What is the Scientific Method?

The scientific method is aimed at discovering what facts really are, and its use should be guided by the facts that are discovered. However, the nature of facts cannot be discovered without critical reflection. Knowledge of facts cannot be equated with the direct data of our sensory perception.

When our skin comes into the contact with objects that have a high temperature, or with liquid air, our immediate sensory perceptions can be similar. However, we cannot conclude that the temperatures of those substances that we touched were the same. Sensual experience puts the problem of knowledge, but before you can get knowledge, this direct and final experience should be supplemented with reflective analysis.

Each study comes from the sensation of having a problem, so no study can even begin until some selection or screening of the subject area is carried out. For such a selection it is necessary to have a hypothesis, an initial assumption, a prejudice that would guide the researcher and that would limit the subject area under study. Any research is special in the sense that it solves a certain problem, and finding a solution is the end of the study. It is useless to collect facts if there is no problem to which they should be treated.

The problems, which we face in everyday life can be solved by applying the scientific method. The most surprising ways of applying the scientific method are found in various natural and social sciences.

The scientific method is always characterized by systematic doubt. It does not apply to all things since it is obviously impossible. It is rather directed at cases where there are insufficient adequate grounds.

  • Science is not satisfied with psychological certainty, for the intensity of this or that belief alone is not a guarantee of its truth. Science requires and seeks adequate in the logical sense grounds for the judgments it affirms.
  • No judgment related to facts is absolutely true. No judgment can be so well- formulated that no other possible grounds are capable of increasing or reducing its likelihood. However, while no single judgment is unquestionable, the corpus of knowledge, of which it is itself a part, confirms its case better than any other alternative body of knowledge.
  • As a consequence, science is always ready to drop the theory when facts demand it. However, it is necessary that the facts really require this. Often there is only a modification of the theory, and its essence remains unchanged since the facts contradict only the earlier formulation of this theory. The scientific procedure, therefore, in the case of incompatible theories with the facts is a combination of readiness to make changes and the desire to adhere to the theories already available.
  • Verification of theories is only approximate. It simply shows that, within the experimental error, the experiment is compatible with the verifiable hypothesis.

Science does not seek to achieve faith in the formulated judgments in any way and at any cost. Judgments must be supported by logically acceptable grounds, which must be carefully weighed and verified using well-known principles of necessary or probabilistic inference. From this, it follows that the method of science is more stable and more important for scientists than any particular result obtained with its help.

By virtue of this method, science is a self-correcting process. It does not appeal to any special revelation or authority that provides unquestionable and definitive information. Science does not pretend to be infallible but relies on methods of developing and testing hypotheses to obtain valid conclusions. The principles of scientific research are found in the process of critical thinking and can also be subject to change in the process of study. The scientific method causes the establishment and correction of errors through the constant application of oneself.

References:

  1. Hugh G. Gauch, Jr. “Scientific method in practice”, 2003.
  2. Stephen S. Carey “A beginner’s guide to scientific method”, 4th edition, 2011.

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