Thursday, June 19, 2014

Here is the Scientific Method

This is an overview of the scientific method. But can you do experiments like this in evolutionary biology? 

Loftus sometimes says that there is no Christianity, only Christianities. I wonder if someone could say that there is no science, only sciences. Some things seem appropriate for physics but not for biology, others for psychology and sociology. Then there are people who follow Rutherford say that science divides between physics and stamp collecting.  

 

Key Info

  • The scientific method is a way to ask and answer scientific questions by making observations and doing experiments.
  • The steps of the scientific method are to:
    • Ask a Question
    • Do Background Research
    • Construct a Hypothesis
    • Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
    • Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
    • Communicate Your Results
  • It is important for your experiment to be a fair test. A "fair test" occurs when you change only one factor (variable) and keep all other conditions the same.
  • While scientists study how nature works, engineers create new things, such as products, websites, environments, and experiences.

44 comments:

Benjamin Thompson said...

I suspect that if you interviewed most scientists they would say they do not operate according to the scientific method. I think most science is based off of adductive rather than inductive reasoning.

Heuristics said...

As an engineer working in a science group I feel it's important to remind everyone that this kind of thing, though often heard, has no relation to reality.

As an engineer I have no method to follow, i do what works, that is, whatever will work best.

The scientists do whatever will bring in the funding. No one that I have seen ever mentions anything about slavishly following some method, which as far as I can tell is so ludicrously simple that anything from grocery shopping to painting follows it.

Gyan said...

Experiments are not possible in many fields that are indisputably science such as astrophysics.
The aim of science is understanding of the phenomena. With respect to the biological phenomena, the Darwinian theory of evolution of species via natural selection offers an understanding and an unifying principle behind diverse phenomena. Thus, it is indisputably science.

mattghg said...

David Berlinksi once said "we understand science as little as we understand the cosmos".

Ilíon said...

"... Then there are people who follow Rutherford say that science divides between physics and stamp collecting."

Well, in fairness, Dawkins and his ilk are butterfly collectors.

Ilíon said...

As the physicist John Barrow once said to the butterfly collector, Richard Dawkins: "You have a problem with these ideas, Richard, because you're not really a scientist. You're a biologist."

im-skeptical said...

John Barrow - the religious hack at Templeton Foundation. Not surprising at all - he thinks theology is science and biology isn't.

Ilíon said...

^
Translation: "Dick to the Dawk is a rabid God-hater, therefore, he Speaks For 'Science! and everything he says is 'Science! (even though there is no evidence that he has *ever* done any science). But, John Barrow is not a rabid God-hater, therefore, he is a "religious hack", and everything he says is automatically discredited."

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"John Barrow - the religious hack at Templeton Foundation."

A hack? Let's consult the wikipedia (a more or less safe bet for learning factual matters about the scientific careers of known scientists) for the list of his accomplishments:

"Barrow attended Barham Primary School in Wembley until 1964 and Ealing Grammar School for Boys from 1964–71 and obtained his first degree in mathematics and physics from Van Mildert College at the University of Durham in 1974.[1] In 1977, he completed his doctorate in astrophysics at Magdalen College, Oxford, under Dennis William Sciama. He was a Junior Research Lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford, from 1977–81. He did two postdoctoral years in astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, as a Commonwealth Lindemann Fellow (1977–8) and Miller Fellow (1980–1).

In 1981 he joined the University of Sussex and rose to the rank of Professor and Director of the Astronomy Centre. In 1999, he became Professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and a fellow in Clare Hall at Cambridge University. He is Director of the Millennium Mathematics Project. From 2003–2007 he was Gresham Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College, London, and he has been appointed as Gresham Professor of Geometry from 2008–2011; only one person has previously held two different Gresham chairs.[2] In 2008, the Royal Society awarded him the Faraday Prize.

In addition to having published more than 480 journal articles, Barrow has coauthored (with Frank J. Tipler) The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, a work on the history of the ideas, specifically intelligent design and teleology, as well as a treatise on astrophysics. He has also published 17 books for general readers, beginning with his 1983 The Left Hand of Creation. His books summarise the state of the affairs of physical questions, often in the form of compendia of a large number of facts assembled from the works of great physicists, such as Paul Dirac and Arthur Eddington."

So if a man with a phd who then rises to the top ranks of his academic field, with over 480 articles published, is a hack, then we can safely assume that you think that the whole field of Astronomy is a fraud.

B. Prokop said...

"then we can safely assume that you think that the whole field of Astronomy is a fraud"

That is a very safe assumption. After all, just look at this (very partial) list of prominent Catholic astronomers (just the Catholics, mind you, and only the prominent ones):

Danielo Bartoli - Discoverer of cloud bands on Jupiter
Henri Bequerel - Discoverer of radioactivity
Jean Baptiste Biot - Proved the extraterrestrial origin of meteorites
Martin Stanislaus Brennan - Studied comets and sunspots
Giovanni Cassini - Major figure in the exploration of Saturn
Christopher Clavius - Used his astronomical observations to reform the calendar
Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis - Studied the rotation of planetary bodies and their atmospheres
Nicolaus Copernicus - Needs no introduction
Johann Baptist Cysat - Studied Comets
Hyppolyte Fizeau - experimentally determined the speed of light
Leon Foucault - Studied the Earth's rotation and designed major improvements to the telescope
Joseph von Fraunhofer - Studied the solar spectrum
Augusin-Jean Fresnel - studied the optics of starlight
Galileo - Again, no introduction needed
Pierre Gassendi - Studied the planet Mercury
Riccardo Giacconi - Practically single handedly founded X-ray astronomy
Francesco Grimaldi - Pioneer in spectroscopy
Eduard Heis - Pioneer in mapping the Milky Way Galaxy
Nicolas Louis de Lacaille - Cataloger of stellar and no -stellar objects
Joseph-Louis Lagrange - Studied the properties of planetary orbits
Pierre-Simon Laplace - Accomplishments too numerous to mention. One of the greatest astronomers of all time.
Georges Lemaitre - Discoverer of the "Big Bang"
Charles Misner - Refined Einstein's Theory of Relativity
Barnaba Oriani - Studied the planet Uranus
Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc - Discovered the Great Nebula in Orion
George von Peuerbach - The Father of "science popularization"
Giuseppi Piazzi - Discoverer of Ceres, and among the team of scientists who first determined the distance to the stars
Jean Picard - Devised the stellar coordniate system still used today
Giovanni Battista Riccioli - Studied gravity
Angelo Secchi - Devised system of stellar classification
Paolo al Ponzo Toscanelli - Studied comets (namer of Halley's Comet)
Urbain Le Verrier - Mathematically predicted the location of the as-yet undiscovered planet Neptune

Better steer clear of astronomy, Skep! It's a veritable hotbed of "hacks".

im-skeptical said...

A religious hack is anyone who thinks theology is science and biology isn't.

mattghg said...

When did Barrow say that theology is science?

B. Prokop said...

"When did Barrow say that theology is science?"

Oh, mattghg, did you ever step in it! Are you actually asking Skep for evidence of when Barrow said such a thing? Well... judging by his past history, you're going to be waiting a long, lo-o-o-o-o-ng time.

im-skeptical said...

Templeton Foundation is all about injecting theology into scientific research. That is their mission. That is why they hate scientists such as Dawkins who don't tow their party line.

Dan Gillson said...

Deflected!

Ilíon said...

"When did Barrow say that theology is science?"

Never, of course.

And, after all, the crabbed and petty 'science' of the present age is far too small to hold theology, or much of anything else of importance.

Dan Gillson said...

Wasn't Pannenberg's Jesus: God and Man the last big thing to happen to theology? Or has there been something else since 20 years ago?

B. Prokop said...

I'd say Pope Benedict's three volume Jesus of Nazareth would be the "last big thing" in theology.

Dan Gillson said...

I don't think that that created nearly the splash that JGM did, not to say that it wasn't an interesting or enlightening work. (I haven't read it, so I wouldn't know.)

im-skeptical said...

The "crabbed and petty 'science' of the present age" has broken loose from the shackles and confines of religious thinking, freed us from superstition, and has opened vast new vistas of understanding for mankind. If you think that a scientific view excludes humanity, you're wrong. Science has given us the freedom to explore our humanity far more than was ever possible in pre-scientific times when we were struggling to live. If you think you need God to be human, you're wrong about that, too.

B. Prokop said...

Religion and science are like the right and left wheels on a cart - lose either one, and you'll fall into a ditch! Religion without science is susceptible to superstition. Science without religion could well lead to Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and the Gulag.

We desperately need both, in this and in every century.

Ilíon said...

B.Proscientism "Religion without science is susceptible to superstition. ... We desperately need both, in this and in every century."

Get over the scientism, do.

It isn't 'science', as that word is narrowly construed in the present day, much less is it 'Science!' (that is, scientism and science-fetishism), that innoculates "religion" from superstition. One need only look at those who (imperialistically) bang on about 'science' (by which they mean 'Science!') to see some of the most superstitious persons in the Western world -- such as the rabid God-haters who infest this blog (and Michael Egnor's), or such as Patricia Churchland, or Daniel Dennett, or Samuel Harris or Carl Sagan.

(Modern) Science is a toy for little boys -- it can't tell us anything important, and if it tells us anything true, it's mostly by accident.

B. Prokop said...

And yet your profile says you're a computer programmer (???) Whole lotta science going on there, my friend!

grodrigues said...

@inm-skeptical:

Still waiting for the source where John Barrow says that "theology is science".

And by the way, John Barrow is not "at Templeton Foundation", but received the Templeton Prize, a different thing.

WMF said...

Templeton has religious people in it, therefore it is the enemy of skep.

It's the same logic that landed Bill Maher got a "science" award for being an atheist.

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/07/23/bill-maher-gets-the-richard-dawkins-awar/

im-skeptical said...

"John Barrow is not "at Templeton Foundation", but received the Templeton Prize, a different thing."

You are correct.

Other Templeton laureates include Mother Teresa, Brother Roger, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Charles Taylor, James McCord, Dalai Lama (14), Desmond Tutu. Obviously, scientific credentials or works are not their top concern.

im-skeptical said...

"Still waiting for the source where John Barrow says that "theology is science"."

The justification for my snide comment is pretty much that same as Barrow's for his snide comment. Chill out.



Dan Gillson said...

So ... Does Barrow actually think that theology is science, as you claimed on June 20 at 8:20 am, or were you just letting your ass do the talking again?

B. Prokop said...

"Other Templeton laureates include Mother Teresa, Brother Roger, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Charles Taylor, James McCord, Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu."

Damn, but John Barrow is in some fine company.

(Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, by the way, as co-inventor of analog speech encypherment, was one hell of a scientist!)

B. Prokop said...

"So ... Does Barrow actually think that theology is science, as you claimed on June 20 at 8:20 am, or were you just letting your ass do the talking again?"

Oh, Dan. Do you really think you're ever going to get Skep to back up one of his wild accusations. In any case, you need to wait in line. He has yet to provide a scintilla of evidence for his assertion that the Church "modified scripture in order to comply with dogma".

As for what part of Skep's anatomy does the talking for him, I think "the evidence is out there".

im-skeptical said...

I'll make a deal with you, Bob. When I see you backing up your arguments with substantial evidence, I'll return the favor. Meanwhile, you're just another loudmouth blowing smoke.

B. Prokop said...

"When I see you backing up your arguments with substantial evidence"

Kindly tell me when I haven't done this. Evidence, please. (Or are you just "blowing smoke"?)

Dave Duffy said...

Reflecting back on my brief scientific career, I don’t remember any philosophical pronouncements about the process. In the University, classes began with something like, “I know you have seen this before [some equation or theory], now with that in mind here is [the next step in the theory or equation]…” After the lecture, you would spend some tedious hours in the lab trying to demonstrate something like how much hydrogen and oxygen are in water. If your experiments didn't match the established knowledge, well, that proved how inadequate you or your experiment was (let me tell you those experiments were damn hard with the equipment provided).

After you earned the degree, you go looking for a job. Some employer makes money synthesizing molecules for the National Institutes of Health. It is a mind numbing, tedious process synthesizing molecules and proving they are the substance the NIH requested. What the NIH does with them is beyond your knowledge.

My best experience in science was when I borrowed a telescope from a friend and set it up on the farm the future Mrs. Duffy lived on with a large (maybe 3’ x 3’) map of the moon. We spent that the night looking at the map and through the telescope and sorting out the moon’s geography. Hot Dog! That was science. Her father did not look kindly at me when I walked her back to the house in the middle of the night. But, hey it was for science.

B. Prokop said...

I agree, Dave. Nothing beats a night out under the stars, exploring the 11th magnitude wastelands of the Milky Way. There's no bigger thrill than finally tracking down Struve 2398, Gliese 710, or Van Maanen's Star after a long search, and quietly contemplating just what it is you're looking at.

To those of you who haven't tried it, it can change your life!

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"The justification for my snide comment is pretty much that same as Barrow's for his snide comment."

That speaks volumes about you.

"Other Templeton laureates include Mother Teresa, Brother Roger, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Charles Taylor, James McCord, Dalai Lama (14), Desmond Tutu."

And besides the already mentioned John Barrow, also Freeman Dyson, Paul Davies, George Ellis, Francisco Ayala (who is... wait for it... a staunch critic of creationism and intelligent design), Fr. J. Polkinghorne or Fr. Stanley Jaki, all men with solid scientific credentials.

"Obviously, scientific credentials or works are not their top concern."

The award is for people that "made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works", so why should it be?

But no need to flog this dead horse anymore. Given your intellectual turpitude, we will never get from you any retraction; heavy qualifications -- so heavy, that your initial claim is by now long lost from sight -- will have to suffice.

Ilíon said...

I'm-irrational-and-damned-proud-of-it: "The justification for my snide comment is pretty much that same as Barrow's for his snide comment."

Let's see --

1) Richard Dawkins was having one of his typical atheistic meltdowns over some scientific ideas that could not be reconcilled with to his (false) metaphysics;

2) therefore, John Barrow sold Dawkins, "You have a problem with these ideas, Richard, because you're not really a scientist. You're a biologist."

2a) I repeated Barrow's wise assessment of Dawkins;

3) therefore, I-m-irrational was "justified" in calling Barrow a "religious hack" -- which, to be honest, strikes me as a bit more than 'snide' -- and in asserting that Barrow thinks that theology is science but that butterfly collecting, I mean, "biology", isn't.

im-skeptical said...

"therefore, I-m-irrational was "justified" in calling Barrow a "religious hack" -- which, to be honest, strikes me as a bit more than 'snide' -- and in asserting that Barrow thinks that theology is science but that butterfly collecting, I mean, "biology", isn't."

At least butterflies are real.

Dave Duffy said...

Thanks Bob for your thoughts. Perhaps it's time for Mrs. Duffy and I to spend another night under the stars--in a scientific sort or way.

If you read this comment, tell me something about Struve 2398, sounds interesting.

B. Prokop said...

Dave,

Struve 2398 is a binary system of red dwarfs, and despite it's faintness is one of the closest stars to the sun (being just under 12 light years away). The stars are so close to each other in mass that they orbit about a common center of gravity between the two components. I find Struve 2398 to be quite beautiful - two little reddish dots right up against each other in a field of mainly white stars.

mattghg said...

I wonder if someone could say that there is no science, only sciences. Some things seem appropriate for physics but not for biology, others for psychology and sociology.

I think this is right. If there is such a thing as "the scientific method" then it has to be defined more loosely than it is in the linked article in the OP.

Ilíon said...

I'm-constitutionally-unable-to-acknowledge-any-truths-that-contradict-the-metaphysical-lie-I-want-to-be-true:"At least butterflies are real."

Isn't it a curiosity the "unreal" things are generally so vitally important, but that the 'Real!' things are generally so unimportant? What a strange world in which we find ourselves.

B. Prokop said...

Dave,

If you're genuinely interested, you might want to check out my "Greatest Hits" list of things to observe, HERE.

Ilíon said...

me: "(Modern) Science is a toy for little boys -- it can't tell us anything important, and if it tells us anything true, it's mostly by accident."

B.Prokop: "And yet your profile says you're a computer programmer (???) Whole lotta science going on there"

When people use the word 'science' in its modern crabbed sense, or use the phrase 'modern science', what they have in mind is what just a few generations ago was called 'natural philosophy'.

"Computer science" is not 'natural philosophy' in any way, shape, or form; it has nothing to do with "the real world" (as people say), it is not, and cannot be, used to discover new (potential) truths about the world.

But, even if "computer science" really were a part of 'modern science', even if its statements were empirical statements about "the universe", how does the fact that I earn my daily bread as a "computer scientist" make false my statement that 'science' is quite unimportant, or make false my contrasting-epigram that "Science is a toy for little boys" and "Men do philosophy ... and theology"?

Look again at your first statement to which I was responding -- "Religion and science are like the right and left wheels on a cart - lose either one, and you'll fall into a ditch! Religion without science is susceptible to superstition. Science without religion could well lead to Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and the Gulag."

The problem isn't "lack of religion", it's worship of 'science'.

B. Prokop said...

Ilion,

It's possible that you and I are saying the same thing here in our very different vocabularies.

I'vespent some time in Japan, quite possibly the most "scientifically advanced" nation on Earth, and have seen first hand the results of too much "science worship" - the plummeting birth rates (essentially a slow-motion national suicide), the soulless desperation of people vainly seeking release in pachinko parlors and Tokyo's uber-garish night life. Japan is a nation without hope, without a future, and enslaved to science worship.

If this is what the worshipers at the altars of Science! wish for the rest of the world, I pray they fail.

There's a reason why all the dystopian fiction out there always depicts a scientifically advanced future hell. I personally have nothing against technology (when used sensibly and ethically). I love dentistry and air conditioning. But it has its Dark Side - unquestionably it does.

So I repeat myself: Religion without science is susceptible to superstition. Science without religion could well lead to Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and the Gulag (and I might add shopping malls).