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The Scientific Method

What is it?

Is a process to discover things, create new models of reality and keep most scientists honest.

How does the scientific method work?

There are many scientific methods, but at its most basic, they use one tool and one condition:

  1. Logic (tool)
  2. A scientific model with a measurable property (condition)

Logic is a way of thinking that enables you to discover stuff from known facts.  For example, if I know that water passes through tiny holes and I find water on my skin, I can logically deduce that my skin has tiny holes (actually they are called pores). So, from two facts that I knew, I obtained a third one that I did not. Yes, Logic is very powerful indeed!

But Logic’s usefulness does not end there. It can also be used in reverse. It can be used to verify if an assumption is correct. For example, I assume that my skin has tiny holes. If this is indeed true, then I should find water on my skin and also water must pass through tiny holes. If both conditions are true then my original assumption is correct (which it is). If water does not pass through tiny holes or if I don’t find water on my skin, then my assumption is incorrect and my skin does not have tiny holes.

We can now move on to the condition. Why do we need a scientific model with a measurable property?

Because we need to check (test) if the value of that property is what the model says it should be. If the values coincide, then it can be said that the model is correct or true.

If we can’t measure something, we cannot test it. Just because I believe that something is true it does not make it true! There must be some sort of proof to separate the incorrect models from the correct ones. The best way to do this is by creating a test.

And here is where things get interesting. To scientifically test something we use Logic in reverse. From the model we calculate the value of a property; then, we go to the lab and measure the value. If both are the same, voila!, the model is correct.

For example: let’s say that my scientific  model predicts that it will take the heat of one candle’s flame 17 minutes to bring one glass of water to boil. So, I go to the lab with one stopwatch, one candle and one glass of water. I set the candle under the glass, light it, and start the stopwatch. When the water begins to boil, the stopwatch should mark 17 minutes. If it does not, my model is incorrect.

This is really powerful stuff!  It is powerful indeed not only because it lets us separate models that do not work from the ones that do, but, more importantly, it allows us to separate what we believe from what is real!

And now, naming time!

In science, a scientific model that has not yet been proven is called a Hypothesis. If this model gets scientifically proven, then its called a Theory. These definitions will be important when we begin to discuss Political Theory.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

Continue to What is science and how it works – Part 3



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