METHODS AND PROCEDURES OF
SCIENCE

gnizing that all knowledge is imperfect.

One fundamental basis of science is the principle of uncertainty. Science cannot prove anything nor is it a search for the "truth". Science is a means by which tentative answers are developed for guesses, and these answers are based on supporting evidence (repeatable observations) of the moment. When supporting evidence is strong and observations are many, the answer is called a theory. Every theory is a tentative one and can be subject to question by future scientists and nonscientists alike. Thus, the end results of scientific investigations will be future questioning and research.

The methods of science are many and are not restricted to scientists. If something abnormal occurs, for example when people have trouble with their automobiles, most will use a scientific method of investigation to solve the problem. For the entirety of humanity, science is the most powerful tool devised to understand and live with the natural universe around us.

There are a great many advantages in using the methods of science. They give us a mathematical way of substantiating our explanations and predictions, avoiding the pitfalls of prejudice and producing bias which is inherent in human judgment. Political, cultural and religious beliefs often lead us to incorrect interpretations and at times disastrous consequences. Science, on the other hand, when used properly can assist people in developing impassionate interpretations about the world and universe, interpretations which tend to be relatively free of bias and bigotry.

Scientific methodology consists of five basic steps:

(Step #1) OBSERVATION

(Step #2) QUESTION

(Step #3) HYPOTHESES

(Step #4) EXPERIMENT

(Step #5) THEORY

The initial observation is simply an awareness of some natural phenomena by our senses or extensions of our senses. This is followed by questions concerning the observation with curiosity being the primary motivation. Then hypotheses, that are are proposed answers to the question, are developed. Hypotheses act as road maps by which a scientist uses to gather additional observations to test the hypotheses. If the results of repeated experiments support an hypothesis, then that hypothesis may become a theory. If on the otherhand, the data does not support an hypothesis, then the hypothesis is said to be falsified. Finally, any theory may be subject to further testing if new data suggest that there is room for doubt.

A theory is a solidly supported hypothesis. But what is meant by "solidly supported"? It must be more than a guess, opinion, or intuitive feeling. There must be a mathematical basis for such support, and that lies in concepts of probability and statistics.

The experiment, which is the main emphasis of this laboratory exercise, is gathering additional observations to test hypotheses. However, as in every step of the scientific method, experiments are subject to bias and error. No matter which scientist does the work or how elaborate and expensive the instruments utilized, there will always be a certain margin of error in each observation. There is no such thing as perfect knowledge. No measurement is perfect and no value derived is absolute. There will always be a portion of the data that is estimated.

Bias is one of the pitfalls of the scientific method which scientists must attempt to reduce to a minimum. A scientist is often tempted to gather only those data that will support his favorite hypothesis. Therefore, it is essential that observations are made as randomly as possible. In addition, a control should be run parallel to the experiment for comparison.

To minimize error and bias, a good scientist must exercise rigor. Rigor means that measurements taken are both random and accurate, and there is a continuous awareness on the part of the scientist that his or her own ambitions, life style, personal beliefs and culture may tend to affect the way data are gathered and interpretations are made. Rigor also means that sufficient evidence is collected to test (support or reject) an hypothesis. All science depends on the principle that an idea, hypothesis or theory is potentially falsifiable. Often people will attempt to advance their favorite hypothesis without adequate evidence, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

Science requires rigor which means the gathering of data or evidence without bias of politics, religion, or culture. Rigor also means very exact counts or measurements as well as many observations. Precise counts or mesurements and large sample sizes often require complex math to properly analyze and understand what is being studied; the causes and effects. Because science is often difficult to understand, people often turn to a quick and simple answer. That is what Creationist depend on, that is ignorance and people who want a quick and easy explanation. So the Creationist ask questions that require at least an hour to explain fully because of the complexity. In addition, no scientist will claim that everything can be explained. All knowledge can be and should be open to question. All knowledge is imperfect. That is the human condition. We must treat knowledge with humility. So depending on ignorance, Creationists have a quick answer for all remaining questions in science. "God did it." The "God of the gaps", and the gullible easily understand that kind of quick fix, not the correct involved and complex explanation.  

 

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