), and (after World War II) atomic energy.
The stimulating influence of new technological demands on natural science led in the middle of the 1890’s to the beginning of “the latest revolution in natural science” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 18, p. 264). This occurred primarily in physics (the discoveries of electromagnetic waves by H. Hertz, short-wave electromagnetic radiation by C. Roentgen, radioactivity by A. Becquerel, the electron by J. Thomson, and light pressure by P. N. Lebedev; the introduction of the concept of the quantum by M. Planck; the creation of theories of relativity by A. Einstein and of radioactive decomposition by E. Rutherford and F. Soddy; and the invention of the radio by A. S. Popov), but also in chemistry and biology (the emergence of genetics, based on the laws of G. Mendel). Between 1913 and 1921, on the basis of the concepts of the atomic nucleus, electrons, and quanta, N. Bohr created a model of the atom, the elaboration of which corresponded to D. I. Mendeleev’s periodic system. This was the first stage in the revolution in physics and all of natural science. It was accompanied by a break with the earlier, metaphysical concepts of matter and its structure, properties, forms of movement, and types of regularities, as well as with the earlier concepts of space and time; this break was an objective confirmation of dialectical materialism. However, under the conditions of ideological reaction induced by imperialism, the revolution in natural science was used by idealists for an offensive against materialism. This led to a crisis in physics and in all of natural science and caused a fundamental contradiction in the natural science of the period: “the reactionary attempts are engendered from the very progress of science” (V. I. Lenin, ibid., p. 326). This marked the deepening and the aggravation of the very contradiction that Engels had uncovered in the natural science of the 19th century. Lenin analyzed this contradiction in Materialism and Empiriocriticism (1908).
The second stage of the revolution in natural science began in the middle 1920’s with the creation of quantum mechanics and the conjunction of the latter with the theory of relativity in a general quantum-relativistic concept. Natural science continued to develop rapidly; the fundamental break with old ideas, especially those that are associated with the old, classical picture of the world, was extended. With the emergence of the first socialist country—the USSR—the ideological struggle was made more acute, and attempts were again made to rid natural science of materialism, this time through neopositivism. This led to an intensification of the contradictions in natural science. In the USSR, on the other hand, natural science emerged from the crisis, facilitated by Lenin’s programmatic On the Significance of Militant Materialism (1922).
The beginning of the third stage in natural science was marked by the mastery for the first time of atomic energy, a result of the splitting of the nucleus in 1939 and subsequent research (1940–45), with which the birth of computers and cybernetics is associated. This stage reached its full development in the middle of the 20th century. It is distinguished by the fact that, along with physics, a whole group of branches of natural science now have a leading role in natural science: biology (especially genetics and molecular biology), chemistry (especially macrochemistry and polymer chemistry), and certain sciences related to natural science (astronautics, cybernetics). Whereas at the beginning of the 20th century physical discoveries developed independently, since the middle of the 20th century the revolution in natural science has merged organically with the revolution in technology, leading to the contemporary scientific and technical revolution. From the point of view of actual practice, the basic sciences, without which modern technology could not develop, are taking on a decisive role. The development of natural science occurs under conditions of aggravation of the ideological struggle between the two world systems.
General methodological problems. The general methodological problems of natural science are grouped around the issues that join together all branches of natural science: (1) Disclo-sure of the common bonds between natural phenomena, their interpenetration, and their interdependency, especially between animate and inanimate nature (the essence of life, its chemism, and its origin; the physical and chemical bases of inheritance) and the problems of interdisciplinary sciences (biocybernetics, biochemistry, biophysics, molecular biology, and bionics). (2) Movement of natural science toward the essence of phenomena, the extension of previous limits both into the depths of matter (the field of elementary particles and, in general, of the atomic world) and in the direction of macro-objects and megaobjects (especially macrocosmic, that is, both near the earth and further outlying). Lenin’s farsighted statements that “the electron is just as inexhaustible as the atom” (ibid., p. 277) and about “the matter deep within”(ibid., vol. 29, p. 100) have been brilliantly confirmed. (3) Discovery of the indivisibility of matter and the forms of its existence (movement, space, and time); the theory of relativity, nuclear physics, and the theory of elementary particles are developing in this direction. (4) Interconnectedness of the principles of development and the unity of nature, affording an opportunity to discover in their interdependence the structure and genesis of natural objects (cosmogonic hypotheses in stellar and planetary astronomy, analogous hypotheses in historical geology, biology, and paleontology). (5) Further disclosure of the real contradictions in natural objects (the corpuscular-wave character of physical micro-objects, particles, and antiparticles; the abstract-mathematical, including cybernetic, and the concrete-material aspects of the processes studied; the dynamic and the statistical regularities, respectively chance and necessity, discontinuity and continuity in the processes of nature). (6) Demonstration of qualitative differences in nature similar to the difference between macro-objects and micro-objects in physics; the problem of sudden change (leaps) and the forms in which it occurs, including the question of anthropogenesis and the labor theory advanced by Engels. (7) Elaboration of the interrelationship between matter and consciousness and of the laws by which consciousness functions—this touches not only upon natural science, including zoopsychology and the theory of higher nervous activity, but also upon sciences such as logic, psychology, cybernetics, and a number of the social sciences. (8) Comprehensive study of the laws of development of natural science itself, the place of natural science in the life of society, the structure of natural science, and the organization, management, and forecasting (all studied by the science of science), incorporating natural science with technology and other social institutions.
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