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Scientific Method is a formal method for understanding phenomena.

It consists, b
riefly, of:
A description of the phenomena.
At least two hypotheses which "explain" the phenomena.
Extrapolation of the hypotheses until an experiment is found which will distingu
ish between them.
Performance of the experiment, and rejection of one or more hypotheses according
to the result.
--- Contributors: anonymous, DaveHarris
Why must you reject one hypothesis? Can't two theories explain the same data? Al
so I wonder what worth a ScientificMethod has that only explains known phenomena
. Shouldn't it also discover new things, postulate new phenomena?
You do not need to reject one hypothesis before an experiment can be found to re
ject it. 'Distinguish' is a bad descriptive here, since both hypothesis can, ind
eed, both explain the same data... including the ability fail at explaining the
same data. A valid hypothesis must be capable of predicting observations on the
phenomena that weren't utilized in developing the hypothesis (not 'new phenomena
', which implies that science can change the universe), and must allow that iden
tification of contradictory observations is possible, thus allowing rejection. P
erhaps describing the necessary qualities of the 'hypothesis' should be part of
describing the ScientificMethod. On the other hand, one should also define pheno
mena (i.e. in this context we speak of the empirical, the observable, be it dire
ctly or through use of tools) and experiment (which can range from controlled la
boratory work to filtering through historical datasets that weren't used in deve
loping the hypothesis).
As I understand it, there have been two major difficulties in producing either a
descriptive or a generally applicable ScientificMethod. A descriptive Scientifi
cMethod (one that describes scientific practice) has been elusive because no com
mon theme, philosophy or method is discernible throughout the whole of what we c
all science. Every rule has been broken at least some time during the history of
science and often for the better.
The objection to a generally applicable ScientificMethod is that science is more
like a tradition than a religion with a fixed ideology. It has no single aim. P
aulFeyerabend developed this idea (and others) in his book AgainstMethod. He arg
ues that the only principle which does not inhibit progress (using whichever def
inition of progress you see fit) is AnythingGoes. -- ChrisSteinbach
The only scientific method is this:
you believe in something for whatever reason
you look for evidence until you're personally convinced that it is true
you publish your belief and whatever evidence supports it in a peer-reviewed jou
you argue with other scientists
you decide together what you're going to say to the illiterates (students and th
e public)
The real scientific method, what scientists actually practice, is this: shut the
hell up when talking to the public. If you bother to look at evidence of how sc
ientists actually behave then you'll see that Fleischman's cold fusion is revile
d as quackery while Andrei Linde's cosmic foam is respected as a radical theory.
Why? Because the former published directly to the press, while the latter publi
shed in peer-reviewed journals. There is no other reason.
I wrote more on this in OpenMindedScience? btw. -- RK
That's a method used by some practitioners, true. Looking for evidence you didn'
t use in developing the belief is a good start. Where it fails is in the avoidan
ce of any search for counter-evidence. With the method you describe, you get rel
igious leaders and confidence-men far more easily than you get scientists. Go ah
ead... apply the above five steps to 'charlatan'. It fits. Many scientists are,
individually, charlatans. Fortunately for the ScientificMethod as a whole, there
are a whole bunch of other people who want to disprove you simply to gain a rep
utation... and they'll work hard to do so, and if they succeed, they shouldn't b
e suppressed. The ScientificMethod operates far better at the level of a social
construct than it does for individuals. -db
The original scientific method, also called Cartesian method was proposed by Ren
eDescartes in the seventeenth century. Its main tenet was that the entire world
could be understood in terms of machines, and its main approach was divide and c
The way to understand anything according to scientific method is:
Analyse: To divide any concept of thing, preferably into two parts;
To keep subdividing until reaching "clear and distinct" parts;
Synthese: To reassemble the parts bottom-up to create a whole, and
Denombrement: To do an overall audit to ensure the process was used properly.
I think formal experimental science came later as an outgrowth of the broader Ca
rtesian methods of inquiry, so the above two definitions are relatively new perv
ersions of the original.
In a little-cited part of Descarte's writings, he makes it explicit that there a
re problems to which scientific method is not well-suited.
Alexander talks much about Cartesian method in his books and why it fails.
-- JimCoplien