The Scientific Method

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  • #1
Glenn

Main Question or Discussion Point

"Anytime you see a turtle up on top of a fence post, you know he had some help" -Alex Haley


What would be the scientific approach to figuring out how the turtle got on top of the fence post?

Thanks,
Glenn
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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You are asking to explain how the turtle got on top of the fence; the scientific method generates theories from hypothesis. Whether you can use the scientific method to explain how the turtle go there depends on whether your definition of "explains" is satisfied by a scientific theory. If not, then it doesn't apply (though I think you will encounter philosophical problems with that if you explore it fully).

If it does, then using the scientific method would simply mean developing a hypothesis of how he got there and doing observations of many turtles to see if it holds water.
 
  • #3
LURCH
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This looks like a good place to apply forensic science. Your theory might be that a person put the turtle on the fencepost. So an hypothesis based on that theory could be, "If a person put that turtle on that fencepost, then there will be human footprints in the soil around the fencepost". You can now proceed to experiment, which would consist of looking at the soil around the fencepost. During this experiment, you could possibly observe the footprints predicted by your theory. You now have one experimental observation in favor of the preferred theory.

From this, you could use the same methodology to follow the footprints (hypothesising that the person at the end of the trail of footprints is the person who made the same prints you saw at the fencepost), and find that they do indeed lead to a person. You could also ask that person if they put the turtle on the fencepost. You could smell their hands, reasoning that if they just put a turtle on a fencepost, their hands will smell like turtle.

Etc.
 
  • #4
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Don't forget to check the turtle for fingerprints and dna...
 
  • #5
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And, in the spirits of our latest forensic tv shows, never turn on the lights!
 
  • #6
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Obviously even quantum leaps are relative for turtles. He/she/it tunneled up there as any other offer would be pure speculation.
 
  • #7
dekoi
The scientific method is greatly flawed. One could prove a sceptic -- who believes the scientific method can prove anything -- wrong in a matter of a couple of words.
 
  • #8
Nereid
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dekoi said:
The scientific method is greatly flawed. One could prove a sceptic -- who believes the scientific method can prove anything -- wrong in a matter of a couple of words.
In what sense is it 'greatly flawed'? The second sentence in your post suggests you are applying a quite inappropriate standard (e.g. 'the scientific method is flawed because it doesn't hum my favourite tune while I'm brushing my teeth')
 
  • #9
dekoi
I would not say it is a matter of a subjective opinion. But modern society (especially secular humanists) rely too much on the scientific method. Some do not realize there is ways to substitute it (such as e.g. common sense, experience, intuition, insight, reasoning, or a trustable authority).

--

Person1: The scientific method is universal; it can prove anything."
Person2: Can you prove 'that' with the scientific method?"
Person1: Guess not.

therefore, scientific method proves to be fallible. Yes, the argument might seem slightly naive, yet its simple nature is excactly what makes it so interesting.
 
  • #10
HallsofIvy
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dekoi said:
I would not say it is a matter of a subjective opinion. But modern society (especially secular humanists) rely too much on the scientific method. Some do not realize there is ways to substitute it (such as e.g. common sense, experience, intuition, insight, reasoning, or a trustable authority).

--

Person1: The scientific method is universal; it can prove anything."
Person2: Can you prove 'that' with the scientific method?"
Person1: Guess not.

therefore, scientific method proves to be fallible. Yes, the argument might seem slightly naive, yet its simple nature is excactly what makes it so interesting.
Looks equivalent to this argument: "I do not understand what the scientific method is, therefore it is invalid!"

I have never heard any scientist claim that "the scientific method is universal" (I'm not even sure what that means!). One of the first things I learned about the scientific method, and I am sure every scientist understands this, is that the scientific method cannot prove anything. What the scientific method does is disprove possible theories.
 
  • #11
Nereid
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dekoi said:
I would not say it is a matter of a subjective opinion. But modern society (especially secular humanists) rely too much on the scientific method.
Doesn't that rather depend upon what they (or anyone else for that matter) expect? Irrespective of what some people might (or might not) hope to achieve using the scientific method, to damn *the method* for the misplaced hopes of some people is like saying 'the Sun is flawed because I am not yet as rich as Bill Gates'? Or perhaps I misunderstand you.
Some do not realize there is ways to substitute it (such as e.g. common sense, experience, intuition, insight, reasoning, or a trustable authority).
Hmm, let's see now ... these mushrooms look so nice, I'll bet they're delicious! What? By application of the scientific method you have determined that they contain a deadly poison and are fatal to humans, even if only one is eaten?!?!? Hogwash, my common sense, intuition, insight and so on tell me that something as nice-looking as these mushrooms can't possibly contain poison! So, I'll substitute those for your so-called 'scientific method' thank you.
--

Person1: The scientific method is universal; it can prove anything."
This is a joke, right? Where did you get the idea that the scientific method 'can prove anything'?
Person2: Can you prove 'that' with the scientific method?"
Person1: Guess not.

therefore, scientific method proves to be fallible. Yes, the argument might seem slightly naive, yet its simple nature is excactly what makes it so interesting.
Err, with respect, this fails even by 'reasoning' (one of your stated alternatives); showing something to be 'fallible' by defining it to be something quite different from what it is is surely a nonsense? I mean, isn't it similar to saying:
Person1: black is the smell of rotting flesh
Person2: Can't be, because I don't smell rotting flesh when I go outside on a moonless night
Person1: Guess not.

therefore, black proves to be not a smell.
 
  • #12
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dekoi said:
The scientific method is greatly flawed. One could prove a sceptic -- who believes the scientific method can prove anything -- wrong in a matter of a couple of words.
I do not think the scientific method is capable of proving what you suggest, and yet do not believe it is flawed at all. Using the definition of the scientific method, show how I am in any way wrong.

As has been pointed out, I think you have misdefined the scientific method, or at the least do not understand it's use.
 
  • #13
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dekoi said:
But modern society (especially secular humanists) rely too much on the scientific method.
This is most likely due to the fact that the methods of science work. Look around. It works. Secular humanists make a better choice when they select science over, o, let's say, ...religion... to explain the natural universe.

dekoi said:
Some do not realize there is ways to substitute it (such as e.g. common sense, experience, intuition, insight, reasoning, or a trustable authority).
All the substitutions that are given here are ultimately found in the methods of science. There is no one scientific method, by the way. The "scientific method" taught in school is something of a misconception.

Science is really a set of methods, the application of which works towards the goal of explaining the natural universe using natural explanations. Common sense is part of it, but common sense alone does not yield accurate conclusions (e.g. Aristotle, the feather, and the hammer). Experience, intuition, and insight are greatly important. Intuition and insight are products of a good imagination, which Einstein declared to be more important than knowledge. However, some knowledge is necessary in order to begin any scientific progress, so trustable authority (e.g. the scientists who come before us) is important. Deductive and inductive reasoning acts as the glue that holds all the methods of science together and makes the results of science intelligible.
 
  • #14
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The over reliance on science is a compromise between the results people demand and the practical realities of how they can be achieved.

For example, although Skinnerian Behaviorism was a new science at the time, the US congress funded it heavily in the fifties. The reason was simple, it was the only existing psychology that could put hard numbers on it's research. When you start talking about hundreds of congressmen having to evaluate the value of research, they understandably demand hard numbers. Give all those lawyers anything other than hard numbers and hard facts, and the debate will never end.

Poor results or no results whatsoever, the public demands and pays for whatever it wants. A hundred years ago, that included public funding of eugenics research and phrenology, but the scientific community has since grown more beauracratically sauvy along with the rest of world. Turning your question on it's head, why doesn't society rely more on alternatives? Because the alternatives have frequently reinforced the uglier side of humanity. At least science strives for objectivity.
 
  • #15
dekoi
I fully understand the scientific method. The unimportant questions are answered by science. Science can not answer the most important questions because its method does not allow it. Science is pure physical. Philosophy answers the questions which scence fails to answers in a valid, clear, definite way. What philosophy does not answer, theology answers. Each of these: science, philosophy, and theology, has its own way of answering questions. Its own 'method' if you will. You would not, for example, ask a physician to fix your car, because it is not his nature. You would ask a mechanic instead. Similarly, you would not ask a mechanical to perscribe you medicine. It is in no way, related to his method of work. Science is not sufficient enough for living a good life, and creating a good society. While humanity progresses, it realizes the questions which philosophy can answer, and those which science can. And when that is realized, the question will be sufficiently answered by a specific method. Science investigates. Philosophy does not. Philosophy goes beyond the senses. Science is trapped inside the senses and human experience. Science can only investigate the phenomenal world. Everything beyond, is in fact, beyond its comprehension.

Science is a means of producing. Philosophy does not produce anything at all. But knowledge is not only science. There is another use of knowledge. That use is philosphy. This philosophical knowledge directs us. Directs us towards the good; towards our meaning.
 
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  • #16
arildno
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dekoi said:
I fully understand the scientific method. The unimportant questions are answered by science. Science can not answer the most important questions because its method does not allow it. Science is pure physical. Philosophy answers the questions which scence fails to answers in a valid, clear, definite way. What philosophy does not answer, theology answers. Each of these: science, philosophy, and theology, has its own way of answering questions. Its own 'method' if you will. You would not, for example, ask a physician to fix your car, because it is not his nature. You would ask a mechanic instead. Similarly, you would not ask a mechanical to perscribe you medicine. It is in no way, related to his method of work. Science is not sufficient enough for living a good life, and creating a good society. While humanity progresses, it realizes the questions which philosophy can answer, and those which science can. And when that is realized, the question will be sufficiently answered by a specific method. Science investigates. Philosophy does not. Philosophy goes beyond the senses. Science is trapped inside the senses and human experience. Science can only investigate the phenomenal world. Everything beyond, is in fact, beyond its comprehension.

Science is a means of producing. Philosophy does not produce anything at all. But knowledge is not only science. There is another use of knowledge. That use is philosphy. This philosophical knowledge directs us. Directs us towards the good; towards our meaning.
Try to be more objective and accurate in your next analysis..
 
  • #17
Nereid
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dekoi said:
I fully understand the scientific method. The unimportant questions are answered by science. Science can not answer the most important questions because its method does not allow it. Science is pure physical. Philosophy answers the questions which scence fails to answers in a valid, clear, definite way. What philosophy does not answer, theology answers. Each of these: science, philosophy, and theology, has its own way of answering questions. Its own 'method' if you will. You would not, for example, ask a physician to fix your car, because it is not his nature. You would ask a mechanic instead. Similarly, you would not ask a mechanical to perscribe you medicine. It is in no way, related to his method of work. Science is not sufficient enough for living a good life, and creating a good society. While humanity progresses, it realizes the questions which philosophy can answer, and those which science can. And when that is realized, the question will be sufficiently answered by a specific method. Science investigates. Philosophy does not. Philosophy goes beyond the senses. Science is trapped inside the senses and human experience. Science can only investigate the phenomenal world. Everything beyond, is in fact, beyond its comprehension.

Science is a means of producing. Philosophy does not produce anything at all. But knowledge is not only science. There is another use of knowledge. That use is philosphy. This philosophical knowledge directs us. Directs us towards the good; towards our meaning.
Using physics as a proxy for science and the scientific method, we have been having a really interesting discussion here in PF that is quite pertinent to your question dekoi - posters addressed these ideas and many more ... would you care to join that discussion?
 
  • #18
dekoi
Thank you for aknowledging me about that thread. Had not seen it for some strange reason.

Arilndo, i do not see how my argument is at all subjective. Please be a little more precise. M.J. Adler wrote an interesting essay called 'Questions Science Cannot Answer". Have you read this?
 
  • #19
arildno
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1. You haven't given any evidence that philosophy&theology provides those "insights" they claim to possess/provide.
Hence, your analogy is shallow and inaccurate; it should rather be:
Just like you won't hire a quack to fix your car, neither would you trust him in giving you sound medical advice.
2."The unimportant questions are answered by science. "
This type of highly subjective, disgustingly arrogant comments is not appreciated.
 
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  • #20
selfAdjoint
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arildno said:
2."The unimportant questions are answered by science. "
This type of highly subjective, disgustingly arrogant comments is not appreciated.
I don't see that statement as subjective or arrogant. Scientists freely state that there are questions science doesn't answer. For example why is there anything at all?

Some questions are not currently answered but may be in the future (or maybe not!). Evolutionists are firm in saying their science does not expain the origin of life, and there are competing theories of that, with no resolution in sight. Likewise there is no TEO in sight, to unify and explain the forces. The interpretation of quantum mechanics is also controversial, and research on the measurement problem just seems to go around in circles, adding more detail but going nowhere.
 
  • #21
arildno
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Eeh, is general relativity UNimportant?
Is the development of efficacious medicines unimportant?
Is curiosity about the world we live in unimportant?
Is rigourous thinking unimportant?

Possibly you and the poster think so, but that's your highly subjective view.

The dismissive tone in the phrase is a sign of arrogance.
 
  • #22
dekoi
I'm sorry arildno if i sounded arrogant in my statement. But I do not see how my statement is anything remotely resembling a subjective statement. Perhaps your bias for science is causing you to say so. Do not mistake my reply; i highly respect science -- although i still believe it answers questions which are very unimportant compared to ones which philosophy attempts to answer. Not stating that the questions themselves are unimportant; only in comparison with philosophical questions do they become so.
 
  • #23
arildno
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With that modification, much better

However, I have yet to see any philosophy which has lived up to the grandiose task it has set itself.
To overestimate one's own abilities and overshoot is not a noble undertaking.
 
  • #24
dekoi
Great writer Tolstoy answered a philosophical question in his book, "A Confession", which overviews his struggle to find the meaning of life. Personally, i see a tremendously important question such as that much more important that the cause of earthquakes, or the study of inertia.
 
  • #25
arildno
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Why do you think "unanswerable questions" are best answered by philosophy?
I've met hosts of ordinary folks who haven't read a single line of philosophy whose attitudes/answers to these questions seem far superior than those answers given in obscure, academic language.

That is, philosophy is a discipline which, IMO, fails miserably in what it proclaims:
To procure some superior knowledge on certain deep issues which cannot be gotten without studying philosophy
(Please note that in any other craft/science, the one educated in the discipline (for example a car mechanic or a doctor) do posses superior knowledge of his field than the non-specialist)
 

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