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Do you think a new method will eventually replace the Scientific Method?

  1. Sep 7, 2009 #1
    Here's a thought, often in history someone will find a detail that doesn't fit some theory, then will come up with a better theory which explains the evidence better than the old one (ex. Einstein did to Newton).

    Before Science, there were groups who said rationalism was best, and others who said empiricism. Then Science combined the two. Newton said you can't just make observations and then a theory, or logic and a theory; you also have to test your idea (hypothesis testing guards against making the evidence fit after the fact). Then Karl Popper came up with his improvements over the older methods, and Thomas Kuhn/Imre Lakatos had ideas.

    Do you think we could find some details which don't fit the Scientific Method overall, and then come up with a revolutionary new truth-searching method that just blows everything away like Galileo/Newton did to Aristotle?

    Just trying to be a big picture thinker here, using imagination based in analytic reality and history.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 7, 2009 #2
    I don't think Newton was the first to say this.

    That's too speculative a question. We don't do fortune telling at PF.
  4. Sep 7, 2009 #3
    I think we would need to evolved into a new species where we are able to read people's mind and forsee future events before we developed a new method to make conducting science more simpler and convienent. We would not have a need for the scientific method if that were to occur. Given our circumstances and the way humans are designed, I cannot envision a more suitable method than the scientific method for the human species to use to conduct scientific research.
  5. Sep 7, 2009 #4

    Ivan Seeking

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    I seem to remember people talking about superduper computers randomly searching for solutions to fundamental physics problems. I only vaguely remember reading about it somewhere, so I don't know the details, but that sounds like it could represent an entirely new approach to physics.

    Some people talk about there being no TOE. That also sounds like a fundamental shift in thinking; one that doesn't make sense to me. To me that almost sounds like an admission that we have a fundamental problem with physics in that QM and GR cannot be merged into one consistent theory. Of course the M-Theory and LQG people would have fits over that statement.
  6. Sep 7, 2009 #5
    So we've had several revolutions before in the course of human history, ex. rationalism vs. empiricism turning into the Scientific Method. So I'm thinking how do we know there can't be an even better method out there than the good scientific method we already have?

    Some food for thought: For years, people said that gravity was a force and not many questioned it before Einstein said it was the bending of spacetime. Scientists used to believe in continental drift theory before plate tectonics came about. For years scientists believed heat was an actual fluid moving between objects before the caloric theory was replaced by kinetic energy theory. In these situations, someone found some details which didn't fit, and then came up with a scientific explanation which explained the evidence better.

    I wonder if the same thing can happen to the Scientific Method?
  7. Sep 7, 2009 #6
    When you find said method, shoot me an email.

  8. Sep 7, 2009 #7
    Are you perhaps speculating that the next significant scientific breakthrough (a technology leap) will require a new method to adequately describe and explain?
  9. Sep 7, 2009 #8


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    You would first need to identify a flaw in the existing method and then a new method that eliminates that flaw without introducing worse flaws. Could it happen? I don't know, I don't have a crystal ball and don't personally see a flaw in the existing method that needs to be fixed. Someone else might some day.

    Most of the problems I see in the conduct of science today are not related to problems with the scientific method, but instead are due to people who have oversized egos that they allow to get in the way of correctly applying the scientific method. When people get too personally attached to a theory that they won't let it go, and instead of critically evaluating it and attempting to disprove it only do what they can to keep trying to further provide support for it, then we start to get bad science.
  10. Sep 7, 2009 #9


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    There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the scientific method. Weaknesses are systemic, not fundamental, and are more political/administrative than objective.

    If there is a field that looks "hot", it will attract funding. If there is a branch that challenges long-held beliefs and requires epistemology, it will die on the vine for lack of funding. "Publish or perish" is not a joke - it is a fact of life.
  11. Sep 7, 2009 #10
    As you may recall, in Science you go with the explanation that uses the least amount of assumptions to explain the most amount of facts. Using that as an analogy, considering that the world is billions of years old, and humans are constantly finding better methods, are you saying you don't think something won't eventually happen? Doesn't saying no revolution will ever occur require many extra assumptions?

    What's wrong with imagination based in reality, history, and science?
  12. Sep 7, 2009 #11
    You have speculated on 'some' new way of doing science which is more parsimonious than the current method, and base it on speculation. The problem is that it's founded.
  13. Sep 7, 2009 #12
    When I put the keys into my car ignition, I don't know it'll start. All I know is it started in the past. However, it requires even more assumptions to believe it won't start. Don't you think it requires assumptions to say the Scientific Method, which is already excellent, won't be replaced by something even more excellent?

    The Romans thought they were modern. In the early 1900's some said no more inventions would be made. If there's one thing that doesn't change, it is the changing face of human innovations/methods itself.
  14. Sep 7, 2009 #13
    Maybe not the next breakthrough. However, eventually something with bringing our methods from excellent to very excellent. I'm getting the impression that some here are thinking I'm putting Science down. I actually love Science and am actually just trying to get thought/methodological imagination flowing here. I don't think it's working. Maybe if I could go 1,000 years into the future and take a look.

    I just like to think about how there are changes throughout history, and what that may actually imply about the future.
  15. Sep 7, 2009 #14
    i don't think it matters much. if changes need to be made, the scientific method will take care of it.
  16. Sep 7, 2009 #15
    This really is a meaningless analogy and a weak point you're trying to make.

    <shrug> ..........................?
  17. Sep 8, 2009 #16
    The key in the car ignition analogy is one of the same ones scientists use to defend themselves against people who say you can't prove for sure in Science. You're not implying you don't agree with inference to the best explanation are you? Science uses it all the time, in saying plate tectonics/gravitation/x-rays are true, although the National Academy of Sciences say they can't be proved for sure. Thinking big picture, just like there's metacognition (thinking about thinking), why can't there be a Science of Science, including inference to the best explanation on what will happen? When you look at history, many had the exact same mindset some in this forum have today; they say that their times are modern, don't want to look past what they can see, and assume nothing will change.

    The world has been around for billions of years so far, and there will be more billions more years. You aren't actually saying you think history won't repeat itself by nothing better coming to replace the already good? It's just big picture abstract thinking; actually I don't think of it as too abstract since history already tells us that humans continue to make improvements.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2009
  18. Sep 8, 2009 #17
    You're correct, you first need to find a flaw. I actually meant this thread to be more about trying to be sparking our big picture critical thinking imagination in discussing what seems rationale, rather than actually be the revolutionaries ourself (we can leave that for some future Newton or Einstein). :wink: I'm just thinking, if history repeats itself like it always does, what will happen over the next hundreds of years? Especially considering there may be billions more years, why is it safe to say that nothing can/will happen? Don't scientists ask many "what if questions"? So what if we were to play the role of Science about Science, where we spark our scientific/creative/cause-effect imaginations.

    Here's an of how people think there are flaws in the Scientific Method, maybe could be improved on? https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=335584 For example, some in that thread are taking my point of the National Academy of Sciences saying that although plate tectonic and gravitation don't have reasonable doubt you still can't prove for sure, and then in return the posters ask why can't Science change in saying smoking causes health problems. Although looking at the evidence I don't understand how on earth smoking can't be bad for you, there are those who object. Just like for many years many scientists didn't believe the anomalies in Newton's ideas were actual anomalies until Einstein just couldn't handle it any more and put quite a bit of thought into it, what if someone does the same to come up with an even better method than the great Scientific Method?
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2009
  19. Sep 8, 2009 #18
    I'm a lottle concerned with the current trend towards a new method I'll call 'simulation science'.

    Many papers I've read recently either downplay or specifically omit the fact that the conclusions they are drawing are from simulation studies and are not nearly explicit enough for my taste to distinguish between simulation results and hard measurements.

    Simulation has its place, but I edge it more towards the theory side which then has to be validated by direct observations. I get the feeling many see this much more on the experimental side.
  20. Sep 8, 2009 #19
    Strike 1


    Strike 2

    I think, you think, we all think for think think.
  21. Sep 9, 2009 #20
    You know, I could be wrong, but many would think a forum supposed to be interested in intellectual persuits wouldn't be so shunning towards something like whether history repeats itself. Am I missing something here?

    Didn't a lot of great minds say you can understand the future by looking at the past? I don't know why someone here has to freak out SO MUCH by something so simple as how history helps us understand the future. OMG!
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