The Scientific Method

  • Thread starter Drakkith
  • Start date
  • #1
Drakkith
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
20,978
4,794
The Scientific Method. Why is it important? What makes it "the" method to use for investigating the universe?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Nugatory
Mentor
12,957
5,653
The Scientific Method. Why is it important? What makes it "the" method to use for investigating the universe?
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.
 
  • #3
Bobbywhy
Gold Member
1,722
50
“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 [Broken]

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 [Broken]

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
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #4
Drakkith
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
20,978
4,794
Thanks for the links Bobby!
 
  • #6
22,089
3,285
Not really an answer to your question, but it's something everybody should watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYPapE-3FRw
 
  • #8
537
1
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.
 
  • #9
62
0
The scientific method is just test and confirm, if you don't it would just be a guess.
 
  • #10
George Jones
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,385
1,005
The scientific method is just test
Test what?
if you don't it would just be a guess.
Did you watch the video in post #6?
 
  • #11
472
0
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.
 
  • #12
Drakkith
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
20,978
4,794
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.
 
  • #13
918
16
it's the state of the art in ascertaining the truth about the world of our experience.
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.
 
  • #14
472
0
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.
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:
  • #15
472
0
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.
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.
 
  • #16
418
0
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

There is a contradiction between Darwin’s methodology and how he described it for public consumption. Darwin claimed that he proceeded ‘‘on true Baconian [inductive] principles and without any theory collected facts on a wholesale scale.’’ He also wrote, ‘‘How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!’’ The scientific method includes 2 episodes. The first consists of formulating hypotheses; the second consists of experimentally testing them. What differentiates science from other knowledge is the second episode: subjecting hypotheses to empirical testing by observing whether or not predictions derived from a hypothesis are the case in relevant observations and experiments. A hypothesis is scientific only if it is consistent with some but not other possible states of affairs not yet observed, so that it is subject to the possibility of falsification by reference to experience. Darwin occupies an exalted place in the history of Western thought, deservedly receiving credit for the theory of evolution. In The Origin of Species, he laid out the evidence demonstrating the evolution of organisms. More important yet is that he discovered natural selection, the process that accounts for the adaptations of organisms and their complexity and diversification. Natural selection and other causal processes of evolution are investigated by formulating and testing hypotheses. Darwin advanced hypotheses in multiple fields, including geology, plant morphology and physiology, psychology, and evolution, and subjected them to severe empirical tests.
Please read on . . .
http://www.pnas.org/content/106/suppl.1/10033.full.pdf+html [Broken]
:smile:
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #17
197
17
I suggest you look at the works of Karl Popper.
 
  • #18
418
0
The Scientific Method. Why is it important? What makes it "the" method to use for investigating the universe?
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
 
  • #19
647
3
The Scientific Method. Why is it important? What makes it "the" method to use for investigating the universe?
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.

The scientific method is just test and confirm, if you don't it would just be a guess.
That's just the start. Did you forget about tossing hypotheses out the window and thinking up new ones? :smile:
 
  • #20
Evo
Mentor
23,152
2,766
Thomas Henry Huxley quote - "The great tragedy of Science - the slaying of a
beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact".
 

Related Threads on The Scientific Method

  • Last Post
3
Replies
55
Views
10K
  • Last Post
Replies
17
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
24
Views
4K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
39
Views
5K
  • Last Post
Replies
15
Views
800
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
3K
  • Last Post
4
Replies
76
Views
9K
  • Last Post
Replies
14
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
23
Views
5K
Replies
3
Views
898
Top