Talk:History of scientific method/Archive 1

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Methodological naturalism?

Could anyone tell me if the following from the article is really true:

Later in the 20th century, methodological naturalism came to be accepted as central to the scientific method, partly in response to rise of creation science.

Who says so? And how do we know it to be the case? Personally I'm struggling to find naturalism important in any sense. Probably it just means that I don't understand the philosophy well enough although I should say it puzzles me that I've been reading around the philosophy of science for some years only to find there is something central to scientific method that I hardly know about. --Chris 00:03, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

It might help for starters if a definition of methodological naturalism were to be supplied by somebody. Otherwise it might be considered by some to be no better than a vague and mystifying dogma of some ilk. Jon Awbrey 02:38, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

Methodological naturalism gets talked about a whole lot as something central to the definition of science, though perhaps more by scientists than professional philosophers. I added that methodological naturalism sentence recently, because it gets invoked so often (especially in the creationism and intelligent design related articles, where it is hard to insert much historical/philosophical nuance without getting accused of POV and mired in massive discussions about single-word edits), but under the assumption that it has always been part of what was considered the definition of science. I'm inclined to agree with you, Chris, about it not being central to scientific method in philosophy work (though my knowledge of philosophy of science is limited). However, look at Portal:Scientific method, which asserts "methodological materialism" (linked to Naturalism (philosophy), which has the definition of MN, as foundational to scientific method. The naturalism article makes the same claim, even though scientific method doesn't mention it.

I think all three pages (naturalism, scientific method, and the portal) suffer from somewhat of a scientisitic bias; assuming falsificationism as an unproblematic criterion for science (despite lots of debate on its merits by philosophers), presenting the step by step observation-hypothesis-experiment-analysis scientific method of high school science class, and plenty of cramming historical examples into the definition of scientific method given. But I'm not really up for the work it would take to convince the science patriots to make these articles give some room to a more social contructionist viewpoint.

Notice that in scientific method, "philosophical issues" don't even figure in the article until nearly the end; it isn't really about the scientific method from a philosophy of science or history of science perspective.

Maybe the way it is now, the sentence is problematic, but not mentioning methodological naturalism (or scientific naturalism, methodological materialism, or whatever you want to call it) would actually lead to the impression that it has always simply been taken for granted, given the context of the other articles.--ragesoss 03:44, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

By the way, Chris: I like what you did with the scientific method intro... it's a big improvement.--ragesoss 04:13, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

I decided finally to remove the text on naturalism on the grounds that it is not especially pertinent to a discussion of scientific method. Here's the removed text in case someone argues for its reinsertion: --Chris 07:42, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

The modern methodological assumption of naturalism in scientific inquiries can be also traced back to ideas of thinkers of the period:

By the late Middle Ages the search for natural causes had come to typify the work of Christian natural philosophers. Although characteristically leaving the door open for the possibility of direct divine intervention, they frequently expressed contempt for soft-minded contemporaries who invoked miracles rather than searching for natural explanations. The University of Paris cleric Jean Buridan (a. 1295-ca. 1358), described as "perhaps the most brilliant arts master of the Middle Ages," contrasted the philosopher’s search for "appropriate natural causes" with the common folk’s erroneous habit of attributing unusual astronomical phenomena to the supernatural. In the fourteenth century the natural philosopher Nicole Oresme (ca. 1320-82), who went on to become a Roman Catholic bishop, admonished that, in discussing various marvels of nature, "there is no reason to take recourse to the heavens, the last refuge of the weak, or demons, or to our glorious God as if He would produce these effects directly, more so than those effects whose causes we believe are well known to us." [1]
I have not taken a detailed interest in the philosophy of science since I left university, but I find the idea of naturalism unconvincing. Phlogiston is not part of the natural world, but does that make Priestly unscientific? The ether does not exist; should Michelson and Morley be labled pseudoscientists? Continuous creation of matter (probably) doesn't happen; was Hoyle junk science? What about strings? Are they part of the natural world? Rjm at sleepers 06:32, 24 April 2007 (UTC)

2-some reels & 3-some reels

|      The Deil's awa wi th' Exciseman
| There's threesome reels, there's foursome reels,
|   There's hornpipes and strathspeys, man,
| But the ae best dance e'er cam to the land
|   Was The Deil's awa wi th' Exciseman.
|                          Robert Burns (1792)

JA: I probably should warn you about a caltrop in the road ahead, in the matter of the 2-or-3-ductions. Aristotle, Kant, and Peirce were charmed by 3-some reals in this regard, and so there will be quite a bit of incommensurability to iron out when it comes to coordinating their thought with thinkers who thought in 2-some reals. For instance, Peirce's induction is not the same induction as the one that pairs off with deduction in a 2's-company way. For him the cycle of inquiry has the natural order (ab-, de-, in-)duction, and so a lot of the job that others give to in- Peirce alots to ab-, while in- for him is more like a graveyard testing shift that doesn't go to work until after the other two shifts have gone home for the night. Jon Awbrey 05:54, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

It's a jungle out there.
But you should have read this section before. There is a way to explain it-- all of it. Just don't quite know what it is yet-- I think it has something to to with working from the problem of induction that they got stuck on, to confidence as a variable... and diligently avoiding any discussion of the transcendental aesthetic along the way. I think we'll figure an explanation without getting to a megabyte of article length here. I'm done for now; take care...Kenosis 06:50, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: Well, I thought I read it, but then it was a little late. The thing is that the so-called "problem of induction" (POI) will mean something different if it's 2-finger POI or 3-finger POI. For Peirce, the bale shifts to abduction as the definitive task of pragmatism to explain, which explanation naturally involves an abduction of course, hence the recursion, which has to ground out on the basis of one or more kinds of primitive abduction. What are those? For one, there's our "native instinct for lucky shots" (NIFLS), that W.S. McCulloch personified as Agatha Tyche. There may be others, what's your guess? Jon Awbrey 16:08, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

I'll have to report back on that one. In my own compartmentalized way I had thrown NIFLS into the psychology box, with but a few scattered crumbs of it in the excessive induction compartment of the science box. Among the myriad pitfalls and pratfalls along the way to sensible method involving a community of participants, no doubt what you say is true. Can't make a list for you offhand, but NIFLS certainly is one. My personal favorite is that it requires inductive reasoning to come up with the POI, which is where Kant comes in. As to primitive abduction per se, don't know..Kenosis 18:53, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

I made a relatively large edit of the text on Aristotle. I've restricted myself to discussion of why Aristotle chose deductive reasoning over induction since that seems to fit with the content of the article so far. I'm not sure if it would be better to instead use the space to fully outline the norms of Aristotle's approach to scientific enquiry. Any thoughts? --Chris 14:12, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

Aristotle and Medieval philosophy

From the Article:

"Up until the seventeenth century, Aristotle's teachings were seen not as a starting point for further studies, but instead as ancient wisdom to be relearned, preserved and defended without alteration."

This is a widespread assumption, but it seems to be at least controversial for today’s specialists in medieval thinking:

[To assert that medieval philosophy is just the continuation of ancient philosophy by other means] … underestimates the liveliness of mediæval philosophers, who cheerfully reinterpret, revise, reject, and even ridicule Aristotle’s views if they don’t stand up to scrutiny. Seeing a problem Aristotle didn’t see was no barrier to their ingenuity. - From [1](page 01) at [2].

The theory of impetus, by Jean Buridan, is a good example of revision in Aristotle's teachings. --Leinad ¬ Flag of Brazil.svg »saudações! 18:00, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

As it happens I had considered qualifying the statement with some words about critics such as Ockham, Buridan and Albert of Saxony. I only decided not to because my knowledge of their work is sketchy. The statement could be removed, replaced or qualified. While I look into it, what would you advise? --Chris 21:35, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

I tried to find to what extent the conservatism of the time extended to Aristotle’s teachings. I started from the notion that Aquinas had reconciled Aristotelian philosophy with Christian theology so convincingly that an attack on Aristotle’s philosophy would have been tantamount to an attack on the church. Aristotle’s primary-mover is, after all, used by Aquinas to help prove the existence of God.
If this was a valid surmise then I have not found much evidence for it. Therefore I must agree with you that the original statement is controversial. While Aristotle was unmistakably mainstream, I can’t get a feeling for how much divergence from his teachings was tolerated. I've replaced it with something less controversial, although Galileo still reads as being heroic in his opposition to Aristotelian teaching. That may also have to change.
In support of the sentence I used as a replacement I offer this article on the influence of Aristotle on renaissance philosophy. The article notes that "Richard Blum has counted 6653 such commentaries for the period 1500 to 1650. The magnitude of this number should be considered significant — especially in comparison to the ca. 750 commentaries listed for the fifteenth century". The replacement sentence in the article reads, "Aristotle therefore had his critics and detractors. This notwithstanding, by the seventeenth century, Aristotle's teachings had become, if anything, more influential." --Chris 14:30, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

For the 2 first paragraphs of the section, I would write something like this:
"Despite being initially seen as a possible threat to Christian orthodoxy, Aristotle’s ideas flourished during the medieval Renaissance of the 12th century. This was due mainly to the success of Thomas Aquinas in reconciling Aristotelian philosophy with Christian theology. While some instances show that medieval philosophers were not afraid of disagreeing with Aristotle, their achievements can be seen more as modifications or corrections to Aristotle's basic philosophy than a huge departure from his views. During the Renaissance, the rejection of previous medieval traditions coupled with extreme reverence for classical sources further enshrined Aristotelian influence over European society. By the seventeenth century, Aristotle's teachings had become influential to the point of hindering further speculation and scientific discovery.
It was during the decidedly conservative period of (…)."
Also, at least for now, I would avoid suggesting the connection: Christian church = Aristotle = Dogmatism that had to be overturned... Since, it may be more a reminiscence of 19th century prejudices than the currently prevalent view among scholars (see Conflict thesis). A person we may consult to clarify this matter is user:SteveMcCluskey, he’s a medievalist and PhD in History of Science, he's also very active in the project. Best wishes, Leinad ¬ Flag of Brazil.svg »saudações! 17:22, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

I'm very happy with your suggestion, so I went ahead and changed the article. I certainly will ask Steve what he thinks. Thanks very much for your help so far. --Chris 17:50, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

I just noticed that I wasn’t clear at least in one point of the above text. First I wrote about the Renaissance of the 12th century, latter I wrote about the traditional Renaissance (starting around the 15th century) without explaining that they are separate events. I don’t know how you understood the text, but I’m sure many will be confused if we leave it that way. I did a quick fix in the article, feel free to comment and further edit the text. --Leinad ¬ Flag of Brazil.svg »saudações! 19:37, 26 August 2006 (UTC)
I've made a few changes about the Medieval background (Aquinas isn't the only scholastic theologian) and added comments on the new philosophies of the Renaissance. I still need to put in some references. --SteveMcCluskey 03:15, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

Peer review in medieval Islam?

Passages like this appear in this article and others dealing with medieval and islamic science:

The scientific method in its modern form arguably developed in early Muslim philosophy, in particular, using experiments to distinguish between competing scientific theories, along with the methods of citation ("isnad"), peer review and open inquiry, leading to development of consensus ("ijma" via "ijtihad"), and a general belief that knowledge reveals nature honestly. During the Middle Ages, Islamic philosophy developed and was often pivotal in scientific debates–key figures were usually scientists and philosophers.

These claims appear without any citations and seem to be a stretch when we get to the definition of Peer review. It is a systematic process in which manuscripts or research proposals are submitted by publishers or funding agencies to third parties who are experts in the field for consideration before the manuscript is published or the research proposal is funded.

Such a system of peer review is highly improbable in medieval culture, which lacked centralized agencies for publishing and in which patronage of scientific research was highly capricious. I am marking these articles with the {{fact}} template and will delete these claims if they are not supported with appropriate citations. --SteveMcCluskey 16:15, 27 August 2006 (UTC)

After examining the claims for Islamic "peer review" in various articles, they seem to stem from an interpretation at Avicenna#Philosophy where Avicenna's production of commentaries on Aristotle is seen as leading to peer review. This doesn't seem to stand up to close inspection.
  • Such commentaries can be seen as the origin of medieval scholastic commentaries, but not of peer review.
  • Avicenna was not the first figure to write commentaries on Greek philosophers. Such commentaries go back to late antiquity (see W. Stahl, Roman Science, p. 38)
Unless there is some other evidence, I don't see how the claim for an Islamic origin for peer review can be supported. --SteveMcCluskey 16:56, 27 August 2006 (UTC)
Thanks Steve for bringing up this issue. For me it would be preferable to remove the whole paragraph and say something more solid about the relation of Islamic Philosophy to scientific method. If it is true that "scientific method in its modern form arguably developed in early Muslim philosophy", then I for one would have difficulty arguing exactly that argument.
I also have a problem with the paragraph in the same section starting,
"Roger Bacon, under the tuition of Grosseteste, was inspired by the writings of Muslim alchemists (particularly Alhazen)".
I suspect that it is only conjecture that Alhazan was of special influence, possibly based on the information that both Alhazan and Bacon both studied optics.
On a side note, Leinad writing above thinks you may have an opinion regarding our discussion on the role of Aristotelian science around the time of Galileo. If you have anything to add to what we say above I think we would both be grateful. --Chris 20:32, 27 August 2006 (UTC)
Looking at the linked articles on the Islamic concepts of isnad, ijma, and ijtihad, these topics seem to pertain more to Islamic legal studies than to Islamic philosophy and science. Of course, there may be interactions among those traditions, but the author who made such claims is obligated to document them and spell them out.
(Incidentally, neither isnad nor ijma cite any sources, and ijtihad is remarkably sparse. I presume there is scholarly material in the Encyclopedia of Islam that knowledgeable editors could cite).
Having recently updated the article on Alhazen and the section on Bacon in History of Optics, I'm doubtful of a methodological influence from Alhazen to Bacon. Again, this claim needs to be documented: Bacon cites his sources, does he cite Alhazen on methodological issues? --SteveMcCluskey 16:01, 28 August 2006 (UTC)
It is possible to invert the reasoning, by citation of Alhazen -
  • "He used the example of the pinhole camera, which produces an inverted image, to support his argument. This contradicted Ptolemy's theory of vision that objects are seen by rays of light emanating from the eyes. Alhazen held light rays to be streams of minute particles that travelled at a finite speed. He improved Ptolemy's theory of the refraction of light, and went on to discover the laws of refraction."
-- this is from the light article. (Alhazen's example of the use of scientific method as an improvement on Ptolemy's theory.) In that case, someone reading Alhazen could have learned scientific method by example. --Ancheta Wis 10:32, 1 September 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the reference. From what I know of Alhazen's optics, the idea of pinhole images doesn't play a major part in his theory of vision. I'm going to flag that passage in light with a {{citation needed}} template. --SteveMcCluskey 13:32, 1 September 2006 (UTC)
I felt in necessary to say that I was flat-out wrong about about it being 'conjecture that Alhazan was of special influence' for Bacon. I have now looked over his Opus Majus and Alhazan is referenced frequently. --ChrisSteinbach (talk) 18:57, 20 August 2008 (UTC)

Grosseteste understanding or misunderstanding

This from the "Emergence" section:

"Grosseteste [is among the first] to fully understand Aristotle's vision of the dual path of scientific reasoning. Concluding from particular observations into a universal law, and then back again: from universal laws to prediction of particulars."

To my knowledge Aristotle is still understood to only accept as scientific, reasoning that leads to universals. Can we be sure that it is not Grosseteste's "dual path" (which I'm unfamiliar with) that is not the misunderstanding? --Chris 21:00, 19 October 2006 (UTC)

Chris. I don't pretend to be an expert on Aristotle's philosophy of science, but there is certainly an interaction between the role of induction from observations to lead to universals, and deduction from the universals to lead back to particulars. As I read Crombie's interpretation of Grosseteste's commentary on the Posterior Analytics, that's what Grosseteste and Aristotle had in mind. You're right, of course, that Aristotle and his followers only considered reasoning that leads to knowledge of universals as "scientific."
(On a tangent for a moment, Aristotle's emphasis upon observation is one of the elements that set him apart from his master, Plato.) --SteveMcCluskey 02:25, 21 October 2006 (UTC)

Aristotle the Muslim

Again from the "Emergence" section:

"Ideas from the Muslim world, particularly Alhazen and Aristotle’s ideas, were introduced..."

This seems to suggest that Aristotle was a Muslim. Perhaps we could reword to avoid this confusion. --Chris 21:07, 19 October 2006 (UTC)

Scientific practice or scientific method?

I'm wondering what the balance should be in this article between the history of formal discussions of scientific method (e.g., those of Aristotle, Grosseteste, Descartes...) and the actual methods employed in scientific practice. My thought would be to emphasize the former; it's all too easy to claim that a scientific discovery implies the use of a particular scientific method, but it's really hard to demonstrate it. Witness, for example, the long disputes over the role of experiment in Galileo's discoveries which has only been unraveled by looking at his manuscript notes.

In a case like that, historians tend to go toward a complex interaction of experiment (or observation) with theoretical analysis. Any good discussion of actual scientific practice requires a rich body of evidence and investigations of their published and umpublished materials. We typically find that this has only been done for a few really major (and fairly recent) figures. That practical argument also points toward focusing on formal discussions of scientific method.

I imagine there are other points of view on this. --SteveMcCluskey 03:24, 21 October 2006 (UTC)

I'm glad you mentioned this and I do like the idea that we should focus on formal treatments of method. Could we have as a starting point the criterion that we only handle cases where a method has been articulated? It does raise one or two questions. I'm not sure where it would leave Galileo who, I believe, does not tackle scientific method explicitly. As for the Edwin Smith papyrus, from the introduction: can we equate medical procedures with scientific method? Perhaps we can if we argue that philosophers had not yet re-begun the work of "Knowledge" in the more profound, and as we would now like it, scientific sense. It might make no sense to project our ideas of scientific method backwards onto history and thereby discount the possibility that this papyrus expounds a scientific method. On the other hand, we must at least be able to recognise a discussion of scientific method as such. In the case of the papyrus, I’m not entirely convinced that I do. --Chris 20:13, 21 October 2006 (UTC)

Suggested changes

This article has so much potential, I only wish I knew how to continue with it. Not because I lack ideas, more the opposite; I have a few too many ideas. I hope no one will mind if I jot down my internal TODO list.

Partly I want to get cracking with some of the later influential figures like Bernoullis, Thomas Bayes, Herschel, John Stuart Mill, William Whewell, Pierce...

At the same time I'm not particularly happy with the early history. Even the sections I've spent most energy on seem to be lacking something. The order of the sections on Galileo, Bacon and Descartes is fairly arbitrary. I'm considering rearranging them, placing Descartes first as an example of a methodologist who has not completely succeeded in detaching his ideas from those of Aristotle (i.e. he replaces Aristotle’s axioms but not his logic). I will explain his failure in these terms with reference to two of his contemporary critics, Mersenne and Gassendi. Hopefully this will make it clearer for the reader why the time was ripe for the ideas of Galileo and Bacon to take hold. DONE. --Chris 23:06, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

I would then lead into the section on Galileo with a quote from Descartes (which is around on the web somewhere) complaining that Galileo's method of doing science is without any firm foundation. DONE. --Chris 23:06, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

And then on to Bacon, possibly with some inaccuracies ironed out regarding the tables he used (I missed out his 'Table of Degrees and Comparison' which was pure laziness on my part).

Then I want to say something about the Royal Society and to what extent Boyle and Hooke kept to Bacon's method. The section on Newton I didn't research well at all, so I guess I'll need to go over that again too.

The introduction doesn't say much and what it does say isn't quite right. Is the history of scientific method inseparable from that of science? In any case it is not true that all influential methodologists were also successful scientists.

The section headings don't quite fit the text in some cases.

  • We start off with 'Early philosophical tradition', the first para. of which is not about philosophy.;
  • The first para. of the section entitled 'Aristotelian science and empiricism' says "it would be misleading to imply that Aristotelian science is empirical in form";
  • The section entitled 'Emergence of inductive method' comes straight after the section on Aristotle which seems to document the emergence of a kind of induction;
  • The title for the section 'Preamble to scientific method' means very little to me at all.

--Chris 22:39, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

Well done on your recent changes. My only quibble is that I would be happier with a more extensive citation of your secondary sources — but them I'm a historian who was raised writing footnotes. --SteveMcCluskey 01:47, 19 January 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the encouragement. I've started adding citations, but you'll have to bear with me; I'm a little slow at this. I have a little trouble deciding what needs a citation, so let me know if I'm not getting the hang of it. --Chris 00:00, 20 January 2007 (UTC)

Continuity thesis

I started the article Continuity thesis which may interest some of the contributors here. This article is also missing something on the condemnations of 1277.Dbuckner 21:40, 24 January 2007 (UTC)

The condemnation article is here. Not very good, however. Dbuckner 21:42, 24 January 2007 (UTC)

Excellent! Very interesting stuff. --ChrisSteinbach 22:36, 24 January 2007 (UTC)

Ørsted and Naturphilosophie

It's been a long time since I looked seriously at the Naturphilosophen, but as a grad student I was taught that Ørsted had a priori expectations of a relationship between electricity and magnetism based on his philosophical belief in the unity of all nature. This section makes him look like a naïve empiricist. Something more subtle should appear in a discussion of the history of scientific method. --SteveMcCluskey 18:37, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

Sorry, I only know Ørsted from electromagnetism and not from his belief in Kant etc. After working on Wikipedia I was aghast to learn that I imbibed positivism along with my physics courses. Not that there's anything wrong with that. How ought I include the hundreds of pages on Ørsted's writings from the school of Kant. I was really responding to a request from ChrisSteinbach on the earliest citation for the common scientific method, when I entered the empiricist-looking quotations. Others like me truly come from the Nature side of physics, including Ørsted.
Based on what I can see in the citations for scientific method, the thread goes from Galileo to Newton, to Leibniz, to Kant, to Ørsted, (through Schweigger's Journal) to the Vienna Circle, to my own teachers. And by the tenets, of repeatability in Scientific Method, from Ørsted to Faraday to Maxwell to Poincaré to Einstein etc. From Faraday and his peers, we might trace the entire English side, including Boole and Jevons, for Scientific Method. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Ancheta Wis (talkcontribs) 22:17, 5 February 2007 (UTC).
I feel a bit out of my depth in the 19th c., but I turned up a few recent sources if you (or anyone else) feel like running them down:
  • Snelders, H.A.M., "Oersted's discovery of electromagnetism," pp. 228-240 in Andrew Cunningham and Nicholas Jardine, eds., Romanticism and the sciences, Cambridge : Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990.
  • Christensen, Dan Ch., "The Ørsted-Ritter partnership and the birth of Romantic natural philosophy," Annals of Science, 52 (1995): 153-185.
  • Kostoula, Anna, "The problem of method in the study of the influence a philosophy has on scientific practice: The case of thermoelectricity," pp. 379-384 in Kostas Gavroglu, et al., eds. Trends in the historiography of science, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 1994.
--SteveMcCluskey 01:03, 6 February 2007 (UTC)
PS Here's another, older, source.
  • Stauffer, Robert C., "Speculation and Experiment in the Background of Oersted's Discovery of Electromagnetism," Isis, 48 (1957): 33-50. --SteveMcCluskey 01:32, 6 February 2007 (UTC)
Thank you for the critiques. I added another quote for better balance. Perhaps we might put the Ørsted-Ritter relationship in a history of electromagnetism section in another article, to do better justice to the spirit behind electromagnetism. Especially Ørsted's concept of conflict, which was a red herring in the path of Faraday and Ampere. --Ancheta Wis 11:58, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

John Stuart Mill and William Whewell

John Stuart Mill, A System of Logic (1843) championed the role of empiricism in the art of discovery. Mill expressed opposition to William Whewell's hypothetico-deductive method [2]. Whewell stood more for the role of intuition in his History of the Inductive Sciences (1837). William Stanley Jevons, who studied logic with Augustus DeMorgan, was an able proponent of Whewell's view that we ought to be able to construct the sciences; Jevons built a logic piano to illustrate a mechanical way to evaluate logical propositions.

It looks like I/we need to work more on Whewell's role. There was a chair of The History and Theory of the Inductive Sciences at the University of Vienna. Ernst Mach and Moritz Schlick both held this chair. --Ancheta Wis 11:28, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

Also we should add a Whewell citation to the hypothetico-deductive method article. Right now it gives Popper alone as the citation. Done --Ancheta Wis 20:37, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

  1. ^ Ronald L. Numbers (2003). "Science without God: Natural Laws and Christian Beliefs." In: When Science and Christianity Meet, edited by David C. Lindberg, Ronald L. Numbers. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, p. 267.
  2. ^

Chris, we have our answer: When is 1638 (for Galileo), 1687 (for Newton), 1805 (for Oersted), 1837 (for Whewell), 1873 (for Jevons). --Ancheta Wis 18:44, 11 February 2007 (UTC)

Roger Bacon and experimentum


Thanks for bringing Roger Bacon into the mix; he is an important figure. His concept of experiment, however, is not quite ours. David Lindberg has a good historiographical essay on the interpretation of Bacon as an advocate of experimental science in the introduction to his Roger Bacon and the Origins of Perspectiva in the Middle Ages:... (Oxford Univ. Pr., 1996). Lindberg notes that "Under the rubric of 'experiment', Bacon included contrived or artificial experiments, casual everyday experience, reports of the experiences of other observers, the spiritual experience of divine illumination, and what I will call 'geometrical experiments'. 'Experimental science' includes all of these experiential practices, as well as various bodies of practical knowledge or lore allegedly acquired by experiential means" (p. lv). In a note Lindberg defines a geometrical experiment as a test through "a geometrical diagram or demonstration--a geometrical thought experiment."

Incidentally, you can probably find the text by Googling "Bacon Lindberg experimentum," which is where I found it.

As time allows, I'll get around to improving this section. Nice start. --SteveMcCluskey 19:17, 10 February 2007 (UTC)

Thank you for your kind words. --Ancheta Wis 19:03, 11 February 2007 (UTC)


According to ChrisSteinbach's outline, we ought to add more about Bayes and Bayesian thinking. One of the ways to unify this to the rest of the article, which treats induction very heavily, might be to show how Jevon's probabilistic thinking (stemming directly from hypothetico-deductive method) has propagated to the social sciences, and to show how statistical thinking affected science and engineering in the past 3 centuries. (Null hypothesis etc.) Thoughts? --Ancheta Wis 10:45, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

Might it be appropriate to include the relationship of Bayesian inference to neuroscience as well as to the engineering topics? --Ancheta Wis 19:42, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
For now, Bayesian inference and other statistical thinking can be summarized under Current Issues. --Ancheta Wis 10:41, 14 February 2007 (UTC)


Intro needs to be placed more in context; maybe a definition (insofar as one can be concocted) of 'science' and indeed 'history'. Maybe some mention of Whig tendency inherent in scientific historic thought. Good to mention Kuhn and Feyerabend. Maybe Spinoza, Vesalius, Galileo, Satre, logical positivists, Heisenberg. Ethical implications of scientific thought? Or does this go beyond scope of article? Lgh 05:00, 15 February 2007 (UTC)

Your contribution to the introduction would be welcome. --Ancheta Wis

The history of scientific method is inseparable from the history of science itself.

If they're inseparable, why are they different articles? Thomas Levine 22:37, 30 May 2007 (UTC)

Because there are page limits on the articles. The content was originally in the scientific method article. But thanks to hypertext we can link to other articles and take advantage of the internet. Conceptually, it's one subject, just sliced differently, which helps comprehension. --Ancheta Wis 23:44, 30 May 2007 (UTC)

History of ideas vs history of people

Should this article be about people or ideas? Often they go hand in hand but in my opinion the focus should be on the ideas. For instance, with titles like "Emergence of inductive experimental method" and "Integrating deductive and inductive method" these sections nicely place the focus on philosophy of science concepts. On the other hand "Scientific revolution methodologists" seems more about people. Biographical information belongs in the articles on the person. Pgr94 10:17, 11 June 2007 (UTC)

Alhacen's method

I have been able to read only 2 quotes from Alhacen's body of work; based on this, I reduced the seven steps previously listed in the article to steps for which I could find evidence. --Ancheta Wis 10:48, 16 September 2007 (UTC)

Pre-history anyone?

Is there really nothing credible that can be said about pre-historic methods of knowledge acquisition? -- Cimon Avaro; on a pogostick. (talk) 17:38, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

Credible perhaps, although any detailed history of method, beyond basic trial-and-error, would be difficult to infer from pre-historic evidence. I would be happy to be proven wrong on that point though.
As you can see we have difficulty enough saying anything credible even when historic accounts are to hand. Take the section on 'Early method'. Here we project a modern understanding of scientific method backwards onto history focusing only on what fits that perspective. We do that without asking what types of knowledge the ancient 'Babylonians and Egyptians' considered closer to Truth. We don't ask what knowledge they considered important, whether knowledge was received from a deity, sought from an elder or teased from the world by a scientist.
For the periods where a historical record exists I think we could do better. Where there is no record, I'm less certain. --ChrisSteinbach (talk) 20:32, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
Sometimes people who look at prehistoric inquiries into nature (I consider those to be science but I'll finesse the term science here) often look at ethnographic parallels in cultures at a similar level of development. Aboriginal Australian star lore or Puebloan Sun watching both tell us something about how prehistoric astronomy could have been practiced. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 01:02, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

Ibn al-Haytham et al.

After much iffing and arring I've decided to take the bull by the horns and question outright the claim that "modern scientific method was developed by medieval Muslim scientists".

Philosophers of science may have done their level best to muddy the waters, but among those who have given the matter less attention --which is to say the majority-- modern scientific method is a fairly stable idea.

With this, slightly cynical, understanding of scientific method, the only widespread disagreement is over such things as the number of steps in the method, or what order they come in. Whatever; For the sake of argument, I’m going to say that modern scientific method consists in essentially three distinct steps (1) observation and experiment, (2) hypothesis, (3) verification. Why three step? Because in 1886 Francis Ellingwood Abbot, a Unitarian theologian said exact what I just did in his 'Scientific Theism',

Now all the established truths which are formulated in the multifarious propositions of science have been won by the use of Scientific Method. This method consists in essentially three distinct steps (1) observation and experiment, (2) hypothesis, (3) verification by fresh observation and experiment.

Here we have the modern, unsophisticated, step-by-step method. The fountain head of all scientific knowledge! This is the earliest text I have found yet where the words "Scientific Method" are used in juxtaposition to a method schematically similar to modern scientific method.

So would we say that Abbot developed the scientific method? Hardly.

In 1842 Robert and William Chambers published their 'Chambers's information for the people'. Under the rubric 'Logic' we find,

Investigation, or the art of inquiring into the nature of causes and their operation, is a leading characteristic of reason [...] Investigation implies three things — Observation, Hypothesis, and Experiment [...] The first step in the process, it will be perceived, is to observe...

Although the words "scientific method" do not appear in the text, the schematic form of modern scientific method is clearly there. In the forty years between this and Abbot’s writing there are numerous texts talking of observation, experiment and verification. Some of them appear more like modern method, others less so.

Only a year or two after Abbot’s publication a few other Unitarian texts crop up with almost exactly the same formulation as Abbot. A decade or so later there are school text books with the three step method and the method remains pretty much the same (plus-or-minus a touch of falsificationism) until today.

So it is not precise to say that modern scientific method was developed. It appears to have emerged and a simple formulation has been settled on. Having said this, we might try to imagine what it could mean to suggest that medieval Muslims developed modern scientific method.

  • Medieval Muslims anticipated modern scientific method giving similar, if not identical formulations.

This interpretation is out of the question; no one is going to find in ancient Arabic texts anything like Abbot’s formulation. Nothing, I feel sure, even as close as the Chambers’s description.

  • Medieval Muslims developed the modern scientific method but never articulated the method in writing.

This leads to a problem of how to understand a method that has not been articulated. We might try to draw conclusions from non-methodological texts. With enough evidence we might be able to say that medieval Muslims in most, if not all, scientific studies proceeded in three consecutive steps. This seems unlikely considering we can hardly draw such clear conclusions from modern scientific studies.

  • Medieval Muslims developed the modern scientific method in the sense that they worked in essentially the same way as modern scientists.

This problem is the same as the above, with the additional complexity that we now need to draw methodological conclusions from modern studies.

  • Medieval Muslims developed the modern scientific method in the sense that they made similar studies to modern scientists in, for example optics and medicine.

Similar studies do not imply similar methods (see section on Descartes in the article).

  • Medieval Muslims developed the modern scientific method in the sense that their work may have influenced the course of methodology in science.

If we accept this interpretation, then we must also be able to say that Aristotle developed modern scientific method. And also the same for anyone before or after him who had any influence. We might then ask how much more influence did medieval Muslims have compared to seventeenth century Europeans or ancient Greeks? After all that can we really say that those who had the most influence 'developed' modern scientific method?

Modern scientific method was not developed by medieval Muslim scientists.

--ChrisSteinbach (talk) 00:13, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

Isn't this evidence of existence rather than evidence of absence?

"Even for the early Greeks, geometry was a practical skill like shoemaking, relegated to what its etymology suggests: geo-metrics, or measuring the earth. That is all Xenophon claims Socrates advises one know about geometry—what is practically needed to measure the land correctly so as to inherit it, divide it, or use it (Memorabilia, VII.4.vii.2)."

To me at least the above text from our article, seems to suggest the opposite of what it posits. Namely that there was much more than those nuts and bolts geometrics that were taught at the time. Because if only those down to earth (if you excuse the pun) geometrics were available at the time, no need to advise Socrates to limit himself to learning only those. To me this is fairly simple logic... -- Cimon Avaro; on a pogostick. (talk) 16:08, 26 June 2008 (UTC)

Father of modern science

Doing a quick google on the phrase "father of modern science" I see that Democritus, Robert Hooke, Galileo and Francis Bacon are front-runners for this title. I suggest we refrain from deciding who should bear the laurel crown in this article. --ChrisSteinbach (talk) 06:36, 28 May 2009 (UTC)

I agree totally! It's a theme that I have held lectures on as a historian of science. For almost any area of scientific endeavour one can usually make convincing arguments for a half dozen or more "father of" reducing the expression to a farce. Thony C. (talk) 16:45, 28 May 2009 (UTC)

We should note the fathers of each scientific method, personally I'd note a few fathers of anti-scientific method. Faro0485 (talk) 02:14, 2 July 2009 (UTC)

Leonardo Da Vinci

This is an article about the History of scientific method. What ever Leonardo may or may not have written in his manuscripts, and I personally find the interpretation attributed here to Capra at best dubious, they were never published and so played absolutely no role in the history of scientific method. So unless somebody offers a convincing reason as to why I should not do so, I shall be removing the section here on Leonardo in one week from today. Thony C. (talk) 16:45, 28 May 2009 (UTC)

As announced above, I have deleted the whole section on Leonardo because whatever the truth might be about Capra’s claims on Leonardo’s methodology, he Leonardo played no role what so ever in the history of scientific method. The section that I have deleted here might have legitimacy in the main article on Leonard but not here.Thony C. (talk) 15:48, 8 June 2009 (UTC)

Medical diagnosis and scientific method

From the article:

An Egyptian medical textbook, the Edwin Smith papyrus, (circa 1600 BC), applies the basic components of scientific method: examination, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis, to the treatment of disease.

Are medical diagnosis and scientific method related? Are there reliable source to back this up?

Please see similar discussion here. pgr94 (talk) 11:46, 14 September 2009 (UTC)

In the history and philosophy of science medicine is regarded as part of science and therefore scientific method up to the modern period; the two of them gonig the own seperate ways in the 18th century. You can verify this by looking at any standard general history of science such as david Lindberg's The Beginnings of Western Science.Thony C. (talk) 14:49, 14 September 2009 (UTC)
Historians of ancient science consider the process by which the empirical study of symptoms led to a diagnosis of the disease and a prognosis for the future health of the patient as essential elements in the development of empirical research. See G. E. R. Lloyd, "The development of empirical research", in his Magic, Reason and Experience: Studies in the Origin and Development of Greek Science. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 15:55, 14 September 2009 (UTC)
My understanding is that scientific method leads to theories and laws but diagnosis does not. pgr94 (talk) 16:05, 14 September 2009 (UTC)

Could you cite the relevant sentences from your source that states that diagnosis is (or is part of) scientific method. Otherwise I suspect WP:OR will be applicable here. pgr94 (talk) 12:31, 21 September 2009 (UTC)

Two professional historians of science, Steve McCluskey & myself, have contradicted your claims, which I suspect are based on your own total lack of knowledge of the subject, and also given you sorces for the fact that historically medicine was considered a science and that early diagnosis played a(n) (essential) part in the establishment of the empirical scientific method and yet you insist in invoking non-applicable Wikipedia rules in a threatening manner. Thony C. (talk) 13:28, 21 September 2009 (UTC)

I apologise if you saw my comment as threatening, that was not my intention. However, Wikipedia does have these rules for good reason. Contributions should be both verifiable and based on reliable sources and challenging unsourced material is in the interest of creating high quality articles. If these rules are threatening, then perhaps wikipedia is the wrong place to be contributing. pgr94 (talk) 13:38, 21 September 2009 (UTC)
Pgr94, please assume good faith in behalf of the contributors of this article. When the encyclopedia was founded, everyone worked together on the articles, each one contributing as each could, even if they were not expert; that does not mean that good judgement could not prevail in the article. There are enough contributors to ensure its continued viability, but it is against the spirit of the encyclopedia to discourage contribution from experts who have worked on it in the past. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 14:17, 21 September 2009 (UTC)
I have no problem assuming good faith, but an appeal to authority is not very satisfactory. Wikipedia's rules are good, let's stick to them. Personally, I am interested in the relation between scientific method and diagnosis. As I said previously, my understanding is that scientific method leads to theories and laws, but diagnosis does not. The sentence in the article I object to says the "the basic components of scientific method" are "examination, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis". I would like to ensure that this claim is verifiable. pgr94 (talk) 14:57, 21 September 2009 (UTC)

Thank you for adding the reference (G.E.R Lloyd) to the article, Thony C.. However, the reference speaks of "empirical research" and not "scientific method". Are you saying that they are the same thing? pgr94 (talk) 18:26, 23 September 2009 (UTC)

Developed over the course of thousands of years, empirical research is the historical basis for scientific research; one led to the other; science did not spring forth fully formed, but had to be discovered: "From the long tradition of empiricism we have inherited the hypothetico-deductive model of scientific research." —p.86 Brody, Thomas A. (1993), The Philosophy Behind Physics, Springer Verlag, ISBN 0-387-55914-0 . (Luis De La Peña and Peter E. Hodgson, eds.) --Ancheta Wis (talk) 19:06, 23 September 2009 (UTC)

Thank you Ancheta Wis. To better understand the relationship between scientific method and diagnosis, I have added the following to medical diagnosis. It is interesting to note that differential diagnosis is described as a hypothetico-deductive method.

I also exchanged emails with G.E.R. LLoyd and he helpfully pointed out that the term "scientific method" is used in both a broader and a narrower sense. The narrower sense referring to the hypothetico-deductive method (cf Hempel) and a broader sense that captures methods that involve the collection and use of observational data. From this I would understand that the latter includes differential diagnosis whereas the former might include all types of medical diagnosis. pgr94 (talk) 23:16, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

As my teacher Feynman would have said: "Good!" --Ancheta Wis (talk) 15:16, 26 September 2009 (UTC)

Science of Hadith method

Should we perhaps include the method that was used by the early Muslims regarding reports, since this seems to have been the origin of the Islamic scientists up taking systematical methods. Faro0485 (talk) 11:17, 20 September 2009 (UTC)

The History of Hadith has a citations tag on it; perhaps it would be helpful to cite every statement which is to be added to this article, up front.
It may be helpful to also include its influence on Alhazen of Basra, physicist, optiker, polymath: "Truth is sought for its own sake ... Finding the truth is difficult, and the road to it is rough. For the truths are plunged in obscurity. ... God, however, has not preserved the scientist from error and has not safeguarded science from shortcomings and faults. If this had been the case, scientists would not have disagreed upon any point of science. ... It is not the person who studies the books of his predecessors and gives a free rein to his natural disposition to regard them favourably who is the real seeker after truth. But rather the person who is thinking about them is filled with doubts, who holds back with his judgement with respect to what they say, who follows proof and demonstration rather than the assertions of a man whose natural disposition is characterized by all kinds of defects and shortcomings. A person who studies scientific books with a view to knowing the truth ought to turn himself into a hostile critic of everything that he studies. ... And ... he should also be suspicious of himself ... If he takes this course, the truth will be revealed to him and the flaws in the writings of his predecessors will stand out clearly. ... " —Alhazen, (Ibn Al-Haytham) Critique of Ptolemy, translated by S. Pines, Actes X Congrès internationale d'histoire des sciences, Vol I Ithaca 1962, as referenced on p.139 of Sambursky, Shmuel (ed.) (1974), Physical Thought from the Presocratics to the Quantum Physicists, Pica Press, ISBN 0-87663-712-8 .
Based on Alhazen's quote, his spirit of critical examination of the scientists who transmit knowledge is what impelled Alhazen himself to seek the truth. Since Alhazen was concerned with rooting out error, his method is based on critical examination of sources, in his case, Claudius Ptolemy. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 12:20, 20 September 2009 (UTC)

First sentence

The first sentence of this article is either a banal truism, or just plain wrong. On the one hand it is difficult to imagine a history of a methodology that is not entangled in the history of its subject. On the other hand there are those, like Francis Bacon, who's main or sole bequest to science has been methodological. Then there are innumerable scientists who have done great things but contributed nothing of methodological interest.

I suggest removing the sentence that reads, "The history of scientific method is inseparable from the history of science itself." And I won't thank anyone for pointing out that some of the wording is mine :-) --ChrisSteinbach (talk) 21:18, 28 September 2009 (UTC)

More or less agreed. This article is, it seems to me, a topic such that the first sentence might merit a departure from the standard WP:MOS approach, which expects to see WP articles begin with the title in bold letters, e.g. "The history of scientific method is . . . " But maybe I'll have a quick hack at it anyway and see if we can't come up with a reasonable differentiation between history of science and history of scientific method, rather than a statement, as it was before, that they're "inseparable". Fact is, as ChrisSteinbach just alluded to, they are very much separable, which is why there's a separate article on history of scientific method. ... Kenosis (talk) 17:31, 29 September 2009 (UTC)
It looks better with your addition. Thanks for that. --ChrisSteinbach (talk) 12:24, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

Newton's rules systematized by Mill?

In the last paragraph of the Newton section we have this:

"His methods of reasoning were later systematized by Mill's Methods..."

But how can that be? Mill's method is essentially deductive. The method is also remarkably similar to Bacon's, with his tables of 'essence and presence' and 'deviation, or of absence in proximity' being replaced by methods of 'agreement' and 'difference'. Would it not be more correct to say that Mill's method builds on Bacon's?

One item of confusion is the word 'induction' as used by Mill and Bacon. At least I am confused since they both describe deductive methods but frequently refer to them as inductive. I'm given to thinking that they are referring to the act of collecting experimental results. Either that or the meaning of the word 'induction' has shifted or become more precise over time. Anyone have more information on this? --ChrisSteinbach (talk) 12:56, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

But Mill's methods, as taught in school, are simple rules similar to detective work, exactly as Bacon prescribed, where one can either 'implicate causes' or else 'rule out causes' (or admit 'cause not proven'). This is the same sort of thing taught to physicians-in-training.
Compare this to Newton's Principia, which asserts the validity of rule IV "in experimental philosophy we are to look upon propositions inferred by general induction ... not withstanding any contrary hypotheses ...". Newton then states "This rule we must follow that the argument of induction may not be evaded by hypotheses".
Now compare this to a letter to Oldenburg, July 1672 Oper Omnia IV pp.320-321 "... I cannot think it effectual for determining truth to examine the several ways by which phenomena may be explained, unless where there can be a perfect enumeration of all those ways."
That is deductive. Newton is pointing out that method only works sometimes (as in the case of an extensional definition).
For the sake of the other editors, I continue Newton's statement, starting from his next sentence to Oldenburg: "You know, the proper method for inquiring after the properties of things is to deduce them from experiments. And I told you that the theory which I propounded was evinced to me, not by inferring 'tis thus because not otherwise, that is, not by deducing it only from a confutation of contrary suppositions, but by deriving it from experiments concluding positively and directly." —H.S. Thayer, ed. (1953) Newton's Philosophy of Nature: selections from his writings New York: Hafner Publishing Co.
Remember that in 1672 Newton was engaged in his optical researches (not gravitation). He had already embarked on the investigations of light beams refracted thru prisms in darkened chambers, as well as his alchemical investigations (which he abandoned as inconclusive). I think it is pretty clear that 'induction' refers to a prior proposition (the argument of induction) which is under investigation, without patching in some hypothesis to explain away some inconvenient truth discovered during the course of investigation.
To give a flavor of just what questions Newton was asking himself (and succeeding generations) see his Queries in his Opticks (1730).
Newton's 'propositions inferred by general induction' can still be the object of investigation by experiment, whereas the methods of Mill or Bacon can be upon the subject of investigation. For example Newton's 'object', e.g., trying to determine where colors came from, is not inconsistent with a subject of investigation, e.g., a camera obscura containing prisms refracting beams of light. It is possible to have many subjects of investigation with but one objective, just as it is possible to select from many different types of research animals. (I must point out that Newton did not hesitate to experiment on himself -- on his own eyeball. He was his own subject of investigation, at times. And Galileo used himself as his own clock - his own pulse to measure the elapsed time before he was able to assert the pendulum was a way to demonstrate the intersubjective verifiability of the passage of time.)
The crucial experiment was the definitive arbiter for Newton's 'propositions inferred by general induction'.
Hope this helps. If not, disregard. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 17:55, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
The sentence "His methods of reasoning were later systematized by Mill's Methods..." was contributed after 11:03, 27 February 2007. I am going back to an earlier version (from His to Some), as the discussion above shows that Newton's approach is more subtle than Mill's canons, which are still valid, of course. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 12:30, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for the Newton quotes Ancheta. They reveal a bit more of Newton's methodological outlook and it would be well worth encorperating them into the article. Regarding the meaning of the word 'induction' as used by Bacon and Mill, I'm no wiser, but I see in the online version of 'A System of Logic' that Mill discusses induction in depth. I'll read through and comment if there is anything interesting there. --ChrisSteinbach (talk) 15:25, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
You're welcome. Bacon's 'inductive elimination' for rooting out error brings to mind Alhacen's admonition that one must continue to critically examine one's sources (including oneself). Alhacen believed in proof and demonstration; Bacon believed in reasoning from cases (thus induction); Newton could not accept statements (hypotheses) that were not firmly grounded in experiment, although he certainly built on the work of others. For me personally, you are pointing out that investigators like Mill and Whewell felt confident enough that they could actually move out of Newton's shadow, and formulate independent rules of reasoning (methods) of their own. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 16:17, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
You may have unwittingly cleared up my confusion on one point. It is conceivable that 'inductive elimination' is synonymous with 'deduction'. I see Mill as being methodologically at odds with Newton. I think the quotes you gave support this view, but I will have to read further to decide whether Mill knew this or not. For Whewell I will read further before I comment at all. --ChrisSteinbach (talk) 08:09, 2 October 2009 (UTC)
Mill wrote in response to Whewell's first book, and Whewell's methods came from his own scientific research on the tides, which informed Whewell's History of the Inductive Sciences and also his Philosohy of the Inductive Sciences --Ancheta Wis (talk) 11:34, 2 October 2009 (UTC)

scientific method - st. thomas aquinas

Can these ideas be integrated into the text? The source is:

The scientific and technological breakthrough took place in 16th century Christian Europe, coinciding with the European evangelization and colonization of the American continent. But this breakthrough, which has accelerated at a bewildering pace ever since, did not occur out of the blue. It was the consequence of the philosophy of science elaborated by the early 13th century universities founded by the Church, in Paris, Bologna, Oxford, Naples, Padua, Cambridge, Cologne, Salamanca, etc., etc., as has been brilliantly demonstrated by Pierre Duhem and Stanley Jaki, among others. The congenial and thorough epistemological realism of Christian philosophy led St. Thomas Aquinas, right in the middle of the 13th century, to describe the three levels of the mind's penetration into abstraction of pure quantity from them; and (3) the intellectual grasp of universal being in everything (the famous esse or actus essendi of St. Thomas Aquinas). Here was the seed of the scientific breakthrough. By joining (2) and (1), namely mathematical physics, the scientific method crystallized, namely the golden rules of (a) empirical observation, (b) experiment, and (c) quantification. Some theologians then began to apply this method, such as Roger Bacon, Albert the Great, Robert Grosseteste, Alfred of Saxony, John Buridan and Nicholas Oresme...The Thomistic method was the real cause of the scientific breakthrough, not the method advocated by Francis Bacon ... The real creators of the scientific breakthrough, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler and, of course, Newton, followed the three golden rules formulated by St. Thomas Aquinas.

Put quite simply the paragraph you quote is complete rubbish.Thony C. (talk) 09:52, 23 October 2009 (UTC)

Bacon edit

I have difficulty parsing "Bacon's emphasis on knowledge of truth differs from rather than the tentative justification of knowledge claims that appears in Popper's falsificationism." Thank you, --Ancheta Wis (talk) 18:59, 6 February 2010 (UTC)

Might this be the intended interpretation? I will wait one day and edit if there has been no fix yet. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 21:01, 6 February 2010 (UTC)
I fixed the grammar, and then moved this digression to a footnote. Kiefer.Wolfowitz (talk) 00:18, 7 February 2010 (UTC)

Kuhn sociology or philosophy of science

The claim that Kuhn's theory is sociology and not philosophy of science was made by his opponents in order to discredit him and his theory. As far as I understand it the majority accept his work as philosophy of science. To call The Structure of Scientific Revolutions a book on the sociology of science is to express a personal point of view in a more than contentious issue. In an article on the methodology of science such a contentious 'judgement'of Kuhn's work is out of place.Thony C. (talk) 18:41, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

Deletion of Leonardo section is peremptory

The deletion of the Leonardo section is disappointing. There was a one week concession to discussion but this is unreasonable, who has time to check things every few days? Overall I found this disappointing and high-handed. Capra's study is a careful, systematic and very scholarly multi-year investigation. It shows incontrovertibly that Leonardo applied explicit and direct experimentation methods which were theorised with regard to their generalisability. He understood his work as a method appropriate to science and as the method of science and described it this way. Leonardo's understandings of how to do science are at least as verifiable, more so in fact, than some others cited approvingly in the article and generally claimed as part of the history of science methods. The point about his not having published his method is slightly stronger of course but exposes an unnecessarily exclusive approach to how change evolves, how methods happen etc. Isn't it the case that people now increasingly approach the science of Leonardo, as a recent innovation in heart surgery in England demonstrated? (I will get the source for this in due course). Leonardo's experimentation passed on to several others with whom he worked and interacted, it was widely known since he had an established and powerful reputation, and not just as an artist and inventor, in Italy as well as in France. It is likely that he intended to publish some experiments. Capra's basic argument about the unique nature of Leonardo's method is well worth citing even though it is true that some of his scientific experimentation was marginal to developments in mainstream institutions of science. He was, as is well known, far in advance of many of his contemporaries and even of many who followed him; all in all I suggest that it be reviewed or at the very least debated in a more civil manner than simply being deleted. PRC 07 (talk) 00:27, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

Perhaps we might all re-read the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini to remind ourselves of Leonardo's time. Perhaps this might serve as a defense for the reason that Leonardo did not publish his findings, and so failed to illumine others, much less aid the progress of science or scientific method. It took courage to publish. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 01:04, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

Peremptory: I announced that I would remove a section of this article as inappropriate and asked for comment on this proposed action. As there was none I removed the section in question ten days later. Since then there has not been one single comment on my action, although in this time there have been over 100 changes to the article and several lively discussions on other topics here on the discussion page. Now you come along more than nine months afterwards and very high-handedly accuse me of being peremptory. Does this mean that all incorrect entries should be left standing for what, one year or maybe two years until you honour us with your presence?

This article is about the history of the scientific method; Leonardo played no role in that history and so does not belong in this article. The fact that he wrote on the subject does not change this, as his writings had no influence on others. If you can prove the contrary then please do so but until then Leonardo has in my opinion no place in this article. Wikipedia is not the place for 'if then speculations' of the sort you indulge in, in your comment above.

On the subject of Capra, he is a physicist turned new age guru. He wrote a bestseller in which he criticised what he calls the reductionist philosophy of science as socially destructive and proposed replacing it with a holistic philosophy of science. Unfortunately Capra neglected to explain how a holistic methodology would work in the real world, so his work remained largely ignored by scientists and philosophers of science. Now he is playing the predecessor game, by claiming that the ‘great’ Leonardo shared his holistic philosophy he is also claiming the legitimacy of his own work. I remain sceptical.Thony C. (talk) 18:37, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

Actually I am PRC 07 and not 'peremptory'. I am sorry you choose to take offence, none was intended, I apologise if some came across. I stick by the substance of my original remarks however. You cannot dismiss them by denigrating Capra, or his influence or lack of any. He might be the things you say, I don't know and don't care on that point, what is relevant is whether the arguments he makes in what is a cogently argued book, are valid for the purposes of the present article. It is clear that his kind of science, and indeed it seems also Leonardo's, don't meet your approval. That is fine, you no doubt have good reasons for this view. However, I repeat, arguments should be taken on their merits, rather than rejected on the basis of associations they have with extraneous facts or circumstances, or because they have been put by authors who do not meet our approval. If you treat my post in this way you would review its content rather than simply reiterate your original position. The article however does not conform to the standard whose application you wish to use to exclude Leonardo. A case in point is how it presently describes Alhazen, Ibn al-Haytham, Al-Biruni and Avicenna. These are early and important scientists, and I recognise in one and possibly two of these cases a flow into later science and science reasoning but not in all. Why is this different from Leonardo? He conducted experiments. He stated prior to the conduct of these experiments the method he would use, and its epistemological premises. He then reviews his findings based on reference back to his method. This reasoning in logic and clarity, and conforms perfectly to the very first sentence of the article, which states: "The history of scientific method is a history of the methodology of scientific inquiry, as differentiated from a history of science in general." Leonardo's work was known to many of his contemporaries who knew that he used a methodology appropriate to his investigations. PRC 07 (talk) 23:20, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

Leonardo's work was known to many of his contemporaries who knew that he used a methodology appropriate to his investigations.

You keep repeating this claim but you have, up till now, delivered no evidence to back it up.

You cannot dismiss them by denigrating Capra… It is clear that his kind of science, and indeed it seems also Leonardo's, don't meet your approval.

I do not denigrate Capra but merely describe him and I actually find some of his ideas very stimulating but I have doubts whether science could ever be conducted in the way he wishes it to be. As to Leonardo I certainly do approve of his science, although there is a strong tendency for people to exaggerate his scientific abilities, however I do not think that he practices the sort of science that Capra preaches.

Turning to your criticism on the article in general I think you are badly mistaken in your judgement, you write:

The article however does not conform to the standard whose application you wish to use to exclude Leonardo. A case in point is how it presently describes Alhazen, Ibn al-Haytham, Al-Biruni and Avicenna. These are early and important scientists, and I recognise in one and possibly two of these cases a flow into later science and science reasoning but not in all. Why is this different from Leonardo?

Starting with the general, Islamic science exercised a massive influence on the revival and further development of science in Europe in the Middle Ages. Moving on to the specific Alhazen and Ibn al-Haytham are one and the same person, Alhazen is just the Latinised corruption of his Arabic name. His Book of Optics is possibly the most influential scientific work to come out of the Golden Age of the Islamic Empire and it played a very central role in the development of European science from the 12th till the 17th century. Alongside Aristotle and Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Ibn Sina (Avicenna) is one of the three most influential figures in the whole of European Mediaeval science. Lastly we turn to al-Biruni whose direct influence within Europe was not so great as his two fellow Islamic scholars but whose influence within Islamic science and especially on Ibn Sina were immense. All three of the Islamic figures that you have named are very major figures in the history of science and scientific methodology and for all his genius in terms of actual influence Leonardo is simply not in the same league.Thony C. (talk) 13:45, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

Reply: I will have to return to this later, too many diverting pressures. I wish only to record here that the opening sentences of the article do not give grounds to reject Leonardo. That sentence, as I cited above, introduces the focus of the article as "....a history of the methodology of scientific inquiry, as differentiated from a history of science in general", rather than precluding Leonardo it includes him.

Also, what evidence do you have for the claim about Leonardo that "there is a strong tendency for people to exaggerate his scientific abilities" when Capra's three decade investigation into precisely these 'scientific abilities' leads him to argue: "My intent is to present a coherent account of the scientific method and achievements of the great genius of the Renaissance and evaluate them from the perspective of today’s scientific thought. Studying Leonardo from this perspective will not only allow us to recognize his science as a solid body of knowledge. It will also show why it cannot be understood without his art, nor his art without the science." and later " ...Leonardo's systematic studies of living and nonliving forms amounted to a science of quality and wholeness that was fundamentally different from the mechanistic science of Galileo and Newton." He also cites the explicit methodology that Leonardo used in controlled and theorised experimentation (hydrological experiments, anatomical investigation, wind and air motion studies, and other fields. PRC 07 (talk) 03:02, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

PRC 07, Yes, Leonardo was a keen and astute observer, but not always accurate. I refer you to his descriptions of a bird flying; Leonardo actually used the words 'divers revolutions' for the flapping of its wings (ref: Bynum & Porter 2005, Leonardo da Vinci 380#5). His dissections were actually forbidden by the Church at that time, just as Galileo's investigations were, so he had to hide his work and could not publish. If he had actually published, his anatomical errors would have been exposed but at the time, this would all have been suppressed. From the point of view of the Scientific revolution, he was a little too early, & bereft of scientific community. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 13:22, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

Ancheta Wis: You have manage to propagate two myths of science in one brief phrase, you write:

His dissections were actually forbidden by the Church at that time, just as Galileo's investigations were...

Dissection was not forbidden by the Church in the time of Leonardo and the Church did not forbid Galileo's investigations! In Galileo's case he was 'merely' forbidden to hold or teach the truth of the heliocentric hypothesis. In fact he was totally free to teach it as a hypothesis as Catholic scientist did in fact do.Thony C. (talk) 16:10, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

I stand corrected. I believe you will not deny that Leonardo performed his dissections surreptitiously. I also believe you will not deny that Galileo published his most important work outside the reach of the Church. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 19:04, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

Mitral Valve Shape, Leonardo's continuing influence Actually this business of influence is complicated, it can come back in unexpected ways. Consider that in 2005 a UK heart surgeon, Francis Wells, from Papworth Hospital Cambridge pioneered repair to damaged hearts from viewing Leonardo's medical drawings, made from the latter's body dissections. (You can check this easily at:; published by BBC 2005/09/28.)

Mr Wells reported that he used the drawings to work out how to restore normal opening and closing function of the mitral valve, so that instead of repairing a floppy valve by narrowing its diameter, thereby restricting blood flow under exercise, he devised what he called: "..a complete rethink of the way we do the mitral valve operation". Leonardo's dissections also disproved the popular belief that the heart was not a muscle and demonstrated that it consists of four rather than two chambers. He 'drew' these findings, but he also described them and it was this combination that assisted Mr Wells.

Leonardo also described how arteries develop 'furring' over time, creating blockages. Mr Wells used Leonardo's depiction of the opening phase of the mitral valve to operate without changing its diameter allowing an individual to recover more quickly from the intervention. According to the surgeon: "Leonardo had a depth of appreciation of the anatomy and physiology of the body - its structure and function - that perhaps has been overlooked by some."

This counts as influence, since influence seems to determine inclusion in the present article. Influence does not have to be immediate, as we can see with this example. As far as this wikipedia entry is concerned I believe that it is more appropriate to talk of 'scientific methodologies' or 'scientific approaches to discovery in science' or a formulation of this kind. This formulation would recognise that there are many fields of scientific investigation and while a scientific method (in general terms) is essential to science, specific methodologies and techniques apply in diverse fields of enquiry. On page 156 of Fritjof Capra's research into Leonardo's work as a scientist he makes the perhaps excessive claim that: "I would argue, Leonardo single-handedly developed a new approach to knowledge, known today as the scientific method". While I think this ignores the great scholars of science that preceded Leonardo, including many non-European scientists, who scrupulously applied 'scientific methods' it strongly validates Leonardo's claim for inclusion.

Leonardo's notebooks show a keen appreciation, in his 'untutored' way, of inductive and deductive scientific reasoning, but also of different forms of representation (visual as well as verbal) and as I have stated earlier they also show that he conducted many formal experiments in a wide range of fields. He repeated these experiments aware of the principle of replicability, varying single inputs or variables and doing new observations. Over several years he learnt mathematics from Luca Pacioli, including Pacioli's own applications of mathematics to accountancy, but also Euclid's elements. They published a book together on proportions in building treating issues such as polyhedra, which Leonardo illustrated. Of course he made mistakes occasionally, but also sometimes 'came close' to major breakthroughs, such as when he practically described the system of circulation of blood (some of his boosters claim that he in fact got this right but that evidence is lost to us since more than half his manuscripts have perished).

There is much else, thank you for willingness to discuss things. Like most people I can contribute only very occasionally, but I trust you will consider these points. Best wishes. PRC 07 (talk) 22:03, 24 March 2010 (UTC)