Is Computer Science a Science?



In our times, there has been a tremendous evolution of technology that among others has extended human capabilities. This infiltration of technology in everyday life can be, at least at a high extent, attributed to computers and the development of computer science. In this paper, we examine the definition of science and the scientific method, and we try to justify the validity of the scientific aspects of computer science. Furthermore, we define computer science based on its contribution to the scientific community. Importantly, we emphasize the fact that it is a science that goes beyond the standards of the classical sciences, despite the fact that it utilizes some of the above, such as mathematics or physics, for its development. Thus, computer science can be classified as a new kind of science.

Keywords: Computer Science, Science, Scientific Method, Technology

Is Computer Science a Science?

In the 16th-century philosopher, Francis Bacon coined the term “science” and probably the word possibly come into common usage around that time, at least in the western world. However, what science really is? Does Computer Science belong to the field of science? Using the previous question, we will define science and eventually notice that computer science belongs to the field of sciences

What is Science?

It is a sensible question, but it is not easy to provide an answer. It is more difficult to define science rather than any other human institutions, like religion or family. Usually, everyone can give a partially correct definition of science; however it is hard to find a well-targeted definition.[2] The word “science” apparently brings in mind many different pictures: white lab coats and microscopes, astronomers peering through telescopes, Einstein’s equations scribbled on a chalkboard…. All of those images possibly reflect some aspect of science, but the reality is much different because science has so many facets.

Classical and Modern Science

Historically, science can be separated into two main sections: classical and modern science. The classical definition of science is the state of “knowing”. In the Middle Ages, “science” came to be used correspondently with “arts”. [2] Thus, “liberal arts” and “liberal sciences” were the same. The modern definition is a bit more accurate than that and offers a number of different ways in which the term science could be described as: “The observation, classification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical analysis of phenomena. An activity that appears to require study and method.” According to my opinion, the last one is more comprehensive, because it includes the systematic study of the structure and behavior of our world leading to an organized body of knowledge on a particular subject, through experimentation. [2][1]

What is considered as Scientific Method?

Knowledge in science is acquired through the scientific method.[3] This is a compound of induction and deduction which leads to the creation of new conclusions or making useful and practical additions to pre-existing ones. Induction is using information from our senses or tests and producing general statements about our world. Deduction is using a general principle and deducing what will or possibly happen in particular cases. [3] Humans are familiar with this process from elementary school: you observe some occurrence, come up with a hypothesis about it, test your hypothesis with experiments, and then analyze the results. That is how scientists justify the answers to their factual questions, and it is how our society generates knowledge. Knowledge in computer science, however, doesn’t work the same way. Procedures do not exist in the natural world–they are devised by humans. [1] When we come up with a procedure, we cannot just run experiments to see if it works. Although the procedure might be applied to data gathered from the real world, the procedure itself is not a part of nature. [1]

Consider any science like chemistry, biology, etc. All of them are concerned about answering factual questions about the universe around us. However, computer science tries to figure out how to get answers. [4] The procedure is the solution. While other sciences want to figure out what is, computer science wants to know how to. This statement is not to say that scientists do not need to know how to. The key distinction is that, in computer science we care mostly about how to figure out the answer, and not so much about the answer itself. Scientists, usually, rely on computer science to help with their process or are in part computer scientists themselves.[2][3]

The distinction between questions of procedure and questions of fact leads naturally to a difference in methodology between scientists and computer scientists. When scientists come up with a possible answer to the question–a hypothesis– they try to prove or disprove it using experiments. Experiments are in essence tests to see whether a hypothesis matches the behavior of the natural world. If a hypothesis accounts for how the world behaves (or at least the behavior that the scientists can see), then it is a useful theory.[3]

Computer Science and Technology

Computer field is a discipline that crosses theory and practice (technology). It requires thinking both in concrete terms and abstract terms. The practical side can be seen everywhere around us. Nowadays, almost everyone is a computer user, and several people are computer programmers. It is enormously important for industry and economy, and it is used for conducting and optimizing production and business processes. [4]

Although computer science is more than just a branch of engineering; it is a tool for fundamental research; for example, when improving or inventing new mathematical models, data structures, and algorithms designed for specific tasks. It can be seen on a higher level as the science of problem solving. [1] Computer scientists must be skillful at modeling and analyzing problems. They also must be able to “compose” solutions and verify them. Problem solving requires accuracy, creativity, and careful reasoning. Furthermore, Computer science has strong connections to other disciplines [1]. Many problems in different science fields, can be solved efficiently with computers, however obtaining a solution requires both computer science expertise and the knowledge of a particular application domain.

In its general form, Computer science is concerned with the knowledge of information transfer and transformation. Special interest is placed on making processes efficient and supplying them with some kind of intelligence. The discipline extends from theoretical studies of algorithms to realistic problems of implementation always in terms of computational hardware and software.[2][1]

Computer Scientist, Computer Programmer

We should not confuse a computer scientist with a computer. A computer programmer develops programs, but a computer scientist has a much broader impact. A computer scientist has to combine technical skills with creativity and understand the needs of users in the global community. Computer scientists comprehend, innovate, and direct to solve problems through computation process, and can but do not necessarily write code.

They are concerned with questions like: How do you find the shortest route between two points on a map? How do you translate Spanish into English without a dictionary? How do you identify the genes that make up the human genome using fragments of a DNA sequence? There’s a difference between the question, “How do you identify the genes that make up the human genome?” and the question, “What are the genes that make up the human genome?” The latter is a question posed by biologists, asks for a particular fact, while the former asks for a procedure that can produce that fact.[2]


Computer filed, according to the previous analysis, is a part of the general field of sciences and also a part of technology. As a new field of science, it has to face many critics before scientific community understands and accepts it. [4] Unfortunately, it is a necessary proceed of the scientific method which is used to confirm that computer science is a science – not only a part of technology-. In spite of all characteristics that differ the young field of Computer Science from several thousand years old sciences such as mathematics, logic, and natural sciences we can draw a conclusion that Computer Science contains a critical mass of scientific features to qualify as a science.[2]


[1] P. . J. Denning, “Is Computer Science Science?,” Communications of the ACM, vol. 48, pp. 27-31, 2005.

[2] G. Dodig-Crnkovic, “Scientific Methods in Computer Science,” in Conference for the Promotion of Research in IT at New Universities and at University Colleges in Sweden, Västerås, Sweden, 2002.

[3] W. F. Tichy, “Should Computer Scientists Experiment More?,” 1998.

[4] P. W. Abrahams, G. Lee, R. Hayes-Roth, L. Stabile, C. Hewitt and B. Gupta, “Computer Science Is Not a Science,” Communications of the ACM, vol. 56, pp. 8-9, 2013.

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