A discussion of the development of the scientific method

Lori Steinbach Certified Educator Before the seventeenth century, knowledge was primarily based on observation and authority. Observation, of course, was a helpful tool for many aspects of life, including the sciences; however, often such casual observations were neither repeatable nor reliable.

A discussion of the development of the scientific method

Overview[ edit ] In the scientific methodan experiment is an empirical procedure that arbitrates competing models or hypotheses. However, an experiment may also aim to answer a "what-if" question, without a specific expectation about what the experiment reveals, or to confirm prior results.

Chapter 1: The Nature of Science Print What is the Scientific Method?
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ABOUT THE MAGAZINE Thurs October 28, The so-called scientific method is a myth.

If an experiment is carefully conducted, the results usually either support or disprove the hypothesis. According to some philosophies of sciencean experiment can never "prove" a hypothesis, it can only add support. On the other hand, an experiment that provides a counterexample can disprove a theory or hypothesis, but a theory can always be salvaged by appropriate ad hoc modifications at the expense of simplicity.

An experiment must also control the possible confounding factors —any factors that would mar the accuracy or repeatability of the experiment or the ability to interpret the results. In engineering and the physical sciences, experiments are a primary component of the scientific method.

They are used to test theories and hypotheses about how physical processes work under particular conditions e. Typically, experiments in these fields focus on replication of identical procedures in hopes of producing identical results in each replication.


Random assignment is uncommon. In medicine and the social sciencesthe prevalence of experimental research varies widely across disciplines. When used, however, experiments typically follow the form of the clinical trialwhere experimental units usually individual human beings are randomly assigned to a treatment or control condition where one or more outcomes are assessed.

There are various differences in experimental practice in each of the branches of science. For example, agricultural research frequently uses randomized experiments e.

History of experiments One of the first methodical approaches to experiments in the modern sense is visible in the works of the Arab mathematician and scholar Ibn al-Haytham. He conducted his experiments in the field of optics - going back to optical and mathematical problems in the works of Ptolemy - by controlling his experiments due to factors such as self-criticality, reliance on visible results of the experiments as well as a criticality in terms of earlier results.

We should distinguish the properties of particulars, and gather by induction what pertains to the eye when vision takes place and what is found in the manner of sensation to be uniform, unchanging, manifest and not subject to doubt.

After which we should ascend in our inquiry and reasonings, gradually and orderly, criticizing premisses and exercising caution in regard to conclusions — our aim in all that we make subject to inspection and review being to employ justice, not to follow prejudice, and to take care in all that we judge and criticize that we seek the truth and not to be swayed by opinion.

We may in this way eventually come to the truth that gratifies the heart and gradually and carefully reach the end at which certainty appears; while through criticism and caution we may seize the truth that dispels disagreement and resolves doubtful matters.

For all that, we are not free from that human turbidity which is in the nature of man; but we must do our best with what we possess of human power.

From God we derive support in all things. Furthermore, a critical view on the results and outcomes of earlier scholars is necessary: He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency. In this process of critical consideration, the man himself should not forget that he tends to subjective opinions - through "prejudices" and "leniency" - and thus has to be critical about his own way of building hypotheses.

Francis Bacon —an English philosopher and scientist active in the 17th century, became an influential supporter of experimental science in the English renaissance. He disagreed with the method of answering scientific questions by deduction - similar to Ibn al-Haytham - and described it as follows: Notably, he first ordered the scientific method as we understand it today.

A discussion of the development of the scientific method

There remains simple experience; which, if taken as it comes, is called accident, if sought for, experiment. The true method of experience first lights the candle [hypothesis], and then by means of the candle shows the way [arranges and delimits the experiment]; commencing as it does with experience duly ordered and digested, not bungling or erratic, and from it deducing axioms [theories], and from established axioms again new experiments.

For example, Galileo Galilei accurately measured time and experimented to make accurate measurements and conclusions about the speed of a falling body.20 th International Congress on In Vitro Toxicology (ESTIV) New approach methodologies for in vitro toxicology applications October • Berlin / Germany.

Scientific method is an empirical method of knowledge acquisition, which has characterized the development of natural science since at least the 17th century, (for a more formal discussion, see below). Process. The overall process involves making conjectures. Chapter 1: THE NATURE OF SCIENCE. Over the course of human history, people have developed many interconnected and validated ideas about the physical, biological, psychological, and social worlds.

By Steve Borgatti. Discussion drawn from: Glaser and Strauss. The Discovery of Grounded Theory.; Strauss and Corbin.

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Basics of Qualitative Research. Whether you are doing a science fair project, a classroom science activity, independent research, or any other hands-on science inquiry understanding the steps of the scientific method will help you focus your scientific question and work through your observations and data to .

Scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. It is based on gathering observable, empirical and.

Scientific Method (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)