Science History: The Scientific Method

The scientific method refers to a series of techniques used to investigate natural phenomena. In essence, an individual can use scientific methodology to acquire new knowledge or correct and integrate existing facts. A general inquiry requires specific steps to evaluate a proposed idea. The scientific method consists of gathering empirical and measurable evidence and then observing the results of a subject under an unbiased lens. By definition, the scientific method incorporates a systematic series of observation, measurement, experimentation, formulation, testing, and modification of a proposed hypothesis. Without the scientific method, realism would become synonymous with subjective reality. It allows us to examine the world around us as a collective whole in objective reality.

The scientific method offers solutions to profound and mundane problems ranging from universal law to mechanical attributes. Scientists incorporate the method to test and verify a hypothesis by repeated duplication. A hypothesis refers to a proposed educational guess about an observed natural phenomena. Once a hypothesis gains confirmation, then it becomes a theory. In essence, scientists use theories to make probable predictions before compiling physical evidence to support them. The scientific method serves as an instrument to indisputably prove a theory right or wrong and then modify or discard them as necessary.

The scientific community states that observing data acts as the core principle behind the scientific method, and essentially science itself. Scientists gather information about the subject and then collect data for proper observation. Data consists of either quantitative or qualitative properties. Quantitative evidence as a numerical basis, whereas qualitative has behavioral undertones. Scientists analyze the observations of the collected data and then make generalizations regarding an applicable subject, a process called inductive reasoning. Scientists rigorously test these predictions to verify their accuracy. The entire process requires asking many questions, proposing a hypothesis, and then test the hypothesis to form a conclusion.

Researchers apply the scientific method to evaluated test subjects to avoid imparting personal bias into the overall laboratory results. Preconceived notions must not influence the scientific experiments, otherwise it could ultimately obscure the test results. The scientific method requires participants to follow standard procedures through an objective lens while conducting experiments. Maintaining these procedures restricts the possibility of swaying from factual evidence. Researchers perform experiments with the appropriate controls, while observing the data uncovered during the implementation of rigid testing. Ignoring these steps can lead to confirmation bias, an error that confirms subjective perception of the data in accordance to the proposed hypothesis.

People can apply the scientific method to everyday problems by using a simplified version of logical progression. To find a solution to a current problem, one must first identify the problem based on an observation. For instance, automobile operators will immediately identify the problem with their left flat tire. Next, the operator should determine a plausible solution to the problem. For example, the operator could replace the flat tire with a spare, or call for roadside assistance. Testing the aforementioned solutions by acting in either direction will provide a confirmation to the proposed solution to the problem. If the proposed solution fails, then the operator can continue to form other hypotheses until fixing the problem.

The scientific method remains inseparable from science itself. Historically, the Ancient Egyptians documented empirical methods in astronomy, mathematics, and medicine. The Greek philosophers dissented against supernatural, religious, mythological, or superstitious conjecture. Plato's introduction of deductive reasoning was the first step towards the formal development of the scientific method. Aristotle formalized empiricism by expressing the belief in reaching conclusions to universal truths through the process of induction. However, the first instances of an experimental scientific method did not emerge until the Islamic scientists introduced the use of experimentation and quantification with empirical observations. In 1620, Francis Bacon published a book entitled, “Novum Organum,” that outlined a system of logic that improved on syllogistic philosophical processes. In 1637, Rene Descartes published “Discourse of Method,” a book that established the framework for the guiding principles of the modern scientific method. The combined efforts from Alhazen, Francis Bacon, and Rene Descartes contributed to the critical historical development of the modern scientific method model.

In addition, Roger Bacon's dissemination of Grosseteste's principle thoughts in regards to a structured, adequate method of scientific theory greatly influenced the scientists throughout medieval universities during the 17 th century. In the 19 th century, Charles Sanders Pierce outlined an objective method that incorporated inductive and deductive reasoning to test the truth of putative knowledge. His contributions formulated the rigorous hypothesis testing that remains the focal point of the scientific method today. He also introduced the concepts of abductive, deductive, and inductive interference. Other views purported by Karl Popper during the 1930s suggested the non-existence of inductive reasoning. Popper rejected the notion of objective absolutes and welcomed metaphysical and philosophical discussion. His view became widely known as critical rationalism.

The scientific method allows scientists to observe collected data and form educational guesses that would lead to probable conclusions. It provides a system of checks and balances to confirm theories as indisputable fact. Researchers use the scientific method to evaluate proposed hypotheses and rigorously test to form an objective conclusion. All experiments would remain tainted by the observer's subjective reality if not for the standardized tests outlined in the scientific method. Therefore, it remains as the underlying methodology for exploring the empirical world around us.

Follow these links to learn more about the scientific method:

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