Scientific Method

Topics: Scientific method, Hypothesis, Theory Pages: 14 (5060 words) Published: June 27, 2013
Scientific Method • scientific method is a process for creating models of the natural world that can be verified experimentally. The scientific method requires making observations, recording data, and analyzing data in a form that can be duplicated by other scientists. In addition, the scientific method uses inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning to try to produce useful and reliable models of nature and natural phenomena. Inductive reasoning is the examination of specific instances to develop a general hypothesis or theory, whereas deductive reasoning is the use of a theory to explain specific results. In 1637 René Descartes published his Discours de la Méthode in which he described systematic rules for determining what is true, thereby establishing the principles of the scientific method.

The scientific method has four steps

1. Observation and description of a phenomenon. The observations are made visually or with the aid of scientific equipment. 2. Formulation of a hypothesis to explain the phenomenon in the form of a causal mechanism or a mathematical relation. 3. Test the hypothesis by analyzing the results of observations or by predicting and observing the existence of new phenomena that follow from the hypothesis. If experiments do not confirm the hypothesis, the hypothesis must be rejected or modified (Go back to Step 2). 4. Establish a theory based on repeated verification of the results.

The subject of a scientific experiment has to be observable and reproducible. Observations may be made with the unaided eye, a microscope, a telescope, a voltmeter, or any other apparatus suitable for detecting the desired phenomenon. The invention of the telescope in 1608 made it possible for Galileo to discover the moons of Jupiter two years later. Other scientists confirmed Galileo's observations and the course of astronomy was changed. However, some observations that were not able to withstand tests of objectivity were the canals of Mars reported by astronomer Percival Lowell. Lowell claimed to be able to see a network of canals in Mars that he attributed to intelligent life in that planet. Bigger telescopes and satellite missions to Mars failed to confirm the existence of canals. This was a case where the observations could not be independently verified or reproduced, and the hypothesis about intelligent life was unjustified by the observations. To Lowell's credit, he predicted the existence of the planet Pluto in 1905 based on perturbations in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. This was a good example of deductive logic. The application of the theory of gravitation to the known planets predicted that they should be in a different position from where they were. If the law of gravitation was not wrong, then something else had to account for the variation. Pluto was discovered 25 years later.

Limitations of the Scientific Method

Science has some well-known limitations. Science works by studying problems in isolation. This is very effective at getting good, approximate solutions. Problems outside these artificial boundaries are generally not addressed. The consistent, formal systems of symbols and mathematics used in science cannot prove all statements, and furthermore, they cannot prove all TRUE statements. Kurt Gödel showed this in 1931. The limitations of formal logical systems make it necessary for scientists to discard their old systems of thought and introduce new ones occasionally. Newton's gravitational model works fairly well for everyday physical descriptions, but it is not able to account for many important observations. For this reason, it has been replaced by Einstein's general theory of relativity for most celestial phenomena. Instead of talking about gravity, we now are supposed to talk about the curvature of the four-dimensional time-space continuum. Scientific observations are...
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