The scientific method

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Abletony, Jul 23, 2011.

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  1. Abletony Registered Member

    What exactly is the scientific method? Do all people in professions in which they are considered scientists follow it?
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  3. mathman Valued Senior Member

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  5. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Percy Bridgman, from Reflections of a Physicist: It seems to me that there is a good deal of ballyhoo about scientific method. I venture to think that the people who talk most about it are the people who do least about it. Scientific method is what working scientists do, not what other people or even they themselves may say about it. No working scientist, when he plans an experiment in the laboratory, asks himself whether he is being properly scientific, nor is he interested in whatever method he may be using as method. When the scientist ventures to criticize the work of his fellow scientist, as is not uncommon, he does not base his criticism on such glittering generalities as failure to follow the "scientific method," but his criticism is specific, based on some feature characteristic of the particular situation. The working scientist is always too much concerned with getting down to brass tacks to be willing to spend his time on generalities. [...] What appears to [the working scientist] as the essence of the situation is that he is not consciously following any prescribed course of action, but feels complete freedom to utilize any method or device whatever which in the particular situation before him seems likely to yield the correct answer. In his attack on his specific problem he suffers no inhibitions of precedent or authority, but is completely free to adopt any course that his ingenuity is capable of suggesting to him. No one standing on the outside can predict what the individual scientist will do or what method he will follow. In short, science is what scientists do, and there are as many scientific methods as there are individual scientists.

    Peter Medawar, from Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought: Ask a scientist what he conceives the scientific method to be, and he will adopt an expression that is at once solemn and shifty-eyed: solemn, because he feels he ought to declare an opinion; shifty-eyed, because he is wondering how to conceal the fact that he has no opinion to declare. [...] If the purpose of scientific methodology is to prescribe or expound a system of inquiry or even a code of practice for scientific behavior, then scientists seem to be able to get on very well without it. Most scientists receive no tuition in scientific method, but those who have been instructed perform no better as scientists than those who have not. Of what other branch of learning can it be said that it gives its proficients no advantage; that it need not be taught or, if taught, need not be learned?
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  7. leopold Valued Senior Member

    there are 3 basic steps for the method:
    1. observation
    2. formulation of an hypothesis about said observation.
    3. an attempt to prove that hypothesis.
    i would assume they do.

    why do you ask? do you have an alternative?
  8. MRC_Hans Skeptic Registered Senior Member

    Leopold99 answered the first question excellently.

    Do all who are assumed to be scientists follow it?

    Well, does everybody follow the traffic rules?

    Of course not.

    However, I might add a number to Leopold's list:

    4. Peer review.

    Peer review has two meanings:

    A specific one for publication; to be admitted into a recognized journal, a panel of scientists should approve the the article. This does not mean that it is right, just that the panel deems that sound scientific methods were used.

    A general one: Whenever an interesting result is reported, other scientists will scrutinize, criticize, and maybe try to repeat the experiment.

    Thus, if you don't use proper scientific methods, you are very likely to be found out. And if you are caugt tweaking results, it is not good for your career.

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