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The Scientific Method

  1. Sep 21, 2004 #1
    "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
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 21, 2004 #2
    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.
     
  4. Sep 21, 2004 #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.
     
  5. Sep 21, 2004 #4
    Don't forget to check the turtle for fingerprints and dna...
     
  6. Sep 22, 2004 #5
    And, in the spirits of our latest forensic tv shows, never turn on the lights!
     
  7. Sep 23, 2004 #6
    Obviously even quantum leaps are relative for turtles. He/she/it tunneled up there as any other offer would be pure speculation.
     
  8. Sep 23, 2004 #7
    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.
     
  9. Sep 23, 2004 #8

    Nereid

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    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')
     
  10. Sep 23, 2004 #9
    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.
     
  11. Sep 24, 2004 #10

    HallsofIvy

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    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.
     
  12. Sep 24, 2004 #11

    Nereid

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    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.
    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.
    This is a joke, right? Where did you get the idea that the scientific method 'can prove anything'?
    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.
     
  13. Sep 24, 2004 #12
    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.
     
  14. Sep 24, 2004 #13
    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.

    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.
     
  15. Sep 24, 2004 #14
    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.
     
  16. Sep 25, 2004 #15
    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.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2004
  17. Sep 25, 2004 #16

    arildno

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    Try to be more objective and accurate in your next analysis..
     
  18. Sep 25, 2004 #17

    Nereid

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    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?
     
  19. Sep 25, 2004 #18
    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?
     
  20. Sep 26, 2004 #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.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2004
  21. Sep 26, 2004 #20

    selfAdjoint

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    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.
     
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