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The Scientific Method

  1. May 7, 2012 #1

    Drakkith

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    The Scientific Method. Why is it important? What makes it "the" method to use for investigating the universe?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 7, 2012 #2

    Nugatory

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    It is important as a method for investigating the universe because it works really really well on a wide range of interesting and/or important problems. (it probably also works for uninteresting and important problems, but we have less observational data about what works and doesn't for these problems:smile:)

    Is it "the" method? It depends on how narrowly you define "investigating the universe". Other methods such as simulation/modeling and pure mathematical logic have a place; and the theologians and philosophers seem to find their results useful and valuable.
     
  4. May 7, 2012 #3

    Bobbywhy

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    “Scientific process doesn't have an end. It's circular. Actually, it's a lot more complicated than that. The progress of science tracks a very complicated pattern of many, many interlocking circular pathways. But the important message is that you never get to the end. This is the Great Fallacy of most discussions of the scientific method. No list can adequately describe the process of science--it requires, at the very least, a cycle.
    There is no such thing as proof in science. It doesn't matter how many experiments agree with your hypothesis, or how much data you have. All concepts in science are fundamentally tentative. What does change as we accumulate evidence is that our level of confidence in our ideas increases. As more and more evidence accumulates which supports an idea, and none appears that significantly contradicts it, we become very confident in that idea. This is the situation with things like Newton's Laws and the theories of evolution and atomic structure. We assume that they are at least very close to The Truth. But we never, ever decide that we know for sure that they are the truth.”
    http://www.cod.edu/people/faculty/fancher/scimeth.htm

    ScientificMethod.com Website
    Established 1997 – Latest Update December 2011
    Compiled and written by Norman W. Edmund , founder of Edmund Scientific, Inc.
    “Why Use the Scientific Method?
    Centuries of study, debate, and experimentation has established that the best of all methods of obtaining and originating reliable knowledge in all fields is the scientific method. Therefore, for all of the above problems of competitiveness in all areas, the scientific method is the guide to the mental activities and systems needed to solve the complex competitiveness problems.
    The alternatives of using chance, partial or inferior methods, or haphazardness in attempting to solve these complex problems risks the danger of mediocrity. The threat to our competitiveness is well recognized. However, the harm from our inadequate education in and use of the scientific method is not recognized.”
    http://scientificmethod.com/bpg36_impofsm.html

    For an excellent description plus a great reading list, see:
    “Scientific Method and Philosophy of Science 11 Mar 2011”
    http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/notabene/scientific-method.html
     
  5. May 7, 2012 #4

    Drakkith

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    Thanks for the links Bobby!
     
  6. May 8, 2012 #5

    George Jones

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    What is the scientific method? For one scientist's (Percy Bridgeman, physics Nobel Laureate) take on the scientific method, see

    ON SCIENTIFIC METHOD by Percy W. Bridgman.
     
  7. May 8, 2012 #6

    micromass

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    Not really an answer to your question, but it's something everybody should watch:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYPapE-3FRw
     
  8. May 8, 2012 #7

    Pythagorean

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  9. May 8, 2012 #8
    for me, it's because obviously it works. I haven't spent a lot of time really thinking about the scientific method, cause I'm only 20. But I have been spending a lot of time learning about all these things that were discovered using it.

    I think astrophysics is a great example of what kind of stuff can be figured out. If you think about it, all we really look at are the photons that our telescopes detect. It's not like we can do experiments on cosmic stuff. It would be great if we could drop a million stars into some supermassive black holes and find out what happens, and compare it with our theory, but we can only wait for what looks like a star getting ripped apart.

    But still, we've got a lot of scientific theories about what goes on out there in space, and so far most of it compares quite favorably with what we detect with our telescopes. And that's enough for me.

    It works, so I'll use it.
     
  10. May 10, 2012 #9
    The scientific method is just test and confirm, if you don't it would just be a guess.
     
  11. May 10, 2012 #10

    George Jones

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    Test what?
    Did you watch the video in post #6?
     
  12. May 10, 2012 #11
    What other informed posters said, plus my own two-cents synopsis:

    The scientific method employs the current standards in the evolving fields of experimental design, instrumentation and detection, statistical analysis, and logical/rational interpretation.

    So, comprehensively employed, it's the state of the art in ascertaining the truth about the world of our experience.
     
  13. May 10, 2012 #12

    Drakkith

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    Here's a question. Is there anything else that DOES work yet isn't normally included in the Scientific Method? Obviously random guessing will eventually yield SOME kind of progress, even if temporary, but still...

    I don't personally believe that anything else works, and I'm having a very difficult time wording these questions correctly, so I apologize if this seems like a very "basic" question with an obvious answer. I'm trying to ask a more in depth question but I don't know how to word it.
     
  14. May 10, 2012 #13
    I leave ascertaining truth to the religious and the philosophical. The scientific method is what you use when you give up on ever knowing the truth. Make your theories match your experiments, nothing deeper than that.
     
  15. May 10, 2012 #14
    If you're referring to fundamental truth, then neither the scientific method, nor philosophy, nor religious myth can pretend to definitively ascertain that. Note that, wrt the preeminence of the scientific method, I referred to truth about the world of our experience.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2012
  16. May 10, 2012 #15
    It's an interesting question, at first glance, that I've not considered before. My guess would be, no. Thus, the evolution of the modern scientific method.
     
  17. May 10, 2012 #16
    I think it beneficial to read the following from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America:

    Darwin and the scientific method by Francisco J. Ayala
    Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697

    :smile:
     
  18. May 10, 2012 #17
    I suggest you look at the works of Karl Popper.
     
  19. May 10, 2012 #18
    Hi Drakkith:smile: Besides what I presented on the previous page, you may like to read what
    NASA has to say about the Scientific Method that pertains to the Lunar Plant Growth Chamber:
    http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/plantgrowth/reference/Scientific_Method.html

    And The Scientific Method:An Investigation of Impact Craters:
    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/473315main_The Scientific Method DLN Module.pdf
     
  20. May 11, 2012 #19
    I generally take it to its bare minimum: come up with hypotheses that are clever and don't conflict with existing observations, and do whatever you can to disprove them. If you concede and have put a good amount of effort into (unsuccessfully) disproving them, they're considered proven for the time being.

    What I like about it is it gives observations higher precedence over theories. Our goal is to see how the Universe works, not to tell it to work a certain way.

    That's just the start. Did you forget about tossing hypotheses out the window and thinking up new ones? :smile:
     
  21. May 11, 2012 #20

    Evo

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    Thomas Henry Huxley quote - "The great tragedy of Science - the slaying of a
    beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact".
     
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