Talk:Scientific method/Archive 12

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  1. Why using "a scientifc method"? I can't see more than one.
  2. "History" shouldn't be the first Chapter. First we should say what the scientific method is.
  3. "Elements of a scientifc method" isn't a good title. Maybe something like "Definition" or "Requirements" would be bettter.
  4. "Evaluation and Iteration" and "Peer review evaluation" should be subtitles ot "Elements ..."
    Markus Schmaus -- 21:56 3 Jun 2005 (UTC)
    Adding my 2 cents here. The Scientific Method also encompasses the merging of hypotheses into working Scientific Models. And eventually, it all gets put together into a Scientific Theory or a Scientific Law. This site doesn't do a good job at describing these final steps of the Scientific Method, nor does it do much to distinguish between a Scientific theory and Law. Could somebody with better skills at this possibly integrate these essential points? (this edit was by User:SteenGoddik 06:57, 9 February 2006)
    SteenGoddik, let's please continue this discussion below. --15:59, 19 February 2006 (UTC)
Actually, "Evaluation and Iteration" is the outer framework of the 4 inner steps. This outer framework is not part of the 4 inner steps of sci. method, but lies outside in a recursive/ retrospective / reflective / iterative loop; The 4 steps are part of a huge endless loop, to put it into software words. Subtitles would be inappropriate, but a "Repeat" or "Loop" or "Recursive" keyword which lay outside the 4 steps would also be accurate. However, that is not part of the English language, currently. The statement of the scientific could be made more precise in a pseudo-code which allowed loops or recursion as part of the language. If the 4 steps were in one color, and the loop of evaluation / review were in another color, that would show the actual structure of the method. But the essential point, which is the test of a prediction/deduction from hypothesis, where the hypothesis and prediction are made before the test is conducted, where the hypothesizers and the predicters lay their reputations on the line, and take a risk, is already stated as part of the 4 inner steps. That is the essential part. But to merely state "Repeat" does not adequately state the subtlety of the method. When workers in a field are exploring the concepts, they are engaging in a conversation about the subject, and typically, the expertise of one is a building block in the thinking of another, in the same field. Thus the iterations and recursions of the method serve as commentary on the discoveries in the subject. The "review" etc. are the timeless part. The reproducibility (repeatability) part is the workhorse of the method, but is not part of the inner loop. The reproducibility part is "Iteration". Ancheta Wis 15:55, 4 Jun 2005 (UTC)
You're right, but I still don't like the title "Elements of the scientific method" what about "Essential steps"? Markus Schmaus
I think I disagree that "Definition" is appropriate. "Discovery of ..." is more appropriate. We are not really at the mathematical stage yet, because people are still at the heart of the method. It takes a special person to engage in more than 1 or 2 of the steps. Galileo, Newton, {Einstein/Schwarzschild} together, {Watson/Crick/Rosalind Franklin/Maurice Wilkes/etc} together. You get the point; it is the people who are engaged in the method that make the method special. In other words, we need to acknowledge the role of the people in the method. That is also the reason that History is still the appropriate first part of the article. But if you believe it is not, then how about giving a rationale for another structure to the article. I think I have given some reasons for not starting with "Definition" first; it is part of the History of science. Ancheta Wis 15:55, 4 Jun 2005 (UTC)
I think we should first tell the reader how the scientific method is seen today before telling how this view developed. Markus Schmaus 21:33, 5 Jun 2005 (UTC)

DNA icon

The current DNA picture looks good large but is not made for an icon. What do you think about DNA icon (25x25).png? Markus Schmaus 13:46, 4 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Looks good to me, for one; would you like to do the replacement? I could, if you would like, but please feel free to do so. Any other editor's thoughts? Ancheta Wis 15:26, 4 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Hypothetico-deductive method

What is described inthe box in the section I have marked is not the hypothetico-deductive method. HD is the method behind Falsificationism; it seeks to falsify a hypothesis by examining deductions derived from it - hence the name. The method described here could just as easily be inductive, Bayesian or Coherentism. HD would test only the predictions made from the theory. Banno June 29, 2005 08:50 (UTC)

I propose replacement of the sentence "The above is a hypothetico-deductive method (disputed — see talk page), and includes observation in step one and four." with the sentence "The above includes observation in steps one and four.". Then a Falsificationist sentence might be restored to the Scientific method#Philosophical issues section as you see fit. Ancheta Wis 29 June 2005 09:56 (UTC)

Sounds fine; Banno June 29, 2005 10:20 (UTC)

Scientific method cannot always be used in science?

This article is great from a philosophical point of view, but there are some major points missing. Not all problems can be solved with the scientific method, especially areas of science that rely on historical evidence (geology for instance). It is not always possible to test hypotheses through experimentation. In some cases you are solving a problem by searching for evidence and so-called smoking guns. Plate tectonics is a very good example of this. I would like to see this POV added, I have seen a couple of articled in the scientific literature addressing it, but figured I'd mention it here first for some suggestions. -- 03:16, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

Plate tectonics - seafloor spreading and continental drift illustrated on relief globe
See, for example, the overviews in history of science. The topics of discussion in a scientific community might require several lines of evidence, which, when taken together, can be then explained by a single mechanism. As you point out, plate tectonics is an example cited in the history of science#Geology, where continental drift was not taken seriously until the discovery of seafloor spreading. Since it took observation, hypothesis, etc. to see this, one might argue that the scientific method actually does cover this case. Have you considered inverting the argument? I number the steps of the scientific method per the article -- Step 1 considers the lines of evidence: someone in the present considering events that have occurred in the past (and present). Step 2 is a generalization, the statement of a timeless relation which may or may not be true. Step 3 takes the point of view of a time (which may or may not be in the future) in which something from step 2 is true. Step 4 then looks for mechanism/actual happenstance -- in other words, step 3 "talks" (from the future) to something in the present -- step 4 (the past, from the point of view of someone thinking in terms of steps 2 and 3). Ancheta Wis 08:51, 28 July 2005 (UTC)

I think that what I am touching on is that human imagination is a marvellous thing that can span everything -- from what has happened to what could happen. The scientific method merely places constraints on the imagination by stating requirements for lines of reasoning, and then going on from there. In other words, the scientific method does not cover flights of fantasy. (What Francis Bacon cautioned against, as referred to in the history section of the article.) However, the scientific community often takes as a responsibility, to explain that which has happened (as in the evidence for plate tectonics), while not ruling out that which could happen. In that case, the human imagination may yet uncover something as yet unvisioned, and someone could even make that something real. (I am thinking about Robert Goddard dreaming about space exploration.) Ancheta Wis 09:23, 28 July 2005 (UTC)

Have you also considered the use of the Wikipedia:Wikiportal/Scientific method {{Portal}} as a venue for your line of thought? A scientific community can be both a help and a hindrance when working out something new. The portal is currently wide-open for additions. The points to which you are referring could be placed in a point/counterpoint framework there. The talk page there could be used as a venue for your line of reasoning. Ancheta Wis 09:23, 28 July 2005 (UTC)

Copyright violation

Today's additions by appear to be copied nearly verbatim from I will revert to last version by User:Markus Schmaus. Edwardian 04:50, 29 July 2005 (UTC)

No recipe lacks NPOV

Thinking about the 'No recipe' section; there are those who think that scientific method is, or should be like a recipe in the sense that scientists use it to achieve and reproduce results in a detatched manner. Francis Bacon, for example, desired that "the entire work of the understanding be commenced afresh, and the mind itself be from the very outset not left to take its own course, but guided at every step; and the business be done as if by machinery." (Novum Organum).

Is there some way we could improve on this? It occurs to me that the recipe analogy, which I quite like, could be used to explain a number of points of view. --Chris 14:04, 29 July 2005 (UTC)

The described method does require imagination and the no recipe section is accurate in its context. The article lacks NPOV in so far as it does not give a recipe for doing science, but I'm not aware of any such recipe. Markus Schmaus 15:00, 29 July 2005 (UTC)

Well, first let me make it clear that I think there is no such recipe. Bacon did, unless I misunderstand him. And his conception of science remained strong throughout the 18th and 19th century. His recipe, if you like, was the method outlined in the history section. From the perspective of the philosophy of science, this view is no longer supportable. But not everyone pays a great deal of attention to what philosophers of science say, indeed it seems that the majority of practising scientists would have trouble naming just one of them (Stephen Jay Gould, The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox). I believe that the scientific community of today (especially those who are also part of the skeptic community) is still basically Baconian in its understanding of scientific method. Can I back that up with some references? Not yet, but I'm curious now to see if I can. --Chris 16:27, 29 July 2005 (UTC)

I would have hoped that Scientific method#Philosophical issues set out the reasons that such a recipe is impossible. The theory-dependence of observation and the indeterminacy of theory under empirical test necessitate the use of imagination and creativity, and of socialisation, in the scientific enterprise. Banno 12:05, July 30, 2005 (UTC)
It is unfortunate that the Philosophical issues section is so far down the article. The reader should be told fairly early on how problematic the very idea of a definitive scientific method is. But the first significant chunk of the article gives just the opposite impression. I think the intro should reflect a lot of that content more strongly.--ragesoss 14:01, 1 January 2006 (UTC)
Some of the philosophical/psychological/organizational/social/cultural problems include:
  1. Problems of definition. The initial tries are ostensive definitions, by the very nature of our limited understanding, at first.
  2. The subjective nature of an observation. Most people will fail to connect the dots even when the observation is right in their faces. This is what Jared Diamond calls failure to perceive.
  3. Cocksure POV, thinking that one understands when one really does not.
  4. Timidity. This was Feynman's statement (You have to be brave.). Even when the observation is right in one's face, and the concept is ready to be characterized, some researchers will not step into the unknown; the prospect is daunting. In that case, they must somehow feel that they have something to lose in their reputation, and another who is willing to risk reputation will then step up and get the credit for the advance.
  5. Fraud. The cloning debacle currently in the news makes the pressure to announce something new irrestible to some. But that is where reproducibility saves the method. There have been fools and pretenders in every age, so far.
  6. The personal aspect of the method. It takes a special type of person to be able to get at one stage of the method, much less all four. In that case, it is like the Age of Exploration where some researchers are willing to risk even loss of life, like Ferdinand Magellan, who lost his in the attempted circumnavigation of the globe.
  7. There is a parallel in the statement of the scientific method to the statement of the Carnot cycle, the theoretical basis of all mechanical engines. The point is that there needs to be a operating temperature and pressure for a working fluid (which was steam in the nineteenth century). The Carnot cycle is real, although theoretical, and all the other realizations of the mechanical engine can be approximated by it. (One might argue in the history of science and also history of technology that civilization consists in finding the appropriate settings for the cycle of innovation to chug. It is definitely possible to ruin the settings and destroy the scientific community in a civilization. Several examples come to mind.) --Ancheta Wis 15:49, 1 January 2006 (UTC)
  8. The Lwow school of mathematics is an example of a productive mathematical community which was destroyed by the failure of Poland to protect its citizens from WWII. The innovative power of this community may be glimpsed by the example of Stan Ulam who left Lwow for the US, and who helped develop the atomic bomb, inspired by the invasion of his homeland. Ulam has recounted how he would stay up all night to work out some mathematics which he could then casually disclose to his friends at the Scottish cafe in Lwow, as if it had been no effort at all.
  9. The communities which arise in the production of a Wikipedia article are examples of productive/unproductive settings. It is a fine line which we are all familiar with in the encyclopedia. By the same token, when BBSs were the only method of discussion online, un-moderated BBSs were very often taken over by trolls. Those who argue that Wikipedia will never be able to produce articles are in the same philosophical position as those who argue for No Scientific Method; the obvious resolution is Who Knows?, a cat state.
Added an internal link to the philosophical issues section of the article. --Ancheta Wis 16:07, 1 January 2006 (UTC)

Good/Bad Science

Unfortunately, we need to talk about this large change to the article, which has attained an equilibrium for several seasons of a year, now. If we are to now augment the article with some other considerations, such as the relationship of a specific researcher to the larger community or to specific segments of the scientific community, then we need to talk to this point. But a characterization of a specific scientific result as Good or Bad is a judgement which necessarily involves a protocol. Otherwise, the judgement lies outside of the method itself. Based on the considerations of the method, I have reverted. Ancheta Wis 22:05, 3 August 2005 (UTC)

perihelion precession of Mercury

The section on the perihelion precession of Mercury included the statement that

This consequence (a difference in the values for this precession of 42.5 arc-seconds per century) was known only after the Schwarzschild solution to the Einstein field equation was published in 1916.

This is incorrect. Einstein used an approximate solution in 1915 to derive the perihelion precession of Mercury. Not only did this preceed Schwarzschild's work, but it even preceeded the finalization of the Einstein field equations. --EMS | Talk 14:09, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

EMS, according to the link above, the Einstein field equations had not reached their final form, and the precession in the perihelion of Mercury was indeed explained, but that the other consequences of this October 1914 form of the field equations were inconsistent with observation. In other words, the October 1914 form was not yet ready for prime time, even if they qualitatively explained the precession in the perihelion of Mercury. What do you think about a rewording of the sentence to
This consequence (a difference in the values for this precession of 42.5 arc-seconds per century) was satisfactorily explained only after the Schwarzschild solution to the Einstein field equation was published in 1916.
Ancheta Wis 11:47, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
I see you improved the section already. But why not mention the Schwarzschild solution etc.? Ancheta Wis 11:52, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
Think about what was being confirmed: It was not the Schwarzschild Solution itself but rather general relativity. The Schwarzschild solution itelf is just an exact solution of the Einstein field equations (which perhaps deserve to be mentioned first IMO). Here is the metric that Einstein used to do his calculations:
To a first order of magnitude, that is the same as the Schwarzschild Solution, and the difference in the perihelion precession of Mercury between the metrics is to this day undetectable. BTW - This use of approximate solutions is endemic to general relativity: It is unusual for the Einstein field equations to have exact solutions, although it is much easier to find them than Einstien himself had dared to hope. So your belief that the non-Newtonian perihelion precession prediction for Mercury had to await the discovery of the Schwarzschild Solution is unfounded. Instead that prediction was affirmed in November 1915 (when the correct field equations were published), and was not affected by Schwazschild's work. That is why I choose not to mention the Schwarzschild solution. --EMS | Talk 21:06, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
EMS, Thank you for your clarification and the illumination. Ancheta Wis 00:20, 21 August 2005 (UTC)

Nice URL

Short, simple, to the point. FuelWagon 19:15, 23 August 2005 (UTC)

Predictions for a theory of cognition

An engineer has formulated a theory of cognition and created a class of predictions for his theory. He is trying to build an intelligent machine. Ancheta Wis 00:32, 19 September 2005 (UTC)

Methodological Naturalism

I filed an article RFC on the Methodological naturalism article. You can read the issue here. Essentially, the question is whether or not the scientific method is an example of methodological naturalism (MN) or methodological supernaturalism (MS). Since it involves the Scientific Method, I thought I'd post something here hoping to get someone who knows the topic. Does the scientific method allow for supernatural investigations and causes? Your input would be appreciated. FuelWagon 17:51, 11 September 2005 (UTC)

No, seriously, does the scientific method use supernatural methods? Your input would be appreciated. FuelWagon 18:32, 12 September 2005 (UTC)

openning sentence: 'Scientific methods or processes', a matter of semantics

openning sentence: 'Scientific methods or processes', perhaps a matter of fine semantics; but, are methods processes? To me, a method is a procedure or algorithm describing or defining a process. It becomes an instance of a 'process' when it is put into action. i.e. A process is the execution of a method. Too fine of a distinction?

Method is usually under the control of a single person (or mind). Process moves out control from the aegis of single persons, and allows things to play out in real-time without micro-management by a single person (or mind). Ancheta Wis 03:58, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
In other words, process takes up time and occupies space; method is more abstract. 04:05, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
Mtthod has a more general meaning in the philosophy of science, e.g. see Feyerabend#Work_regarding_the_nature_of_scientific_method.--Carl Hewitt 04:00, 2 October 2005 (UTC)

Latest change to 3rd stage

The latest change blurs the line between 2nd (intuitive) and 3rd stage (logical). "reasoning including deductive reasoning" because reasoning also includes abductive reasoning (guessing) which is clearly 2nd stage (intuitive). That is the whole reason there is a 1st stage (incubation, speculation, observation, justification, belief, etc.), where everything is up for grabs in the face of an unknown. The first stage is the difficult one. The 2nd stage is the first formulation of a coherent thought. The 3rd stage is the logical consequence of the coherent thought. Please justify this change. Ancheta Wis 21:45, 2 October 2005 (UTC)

I have clarified the article to make it clear that as stated in the beginning, that the elements of scientific method can come in a multitude of orderings and interleavings.--Carl Hewitt 00:45, 3 October 2005 (UTC)
Professor Hewitt, welcome to the article page! Reading between the lines on your published work on the future automation of the Scientific Community, it appears that you might tend to support the possibility that there could be agents in a community which might propose hypotheses, that there could be other agents in a community which might search for evidence that might support those hypotheses and that there could be still other agents in a community which might search for evidence which might contradict those hypotheses. Putting aside the practical implementation of automated hypothesizer-agents, and simply assuming that automated hypothesizer-agents will eventually exist, or perhaps that humans might assume their traditional role as hypothesizers, then it appears that you might tend to support the possibility that the first stage of the scientific method might well be approximated by automated 2nd, 3rd, and 4th stage processes. Not that there is anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld might have said. Ancheta Wis 00:34, 3 October 2005 (UTC)
However this possibility would contradict the current assertion on the article page that "imagination, creativity and intelligence are necessary to the scientific method". It may be that the (human) Scientific Community might learn to depend on these agents as they make their appearance in our lives. Ancheta Wis 00:34, 3 October 2005 (UTC)
I guess another possibility is that human scientists could all congregate in the 1st stage of effort, and wait impatiently for implementing programmers to get on with delivery of 2nd, 3rd and 4th stage agents, so that the humans can publish! Ancheta Wis 00:34, 3 October 2005 (UTC)
So if I understand this, some Ether programming language pseudo-code for the innermost loop of Scientific Method could be:
characterization C survives while
a researcher can propose some hypothesis in C
and that hypothesis is supported
and that hypothesis is not opposed
My mental mapping of these 4 lines corresponds, as might be expected, to the 4 elements of the article.
Prof. Hewitt,
I am searching for a citation for this pseudo-code, for the article. Also, when I was searching for a user's manual for Ether, I could feel the effect of reading (about yours and others work) on my mind; what I was reading was literally rearranging my previous thought. To my consternation, I could not remember the way I had previously thought that thought :-). Ancheta Wis 09:49, 4 October 2005 (UTC) So far I have found a bit-mapped version of Kornfeld 1979 (AIM-561) but the graphical downloads of each page are very slow.

Sections 7 and 8

7. Scientific method and the practice of science

    needs such extensive rework that my suggestion is to delete it.
 Since it only says that publishing and $$ are necesary to practice
 science, it says either too much or too little.  Furthermore the
 entire last paragraph gives great weight to the complaints of 
 the fringers.  So please simply remove the section for now.

8. Quotations

    This quotation, from a play, is entirely inappropriate.  I
  suggest replacing it with a quotation from an actual scientist,
  for example, Sir Issac Newton's quotation about "one man or age".

David B. Benson <> 23:18, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

Length of the article

This article is getting really long. It would be a good idea to break up some of the sections into new pages. Karol 16:03, 12 November 2005 (UTC)

I moved most of the content of the History section to a separate page. The text there needs alot of work, I think. Karol 17:17, 12 November 2005 (UTC)

Re: "A scientific method" / "The scientific method"/ "Scientific methods". Previous versions of the article have used these definite/indefinite articles, and the lead sentence reflected a consensus. You may wish to re-consider the edits of Carl Hewitt, for example. --Ancheta Wis 17:26, 12 November 2005 (UTC)
Which edits are are your referring to - the lengthy additions to the Characterizations section? Karol 11:07, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
Here is the previous lead sentence which I propose to restore:
What kind of consensus was this? It seems very strange to me to refer to a subject in the plural form, especially in an encyclopedia, and more so in a lead paragraph. I understand the incentive here is that there are various flavors of the scientific method? Karol 11:07, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
"Main article: History of the scientific method --The development of the scientific method is unseparable from the history of science itself." Please reconsider separating this section from either the main article or History of science. If it is not in the main article, then please consider how it may be integrated into History of science. --Ancheta Wis 19:19, 12 November 2005 (UTC)
I don't understand what you mean here. Karol 11:07, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
Karol, perhaps an announcement of an Article Improvement Drive for History of scientific method would be useful; might you consider that? There are examples, in the style of say, the History of Russia or History of Poland which might be useful templates in the structuring of History of scientific method. This might be coordinated with the History of science series, as well, in which the idea of cross-cuts (see talk page in History of science) across science might be used to illustrate issues and ideas in History of scientific method, as it could be a history of ideas rather than a timeline. --Ancheta Wis 20:20, 12 November 2005 (UTC)
Sure. I wasn't thinking about this at all when moving the content, although the text is very poor. The move, however, seemed justified. Was it not? Karol 11:07, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
Great! Then perhaps we could collaborate? History of science was a wonderful collaboration, even though we didn't get to Featured Article status. The current 40K length of the articles is a reasonable target. We exceeded 60 or 70 K at one time on History of science. What do you say to our posting a template for History of [the] scientific method right here, and getting attention directed to the articles? The History of ... templates might work, but it seems to me that we could simply list the major items in the template, without regard to a timeline. Perhaps a philosophical or logical list? Or perhaps use Carl Hewitt's Scientific Community idea as the organizing principle? -- Regards, Ancheta Wis 13:03, 13 November 2005 (UTC).
I could post a strawman template here for criticism, where the contents of the list would be the major items for the History. But everything would be up in the air for change until consensus was attained. I will wait for a response, OK? --Ancheta Wis 13:15, 13 November 2005 (UTC)

Indeterminacy of theory under empirical testing

While reading through this article I suddenly noticed the use of a personal pronoun. I don't believe that appeared anywhere else in the article proper.

Changed "the scientist is making a personal choice when she chooses some particular theory over another" to read "the scientist is making a personal choice when using one particular theory over another."

No, I'm not bashing the use of the word "she" in an article -- I'm suggesting that we don't mix our writing styles. In this new iteration, our scientist does not exist; the way it was, suddenly our scientist embodied a particular entity.

- Dr. Morelos


I feel that the either a separate History article should be established or the History section of this article should be fleshed out. Major contributions by those such as DesCartes should receive mention. The Jade Knight 07:05, 9 December 2005 (UTC)

Karol has already created history of the scientific method. You are welcome to contribute to that article. --Ancheta Wis 11:00, 9 December 2005 (UTC)

What about non natural physical phenomena? Is this not science?

Hello. It seems this page is almost entirely dedicated to explain science as the study of natural phenomena. I would be very interested in knowing what the community of editors of this page thinks of non natural physical phenomena... Let me please explain what I mean by giving you the prototype of a non natural physical phenomenon: a computation. It obeys physical rules, yet it is human crafted: computations (typically) occure inside of physical systems which are man crafted (typically, computers). (Other examples can be thought of, like the study of chemical components which do not exist in nature).

This brings a second question. Computer science (CS), or at least (depending on the acception of CS) scientific aspects of CS can arguably be defined as the study of computations. How doese CS fit into the scientific method? It is (IMHO) very much like mathematics, however it differs in the sense that it studies a physical phenomenon: computations, and that empirical approaches are also used. It probably differs from physics in the sense that the border line between the science (computer science in this case), and technology is much more fuzzy (and, of course, in the fact that the physical phenonenon is non natural...).

I think that the definition of the scientific method tries to capture the essence of scientific practise. Computer science, as I see it, is the newest science. From my POV, the question is not wether CS is a science or not in the sense that it would or would not follow the scientific method. I see CS as a science, and the question is: is the definition of the scientific method up to date? (and therefore doese it captures CS practise?), or doese it need to be adapted in order to aknowledge its failure to capture the fact that CS is a science.

From what I see of this page, and in my opinion, the definition of the scientific method needs updating in order to ackowledge the fact that it misses computer science. (It may also bring an interesting perspective on the question of wether mathematics are a science or not since it seems to me CS is somehow in between physics and mathematics...(So I say informally)).

Do you feel my POV is widely accepted enough to be cited in the article, or yield minor modifications to it? Or is it a POV which (if pushed further) may well belong to an encyclpedia one day, but which needs to succeed in going through an "original research phase" first?

I am only an amateur phylosopher of sciences, so I am very intersted in the POV of wiser wikipedians on this subject. best regards: --Powo 20:02, 27 December 2005 (UTC)

Study of man-made phenomena such as A New Kind of Science does not fall outside of the natural world. Humans and everything we do is part of the physical world. People like E. O. Wilson advocate the idea that all of human knowledge has a natural unity. --JWSchmidt 20:45, 27 December 2005 (UTC)
JWSchmidt is correct - "natural" in this (scientific) sense, means "not supernatural". We can explain computers, we can see them. God and Miracles and the like are not "natural" but computers are "natural". KillerChihuahua?!? 21:34, 27 December 2005 (UTC)

Good point Powo, I've tried to make this clearer using "the natural world" which is given as an alternative at the start of the nature article, and emphasising that "artificial" works are included as that article equivocates about its philosophical position. Hope that helps. ...dave souza 10:31, 28 December 2005 (UTC)

DNA examples are wrong

"Linus Pauling proposed that DNA was a triple helix. Francis Crick and James Watson learned of Pauling's hypothesis, figured out that Pauling was wrong and realized that Pauling would soon realize his mistake. So the race was on to figure out the correct structure. Except that Pauling did not realize at the time that he was in a race!"

Pauling proposed this in early 1953; Watson/Crick had first built a triple-helix model in late 1951. They showed it to Rosalind Franklin, who pointed out several errors with their model. After they saw her X-ray photographs (without her permission), they were able to deduce the correct structure. See [1].

I don't know the history well enough to correct the DNA examples (and incorporate what Watson and Crick might have claimed), but I do know the examples are wrong at present. --TidyCat 11:12, 30 December 2005 (UTC) -

Prose can always be fixed. In broad terms, the statements are correct. See the link. Pauling proposed a triple helix. His son was at Cambridge with Crick and Watson, and shared this info with them. The protocol of not working on someone else's project (Wilkins and Franklin) was therefore scrapped because an American (Pauling) might well solve the puzzle before the UK teams. I have not attempted to touch these sentences in awhile, but please be more specific. Crick and Watson knew of other helical molecules, such as the tobacco mosaic virus, before the DNA triumph. One might discount the 4th sentence onward, but even there the sentences are broadly true. Would you object if someone struck sentence 4 onward? --Ancheta Wis 11:28, 30 December 2005 (UTC)
When I examine the Oct 2 edit, I see
"When James Watson was sent to investigate what Rosalind Franklin had found in her X-ray diffraction images of DNA, he saw the X-shape which Crick had predicted for a helical structure."
That was correct. Wilkins was also on the DNA project and would not have had any problems getting at the photos. He showed the photos to Watson. Again, I see no problems with the Oct 2 edit. But if you are objecting to the subsequent edits, please state your objections. --Ancheta Wis 11:42, 30 December 2005 (UTC)
Reexamining it, I realize that the above text can be fixed by replacing figured out with understood. 'Figured out' implies they didn't already know the triple helix was incorrect.--TidyCat 11:33, 31 December 2005 (UTC)
Good. It looks like you have fixed it as well. --Ancheta Wis 11:46, 31 December 2005 (UTC)

Scrapping scientific method section from Science article

I am cutting out a chunk of badly-formatted content someone added recently to Science#Scientific method. I guess someone could scrap some material onto this page, if useful, although I notice some of the content overlaps and is contradictory... Karol 09:08, 1 January 2006 (UTC)


  1. Observation: The scientific method starts with observations and descriptions of a phenomenon or group of phenomena. The scientist then raises a question about the observations. The question raised must have a concrete answer that can be obtained by performing an experiment.
  2. Hypothesis: A hypothesis is an educated guess. It forms a feasible explanation for the phenomena. It will make a prediction as to the expected results if the hypothesis and other underlying assumptions and principles are true and an experiment is done to test that hypothesis. The hypothesis will many times describe a causal mechanism or a mathematical relation.
  3. Testing: Experiments that are repeatable and confirmable will be developed to support the hypothesis. If results from the experiments disprove the hypothesis, then the hypothesis is ruled out. At times, the failure of an experiment may not disprove a hypothesis, but will itself have defects that need to be resolved. If the hypothesis holds up under an experiment, then the experiment becomes evidence that supports the hypothesis, but is not proof that the hypothesis is true.
  4. Peer Review: Experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments will either support or discredit the hypothesis.
  5. Conclusion: Based on the experiments conducted, a conclusion will be reached regarding the reliability and ramifications of the hypothesis. If sufficient experimental evidence supports a hypothesis to become generally accepted in the scientific community, then it either becomes a theory or modifies an existing theory.


A theory is a generalization based on many observations and experiments; a well-tested, verified hypothesis that fits existing data and explains how processes or events are thought to occur. It is a basis for predicting future events or discoveries. Theories may be modified as new information is gained. This is in contrast to the common usage of the word that refers to ideas that have no firm proof or support. To say "the apple fell" is to state a fact, whereas Newton's theory of universal gravitation is a body of ideas that explain why the apple fell. Thus a multitude of falling objects are reduced to a few concepts or abstractions interacting according to a small set of laws, allowing a scientist to make predictions about the behaviour of falling objects in general. An especially fruitful theory that has withstood the test of time and has an overwhelming quantity of evidence supporting it is considered to be "proven" in the scientific sense. Some universally accepted models such as heliocentric theory, biological evolution, and atomic theory are so well-established that it is nearly impossible to imagine them ever being falsified. Others, such as relativity and electromagnetism have survived rigorous empirical testing without being contradicted, but it is nevertheless conceivable that they will some day be supplanted. Younger theories such as string theory may provide promising ideas, but have yet to receive the same level of scrutiny.

  • David, here was the intro, as of an edit June 5, 2005, due to Markus Schmaus from last year. --Ancheta Wis 12:18, 8 January 2006 (UTC)

A scientific method or process is considered fundamental to the scientific investigation and acquisition of new knowledge based upon physical evidence. Scientists use observations, hypotheses and deductions to propose explanations for natural phenomena in the form of theories. Predictions from these theories are tested by experiment. If a prediction turns out to be correct, the theory survives. Any theory which is cogent enough to make predictions can then be tested reproducibly in this way. The method is commonly taken as the underlying logic of scientific practice. A scientific method is essentially an extremely cautious means of building a supportable, evidenced understanding of our natural world.


I may be reintroducing this since I have not looked through the talk archives. The introduction seems to be a little long and dense at present. Shouldn't we be aiming this at the layman, specifically school kids who use this page to try and understand the scientific method? This introduction will blow them out of the water. Part of an encylopedias role is to make a difficult concept more understandable. I hope this does not offend editors on this article, but I think the current introduction does the opposite. David D. (Talk) 00:52, 8 January 2006 (UTC)

Multiple editors have been adding content. At one time, the intro was a paragraph, which seems a reasonable length. Perhaps the current intro might be saved by adding its content to the intro of the scientific method portal. This action might be timed to coincide with the release of a new introduction to the article page. --Ancheta Wis 05:39, 8 January 2006 (UTC)
Sorry you lost me there. Do you have a link for this portal? I'll certainly consider this as an option. David D. (Talk) 06:11, 8 January 2006 (UTC)
It was a simple matter to copy the intro to the portal, which dramatized how long the intro is, currently. David D., if you are so inclined, you might choose to work on shortening the intro. --Ancheta Wis 05:46, 8 January 2006 (UTC)
O.K. I'm really slow here, so you have already moved it? In that case I'll have a look at the archived versions in the next few days and try and write something more concise aimed at a upper level high school science student, if that is OK with others here? David D. (Talk) 06:13, 8 January 2006 (UTC)
  1. Support. --Ancheta Wis 12:08, 8 January 2006 (UTC)
    David D., if possible, might you craft that concise intro in a location separate from the article itself, and then announce when you are ready? If you prefer to use the wiki action, then you might wish to craft that concise intro on this talk page. Then others could simply pick up the changes on their watch lists. --Ancheta Wis 15:20, 8 January 2006 (UTC)
    Sounds good. David D. (Talk) 16:01, 8 January 2006 (UTC)

I looked back at previous version and came up with something along the following lines. I am sure this needs to be refined but it is a starting point. David D. (Talk) 19:17, 8 January 2006 (UTC)

Scientific methods or processes are considered fundamental to scientific investigation and the acquisition of new knowledge based upon physical evidence. Scientists use observations, hypotheses and deductions to propose explanations for natural phenomena in the form of theories. Predictions from these theories that can be reproducibly tested by experiment are the basis for developing new technology.
Scientists use scientific methods to build a supportable, evidence-based understanding of our world. However, there is often controversy in scientific communities about various aspects of these understandings. This leads to new testable hypotheses and further refinement of the scientific theories.

Comment: I like the brevity. What we want is the questioning minds of the high school students. Do you think this will help or hinder? Brevity is good because they can see what is important. Any other points? Anyone? Once they have this under their belts, will they want more? How to get them to scroll down the page? --Ancheta Wis 20:49, 8 January 2006 (UTC)

Yes, for the sake of the higher Wiki-gods, let's move this to 'Scientific Method (Incomprehensible)' (or Philosophy), and get back to our roots. This is really necessary for everyday life, and would be a great social contribution! --Zeizmic 18:27, 10 January 2006 (UTC)
It certainly is dense. The last thing we want to do is make science inaccessible. David D. (Talk) 20:24, 10 January 2006 (UTC)
One more vote for the more concise introduction. By saying that the scientific method "is considered fundamental …" instead of saying bluntly that it "is fundamental" we avoid undermining the Popper-Kuhn-Lakatos-Feyerabend views on method. Also the current introduction juxtaposes elements of falsificationism with a more traditional, schematic scientific method ("an important aspect of a hypothesis is that it must be falsifiable…"). If we don't wish to mislead, I think we would be better off describing Popper's philosophy as something distinct from inductive methods.
One last comment. The proposed introduction says "Scientists use observations, hypotheses and deductions to propose…". This is better than referring to some nebulous form of reasoning as in the current version. I wonder if we could say here "logic" instead of "deduction". --Chris 21:58, 10 January 2006 (UTC)

Seeing Ancheta's question about whether the intro will grip its intended audience got me thinking. The last paragraph hints at controversy and of course there is an enormous amount of controversy surrounding scientific method, so let’s beef this paragraph up a bit. Here’s a slight re-write,

Scientific methods or processes are considered fundamental to scientific investigation and the acquisition of new knowledge based upon physical evidence. Scientists use observations, hypotheses and logic to propose explanations for natural phenomena in the form of theories. Predictions from these theories that can be reproducibly tested by experiment are the basis for developing new technology.
Scientists use the scientific method to build a supportable, evidence-based understanding of our world. However, there is often disagreement in scientific communities over the various aspects of these understandings. In philosophical circles scientific method has been the source of much controversy. Philosophers and historians of science have not only questioned the nature of scientific method, but also its supposed efficacy.

The newer version looks good to me. David D. (Talk) 22:36, 10 January 2006 (UTC)

The point that science seeks natural explanations and does not consider the supernatural is important, and could be simply stated by adding a word to the first paragraph, suggested phrase "and logic to propose natural explanations for natural phenomena". While some groups are trying to change this to a revival of natural theology, the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District conclusions firmly establish this point. ....dave souza 22:48, 10 January 2006 (UTC)

Terms like natural and supernatural are likely to turn out either meaningless or tautologous. The critical logical feature is just that explanations must be falsifiable. Jon Awbrey 23:06, 10 January 2006 (UTC)

For sure we could tie ourselves in philosophical knots over every word we come across, but for me at least the word 'natural' is meaningful enough that I can use and understand it in normal communication. Anyhow I like Dave's proposed change.
You'll have to explain a bit more the relationship between falsifiability and logic before I can follow you. When I used the word logic it was in the mathematical sense and I was thinking more of the tools scientists use. I was not, in any case, thinking of the logic of the method itself. --Chris 23:39, 10 January 2006 (UTC)
I think I managed to confuse even myself with that last paragraph. The relationship between falsifiability and logic is obvious in this context and whether I was thinking of logic in the mathematical sense or not is hardly relevant. In any case it appears when I re-read that indeed we might be talking about the logic of the method itself. Jon, you would choose, if I understand, in favour of a scientific method based on deduction rather than induction. So far we have managed an introduction that mentions neither explicitly and it might be argued that we should leave things that way. Are you happy with that? --Chris 00:13, 11 January 2006 (UTC)

Here I was responding to the proposed rewrite of a proposed rewrite, namely to insert natural as in this paragraph:

Scientific methods or processes are considered fundamental to scientific investigation and the acquisition of new knowledge based upon physical evidence. Scientists use observations, hypotheses, and logic to propose natural explanations for natural phenomena in the form of theories. Predictions from these theories that can be reproducibly tested by experiment are the basis for developing new technology.

Let me go back to the current version and break this down play by play:

There's a dangling clause there. Maybe this:

Clunky though, maybe two sentences:

I'm merely pointing out that passing the buck to naturalism doesn't have any explanatory value. It used to have some in the days when naturalism meant a definite type of determinism, but we lost any sort of naive determinism like that some time ago. We are left with only a couple of options for naturalism. One is based on the tenet:

1. Everything that happens is natural.

But this makes natural a tautologous or unfalsfiable property, and thus one that has no explanatory value.

The second option is to give a rule to nature that makes its domain a contingent property, for example, via this tenet:

2. Nature is what keeps on happening.

This is basically just Aristotle's observation about the limitation of scientific knowledge to phenomena that have a nature, that is, to phenomena that embody general properties or laws, thus limiting science to recurrent phenomena and reproducible results. This is sometimes expressed in the phrase, "there is no science of the idiosyncratic" -- if there were I would certainly know about it! But qualifying the non-contingent everything in (1) with the contingent hedge in (2), we end up with:

3. Whatever happens in nature is natural.

So again the invocation of nature explains nothing, and we appear to be reduced to the task of simply describing as best we can what happens, or keeps on happening. Jon Awbrey 04:36, 11 January 2006 (UTC)

a natural clarification

Subheading as this was getting rather long. The importance of seeking only "natural" explanations is that the supernatural is inherently inexplicable and bound up with faith. Unfortunately a vocal evangelical movement is seeking to remove this restriction and restore a natural philosophy that gives scientific credibility (and access to classrooms) to religious propositions. In the Kitzmiller case Judge Jones has set our a brief legal assessment of this point. The point is important to a brief definition of the scientific method, but the introduction is not the place for a deep philosophical analysis of what "nature" is – in an encyclopaedia that can reasonably be expected in the body of the article or in another linked article. Please ensure this point is briefly made in the introduction, ...dave souza 18:36, 11 January 2006 (UTC)

Yes, I understand, and fully sympathize, but better no line of demarcation at all than one that leaves science with the short end of the continent. Since the contemporary fuss is not really about faith versus knowledge -- all people in their right minds exhibit some characteristics of hope, faith, charity, etc. -- but predicated on both a 'lack of confidence' and a 'lack of knowledge', of different kinds, on both sides, there is no good reason to play that game by distorting the current understanding of science, as it's understood among those who do it, by engaging in the gambits of noncontingent assertions. Because the public to be educated will not then be able to see the difference in the actual conduct of the players, and that is the difference that really makes a difference. Jon Awbrey 19:26, 11 January 2006 (UTC)

Jon, you’ve baffled me (which unfortunately isn’t that difficult). I’m not sure that I catch your drift but I’ll try. To my mind, we have not gone so far as to draw a line of demarcation. And yet I can see, if we were to say "Scientists use observations…to propose natural explanations for natural phenomena…" how we might be read as restricting the domain of science. Maybe this really is a problem as many scientific ‘explanations’ that come to my mind are of an abstract, mathematical nature; not really what you would call natural. Still I’m not sure this is what’s on your mind. Maybe I’ll have to read over what you’ve written again; sometimes I’m just a bit slow to catch on.
Concerning the point you make about the meaninglessness of the words ‘nature’ and ‘supernatural’, I’m not convinced that there is an issue. For sure it seems difficult, perhaps impossible to come up with a useful analytic definition for the words, but I don’t believe it follows that they are meaningless. --Chris 22:09, 11 January 2006 (UTC)

I went ahead and put up the new intro without the controversial 'natural'. Let's see how it goes from there. --Chris 23:21, 11 January 2006 (UTC)

The passive voice, indefinite person "are considered" is considered by some to fall under the head of "weasel words". It leaves the reader scratching his/her/its head(s) and asking "are considered" by whom?. Jon Awbrey 02:30, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

Do you think them weasel words in the sense that they subtly impose an agenda on the rest of the article? I don’t see that, but I do miss things. Perhaps we could be more precise and say "Scientific methods or processes are generally considered…". My feeling is that the word 'generally' is somewhat implied. There are, of course, well respected scientists and influential philosophers who don’t consider the scientific method fundamental to scientific progress. Maybe you feel some discomfort in not making this clear from the outset. Is that the case? If so, I don’t think you need worry; the second paragraph suggests that there are a number of philosophical stances taken on scientific method. --Chris 06:57, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

I mean "weasel word" in the sense of "pay no attention to the man behind the screen" in the Wizard of Oz. If you do ask the "who considers" question, then it can only be the community that agrees with the assertion, so why not make that explicit? Well, maybe because the "community of inquiry" (COI) behind the screen doesn't look so great and powerful when the screen drops. Jon Awbrey 07:12, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

I'll take some time to think about what you say. Meanwhile I took a quick look at the weasel word notes and saw that an exception to the rule is granted,
When the holders of the opinion are too diverse or numerous to qualify
It could be that the exception holds for us, since the importance of scientific method is assumed both within and outside the scientific community. The alternatives I see are as follows:
  • We take a stance and just say, as in the previous intro that “Scientific methods…are fundamental”. And then, perhaps in the second paragraph we avoid imposing this POV by explaining that this is not universally acknowledged.
  • We attribute the opinion to different communities: the scientific community, philosophers of science, the modern day sceptics. One problem is that we would have to qualify such an attribution since there are prominent members of these communities (perhaps with the exception of the sceptics) who do not think scientific method fundamental. I feel that a qualified general statement (like the one we have) is less confusing when you consider that there are people outside these communities who hold similar views on method. After all, most of us have received some kind of exposure to scientific method through schooling, edutainment and elsewhere.
  • We attribute the opinion to a "community of inquiry" (COI), as you say. I'm not really convinced that there exists such a uniform community holding this opinion. COI looks to be a contrivance.
  • We avoid any general statement about scientific method and attribute the opinion to one or more people, perhaps adding a quote if we find a good one.
This last option sounds like the best alternative to me. Any other ideas? --Chris 08:11, 12 January 2006 (UTC)
I agree; the last option.--ragesoss 12:32, 12 January 2006 (UTC)
Good idea. Judge Jones at the above link attributes this definition to the NAS (the National Academy of Sciences of the United States) "In science, explanations are restricted to those that can be inferred from the confirmable data – the results obtained through observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Explanations that cannot be based upon empirical evidence are not part of science." .If this suits it should be possible to get a link to the original he's citing. ... dave souza 13:15, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

JA: I understand the heat of the battle thing, but ... I think that we need to get our minds out of the courts, lest we give the impression that methods of scientific inquiry rest their defense on the method of authority, whether it be dictated by legal authority or the authority of recipes that we learned from grammar school textbooks. Jon Awbrey 14:48, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

Sorry to have mentioned the court, the quote is from the NAS which seems a reasonable attribution. Perhaps someone can find an equally suitable quote from, say, the Royal Society. There is a need to be careful, as some people want science defined as "systematic enquiry" to “change the ground rules” of science in a way which would also embrace astrology. This position has very little support in the scientific community, but is widely touted in some countries. ....dave souza 20:53, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

JA: Yes, I understand, but there's nothing terribly new about all that. And the fastest way to lose the baby is to confuse it with the bathwater, and not be clear about the kind of science in which the vast majority of practicing "scientific methodists" have faith, and why exactly they do. There's a whole lot of background to draw on here, and I'm not in any particular hurry myself ... Jon Awbrey 21:30, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

Inquiry Into Inquiry

JA: I am getting this strange sense of deja vu all over again, so I think I will recycle the title that I used for this sort of investigation all through my share of the last millennium. I have resolved to do more production, less discussion this year, but still this question of method tugs at the edge of my attention. So maybe I will just widen the horizon a bit and address some of the issues that I know about, especially ones that have been widely discussed over the years of my acquaintance, as much of this discussion already rounds up all the usual suspects and begins to fall into all the usual ruts, and I won't worry so much about the nits that can be picked out of the introduction.

JA: I doubt if the "screened off bodies of thought" (SOBOT's) are really so diverse and numerous as to defy all description, and it does seem like it's our job to describe all sorts of diverse and numerous things, which folks here go about with notorious avidity, so I'm guessing that there's some other kind of resistance involved in the avoidity thereof.

JA: A good start could be made in very broad brush strokes. This is not the philosophy of science article, but it needs to coordinate with it in a sensible way. In that article we need to sort out the working philosophies -- the not always fully articulated philosophies in practice of the reflective practitioners -- from the vicarious philosophies of the speculating spectators. Each group sees different things, sometimes more, sometimes less, by dint of their different perspectives. But here it makes sense to give the bigger ear to the method as she's actually bespoken.

JA = Jon Awbrey 13:44, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

POV's on scientific method — Considering the sources

  • JA: As I read the newer versions of the introduction, the "sez who" issue keeps coming to mind. This arises over many points.
  • JA: First, there are the different POV's or the variety of perspectives on "scientific method", and even disagreements as to whether there is such a thing, sometimes attributed-blamed-credited to Feyerabend or with less justice to Kuhn. That raises the question of whether scientific method is constituted by what scientists do and think and write, or whether it is constituted by what various onlookers, some of whom will indeed be the very same doers in moments of reflection and some of whom will be more like never-did-it-much-themselvers. What sort of balance should the article strike among this diversity of POV's, and not just the POV's of reflecting practitioners, but radically different directions of perspective? And while we're at it, what sort of continuity is there between what card-carrying scientists do and what T.C. Pits, "the common person in the street", can't help doing just to get through the problems and questions of his or her day?
  • JA: Second, more incidentally to the present state of the intro, do we wish to communicate right up front that what science is about is "praising famous names" and by implication "arguments from authority"? I will vote "no" on that one. I realize that this particular "sez who" arose as a proffered solution to a problem of sourcing claims, of providing an active subject for the passive "as considered by" phrasing, but I think that this is the wrong solution. Jon Awbrey 13:30, 19 January 2006 (UTC)
agree on the last part -- is this supposed to be inferred from a source, or is it just assumed that the characterization of scientific method fits with Newton's views?? Holon 13:41, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

Scientific Theory or Scientific Law

SteenGoddik, it is my opinion that "Scientific Theory or Scientific Law" are not part of this article. The reason is that scientific method is simply that, a list of steps, almost a how-to, which is not necessarily a validation procedure for admitting a concept into the western canon. As the article clearly states, it is the people practicing the method who are the essential ingredient in the method. Thus someone simply stepping through the checklist without the essential understanding of the problem is practicing cargo cult science and anyone who simply proclaimed by fiat that "Concept A" has passed through all the stages of the Scientific Method, and is hereby declared Scientific Law Number 27A-5156. Anyone caught violating 27A-5156 is subject to .... It is not necessary to declare Concept A as Law. It is simply true, or it isn't. And the violations of the law are not subject to punishment by The State. It isn't necessary. The Concept would thus simply be a trope if some exception or limitation to a purported Law A became known. Now if some technology were introduced into our world based on a wrong law, that technology would simply fail.

Now after brutally simplifying the argument, let's examine why Scientist A has mooted some concept A. Well, that's the characterization stage. Scientist A, after some consideration has decided that concept A is notable in some way. If there are conditions and exceptions, the concept must be suitably qualified and limited, or else scientist A has severely limited his employability in the field. Scientist A has noted that this concept seems to solve some problem in the list of unknowns which are all around us.

It may be that you are searching for what John Ziman has termed Reliable Knowledge. --Ancheta Wis 16:26, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

SteenGoddik, I think you're dead right. Theory is so fundamental to science that it is difficult to see how one can do justice to an article on scientific method without a strong characterization of theory, preferably tying it in with examples. Some of the components of the section 'hypotheses development' would to me be more fittingly stated in relation to the theoretical developments. Holon 13:38, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

Iteration differs from recursion, in this case.

I can sympathize with an abstract statement that recursion includes iteration. However, iteration came first. The primary loop in the scientific method is iterative, and the stack required for recursion is not a given; what if the datatypes are different. It takes experience to properly characterize a problem, and recursion takes a base case to be properly formulated, or else we have a problem with levels of abstraction improperly interacting and confusing the issue. I encourage you to read History of science for the examples. A classic case is the size and shape of Earth.

The DNA example is instructive here. It took several generations of scholars to zero in on the issues and problems. If you are looking for a mathematical analogy, it is similar to the solution of a differential equation, where the solver has to hunt to converge on the answer. Thus iteration involves clarifying the issues. Blocking and tackling, to use a sports analogy. Iteration=try and try again.

But a recursion differs from this. Once a theory is established, then a researcher can build on existing theory as a building block to solve his/her problem. The classic example is the triad of theories Newtonian mechanics / Maxwell's equations / Special relativity. They are not independent; two of them can derive the third. This I submit is the recursion. It takes a basic case, like Einstein's question to himself what would it be like to ride a beam of light?, and based on what he knew, derive SR from the previous 2 legs of the triad.

Maxwell's equations are themselves a unification of previous work. The same could be said for Newton's laws.

What's the point of the difference between iteration and recursion? Feynman said it very well: the sciences are an interconnected web of knowledge, with one point from one science dovetailing with another seemingly unrelated point from another science, all consistent with what has gone on before it in a huge web of relationships, not all at the same scale but building on what has come before it. That is the best use of the term recursion. --Ancheta Wis 00:21, 26 February 2006 (UTC)

Newton's admonition à propos:

the basic methods are observation, hypothisis, experament, conclution, and abstract.

On controversy, its prevalence, its sources, and the lacks thereof

  • JA: With regard to the following statement, added by Eric Forste:

EF: There is some controversy as to whether practicing scientists actually accomplish their real work by any defined and describable method.

  • JA: I modified it in the following way.

JA: There is some controversy, mostly among those who are not, as to whether practicing scientists actually accomplish their real work by any defined and describable method.

  • JA: My clarification is a well-considered one, and it is, within the limits of approximation imposed by brevity, true. I know from ample experience that vastly more practicing scientific researchers spend overwhelmingly more of their long working days worrying about how to raise their significance levels from 95% to 98% than ever bat an eye about the whether there's a method to their madness.
  • JA: More generally, there has been a constant erosion of the substance of this article from bystanders who are quite evidently innocent of any significant acquaintance with scientific method as she is bespoke in actual practice.
  • JA: I have already suggested that editors who supply various models of scientific method need to provide more sources for their texts — likewise, editors who supply various bits of scepticism about scientific method need to provide more sources for theirs. Jon Awbrey 16:06, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
I'll work on providing more sources for my texts. I'm surprised that the controversy is news to people who actively edit this article. --arkuat (talk) 05:23, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: Well, not everybody who edits an article bothers to read the previous discussions. The Twinkieth Century was a lot like that. And of course we still have to source stuff that's so familiar that we have forgotten the last place where we read it. I had added what I thought was a fairly balanced and decent summary of the critical regard of method-ism in the second paragraph, but it seems to have gotten buried somewhere in the philosophical epiphenomena. There are times when one simply observes. Jon Awbrey 05:41, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

I liked your edits, JA, but they've all gotten hidden away too. As you say, time to observe for a while. In the meantime, I recommend that everyone follow the link to the prematurely archived peer-review. There's not much there. --arkuat (talk) 09:19, 23 March 2006 (UTC)


somebody needs to talk about Descartes in this article.

Karol has already moved the Descartes information from this article to history of the scientific method. --Ancheta Wis 06:21, 11 March 2006 (UTC)
I agree that it seemed odd to include Bacon without mention of Descartes (particularly as Bacon's work mentioned is not included in the timeline, I will add it now); so I have included a single line in the history mentioning Descartes and the Discourse on Method. Is there some kind of Bacon vs Descartes posturing thing at work? If so, is it worthy of mention? an interesting resource perhaps: ? -- dwxyzq|T 09:06, 19 April 2006 (UTC)
history of the scientific method has fuller coverage of Descartes' contribution. --Ancheta Wis 09:14, 19 April 2006 (UTC)
I am not quite sure what you mean? :) I noticed Descartes contribution had futher coverage there but this summary of the history (I assume that is what it is meant to be) seemed to for some reason skip Descartes while Bacon is included. At the same time Bacon is also covered fuller in history of the scientific method. I don't really know, it just seemed like they should both either be included or not included; I chose inclusion. :) -- dwxyzq|T 09:32, 19 April 2006 (UTC)

Further Reading

The Further reading list is very long and not all of it looks notable. I suggest taking some of them out (possibly ones with red linked authors). JoshuaZ 05:30, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: The list is rather carefully chosen to cover some of the standard variations in models of scientific method and the variety of perspectives on it, but let me know which you have in mind deleting. It was not supposed to be a list of celebrities, though I was surprised after I typed it in how many were already notarized in WP. The thing is that many of the more recent texts will tend to have redlinked authors, and I've been told by some old hands that this is really not a problem, as it just flags people who might eventually deserve articles. At any rate it was the works themselves that are intended to be helpful to the reader. Jon Awbrey 05:48, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

After looking at the list in more detail, I'm inclined to agree with you. If someone read all the books, I think there would be substantial overlap, but none of them seem to be redundant. That is, a large amount would be lost by removing any specific one. Consider the suggestion withdrawn. JoshuaZ 05:57, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: I'm "planning to" add some exposition based on the sources that I'm adding to the Readings, at which time I will elevate them to References, but it may be a week or three before I can get time and concentration to focus on that, so please indulge me while I pad the bib a bit more and leave it an exercise for the Reader. Jon Awbrey 20:44, 22 March 2006 (UTC)

Systematic guessing

Several years ago, the hypothesis section of this article used the term guess, which is the blunt truth. Later, it was appended with an exclamation point guessing!, as if the editor could not believe that scientists could dare to admit that they would guess. It was later softened to systematic guessing. Now I see that the Peirce article no longer states his quote abductive reasoning is neither more nor less than guessing.

To be fair to the younger readers of this article, I believe that it is better for the encyclopedia to admit that 'guessing' is a good thing, something not to be ashamed of, or suppressed. In fact, a part of scientific method, along with 'test' (experiment). Ancheta Wis 14:32, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: The Charles Peirce quote must have been excised before I came on board, or I certainly would have insisted on keeping it. But that whole article has been under considerable development over the past few months, and when it grew past 100 Kb there was a request to spin off various subtopics, so the quote may have ended up in one of those. At any rate, wiki-links to article subsections tend to be not very persistent around here. Jon Awbrey 15:10, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

The quote is now resident at Inquiry#Abduction along with other Peirceana. --Ancheta Wis 16:04, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: Thanks for the look-up, I restored the link. I think that subsection is stable enough to risk it. Jon Awbrey 17:15, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

JA, Thank you. Ancheta Wis 00:39, 22 March 2006 (UTC)


I think scholasticism should be mentioned in this article, as it is the main alternative to the scientific method. Markus Schmaus 14:48, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: I would recommend that we call in some expert help with that, as there are many historically inaccurate cliches about Medieval scholasticism that I don't think we should be in the business of promulgating without doing some serious fact-checking. Jon Awbrey 14:58, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

I'm thinking about something like

The scientific method is an inductive method as opposed to deductive methods as Scholasticism.

Markus Schmaus 16:42, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: Sounds harmless enough to me, but then I've done only a smattering of reading in the Scholastics. Jon Awbrey 17:11, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

Scientific method is a child of Inquiry as well. --Ancheta Wis 00:54, 22 March 2006 (UTC)
Scientific method Scholastic Inquiry
inductive reasoning Axioms and Logic
abductive reasoning   -
deduction=prediction deduction
experiment   -

Cleanup tag

Kenosis, what would you say to some wikilinks? In addition, when mooting a concept the grammatical mood might be a little more jussive than imperative.

One of the things which I personally find quite valuable is your bold synopsis of the checklist of factors which are necessary to gain confidence that one truly understands something. Especially the 'gradual process' statement above. Good.

I personally would place the Prediction item at the foot of this list, as Expectations typically do not get formed without an ensemble of supporting data. Otherwise, the Predicted item would necessarily remain personal and unspoken until one gains confidence in the strength of the mooted Prediction. --Ancheta Wis 07:43, 22 March 2006 (UTC)

Or perhaps the Prediction item listed above is really a condition to be fulfilled before a Prediction is possible. In that case, I would not disagree with its position in the list other than a possible relabelling. --Ancheta Wis 07:46, 22 March 2006 (UTC)

Hi Ancheta. Just noticed this. As indicated in the lead-in, "subject only to marginal disagreements about specific aspects". Supernovas are a class of phenomena, so NP there. As to " the best achievable extent", this leads into the extremely important discussion at the bottom of the box, which outlines tentative hypotheses/theories, and quest for results which increase confidence. "Confidence" used intentionally to draw on its statistical implications too. As to "must be", this "must" remain because these are general requirements, subject to disagreement only in exceptional cases (this is how intelligent design advocates start, for instance, by questioning the very basics and reading in what they choose to loosen up the method for attack with pseudotheories). As to "gaining the ability", this assumes scientists very commonly work in groups rather than solely as individuals. This basic form of outline is actually a composite from several sources which assumes a wide range of more specific methods within it, and intentionally is formatted to include tenets common to both natural and life sciences. I intentionally did not even dare to mention certain exceptions for idiographic "sciences", which is one of many reasons I included the "subject only to marginal disagreements" caveat. Thanks for the request to review and check the thoughts...Kenosis 07:24, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

Having said the above, kindly allow me a few days to see if a consistently syntaxed jussive set of the parenthetized explanations hits me? Thanks...Kenosis 09:34, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

Another thing, Ancheta Wis. You raise a good point about whether prediction should be after control here. For this schema, I think it must be before "understanding" because of the importance of explaining tentativeness (related also to falsifiability) and confidence in a hypothesis/theory as a variable (rather than true-false proposition) to the less-than-technical reader unfamiliar with the wisdom of the process of perpetual tentativeness of propositions (I hear the speed of light may be changing too, incidentally--kneejerk creationists ought have a grand time with that one-- now nobody in the "scientific community" knows what they're doing).

The facet of "control" is a bit of a tough one here, because the reason we engage in methodological natualism is so we can control things (else why bother? pass me that spleef again). And of course there's control vs. manipulated variable; and of course there's the attempt to achieve control over an independent variable to manipulate it (assuming it's appropriate of course, recalling some of the Nazi experiments). Maybe an appropriate course here is to think about removing "control" and try a three-tenet explanation with the existing three qualifications to "understanding"?...Kenosis 10:01, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

Deleted Text — Scope and Goals of Scientific Method

JA: I did not write this, but I think that there are a few ideas in it that are important for the reader to understand — something about the continuity of scientific inquiry with everyday problem-solving maybe — so I will copy it here till I or somebody can think of a way to salvage the good of it. Jon Awbrey 04:06, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

Scope and goals

Scientific method can be applied to anything within the range of our experiences. As long as something has an effect on our lives, we can formulate theories and try to predict what this effect might be. The effect itself is an experiment, testing whether our theory was right.

People use scientific methods all the time. They have hypotheses about devices and make predictions how those will react to their actions. If a device does not work as expected, the experiment may disprove their hypothesis. If they adjust their hypothesis, they are applying scientific methods; if they nevertheless stick to their hypothesis because of nonscientific reasons, they are not.

Scientific method does not aim to give an ultimate answer. Its iterative and recursive nature implies that it will never come to an end, so any answer it gives is provisional. Hence it cannot prove or verify anything in a strong sense. However, if a theory passed many experimental tests without being disproved, it is usually considered superior to any theory that has not yet been put to a test.

I agree that at minimum the part about everyday problem solving is potentially useful to the article if stated in a way that falls short of advocating logical positivism in every facet of daily life and love. Far too many urban myths out there for sure.
Good idea to save it here--makes sense not to have to parse through the history should some of this be needed as grist for the mill. If I were writing the article from scratch, this section would be right up front after the intro, with a useful discussion that could be read by the less-than-highly-technical person, then present the technical material a bit farther down. But the article was written to this stage mainly by astute writers with technical concerns and a desire to be useful to folks directly involved in the method. So I chose to leave the Elements of method section up front so as not to dissuade those in search of these things from pursuing the excellent material included in that section and in the several sections that follow it. Anything else would have been arbitrary and disrespectful without a condition precedent arising from this talk page.
Tell you what-- how about discussing the following format and see where the consensus goes on it? Maybe: Intro, Scope and goals, History, Philosophy, Elements of scientific method, followed by the rest?...Kenosis 07:55, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

Popper and peer review

I've never heard before that Popper's influence strengthened peer review, do we have a citation for that? JoshuaZ 05:30, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

Appreciate the comment on my page very much.
What Popper did was advocate increased emphasis on deductive reasoning and take the trend of the last several centuries farther away from the ashes of the Dark Ages and the Medieval speculations, and from the pronouncements of truth by the King and the Pope (induction to the max to say the least). Popper's advocacy has worked of course, and has not discouraged theorizing much, but instead put it in a somewhat more proper place. Thus much more useful research work gets done today than 50 years ago across the gamut of science. In successfully advocating falsifiability as a requisite, he placed "science" in a very significantly better position to operate as a community (or a large number of field-specific communities if you prefer). Open source, cooperation, and creative tension, even reasoned competition in a community bring powerful gains in effectiveness taken as a whole.
Which brings me to a more direct response. The availability of a hypothesis or theory to be peer reviewed is integral to the demand for falsifiability. Why else advocate falsifiability, when a mere pronouncement of "scientific truth" would otherwise suffice? Don't have a citation for you on that one, though it seemed an obvious inference based on what is widely citable. If you feel strongly about it, do cross it out. Good to run across you here...Kenosis 08:29, 23 March 2006 (UTC)
It seems to me to be a possibly ironic page to have an OR issue, but I don't know enough about Popper's influence to feel comfortable removing it, so I'll just leave it alone. JoshuaZ 02:25, 24 March 2006 (UTC)
Joshua, I'm comfortable enough with leaving that phrase in on its own merits (if indeed there are any) for now. And Jon Aubrey is beginning to show us some further grist for the mill immediately below here. Most all of this could be said much better than it is, and the fact is that the only paragraph I'm currently comfortable with in that whole section is the one on Peirce.
What I was most concerned about was getting some perspective into the article so it's more difficult for someone with a chip on their shoulder to arbitrarily stomp in and argue that scientific method is subject to genuine disagreement as to its central foundations (as we've seen in another article we know of). As well, for similar reasons, I felt the intro needed to made accessible enough so a reasonably intelligent non-technical person could get some perspective before drowning in the [excellent] technical discussion.Kenosis 04:02, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

Peer review

JA: As far as the US scene goes, and making peer review an integral part of American academic life, I think that a better case could be made for the indefatigable efforts of John Dewey. Jon Awbrey 18:28, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

Hmmmm... I think i will pull together some of this maybe next week mainly for the History of Scientific Method article, and then see if a more specific history of peer review works in this article. Saw the Bacon quote too.... Thanks...Kenosis 01:59, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: Interesting quote from Bacon here: [2]

Enchoiry — Learning by Doing vs. Preaching to the Choir

JA: It was so much work coming up with that title that I will have to leave it as an "Exercise for the Reader" until after lunch. Jon Awbrey 18:42, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

Philosophy section

The current philosophy section is long, rambling and borderline incoherent. Jon, what do you think you are doing to it? JoshuaZ 06:17, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

JoshuaZ, I have reverted to the time when the section was last called Philosophical issues. JA, let's work on this section on the talk page first, OK? Ancheta Wis 11:24, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: As best I can recall, I am reponsible for the part of it copied below, though the last paragraph seems to be a residue of an earlier mention of Feyerabend that I was merely trying to make a transition to. You may remember that we had been having some discussion about the "no-method" school of thought, and I was initially for downplaying it, as I know that it really has very little impact on workaday research. But it fills the pop press and the pop phil sci courses, and it needs to be dealt with. That third paragraph was initially in the introduction, and I thought way back when that it was enough to say on the matter. In the mean time, though, I've had some rather odd experiences with (Pseudo-scient)-ologists, in a non-associative way, and it has convinced that we all have a lot more work to do as far as the "public reception of science" (PROS) goes.

JA: One of the big problems is the widespead confusion about the respective roles of science and philosophy of science. There are scientists who reflect on science and who take the time to explain it to the public, but they are rare compared to the numbers of philosophers of science and science writers who shape the public conception of science in ways that are not always very realistic. There's nobody to blame for that really — most doers are too busy doing science to explain how they view it, and there's nothing wrong with having specialized "reflectors" who stand at a distance from the action — sometimes they see things from a distance that the doers fail to see for standing too close to the picture. But somehow or other it is necessary to explain how the different perspectives relate to each other, or else the public gets a distorted picture of science. On this trial effort, I was trying to say all that in a way that places the continuities between doing science and reflecting on it within a natural context.

JA: The second paragraph speaks to the sea-change that occurred with Kant, where he accepted the workings of science at face value as if were just another phenomenon to be explained. This is a novel way to finesse the usual difficulties at the beginning, and it approaches the whole problem of justification in a positive way. That, as I recall, was the original idea of positivism, before it got wacked all out of proportion. So here I am trying to explain the bifurcation that took place historically, arising from a difference in attitude as to what a solution to the problem of justification would have to do.

JA: Okay, I'll have to leave it for tonight. Jon Awbrey 07:22, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

Philosophical reflection on scientific method

Philosophy of science takes its cue from the moment when the play of inquiry is interrupted by a question about the activity of inquiry itself. The inquirer in question may have been, just a moment before, absorbed in a bit of data or immersed in the study of a problematic phenomenon — and throughout history it was normally that way — or maybe a curious bystander, or perhaps a person whose profession is philosophy. In any case, there are a number of questions that a reflective observer will typically think to ask about the conduct of scientific inquiry as a phenomenon that is interesting for its own sake.

What happens next depends on the attitude that the person who examines the phenomenon of science — quite literally the appearance of science — brings to the test. The attitude may be positive, taking the appearance of science at face value as a process that works as it seems to. Or the attitude may be negative, less disposed to accept appearances and more inclined to be critical or even skeptical of the possibilty that anything like science can work as it seems. These choices that any individual can make are also reflected in moments of history when one of the other tended to predominate, at least in particular circles of thought.

The philosophy of science has among its topics of interest the question of how far the actual practice of scientific researchers conforms to the espoused methods or the ostensible norms, to which the majority of them expressly or tacitly assent. In the process of subjecting the conventional assumptions to critically reflective examination, writers in these fields periodically generate controversies as to whether scientific knowledge is actually produced by a defined, describable, or determinate methodology (see, for instance, the writings of Feyerabend and Kuhn).

Perhaps there might be more on the progression from ostensive definition, to extensional definition and intensional definition. In some fields, we have indeed reached a high plane of understanding; some areas of science have progressed to the point where some experts can moot a thought experiment. Other experts can subsequently commit funds and expertise toward the design of experiments. This is Big Science, as for the Space observatories.

But when the same type of methodology is applied to a classroom and children are not benefitting, clearly the science is not there yet. Perhaps the article might benefit from a discussion why. There are other mismatches which we could discuss, if not on this page, then on other Science pages.

"The understanding must not therefore be supplied with wings, but rather hung with weights, to keep it from leaping and flying. Now this has never been done; when it is done, we may entertain better hopes of the sciences." --Francis Bacon

I invite you to the wikipedia:scientific peer review pages where there has been lively discussion on how to take this encyclopedia to a new level of quality. --Ancheta Wis 12:42, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: In my experience argumentum ad revertum and genuine dialogue are mutually exclusive. Good luck with that science by fiat thing. You're really showing the kiddies how it's done. Jon Awbrey 13:48, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

Jon, the main problem I observe is that the direction you were heading with that, while obviously well thought, opens the door wide for every thoughless slant possible without justifiable recourse to revert those inevitable POVs which would follow...Kenosis 20:10, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: The way I work is gradual, incremental, requiring no small amount of algorhythmic backtracking from time to time, but all importantly I work in public — perhaps you recognize the modus operandi. I appreciate your appreciation of my creativity that you think I could open any doors that are not already swinging wide on every saloon and salon in the Wiki City, but for sooth's sake I must decline the compliment. The loophole that anybody could drive an 18-wheeler semio-truck (articulated lorry in the UK) through, however, is opened up the moment that soi-disant scientists start appealing to the authority of the biggest army as the raison detour of science, if you catch my semantic drift. What's the alternative? Well, it's Popperly known as the via dolorosa of falsifiability, which makes it incumbent on soi-disant scientists to try poking holes in all their own pet theories, even their own theory of how science works. Scientific method? Use it or lose it. Jon Awbrey 20:50, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

Jon, I'm having trouble understanding what you say above, but it seems like you are saying that you regard this section as "your work." I strongly recommend that you read WP:OR and WP:OWN. JoshuaZ 21:07, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: That would be a rather, well, creative interpretation of the single word "work". We're all working here. Being bold means making changes on the main attractor, however strange, except when there's some really serious dispute, which I didn't think we were having, not here, not yet. This article is, after all, tagged as a Philosophy article. So why is all the philosophy relegated to an afterthought? Indeed, my whole effort on that issue arose from trying to accord the benefit of the doubt to some perspectives that my first instincts, a month ago, were to discount. Yes, it was clearly a work in progress, begun late at night, and it usually takes me ≥ 3 rewrites to clean thinks up, but reverting that much good faith work on a common issue without discussion is just not WP:COOL in my book. Jon Awbrey 21:28, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

Are you asserting inter alia that the editors should write this section in a way that it will lead into the Elements section rather than an afterthought to it? If so, then the [relatively minor] direction I just started pursuing with it should give way to a considered preparation for putting it up front. Let me know, OK?...Kenosis 21:44, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: I am saying that when we are done with this article, it had better be something more than a WP:PEACOCK paen to the cookbook recipes for scientific method that all of us learned, at least in my day, in our 4th-grade science textbooks. It had better exhibit an up-to-date, > 1-eyed literate, philosophically critical and reflective attempt to tackle the questions that have been being asked and addressed by many people who are genuinely concerned about science education, professional training, and the public reception of science. Otherwise we might as well just paste up a link to some 4th-grade textbook and give it up at that. Jon Awbrey 22:00, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

OK, then the Heisenberg quote should stay, and the point should be that it is in fact an art too. Like other arts such as law and engineering, that doesn't mean "anything goes" as Feyerabend argued. The rest of the article speaks for itself...Kenosis 22:37, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

Philosophy section--last two paragraphs tentatively removed for further consideration

I removed these two paragraphs becasue the ideas are not effectvely contexted as yet. Here they are, for further consideration if desired.

Adherence to a Scientific Method is often used to discern scientific disciplines from non-scientific ones. That is, method is used as the criterion for demarcation between science and non-science. If it is not possible to articulate a definitive method, then it may also not be possible to articulate a definition of science, and distinguish between science and pseudoscience, between scientists and non-scientists.
The scientific method is nevertheless often held up as a model for rational thinking. For example, Carl Sagan, in his book The Demon-Haunted World, argues that we should use a scientific method as a tool for skeptical thinking, in order to identify and reject those movements that misrepresent science - pseudoscience or quackery. Many authors have suggested that we would benefit from applying the scientific method to other areas. At its extreme, the application of scientific methods outside of science leads to dogmatic scientism

Kenosis 19:58, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

Kenosis, Banno and at least four others worked on the demarcation paragraph a lot. The philosophy of science article doesn't contain the demarcation problem. Can we please at least include a link to the concept? Thank you, --Ancheta Wis 10:08, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

Agreed, my instinct was to consider it a stranded paragraph which left an extremely important question hanging in mid-air. To start back in along these important lines, the existing paragraph could be followed by a checklist such as that below (courtesy of the intelligent design article editors, but really fairly standard), or some derivative thereof:

Adherence to a Scientific Method is often used to discern scientific disciplines from non-scientific ones. That is, method is used as the criterion for demarcation between science and non-science. If it is not possible to articulate a definitive method, then it may also not be possible to articulate a definition of science, and distinguish between science and pseudoscience, between scientists and non-scientists. The follwing checklist is typical of what is proposed as a guide to these damarcations. To reasonably be termed a hypothesis or theory, a conjecture should attach to as many of the following descriptors as the particular methodological circumstances permit:
  • Consistent (internally and externally)
  • Parsimonious (sparing in proposed entities or explanations, see Occam's Razor)
  • Useful (describes and explains observed phenomena)
  • Empirically testabile & falsifiable (see Falsifiability)
  • Based upon multiple observations, often in the form of controlled, repeated experiments
  • Correctable & dynamic (changes are made as new data are discovered)
  • Progressive (achieves all that previous theories have and more)
  • Provisional or tentative (admits that it might not be correct rather than asserting certainty)

Kenosis 16:28, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

The view expressed here is essentially coherentist. There are other possibilities. Some re-wording might be needed to ensure that this is not POV. Banno 20:43, 25 March 2006 (UTC)
Fair enough. It seemed to me it needed to start somewhere, and I would expect some kind of edits to it. For instance, Correctible and Provisional could easily be brought together I imagine. But, I'd also want to know of a science, any science, even some recognized branch of sociology or psychology for instance, in which these criteria do not apply to a proposition recognized as legitimate in the particular field. To this extent these descriptors are actually somewhat pedantic, but need to be set forth in some form I think...Kenosis 21:07, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

Why did mention of Feyerabend's strong programme get cut? Why not the scare quotes instead?

I noticed this had recently been removed:

While this scheme often taught as the basis of science, many philosophers, historians and sociologists of science (particularly Paul Feyerabend and advocates of the "strong programme") claim that it has little relation to the ways science is actually practiced.


I propose restoring that passage, since it is apparently well-sourced, and deleting all the "scare quotes" instead. They convey essentially no information, and what they do contain is often only a baised point of view. --James S. 02:32, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

Hi: I just noticed this, though your reversion was adequately explanatory of your view. This article is being worked on at present, so i apologize for appearing to have stepped on it completely. I agree Feyerabend is important, as is the strong programme, though in a separate context actually. So is Polanyi incidentally. I will ensure further proposed reorganizations that involve this vocal minority's notable alternative views are discussed here prior to editing...Kenosis 03:02, 25 March 2006 (UTC)
Incidentally, the reason the article is being worked on is because previously it was a mess; a lot of good content mixed in with a lot of junk and multiple superimposed edits with little or no context with respect to each other. Anyway, we've been hacking it through, and bit by bit I believe we're getting closer to something that's informative and can actually be read by those interested in the subject of the article...Kenosis 03:10, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

Philosophical reflections on scientific method

JA: The levels of misunderstanding that I see exhibited here are turning out to be far worse than I thought. These misunderstandings have to do with:

  1. The character of scientific inquiry,
  2. The character of the critical questions that reflective observers will persist in asking about purported scientific inquiry until they are satisfied by the answers,
  3. The project of "defending science",
  4. The ways that concerned parties can legitimately defend, explain, justify, or warrant science,
  5. The forms of so-called defense that actually undermine both the integrity and the public understanding of science.

JA: One of factors that seems to be preventing the sort of genuine dialogue among concerned parties that might help to find real solutions to these misunderstandings is, I'm sad to say, a kind of "bunker mentality" that I see developing in the soi-disant "defenders of science". After many tries it has so far been impossible to get it through to some people that critical thinking is not about picking sides. It involves the critique of sloppy reason wherever it occurs, no matter who does it. It has so far been impossible to get across the simple logical point that many stories have > 2 sides, that a person who criticizes the arguments put forward on behalf of X is not ipso facto an "adherent" of ¬X. I have personally had to endure insinuations and even explicit insults like that from people who have no other data about "what side I'm on" than the fact that I criticize their reasoning on a given point.

JA: I think I understand something about the dynamics that brings this to pass, and up to a point I sympathize with those who have been so embroiled in this or that battle against scientific heresy that they begin to take on the characters of similar inquistors in the past. But I still have hopes that they will do better than their precursers, take pause to clear the fog of war, the "blood in the eye" (BITE), from what should be their better vision. Whether they know it or not, many others have been tackling these problems and trying to do something positive about them, for longer than they seem to realize. Jon Awbrey 03:56, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

Jon, I don't fully understand what you are saying above. Could you clarify and explain its relevance to the page at hand? Thanks. JoshuaZ 03:59, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: I believe that I have already made more than a good faith effort to explain all of my contributions to the article and all of the problems that I see with its current condition. When others begin to make a corresponding effort to explain their objections to my additions, then maybe there will be reason to say more. Jon Awbrey 04:08, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

Jon, 1) to put it bluntly you don't explain yourself very well and 2) none of your stuff gives many references, which lead to serious OR problems with your versions, even if it was understood. JoshuaZ 04:12, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: Thank you. That at least gives me something concrete to work on. Jon Awbrey 04:21, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

Jon, if you are in some part reacting to my comment above about "vocal minority" I hereby retract that one. Of course science proceeds in paradigms and sometimes gets stuck in them too, enter Polanyi, Feyerabend, and also the strong programme (how you get to "Feyerabend's strong programme" I don't know for sure, and it even got me confused for awhile). As well, of course it is a process rather than simply a drone-like repetition of The Method. Obviously there's some more work to do here, but i think I'm going to take a break for a bit and come back to it with hopefully a fresh perspective...Kenosis 04:23, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: It's late again where I am, so I'll try to be wise and make this short. Look, these are such bedeviled questions that I lose track of which devils I'm advocating on a given day. My POV of the moment is this: There are philosophers of science who show some familiarity with the history and the actual practice of science, like Peirce or Kuhn, and then there are those who show all the marks of being outside speculators, like Popper or Feyerabend. That's not an assignment of different colored hats in the trite Western picture-show sense, but merely a question of recognizing different perspectives for what they are. But a philosophical article on scientific method still has to deal with these issues without simply dimissing them out of hand. Now, I sat back quietly and observed your labors of house-&-stable-cleaning, and on the whole I think that's "that's a good thing". But some stuff that was right on in spirit if not in letter got tossed out with bathwater.

JA: So when things quieted down a bit, I tried to go back and deal with the issues that I know from long experience won't go away, since they have been recurringly raised by whole bodies of curriculum reform folks and hard-nosed science-minded professionals for the last 40 years or so, just since I personally have been paying attention. Because I tried to explain a tricky issue in the vernacular, prompted by many requests and WP guidelines to do so, it suddenly got branded and reverted as "personal essay". But these were nothing more personal or creative than paraphrases of philosophical issues that are as old as the hills. And now I'm told that it's "original research". I suppose that if some people are not aware of the histories that I mentioned here and above then it might seem like news in the WP:NOR sense, but at least providing references is something that I know how to do. So let's all practice what we preach and do likewise. Jon Awbrey 05:12, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

Syllabus of QV's

JA: I know that some people think that links should not be replicated, but I find that a good compendium of related topics is a very useful study aid, both on first and on subsequent readings. It also serves contributors in helping to see some of the discontinuities that will need to be smoothed out across diverse and sundry regions of Wikipedia. Jon Awbrey 17:42, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

History and philosophy

Coming from outside, in that I have not edited this page for quite some time, may I point out that the distinction between the history and philosophy of the scientific method appears quite arbitrary? These two sections could profitably be combined - perhaps by putting the philosophy section in historical order? Banno 20:39, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

"History of scientific method" has laid out some material in more detail in that particular regard. I agree with you insofar as the History section really focuses on the History of the philosophy of method. Yet, a true "History of scientific method" would not deal in only leading philosophy, but also give perspective on what the practice is actually like in a given day. Now that would be a task to research and organize. I'm going to leave it as is, with the assumption that yes, all this could be combined as Philosophy, and subsected as something like History, Problem of demarcation, Paradigmatic observations (e.g., Heisenberg, Polanyi, Feyerabend, Kuhn, and sociology including Strong programme). This, if considered desirable, could be done fairly readily with minimal further editing...Kenosis 22:33, 25 March 2006 (UTC)
Then of course there's the sociology of the history of philosophy of scientific method, which also operates padigmatically, and the philosophy of sociology of history of philosophy of scienfific method :)...Kenosis 22:38, 25 March 2006 (UTC) Banno, thanks for the material you already put in on this, which I was pleased to use verbatim as a description of the demarcation problem and lead-in to a typical set of criteria for demarcation...Kenosis 22:49, 25 March 2006 (UTC)
I am inclined to delete, or at least truncate, the first paragraph of History section. The reason is that the "method" on the papyrus is nothing more than the fourfold medical diagnosis model which among other things was used by the historical Buddha: What's the problem?, What's the cause of the problem? Can the problem be solved (pick "yes" or "no")? and What's the solution? This is not scientific method, but standardized practical troubleshooting and repair methodology that is not even close to a method of analysis of how nature works.
  • What's the problem? You have a headache.
  • What's the cause? The God of Headaches.
  • Can the problem be solved? Yes, it will cost you one cow.
  • What's the solution? Come into my tent; I have a potion for you.
Does anyone mind if I truncate the lead-in to Bacon et al ?...Kenosis 23:39, 25 March 2006 (UTC)
Support pruning. It is said once in this article and repeated 2x in the History of Sci. meth. article. --Ancheta Wis 16:31, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: There is a rather important distinction between the history of scientific method and the philosophy of scientific method. History is the record of past events. Despite what some people think, philosophy is not purely a thing of the past. Philosophy of science has to do with reflection on scientific inquiry as a whole. This includes (1) comparative and critical examinations of scientific activity, (2a) problems about the different types of reasoning involved in inquiry, (2b) the grounds of their validity, and (2c) their coordination with one another, (3) questions about the justification or warrant of scientific method, that is, whether, how, and why we think it works. And so on, just to mention a few things off the top of my head, as Data would say. Jon Awbrey 02:15, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

This is the way I read the content of the present Philosophical issues section too. I might venture to read into Banno's point, in part, that what is already written in the History section is really a history of philosophy of method rather than a recitation of what actual forms of practice have historically prevailed -- and so it could legitimately all be titled "Philosophy". I responded that it could readily be re-sectioned, with appropriate subsections, without substantively rewriting the content should that become a preference. I'm also OK with the sectioning as it is, though I think there's still some more work to be done on the content...Kenosis 03:02, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: I cannot make sense of what the issue is here. Maybe the concatenations of "F of G of H of ..." have exceeded the limits of my pushdown stack. If people are saying that the history section could be made more outlinish in view of already having the History of science and History of scientific method main artcles, that makes sense to me. If they are saying that the contemporary academic and cultural conversation about the nature of scientific inquiry can be separated from this article and relegated to a subsection of the Hist of Sci or Phil of Sci articles, then I think that would be a mistake on many grounds. Please clarify. Thanks, Jon Awbrey 15:58, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

Not saying the latter, Jon. Only that per Banno, all the History and Philosophy as currently written could legitimately go under Philosophy if desired, without significant change in content and form. I have no strong preference...Kenosis 17:20, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: And I am trying to say that they are two different topics, indeed, radically different topologies for looking at science. The contemporary philosophical topics are not properly dealt with as history, since the contemporary issues, by definition, all have the time coordinate "now". Jon Awbrey 17:32, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

OK, same result, NP by me. Wouldn't know about Banno on that...Kenosis 17:36, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

There is a concept which has been lost in the edits, and which needs to be reinstated in the intro. "Scientific method (and science itself) deals with new knowledge". If no one has thought the thoughts before, then it qualifies as science. Originality is part of the currency with which scientists deal. Other investigations are certainly knowledge, but are rather more scholarship than science. This does not mean that new sounds or words or fashion or other tropes are science. That's where scientific method is applied to demarcate science from other forms of new knowledge. --Ancheta Wis 16:25, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

Phenomenally important little point. As well as the integration, elimination, and/or explanation of old knowledge...Kenosis 17:23, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

Deleted text: Quotations

JA: As wonderful as all of these quatotions are, their piquancy is considerably weakened by being tossed together in a salad bon mot. For my part I like to use such things as pithy epigraphs to lead off pertinent sections of the text, but I've been told that this practice is "not encyclopedic". So I'll put them here for case by case reconsideration. Jon Awbrey 03:08, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

"The scientific approach to the examination of phenomena is a defense against the pure emotion of fear." - Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1967, page 17 in Grove edition)

"Science is a way of thinking, much more than it is a body of facts." - Carl Sagan

"Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves." - Richard Feynman

"The brightest flashes in the world of thought are incomplete until they have been proven to have their counterparts in the world of fact." - John Tyndall (1820-1893), physicist

"It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." - William Kingdon Clifford

"A habit of basing convictions upon evidence, and of giving to them only that degree of certainty which the evidence warrants, would, if it became general, cure most of the ills from which this world is suffering." - Bertrand Russell

"The plural of anecdote is not data." - Roger Brinner

Models of scientific inquiry

JA: I will be adding some text to the main article under the heading indicated above on the various models of scientific inquiry that have been discussed in the literature over the years, in good time drawing on some of the references that I've already added — probably starting with Salmon, Hacking, Earman, etc. Jon Awbrey 02:58, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

Questions about scientific method

JA: On third reading of the previous comments about history and philosophy, I think that I can recognize a persistent phenomenon, one that I have tried with no big success to address already, so let me vary a variable or three and make another trial of it today.

JA: The philosophy section needs to be organized by philosophical topics, not by chronological order. The questions that any reflective person or critical thinker will eventually think to ask about the conduct of scientific inquiry are recurrent not serial.

JA: Over the last week there has been a persistent attempt to push any modicum of critical reflection about scientific method off the table, under the rug, anywhere but our backyard, etc. Assuming that most interested parties still want to keep this article under the aegis of Philosophy (a defeasible hypothesis), I think that this tendency is ill-advised and inappropriate. The reader is owed an accurate account of the current scene, with all its wrinkles and warts.

JA: I tried, in what may have been too vernacular or folksy a way, to make the point that reflection on science is not the exclusive preserve of professional philosophers of science, but that it arises "in the wild" anytime anybody pauses to reflect on what they are doing, no matter whether they are doing Big Science or micro-problem-solving in everyday life. This continuity is one route to a better understanding of science on the public scene. So I think that it's very important.

JA: In brief: It is not the profession that constitutes the reflection, it us the quality of the reflection that constitutes the profession. Jon Awbrey 16:24, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

See my comment about new knowledge in the Hist& Phil section above. --Ancheta Wis 16:28, 26 March 2006 (UTC)
This article, currently at 47K, was once trimmed to 30K by Karol but has since grown out again. There is probably room for a series of articles "in depth" as for Isaac Newton. That would mean a navigation template and a return to the Summary Style currently favored by those who want to make the encyclopedia useful for the current speedy generation of new learners.
I am not opposed to this idea; indeed this is the direction it has been heading. On the other hand, for a topic as important as this, 75k, or even more, is not excessive assuming it is effectively organized and informative...Kenosis 19:25, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

Tighten treatment of examples & Length issue

JA: For my part, I do not think that 47 Kb is all that excessive for a keystone article like this, but one way to trim it would be to tighten up the paradigm examples to the few that can be carried through all of the stages in parallel, maybe just two examples from widely diverse fields. I notice that all of them now are from the natural sciences, which is a source of potential warp in the fabric of science being presented. Skimming through the examples, the paragraph on Light seemed most isolated and not so well written in its current state. Jon Awbrey 17:08, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: Text deleted:


Light had long been supposed to be made of particles. Isaac Newton, and before him many of the Classical Greeks, was convinced it was so, but his light-is-particles account was overturned by evidence in favor of a wave theory of light suggested most notably in the early 1800s by Thomas Young, an English physician. Light as waves neatly explained the observed diffraction and interference of light when, to the contrary, the light-as-a-particle theory did not. The wave interpretation of light was widely held to be unassailably correct for most of the 19th century. Around the turn of the century, however, observations were made that a wave theory of light could not explain. This new set of observations could be accounted for by Max Planck's quantum theory (including the photoelectric effect and Brownian motion—both from Albert Einstein), but not by a wave theory of light, nor by a particle theory.

Deleted text: Formal approaches

JA: Moving this paragraph here for reconsideration:

Formal approaches

Inferential statistics and computational learning theory are concerned with setting out rigorous statistical resp. algorithmic frameworks for induction, or at least practically effective ones. For a near-optimal method in the sense of computable predictions in the context of algorithmic information theory, see the speed prior.

JA: There may be some other section, present or TBA, that it would fit under, but it seemed like a dangling factoid where it was. Jon Awbrey 17:41, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

Communication protocol

There are alternatives to cutting back text. One alternative might be to place articles in context. --Ancheta Wis 18:12, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

Facets of
Scientific method
History of
scientific method
Philosophy of
scientific method
Thought experiment
Design of
Formal approaches to
scientific method
Mathematical models

JA: Yes, I think that these navigation guides can be very useful, as I always try to craft my own in the See also seas anyway. The only problem that I've seen with them in other places, say Semiotics, is the possibility of dismembering aspects of a subject, Osiris-like, that can only be properly integrated when taken up in close coordination with each other. This is part of what I'm getting at when I say that critical reflection is not just for professional critics and reflectors. Jon Awbrey 18:30, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

Jon Awbrey, What would you think if we were to have more of a communications protocol; those little DNA icons which are getting elided were a device to demarcate illustrations of the phases of scientific method. They were placed there in response to a request. This is recorded in the archives. It might help if you were to note your motive before these types of edits. Then others could assent, thus making the editing process more of a collaboration. --Ancheta Wis 18:22, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

Ancheta Wis, I'm personally inclined to defer for now and see where this goes so long as these tidbits are saved here and the main body is left intact (indeed it was Jon who got me on the track of saving deletions here just in case). Y'all deferred to me before, and unlike the brief ramble that got started on philosophical content a bit earlier, this in general seems worthy of consideration. For instance, by moving the History section to the end, he plainly is moving the focus to more to the present state of the discussion, and I have adapted the History accordingly. For another instance, a cleaned up version of the wave/particle problem can always be reinserted afterwards if desired. And his motive has, I think, also been by and large recorded. Just one person's thought of course...Kenosis 18:41, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: Speaking as a mere reader, I found them extremely distracting, causing my eyes simply to skip over the heiroglyphed paragraph. I think that I can understand what somebody was trying to achieve, but it simply did not work in practice. Alas! the way of all experiment. Jon Awbrey 18:38, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: I daresay that I have been far above the par of this group in giving notice of my edits, discussing them on the talk page, and preserving for reconsideration on the talk page what some previous soul took the time to type in, and I receive a remark like that with some irony from those who have yet to reciprocate its sentiment. But I will of course observe as best I can, short of due boldness, inconsistency with global norms, and intellectual paralysis, any form of communication protocol that achieves a local consensus. Jon Awbrey 18:52, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

Fair enough Jon. I'm interested to see where this goes... ;-) Kenosis 19:06, 26 March 2006 (UTC)
Thank you. The custom that substantive change be telegraphed (viz., notification of others in advance, perhaps with a timestamp ~~~~~   & a statement of intent) allows more incubation time. Sometimes, the proposed text even gets improved with no additional effort on the original editor's part. Markus Schmaus has done that, for example, with his improvement of the DNA icon, as well as for the image of the precession of Mercury. --Ancheta Wis 19:47, 26 March 2006 (UTC)
It's a great idea, but anti-Wiki -- where "be bold" is the mindnumbing mantra of the masses. On the other hand, it's still a great idea for major changes, but for minor changes the format you describe would likely become unworkable as the talk page would become so cluttered as to be unreadable, with the alternative of frequent archiving creating problems when new editors, who haven't the attention span of a gnat, decide to adit without reading said archives. &#0149;Jim62sch&#0149; 22:07, 27 March 2006 (UTC)
It has been the custom on this page for years. --Ancheta Wis 01:16, 28 March 2006 (UTC)
Ancheta Wis, Jon and others, in light of this tradition here, you have my apology for diving in so quickly a week or so ago. A couple of points offered to confirm or reject here, if I may:
(1) I trust that the approach of offering some material that can be absorbed by a non-technical but reasonably intelligent reader, prior to suffering near-certain drowning in the technical stuff, is appropriate in this article?
(2) I too am concerned about the important content in this article being articulated in a way that is not stale to the insider, and also in a way is not easy pickins for every thoughtfree passerby with some perceived nit to pick off of the discussion of method for whatever reason they might care to have. But I happen to think the discussion does not need to be completely oblique and inacessible to all but the "top 1-percenters," as it were. Certain terms of art (e.g. to pick a current one--"robust") do not absolutely need to be used, in my estimation, when a somewhat more straightforward term or combination of terms may also suffice. (This is not a slap here; just a good-faith criticism of work that is extremely artful but somewhat inacessible). If this is to be an insiders' conversation, why put it in Wikipedia? So, I am only advocating that if there is a way to say it so it can be understood by a reasonably intelligent layperson without sounding pedantic, then I feel that is the preferred option. That said, I begin to appreciate more readily what I see in this article at present (I thought Jon's reworking of the Demarcation subsection was dandy, the obliqueness criticism notwithstanding). Most of what is presently inn the article requires effort for me to grasp, but makes sense upon studying it.
Again, I hope I hadn't inadvertently stepped on too many earlier ideas in my initial hasty effort...Kenosis 02:58, 28 March 2006 (UTC)
Ancheta, The custom is nice, but, believe it or not, the Wiki "rules" still take precedence. I also note in going over the edit history that you've been an editor of this article for some time (and have done an exellent job) but likely feel a special attachment to it (as I do with articles that I've done the primary writing on). However, a lesson I had to learn was WP:OWN, and I think that may be important here.
As for the language, I agree with Kenosis -- just because we can write for the top one percent doesn't mean we should in this case. Yes, in my job I frequently write on a doctoral level, equal at least to that of the Harvard Law review, but that's a different environment. Wiki is here for the vulgus, the hoi polloi and writing over their heads does a disservice to the communicating the importance of the subject. Our purpose should be to get people to understand and embrace the scientific method, not to have them read the first few paragraphs and then run off defeated by the language. I'm not saying it needs to be be written on an idiot level, as I doubt any of us are capable of that, and we all probably find it repugnant, but we could at least try to make it a bit more accessible.
Kenosis makes an interesting point however, when he notes that "Most of what is presently inn [sic] the article requires effort for me to grasp." From what I've seen of Kenosis in the past month, if he is having difficulty grasping the article, it's written at too high of a level, as Kenosis is quite bright, far brighter than the average Tom, Dick or Mary. &#0149;Jim62sch&#0149; 11:15, 28 March 2006 (UTC)
That is an argument for splitting the article. Then there can be multiple levels of accessibility. But we need an outline for that kind of effort so that different editors can contribute to different facets of scientific method. --Ancheta Wis 11:26, 28 March 2006 (UTC)
I was not personally advocating spoonfeeding either, merely parsimony and best-possible accessible choice of language without diminution of the necessary concepts. Recursions is an example of this; bet a nickel no one can think of another word that captures the concept as this does (a bet that I'd be happy to lose, for accessibility's sake). And I also am advocating an intro that can sum up the essence of method (and also demarcation) in a way that makes best-possible sense to the less-than-highly technical reader before diving in--many fine textbooks are written this way...Kenosis 15:51, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

Thoroughly Modern Millie — Peacock Terms & Progressivist Fallacies

JA: Recent edits show a tendency toward a type of progressivist fallacy that wore out its welcome in the late great "modern" era, namely the practice of using words like "modern" as honorific terms, rhetorically fashioned to confer some order of unquestioned — and "unscientific" — legitimacy on a contemporary doctrine. Now that "modern" has passed from hip to hip replacemnt in our thoroughly post*modern era, the use of the term "contemporary" is more accurate and less of a WP:PEACOCK word. Now, I do not question, too much, that science is one of those domains where most of us have faith that progress can be made, over the long haul, but nobody with a historical (See Elsewhere, Coriolanus) consciousness could dare to call that progression monotonic. Jon Awbrey 04:04, 27 March 2006 (UTC)

Done...Kenosis 04:14, 27 March 2006 (UTC)
On the other one, I must've been thinking "damn-markations"...Kenosis 04:17, 27 March 2006 (UTC)
Contemporary is a good choice, but how I do so hate "post-modern" as I keep wondering what comes after post-modern. Neo-postmodern? Then extinction? &#0149;Jim62sch&#0149; 22:14, 27 March 2006 (UTC)
'Tis an inevitable byproduct of faster information turnover and longer lives. Ahh, for the good old days when most all of us died off before much of anything changed in the world, and the next cohort could use 'modern' with a fresh start!...Kenosis 03:47, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: It's a deal, if you don't use "modern" I won't use "post-modern". So do what I say and nobody gets hurt.

JA: P.S. That's a Kleene star that I use in "post*modern". Thus it is clear that:

JA: Et sic deinceps, it goes on from there ... Jon Awbrey 05:06, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

Vero, et sic deincips, sine finite. &#0149;Jim62sch&#0149; 11:26, 28 March 2006 (UTC)
Ahh, "contemporary style", so '50s Festival of Britain. Guess it will do here, but beware of "contemporary" meaning "of the time" rather than of the nowadays style time. Can someone think of a better term for distinguishing science as we know it from ye olde natural history? ...dave souza, talk 12:34, 28 March 2006 (UTC)
Please do not tempt me to change that to nowadays...Kenosis 15:34, 28 March 2006 (UTC) My preference is "today", but you can only use it so many times. Contemporary is fine in general, and "modern," as properly pointed out, has been corrupted by the proliferation of ideas like "post-modern". Excellent points about all this, though...Kenosis 15:37, 28 March 2006 (UTC)


JA: I have problems with the demarcation section. It's mostly just Popper's bugaboo again, sans citations, and it suffers from the following problems:

  1. Is this checklist a new definition of scientific method?
  2. Is it really the criteria that one uses to tell science from non-science?
  3. Is the demarcation question itself a scientific question, in other words, one that can be answered by scientific procedures?

JA: No, no, maybe, but not this way.

JA: We already have a highly contentious article on Pseudoscience, and I would prefer not to replicate those peculiar trials here. So I think that it's better to "describe", not necessarily "define", scientific method in positive terms, and now that we have a reasonable outline, to stick with it.

JA: The items on that checklist are usually referred to as heuristic principles. Heuristic principles, much as Bohr observed about "deep truths", and much like muscles, tend to come in opposing pairs. In short, they are approximate maxims, and not internally consistent among themselves. Their proper application requires experience with the exigencies of given domains, that is, "practical wisdom", or what the Greeks called phronesis. Thus they serve even worse as a recipe than the more standard statements of method, and a lot of nonsense can be generated by the novitiate taking them too literally and rigidly. Jon Awbrey 04:40, 27 March 2006 (UTC)

I agree. Also the section is out of sync with the main demarcation problem article. I would suggest rewiting the section according to the demarcation article rather than the other way around. --Chris 12:00, 21 April 2006 (UTC)

Ockham's Taser

JA: Here is one of my previous attempts at delineating the demarcation problem in positive terms. I'll probably feather this in momentarily, though I think that these sorts of border disputes probably do more harm than good.

The criteria for a system of assumptions, methods, and theories to qualify as science vary in their details from application to application, but they typically include (1) the formulation of hypotheses that meet the logical criterion of contingency, defeasibility, or falsifiability and the closely related empirical and practical criterion of testability, (2) a grounding in empirical evidence, and (3) the use of scientific method. The procedures of science typically include a number of heuristic guidelines, such as the principles of conceptual economy or parsimony that fall under the rubric of Occam's Razor. A conceptual system that fails to meet a significant number of these criteria is likely to be considered "nonscience".

I begin to like what I see...Kenosis 05:58, 27 March 2006 (UTC)

In what part of the article is that going? &#0149;Jim62sch&#0149; 22:23, 27 March 2006 (UTC)
Nevermind, I found it. Duh. &#0149;Jim62sch&#0149; 23:11, 27 March 2006 (UTC)

Robust ≠ Progressive

JA: The word progressive is malaprop here, as it connotes monotonic to many people. Backtracks cannot be avoided. Jon Awbrey 21:55, 27 March 2006 (UTC)

I tend to disagree as it is semantically correct, but then I dislike robust in this case (additionally, it has become something of a buzzword and is devoid of meaning -- one could, I suppose, argue the same about progressive). Surely there must be some word that covers both meanings that will be acceptable to all. &#0149;Jim62sch&#0149; 22:21, 27 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: "Robust" is a fairly respectable term in the engineering circles that I lately buzzed about, though its cousin "agile" has been getting more buzziness of late. But let me remind you that this sorites of heuristics are "rules of thumb". There's a major artery in your thumb. If you try to shave 'em too fine, you end up with blood all over your razor. Nobody wants that, now do they? Jon Awbrey 22:36, 27 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: "Robust" also has a standard meaning in statistics — where I first learned it I think: "A statistic is said to be robust if it is not sensitive to outliers". From there it got used in AI to mean "graceful recovery from anomalies", also "non-brittleness", capable of laughing off a request to divide by zero, etc. John von Neumann, John Holland, etc. Jon Awbrey 23:00, 27 March 2006 (UTC)

But rules of thumb are opposable. (OK, that was bad). The problem I see is that most folks associate robust with beer "has a robust flavour but won't add to your waistline", and occasionally people (sad, but true). What about "powerful" or "potent" instead? &#0149;Jim62sch&#0149; 23:11, 27 March 2006 (UTC)
Robust is an almost meaningless term by itself in this context. Phrenology was robust in its day, but not progressive; rather, it was a dead end. Robust and progressive captured the essence here--why make it inacessible to non-scientists if it can be synthesized for both scientists and laypersons. Arnold Schwarzenegger is robust...Kenosis 23:42, 27 March 2006 (UTC)
As is a non-gracile australopithecus . ...dave souza, talk 12:43, 28 March 2006 (UTC)
I wish I would have thought of that.  :) &#0149;Jim62sch&#0149; 00:47, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: Y'know, I'm really can't make everything up. The word "robust" really is used in just that technical sense. "Progressive", again, is used in connection with "incrementalism", and progresses from there to progressivist fallacies. Fallacies are a bad thing to fall into. Jon Awbrey 03:56, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

Personally I kind of like "recursive" as an adjunct descriptor here, but that's already used in another more micro context and suffers the obliqueness problem too. ...Kenosis 04:12, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

How about something like:

  • Progressive, robust and corrigible. Subsumes previous theories as approximations, and allows possible subsumption by future theories. See Correspondence principle.04:12, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: It's okay except for the "progressive", which is a seriously misleading word. I will dig up some references, but it may be a while, schedule interruptions coming up. Jon Awbrey 04:18, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

OK, talk 2ya later then. I still think progressive is essential here, and think it's only marginally open for misinterpretation without the adjuncts...Kenosis 04:22, 28 March 2006 (UTC)Also please see my query in Communications Protocol above Jon...Kenosis 04:22, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: The remark about phrenology clued me in to what the misunderstanding might be. Deriving from its use in statistics, robustness is a property of a measure on distributions that is insensitive to outliers, like the median, but not the mean. For "distribution" think "science as a whole", for "outlier" think "phrenology". It is precisely the ability of science to recover from its local cul-de-sacs (cultist acts) that we call its robustitude. Jon Awbrey 06:10, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

I'm compelled to disagree on this. Phrenology was robust because it was filled with speculations; add another one or three?, no big deal. Astrology today is rather robust too...Kenosis 15:19, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: Again, the same misunderstanding of the term. If Phrenology were robust it would still be around. Yes, there are some forms of dyad-in-the-wool reductionism that survive by continually changing their names, but never mind that now. The word robust applies to science as a whole — remember your P's & Q's, Polanyi and Quine and their various holisms — not the individual sidetracks that have to be backtracked from time to time. Effective generativity depends on this, otherwise science gets stuck in the hoarse laffitudes of the Markov, the Context-free, and the Primitive recursive. Jon Awbrey 16:44, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

Agreed on the whole. The term is reasonable as it is applied in the art of statistical analysis, but suffers even more greatly than 'progressive' from popular misunderstanding. As such, some combined set of proper descriptors will, in the end, become reliable and stable in the article (with occasional re-checking for arbitrary edits in the future, of course), and at the risk of OR accusations, might even help the philosophy of science along a tad. If we discuss it properly here on the talk page and source each of the terms (which we have), a synthesis is fully defensible and sustainable...Kenosis 18:01, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

Family resemblance issues

JA: An anonymous editor prepended the definite article before our not so definite article, after all this time of discussing the plurality versus commonality issues, leading me to recognize that something very important must still not be clear about that, so here is what fell out of trying to fix that:

Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for the investigation of phenomena and the acquisition of new knowledge about them, as well as the correction and integration of previous knowledge, as a whole based on observable evidence and subject to laws of reasoning. Alhough specialized procedures vary from one field of inquiry to another, there are identifiable features that distinguish scientific inquiry from other methods of developing knowledge. Specific hypotheses are formed to propose explanations for natural phenomena and experimental studies test the predictions for accuracy in order to make increasingly dependable predictions of future results. Hypotheses in a given field of inquiry are logically bound together by a wider theory that assists researchers in forming new hypotheses, as well as in placing groups of specific hypotheses into a broader context of understanding.

JA: Jon Awbrey 12:50, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

I'll be honest, I agree with the deinite article. Otherwise, this sentence, "Scientific method refers to a body of techniques..." would need to read, "Scientific methodology refers to a body of techniques..." Absent the definite article it simply reads wrong (an unprofessional description, but accurate nontheless). &#0149;Jim62sch&#0149; 23:52, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: Other notes. I also brought forward the mention of laws of reasoning, as the balance between empirical and rational aspects was a bit lopsided. Further, it's best to emphasize "observable" and mention "measurable" as coming of age in the normal course of development, when observations become mature enough to quantify. The historical fact is that fields of science can grow rather robustly for centuries at a time in a condition of making qualitative observations before they are old enough to start measuring anything sensibly. Misunderstanding this point is what got Phrenology into trouble, you'll remember. Jon Awbrey 13:20, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

I'll give you robust in a minute.  :) Other than that damned word, I agree wih your observation. &#0149;Jim62sch&#0149; 23:52, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

Empirical = Experiential ≠ Empiricism

JA: The word empirical is currently dabbed to empiricism, which is currently a POV article, as it stakes out a philosophical position that is decidedly not the position of all scientific researchers. In time I might be able to fix that article so that it describes a heuristic ism and not a dogmatic Ism, but right now the POV by association is false and misleading. Jon Awbrey 16:04, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

In due course a separate article on Empirical might make sense too. A noteworthy empirical observation, Jon...Kenosis 17:53, 28 March 2006 (UTC)
So, link to Wiktionary. &#0149;Jim62sch&#0149; 23:52, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

Robust → Integrative?

JA: Peirce — he would — had a word for it, but it was pure G(r)eek and about 7 slobbles long, and I kant remember it anyway. But looking through Newell's UTOC, the word "integrative" appears to leap off the page in about the same context and sense. Will cite chapter and verse later on. Jon Awbrey 18:14, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

I have put it in the relevant place of Demarcation problem criteria, pending further discussion and consensus...Kenosis 19:19, 28 March 2006 (UTC)
I like it. &#0149;Jim62sch&#0149; 23:54, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: For my part, an ubertous acronym is all-important -- and the irritation of doubt is next to IRCsomeness my estimation, so that starts to fit. Jon Awbrey 19:30, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

Natural ⇒ Anti-Social ?

JA: Look, I confess to being a naturalist myself, which means I think everything that happens is natural. But adjunction of the adjective "natural" to "phenomenon" has a tendency to bias the discussion of phenomena, "that which appears in the world", toward what are conventionally called the "natural sciences" in contradistinction to the "social sciences", and that leads to various distortions in the concept of science that I'm sure are not intended here. This not a substantive matter, but one that has to do with the peculiar usage of words on the modern scene, and I do mean "modern". Jon Awbrey 20:32, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: Okay, I looked at the other end of the Natural world, and I have to say that my hypothesis is not disconfirmed — there is a rather rank "hard scientism" connoted by this link:

Nature (also called the material world, the material universe, the natural world, and the natural universe) is all matter and energy, especially in its essential form.

JA: Again, this is not for me a question about whether everything is made of quarks or whatever it is this week, as I'm totally accepting of all that. But there has been 2 or 3 hundred years of discussion already leading to the commonly accepted working basis that the various sciences operate at modular levels that don't really require one to reduce all one's talk about chemico-bio-psycho-socio-poli-sci systems to talk about quarks, even if one buys the whole bag of beans that "it's gotta be possible in principle". So this adjectival link is misleading with regard to how science actually gets done. Jon Awbrey 21:16, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

I agree "natural" shouldn't be directly attached to "phenomena". But I must say the Natural world article provides a fairly concise and clear description of the most important of the demarcations of science; I surely couldn't resist replacing "them" with something that adds further clarity to the agreed boundaries of scientific inquiry. Far too many casual conversationalists refer to "things" such as "supernatural phenomena" and other such oxymorons. This helps, or should help, make this one "thing" clear as it can possibly be to the non-technical reader right from the getgo...Kenosis 21:17, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: Yes, I get all that, but we can't be reacting like billiard balls here. Probably the answer is to make a better job of the article on Phenomena. Put it on the list. Jon Awbrey 21:24, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

OK, I think the article's bit-by-bit getting closer to informative and stable as to the introduction Your point duly noted...Kenosis 21:43, 28 March 2006 (UTC)
Indeed, it seems to be coming along nicely. Sadly, I haven't as much time to devote to this article as either of you, but, as it is in good hands, that really doesn't matter. &#0149;Jim62sch&#0149; 00:17, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

Giving a rule to abductive reasoning

This section is a stub. You can help by expanding it. ...Kenosis 02:59, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

Stub template now removed from talk page... ;-) ...Kenosis 07:07, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

Wikis In Progress, Not Of Necessity Monotonically, Of Course

JA: I'm not worrying all that much at this stage about blade-running all those replicant wikis — very few trees are harmed in making them, anyway — since the ordering of sections is not all that stable in certain areas. 14:12, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

Some reduntant wikis are appropriate depending on context; for instance, the placement of three in succession in History, abductive, inductive and deductive, may be appropriate. The reader can sometimes develop a new interest in checking such things upon receiving an important point from the content of the article; In the Peirce paragraph for instance, whereas earlier in the paragraph no real need to check was given in context early in the paragraph, when the point is made that the three forms are interdependent today, now there's a reason to check. This would be an appropriate place to have links in both places of the same paragraph, despite convention. I chose to put those at the end where the important point was made...Kenosis 16:28, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: ja, dat's my gefuhl 2. Jon Awbrey 16:33, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

Proposed additional sentence in the intro

I would like to get feedback on the possible addition of a very important aspect of method today to the second introductory paragraph of the article, or some variant hereof...Kenosis 17:07, 31 March 2006 (UTC)

"Because science is extended for its potential benefits to others, scientific work today is expected to be open to repeated close scrutiny by others, and is expected to be made available for expert peer review of all relevant data and methodology." 17:07, 31 March 2006 (UTC)

JA: People who live in pseudonym houses should not throw peer review rocks. Jon Awbrey 14:55, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

In other words, no Wizards behind the curtain in today's scientific method-- though as we know there is the occasional theory that's sufficiently self supporting to just throw it out there and say "here, go check it." Seems to me the expectation of openness/transparency is sufficiently basic that it perhaps should be right up front in the intro, but don't know for sure, which is why I asked here first rather than just dropping some form of it in there. A review of pseudosciences will show that this is perhaps the most widely violated expectation-- that of transparency so others can reproduce, verify, assess reliability, confidence intervals, etc etc...Kenosis 19:35, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

JA: TWISI, the most pernicious form of pseudoscience today is what we might call OOPS, "oval office prestidigitous science", which has already learned how to outwit all the games of im-peerious prestige and manages to keep so many sweating the small stuff while the planet just keeps heating up. Jon Awbrey 19:56, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

Ahh, the junk factor — indeed it is so obviously so (hey, I gotta wife and kids to take care of) — we have a rough idea how that goes...Kenosis 20:01, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

JA: The point being this: How is peer review different from other forms of authority-based belief formation? Unless you find that especially easy to explain to the general public, then I would recommend focussing on the ways that scientific inquiry is something more than peer pressure. Jon Awbrey 20:24, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

OK, duly noted. Peer review as stated from one Member of the Scientific Community to another: "Hey Hank, like that theory of permissisquidity at whoooole lot." Of course that's not what peer review is supposed to be. Let me ponder this, because you're right Jon-- the system's highly imperfect, and often worse when public policy and corporate well being is involved. Yet, disclosure is primary. One calls it "science" to draw on the accumulated credibility of science. And if you can't check it in order to make reasoned judgments whether to rely on someone's results, unlike a hundred years or more ago it ain't science. That includes the opportunity for others to weigh in in advising the general public about results of additional research of the same set of phenomena, and with reliability and other important issues in evaluation of results. These can only be determined with proper disclosure of the relevant data and methodology...Kenosis 21:04, 2 April 2006 (UTC)
We are talking about the value added by a review. If there truly is communication between the author and reviewer, they are 'on the same page' and are not talking past each other. Otherwise, they are speaking to their constituencies for support and otherwise. This implies that review is a stage toward acceptance of some facet of the method. --Ancheta Wis 05:21, 3 April 2006 (UTC)
And about transparency and some form of publication or at least availability of data and method as a minimal expectation? Implicit, if not explicit, in the "Method" is an expectation of openness here fairly immediately upon any public announcement of result, otherwise it's in the category of R&D or pseudoscience...Kenosis 21:52, 5 April 2006 (UTC)


JA: The more I look at what it will take to do a decent job on that Models of scientific inquiry section, the more I realize it will probably take an article of its own, so I have created a stub at Scientific explanation for that eventuality, or maybe Models of scientific inquiry will fit better, haven't decided yet. Travelling now, so will discuss more when I get back. Jon Awbrey 15:06, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

JA: If there's a better way to split off a section as a separate article, please advise, but I thought this would be unproblematic as we've been discussing the need to do so for a while. Jon Awbrey 18:34, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

JA: I put in some very approximate links for the subsections on the various models of scientific inquiry. These will need to be expanded and refined as time goes on. Jon Awbrey 20:34, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

Subsection removed for consideration

I have removed the material below for further consideration by the editors. As written, it was off point for this article...Kenosis 00:03, 12 April 2006 (UTC)

===Logical positivism===
Logical positivism (later referred to as logical empiricism, rational empiricism, and also neo-positivism) is a philosophy that combines positivism with a version of apriorism.
It originated in the Vienna Circle in the 1920s, where Rudolf Carnap, Otto Neurath, et al. divided statements into those which are analytic (true a priori) and those which are synthetic (verified by sensory experience). Logical positivism holds that philosophy should aspire to the same sort of rigor as science. Philosophy should provide strict criteria for judging sentences true, false and meaningless.00:03, 12 April 2006 (UTC)

Hello, Kenosis. I greet "further consideration by the editors" with enthusiasm. You state that it "was off point for this article," yet you give no rationale for this thought. So, I state in retort, "It is right on point for this article, in fact, it is the essence of this topic."

I agree that philosophy MUST aspire to the same rigor as science. And, the only rigor that matters is reality. Judgments of "true, false, and meaningless" imply truth filtered through human experience, political correctness, and adherence to some man-made code that could include bigotry, wrong-headedness, and thinking filled with ruts from the past. Reductionism, for example, is one of the great bug-a-boos of science. Also, scientism often rears its ugly head and stiffles creative searches for truth. Methinks if you had your way, as you describe it, we would all still be working out the problems of Ptolemy. (It is largely thanks to my cousin, Nicolas Copernicus, that we got past the problems of the Ptolemites.)

If you are going to remove my article based on logical positivism, then you are going to have to cite specific examples so we can have a discussion. Amorphous, broad-brush criticisms are no criticisms at all.

I also note that a number of the articles that appear under "Scientific method" contain logical blunders. For example, a number of the articles state that questions must be asked before observations are made. This is truly a case of "the horse before the cart," as one cannot ask questions of many things until observations are made. That's like questioning the decisions of an interior designer in a room that is pitch black. Would you like me to go through this section and remove all those pieces that commit this type of logical suicide?

Finally, removal of my article based on repetition is specious. Most of education depends on repetition. Many of the articles in the Wikipedia contain significant amounts of repetition. In fact, I see a great deal of repetition in this very article between the various sections. If you are worried because articles that follow mine contain repetition of my points, then I say, "Remove those repetitive parts that offend you from the subsequent articles." In books on educational philosophy, one of the undergirding principles is "Tell them what you are going to tell them; then tell them; then tell them what you told them." Will you be canceling that undergirding principle of educational philosophy because of its repetitive nature?

Remember, this article was vetted by 700 members of the ISPE over a period of several years (being first published in 1990). These are, empirically, some of the smartest people in the world. In fact, the ISPE was founded by Chev. Dr. Chris Harding, whom the "Guinness Book of World Records" declared to be the "Smartest Person on Earth." Chris enthusiastically approved of my article . . . giving it, in fact, high praise. Marilyn vos Savant, arguably the smartest woman on earth, is a personal friend of mine and another ISPE member. She approves of my article. These, and the rest of the ISPE members, are some of the people I respect most on this earth. How are you better at judging my article than they are?

Take my advice, Kenosis . . . get past the cubic miles of blather left by past philosophers. The only credo that matters is "dedication to reality at all cost." ( 07:20, 27 April 2006 (UTC)) Rich Kapnick 25 April, 2006

Introduction to The Scientific Method

(Here is a peer-reviewed introduction that should go at the top of this topic. It has been reviewed by the 700 members of the International Society of Philosophical Enquiry, a worldwide scientific, philosophical research organization. Membership in the ISPE requires that the applicant be at or above the 99.9th percentile of general intellectual functioning. There are five membership levels. Mr. Kapnick is at the level of Diplomate, the highest of these five levels.)

                           Richard A. Kapnick

Science is the empirical study of patterns and processes in the Universe. (1)

The Scientific Method is the self-correcting tool used by scientists in honestly seeking truth at all costs. It is arranged in six steps to be followed in order.

1. Observation. Using our senses to gather information about the world around us.

A. This includes the "mapping process" used by the human brain to organize this information.

B. It also includes reflection on thoughtful questions that naturally arise after an observation is made.

2. Hypothesis. An hypothesis is a creative idea that helps explain the observation above. It is a trial solution that has not been verified. An hypothesis is stated in a manner that can be tested to see if it is true or false.

3. Prediction. The first step to verify the truth or non-truth of an hypothesis. A prediction extends critical thinking beyond that which is observed. Predictions are a logical "If . . . then" type of statement. ("If x is true, then y must also be true.")

4. Experimentation. An empirical (verified by actual experience) manner of testing the predictions of an hypothesis. All experiments must be repeatable.

A. An experiment may be designed to test the truth of an hypothesis by trying to demonstrate the accuracy of its predictions, or

B. If direct experiments are difficult to perform, experiments may be designed to test and eliminate other hypotheses or explanations, leaving the original hypothesis as the only explanation.

5. Theory. A theory is an hypothesis with some degree of verification by empirical evidence. The evidence appears to indicate the hypothesis might be true. A theory states the apparent relationships and underlying principles of certain observed phenomena that have been verified to some degree. A theory is not a “proven true” idea.

6. Law of Science. A Law of Science is a theory that has undergone extensive testing and has accurately matched the observed phenomena or data again and again and again. It has withstood the "test of time." While Laws of Science are accepted as responsible and accurate factual truth(2), they are continually reviewed in the search for absolute truth. No Law of Science is a final statement of the way the universe is. Laws of Science are modified when new empirical facts are discovered.

The Scientific Method is universal in its application. An hypothesis, thought, idea, or belief that cannot be verified by the Scientific Method cannot be verified by any other means known to man.


(1) The idea of “cause and effect” was discarded with the acceptance of quantum mechanics, largely because QM approaches explanations for nature with ranges of probabilities. We now realize that “cause and effect” is a contrived human concept. If two events have a near- absolute correlation, then they are subsets of the whole, larger, summed event–defined within QM’s probability range. "Cause and effect" has now been replaced with "patterns and processes."

(2) Facts are not “the Absolute Truth of the Universe.” Instead, facts are the best current human approximation of the truth. Facts are changed or adjusted as new information is discovered. Knowledgeable people realize facts may change at some future date. However, these folks are able to live comfortably with the best “facts” currently available.

--26 April, 2006

The reason I reverted your insertion of this summary is that the content of the article has to date been arrived at through cautious consensus of editors. Your revisions are not necessarily revoked permanently, but subject to the verification, commentary and research of many other participating editors. Also, it is conventional that mass-content editing be justified, ideally point by point, on the talk page. Most of what you describe above on this talk page is already in the article...Kenosis 03:45, 27 April 2006 (UTC) Also, I should immediately point out that "law of science" is not, at least to date, an accepted term of art in the relevant discussion...Kenosis 03:47, 27 April 2006 (UTC)


While we are waiting for the editorial review of my article, "Introduction to the Scientific Method," I have a few additional comments.

I respectfully suggest you are wrong in your assertion about the phrase "law of science" not being an "accepted term of art" for this, or any other, discussion. "Law of Gravity" rushes to mind as a prime example of a law of science. Over the last 147 years, the Theory of Evolution has gradually been proceeding to the Law of Evolution. If not "laws of science," how then would you characterize the undergirding principles of the Cosmos that create what we call "reality"? Further, if Wikipedia limits all discussions to "accepted terms of art," then it has truly smitten its nose to spite its face. Why would Wikipedia---a noble concept to be sure---stiffle its own creativity by banishing/editing/censoring out terms that are outside some amorphous boundary of acceptance by an equally amorphous group of editors? This seems dangerously close to the religion commonly known as "scientism."

The current Wikipedia content of the topic "Scientific method" is, by any definition, too ponderous. As has been previously noted above (by another editor), any high school or college student who reads the opening remarks above the "Contents" is likely to (a) fall asleep, (b) be discouraged and tune to "Sponge Bob, Square Pants" cartoons on his TV, or, (c) decide wrongly that he or she is not capable of understanding the explanation of this topic. The job of teaching often requires breaking a topic into simpler concepts with which the reader has experience. Language must be selected that is appropriate to the reader. A person's readiness issues must be considered. While parts of this article are brilliantly written . . . almost "inspired" . . . other parts need to be moved to an Addendum. Upon request, I shall be more specific on this issue.

One of the great pitfalls of this topic is the issue of where to start a discussion of the Scientific method. The California Department of Education in Sacramento insists that scientific inquiry begins with "asking questions." This thought seems to have become pervasive in the scientific community. Nonetheless, it is obviouisly wrong to all who go much beyond the level of flaneur of the arts and sciences. In truth, the initial sensory intake that results in such questions as "How does this work?" or "Why is that so?" or "There must be something else happening here." can only be classed as "observation." This observation (initial sensory intake of every nature) precedes the development of all questions. One simply cannot question anything unless certain surrounding observations are in a person's experience. This is commonly known as foundational support for additional exploration. The history of knowledge is built on just such a paradigm: "We stand on the shoulders of giants."

The current Wikipedia article makes this same horse-before-the-cart error in several places by assuming that questions precede observation. Hopefully, this can be corrected in the days and weeks ahead.

Finally, it is to the great credit of Wikipedia that such a topic as "Scientic method" is even included. The fifteenth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1990) that is in my library has no significant reference to, nor any article titled, "Scientific method." This fact, by contrast, makes Wikipedia poised for greatness. Let's outdistance EB and all the rest by presenting a well written, finely honed, easily read, substantially accurate article on this important topic.

Respectfully submitted, NC cousin Rich Kapnick 16:34, 27 April 2006 (UTC))

Further comment

It is noted that by going to the Wikipedia main topic "Science" and then to the sub-topic "Goals of Science," we find the following statement, " . . . people can form hypotheses based on observations that they make in the world." This is my position that is clearly stated in the piece I propose for the main page of "Scientific method." This position is at odds with the posit made on the current "Scientific method" page that argues hypotheses are based on questions scientists ask. The more this trail of logic is examined, the sillier the "questioning" launch for the Scientific method becomes. Clearly, the beginning of any scientific search begins with sensory intake of various types that I, and apparently others, call "observation." From this flows questions, hypotheses, predictions, experiments, theories, and finally Laws of Science.

BTW, Kenosis' criticism of my article questions the validity of the concept, "Laws of Science." Yet, I see that the "Science" article uses the term "Laws of Reasoning" as some sort of stare decisis that helps define science. How can "Laws of Reasoning" be valid in a discussion of science, and the term "Laws of Science," concomitantly be invalid? Perhaps one of the "editors" can calm the cognitive dissonance I have over this issue.

It took only minutes for Kenosis to remove my article after I posted on the main page. Now, the days roll by and no one has entered a discussion of the editing issues Kenosis raises. How long before this editing begins?

Respectfully submitted, NC cousin (Rich 10:03, 28 April 2006 (UTC))

Richard A. Kapnick, this article has existed for 5 years. There have been thousands of edits by hundreds of editors. You might read the archives if you want to understand what has transpired; it's basically "been there, done that" for your contributions. If you want to raise new issues, you are welcome to raise them on the talk page. The wiki-action occurs when you have managed to pique someone's interest, and they are willing to collaborate with your contributed edits. You are welcome to establish an account. If you were to do so, then you would receive a welcome from the Welcoming committee, who would probably point you at articles like Wikipedia:Five Pillars, which might be a place to start learning how to contribute. --Ancheta Wis 22:49, 28 April 2006 (UTC)

Intro needs succinctification

The intro of the current version of this article is all over the place and makes it very difficult to grasp abstract conceptualization of the scientific method in my interpretation. I tried to succinctify it with this edit but User:Jon Awbrey reverted that without providing any rational other than discussion page explanation is a prerequisite so here I am. What do Jon and perhaps others disagree with in my attempted change, and do you agree the introduction and article could stand to be massively clarified and succinctified? Excessive wikilinking is known to decrease readability. Plus wikilinks to definitions should be discouraged, if someone doesn't know a word they should use a dictionary separately, comprehension is a multi-step process, not the single step chaos that is the current version of the article in my interpretation. Hollow are the Ori 15:57, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

The current intro took a great deal of work to arrive at a consensus. It is intended to be a summary of the most important aspects held in common by all the natural and social sciences. However imperfect it may arguably be, it does just this in its current form. It is framed to summarize the important commonalities so the experienced practitioner will recognize them as relevant and true, as well as to speak to the unfamiliar reader without oversimplifying. Please note that the article then dives into some fairly technical material after the presentation of general expectations about method which follows in the first section (primarily in the outlined box).
Please raise issues about proposed deficiencies more specifically, ideally one at a time, and ideally on the talk page. Which wikilinks, for instance, are superfluous and inappropriate? ....Kenosis 16:28, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
A much more succinct summary of the scientific method is that it is a "generally accepted iterative process of observation, hypothesizing, testing and verification that is used to expand knowledge of the universe" which is what I have in my version. The goal should be pristine clarity, the process of compromise in many cases leads to a result that is completely unclear, in a dispute most people eventually simply give up and go with something half way in the middle which is not necessarily beneficial. Also, the word choices and sentence construction of the current version of the article seem completely confusing. The principle of compromising is good but a historical compromise should not restrict people from improving what is, in my interpretation, an insufficiently clear introduction and article. Hollow are the Ori 16:58, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
Like it or not, among the readers who check into this article are neither scientists nor aspiring scientists. This intro must deal with them first, before diving in. Currently it does so. Is the primary point that in your interpretation it makes it difficult to grasp abstract conceptualization, or that it must be pristine?
Lack of clarifications in your proposed intro include, but are not limited to, clarifications about science being necessarily focused on the natural world, rather than focused upon theistic realism--the phrase "...knowledge of the universe" does not adequately clarify the issue. This and other such issues are quite relevant at present, especially given the current fighting (particularly in US) over whether God (or some euphemism thereof) should be in the science classroom, an issue that is not by any means settled yet. ..Kenosis 17:22, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
It is irrelevant whether the readers checking this article are scientists or aspiring scientists when it comes to the goal of pristine clarity. You seem to be arguing that because different people view this article chaotic verbosity is required to explain the issue which seems very bass-ackward to me. We should describe the scientific method simply and abstractly first, before we get into what you consider to be necessary clarifications. The details of how various fields of inquiry differ in their application of the scientific method should not be covered in the introduction in my opinion. Hollow are the Ori 17:37, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
Irrelevant who the readership is composed of other than Hollow are the Ori? I have no idea what we "should" or shouldn't do. These are all conclusory judgments with a predetermined conclusion.
Please do not rewrite an intro which involved the consultation of seven or eight editors, all extremely familiar with scientific method, and a great deal of thought about the relevent concerns that attach to this article. Thus far all I see is a conclusory argument, sans specific and relevant analysis, that seeks another intro than the one currently in place...Kenosis 17:52, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
Clear pristine unambiguous phraseology should be unaffected by the type of reader seeking knowledge. Please address the article's astonishing lack of clarity and conciseness as outlined in my attempted improvement? A historical compromise of 7 or 8 editors does not mean the current version of this article is sufficiently clear. If a historical compromise is actually beneficial it should withstand my criticism but you aren't even acknowledging that and instead you seem to want people to just stick with the status quo out of some mindless historical obligation, that also seems bass-ackwards. Judging by the current version of the article indicates these 7 or 8 editors are unfamiliar with the core principles of the scientific method, or for some reason they are uninterested in conveying them in a manner that is easily grasped by readers. For now I've added the {Cleanup-because} template because someone noted that the {POV-because} template was inappropriate. Hollow are the Ori 18:12, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
1.\....5......10 Meanwhile the "Troll 'O Meter" stirs to life... FeloniousMonk 18:24, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
It's noteworthy that none of the defenders of the current version of the article have actually utilized the scientific method to analyze my fundamental criticisms and now User:FeloniousMonk is trying to characterize me as a troll apparently for the purpose of obfuscation. The scientific method is suppose to be an iterative process, not a mindless historical obligation. Hollow are the Ori 18:34, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

Pristine Clarity (PC, The Next Degeneration)

JA: Dear Hollow Are The Ori, the thing is that many people who have been working on this article for a long time now just do not agree with your wholesale criticisms. If you have specific, constructive suggestions, then all concerned will consider them, but there is no pressing need here to make science seem like some Walk-in-the-Garden-of-Eden-or-Garden-of-Versailles. We've all learned that it's best to mention the thorns and the brambles as soon as possible, lest learners-to-come get the wrong idea about the whole Enterprise. Jon Awbrey 18:01, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

Huh, your defense, allegedly in support, of the current version of the introduction is just as convoluted as the current introduction itself. The core principles of the scientific method are easily summarized in one or two sentences, no need to befuddle the issue as you seem to be doing. Hollow are the Ori 18:16, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
We've been here before (Talk:Scientific_method#Introduction). I also note that the introduction has progressed, again, to something that is hard to read. I agree with Hollow, this introduction should not read like a legal brief. At present it will intimidate readers, not sweeten their curiosity. David D. (Talk) 18:40, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

JA: Boldly go where — well, I'm guessing where most editors have been before — or proceed with caution, but either way the mutation in question will need to be, beneficial, gradual, specific, and clearly an improvement in lucidity without an excess of loose-idiocy, or else it will not stand. That's just the way it is with these kinds of hyper-palimpsests. Jon Awbrey 18:54, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

All I see thus far is an argument over an argument. The proposed rewriting of the intro was rejected out of hand, and continues to be. What then, should it be replaced with? point by point, with specifics please...Kenosis 18:50, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
"Hypotheses in a given field of inquiry are logically bound together by a wider theory that assists researchers in forming new hypotheses, as well as in placing groups of specific hypotheses into a broader context of understanding."
Are you suggesting that the sentence above could not be improved/simplified? I would say it is not user friendly. David D. (Talk) 19:07, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
Thank you for a specific suggestion (our first today). How about: "Hypotheses in a given field of inquiry may be logically bound together by a wider theory that assists researchers in forming new hypotheses, as well as in placing groups of specific hypotheses into a broader context of understanding." This would indicate that a new hypothesis backed by observation/experiment/measurement may not necessarily have a theoretical foundation as yet. Is there a yet simpler way of saying this?...Kenosis 19:11, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
A fresh development: This sentence now reads as two sentences. "Theories that encompass whole domains of inquiry serve to bind more specific hypotheses togther into logically coherent wholes. This in turn aids in the formation of new hypotheses, as well as in placing groups of specific hypotheses into a broader context of understanding." Further comments, suggestions, alternatives? ....Kenosis 19:30, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
I agree it needs to be two sentences. I would suggest something along the lines of "Theories that encompass broad domains of inquiry serve as a scaffold for more specific hypotheses and places them in context. In turn, this organization can lead to new hypotheses.", or similar. I have tried to remove the redundancy the sentences. David D. (Talk) 23:58, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

Introduction clarity proposal

In my interpretation the current introduction of this article befuddles abstract comprehension of the scientific method. Any introduction should follow these simple rules in my interpretation:

  • Concise
  • Convey the core abstract essence of the subject
  • Unambiguous language
  • Avoid excessive wikilinking (definitions should not be wikilinked, see above)
  • Avoid convoluted sentence construction
The scientific method is a generally accepted iterative process of observation, hypothesizing, testing and verification that is used to expand knowledge of the universe. The details of the process vary from one field of inquiry to another but share the same core abstract principles. A commonly shared principle is the requirement that the iterative process must be objective so that the investigator does not taint the interpretation of the results or change the results outright.
The scientific method may involve attempts, if possible and appropriate, to achieve mastery over the variables involved in the area of inquiry, which might be utilized to test new hypotheses in order to expand knowledge further. Hypotheses in a specific field of inquiry are often logically connected to a larger hypothesis which assists researchers in forming new related hypotheses, as well as helping organize disparate hypotheses into a vast context of understanding.

Some have said the word "universe" doesn't cover all the fields of inquiry but I mean it as in "everything" so I don't see how that is possible. Are there any other criticisms? Hollow are the Ori 20:05, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

We've been down this road before.
(1) It is not generally accepted on the language you are proposing, but rather is constantly tested by someone, either by a critic of science, or by those looking to draw upon the accumulated credibility of science by self-inclusion under its auspices. The existing wording in the article was chosen to make clear that (a) there are certain shared principles, and (b) there are wide variations depending on field and area of inquiry. Commonly shared principles are not limited to the pristine observation about objectivity.
(2)"expand knowledge" doesn't isn't adequately specific, even in an introduction to an article of this kind (about "method"), at least not without a section below which might quickly clarify the very basics currently included in the intro (which are not all that specific to begin with). Paul Feyerabend would have liked this proposal for the intro--I don't believe it's specific enough.
(3)"universe" doesn't say squat. Is the proposal in part to replace "natural world" with "natural universe", "material universe"?
(4) The use of the term "wider hypothesis" indicates an elemental lack of understanding of basic standard terminology here, even in such disciplines as psychology and sociology--such an edit wouldn't hold for a day...Kenosis 20:30, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
(5)What are "core abstract principle(s)"? This is anything but unambiguous...Kenosis 20:36, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
(6) The existing intro is quite within the general idea of concision...Kenosis 20:38, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
(7)The chosen foundational definition of "core abstract essence" of the subject is, frankly, offensive to my own idea of "reason", rationality, "explanatory summary", etc.. What are we after here, some kind of triple distilled pablum, an underlying spiritual essence of some kind? ...Kenosis 20:45, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
"Some have said the word "universe" doesn't cover all the fields of inquiry but I mean it as in "everything" " This being a section that proposes to introduce "clarity," standing on your personal understanding while at the same time acknowledging others do not agree strikes me as somewhat beyond ironic. Perhaps surreal. FeloniousMonk 20:48, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
Why don't you just simply list the shared principles as you see them then? The intro you support notably lacks mention of the fact that the scientific method is an iterative process, you seem to support an excessively conclusive conceptualization of the scientific method? The core abstract principles are listed in the first sentence of my attempted change "an iterative process of observation, hypothesizing, experimentation and verification".
How and why is more succinct and concise language not generally accepted? Sometimes the best way to break free from confusion is to start over and/or aim higher. I am trying to find one set of terminology that covers all the various fields of inquiry rather than go through a byzantine maze of unnecessary and tangential points. What we should be describing in the intro, is the core commonalities of the process itself, the details of a specific field of inquiry's process can be covered elsewhere, perhaps in separate articles even. I came up with an even more succinct version:
The scientific method is an iterative process of observation, hypothesizing, experimentation and verification that is used to expand understanding. The details of the process vary from one field of inquiry to another but share the same core abstract principles. In addition to the above, other principles include requiring research to be objective, logical, open to refinement and accepting of external criticism. After a hypothesis survives some iterative testing and verification it becomes generally accepted and is called a theory, until potential contradictions are discovered after further testing.
What do you think? Hollow are the Ori 21:05, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
And this is supposed to be superior to the current article? I don't think so. FeloniousMonk 21:12, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
I've had enough of sorting through the argumentative hyperbole and bald outright mistakes of the basics (the latest of which is: "After a hypothesis survives some iterative testing and verification it becomes generally accepted and is called a theory, until potential contradictions are discovered after further testing." which is completely erroneous). I've already made most of the points I would have wanted to make. If the introduction is byzantine, fine. What I do see here is a refusal to learn the basics before trying to decide how it should be explained to the reader. And that is unacceptable to me...Kenosis 21:24, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
Well, for my benefit you will have to actually explain the "basics" as you claim, since the article doesn't do a sufficient job of it and you have yet to offer any details. When making a case for something you have to actually present an argument, evidence or a rationale especially if you make the bold claim that my sentence is "completely erroneous"? How is that sentence erroneous? FYI: I mean the "essence" of the method, not of science. "refers to a body of techniques" is needlessly wordy and incorrect, a method is a process, not a series of "techniques". The emphasis should be on the process itself, its iterative nature, not on the details on the techniques within each step, especially if they aren't universal techniques applicable to all fields of inquiry. The word "phenomenon" is ambiguous, and has unscientific connotations. "natural-world" needlessly excludes cosmic hypotheses. Integrating previous knowledge expands the understanding of the universe just as acquiring new knowledge does. The current version does not explicitly mention that the process is iterative. The introduction should also convey the point that the investigator should want/is required to find results that challenge their hypothesis rather than portray their hypothesis as conclusive in an absolute sense. The word "taint" is better than "bias". The phrase "...attempts, where possible and appropriate, to achieve control over the factors involved in an area of inquiring..." perpetuates a too mindlessly conclusive role for scientific research in my interpretation. Hollow are the Ori 21:58, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
Please make your check out to:........ There are many opportunities to learn the basics prior to making decisions about how best to write them up. Many of the standard experimental psychology texts are useful, because they will give a broad perspective on method from a discipline which only recently has gained unquestionable credibility in this regard. As a result, these textbooks are particularly sensitive to the boundaries of scientific method, and have analyzed the material cautiously so as to be recognizably scientific when parsed by, say, physicists. Such textbooks also are highly sensitive to the important subtleties and technical aspects of statistical method, perhaps as well as any branch of science because they need to parse through the complexities of human factors. Perhaps other editors have additional or better suggestions. Wish you the best...Kenosis 22:16, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
Please succinctly summarize the relevancy of that textbook's perspective as it relates to this discussion, or I shall consider my points not only unresponded to but additionally that you have attempted to appeal to the authority of an external source without directly addressing the issue at all, a standard obfuscation technique. Hollow are the Ori 22:34, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

DoNotFeedTroll.jpg Don't feed the trolls...Kenosis 22:48, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

Trolls here, does not refer to anyone specifically, but rather is an abstract effluence that sometimes diminishes air quality. Let's not feed it anymore...Kenosis 22:56, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
Feel free to choose not to respond to my challenge to defend the current version of the intro but mischaracterizing my criticism as troll-esque obfuscates the discussion and is not a technique a wikipedia user should utilize in a debate. Hollow are the Ori 23:03, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

Iteration, Recursion, Repetition Compulsion

JA: Iteration is not the "essence" of science — what's important is what steps are repeated, and that we have stated quite clearly alright already. So please refrain from that tiresome refrain. Jon Awbrey 21:14, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

Iteration is an essence of the scientific method. Hollow are the Ori 21:18, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
Actually, no, it is not. KimvdLinde 21:21, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
So you are arguing researchers just go through the scientific method once and they are completely done? If so I disagree. The goal of the scientific method is understanding but that is not absolute or concrete because it may be contradicted or refined by future application of the scientific method which is why iteration is required. Hollow are the Ori 22:04, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

JA: Usage note: Repeat = Iterate. Jon Awbrey 22:08, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

You claimed iteration is not an essence of the scientific method, and then you pointed out repeat is in the current intro and repeat = iterate, have you contradicted yourself or are you saying repetition is important but not an essence? If the former please explain the apparent contradiction if the latter I disagree. "Iterative process" sounds better than "repeated steps" because the former implies everything is repeated in all possible combinations an unlimited number of times. Apparently I didn't even notice the word repeat because of the way the sentences and subject are structured convolutedly. In my interpretation the word repeat or iterate should be placed immediately next to a simple unwikilinked list of the steps in the process, so perhaps my primary issues with the current intro is that it's unsuccinct, disorganized and needlessly verbose. Hollow are the Ori 22:24, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
The way you write it down in your proposed version, it is THE esssence, while you discuss as AN essence. That confuses. KimvdLinde 22:31, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
I said AN essence and you disputed that. Anyway, now that you are theoretically no longer confused do you agree "iterative process" and some general succinctification and organization are necessary? Hollow are the Ori 22:38, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
I got confused because you write it down in your proposed text as THE essence, which it is NOT. It is an important aspect, but not the only, and certainly not THE essence. So, I think your proposed version does not reflect adequatly what the scientific method is. KimvdLinde 22:44, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
You disputed AN essence just above. Each step in the process is an essence just as the fact that the process is interative, we should succinctly convey just that and not utilize convoluted and/or disorganized sentence construction. Hollow are the Ori 23:06, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
I though I explained after that. KimvdLinde 23:19, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
You are mistaken. Hollow are the Ori 01:23, 5 May 2006 (UTC)
Well, than we have a misunderstanding. KimvdLinde 01:29, 5 May 2006 (UTC)
I would not characterize it that way. Hollow are the Ori 01:32, 5 May 2006 (UTC)

Reset. Scientific method details a way to turn something that is unknown (the problem) into something that is known. If one does not know something, then one way to solve the problem is to try, and try again (also called iteration). It takes interest in the subject, to be able to do this (George Polya calls this 'becoming absorbed in the problem'). As Andrew Wiles characterized it, "eventually, the problem gets 'tired' and sits down" and you can then catch it. (In Wiles' case, it took years of his life to publish an acceptable solution to a problem which has been under attack by generations of mathematicians for centuries.) --Ancheta Wis 11:51, 6 May 2006 (UTC)

Yes, plus I would add that you are suppose to iterate after you find a "solution" to verify, refine and attempt to contradict it, so it's not just about try and try again to find one conclusion. The process continues always. Hollow are the Ori 16:32, 6 May 2006 (UTC)

Is there evidence for the scientific method?

Rather ironically, what I find myself asking is whether there is any experimental evidence to clearly prove that (any particular) scientific method works, i.e. speeds scientific progress - or even, is there any evidence to clearly prove that scientists prefer to use a particular formulation of the scientific method? I ask these questions because over the years I've been presented with quite a range of descriptions of the scientific method, each given with great confidence and quite different from each of the others, and never with any citation that so-and-so compared the two types of 'scientific method' somehow and proved one was better. I don't deny that there is something better about how we do science now than in the time of Aristotle, but whether the methodology of research into the scientific method itself has progressed since his time is another question...

Also, the most common denominator of all these schemes - that hypothesis precedes experiment - seems contradictory to how I've often seen science done today, as well as many historical descriptions. For instance, many people came up with bizarre ideas of the macrocosm and the microcosm over the course of history, but science only progressed when a few optics geeks cobbled together telescopes and microscopes and started simply reporting what they saw - and when that happened all preceding hypotheses were of no use whatsoever. In modern-day biology it seems that perhaps a majority all experiments still progress in a similar fashion, with workers taking a new or favorite tool - gene array experiments, degenerate PCR, allele structure, immunohistochemistry, etc. - and asking, "how can I use this technique to find out something informative about this topic?" Of course, 'informative' here implies a variation between two or more possible hypotheses, but these hypotheses (such as which of 10,000 genes on an array might be involved in tumor progression) are often rather rudimentary.

Is there any citation people can come up with for a study in which, for example, a teacher took a group of fifth-graders and split them up, one half being taught the scientific method and the other not, then handed them an identical set of broken clockworks or weird gadgets to figure out, and measured the relative times students in each group took to solve their problems? (unsigned: User:Mike Serfas 06:00, 8 May 2006)

There might be an ethical problem with such a study: Would it be fair to program an unprepared mind with a junk method, in the name of science?
Alternatively, There need only be patience, using links for the old standbys:
Scientific method can be used in as simple a situation as riding in a car. Place an un-anchored item on the dashboard of a car and watch its motion, to come up with the concept of inertia. Then ask the students what they see as the car accelerates or decelerates.
The crucial item is that the students be taught that they ought to be honest about distinguishing what I know versus what I do not know. Distinguishing Fact from Hearsay.
Richard Feynman took especial care to expose rote action for what it really was.
Stan Ulam mentions his personal experience with a pocket knife in the presence of a strong magnet. "The power of the vacuum"
Right now there is non-critical acceptance of anything published on the internet. That defies scientific method.
--Ancheta Wis 10:31, 8 May 2006 (UTC)

The NSTA has turned against The Scientific Method

Apparently the "Methods of science" viewpoint is slowly taking over from recipe-based descriptions or "Scientific Method." In the United States, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has recently turned against "The Scientific Method," or what Medawar derides as "the calculus of discovery," and instead recommends that science educators teach about NOS or "Nature Of Science." This recent change is detailed in the November 2004 issue of the NSTA magazine "The Science Teacher." Also, the NSTA position statement replaces "The Scientific Method's" list of steps with a "Methods of Science" description:

"Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument, inference, skepticism, peer review and replicability of work. " See Also search Google for +NOS +"Nature of Science"

I note that the guest editor for that issue of TST is William McComas, who is already known in education circles for insisting that The Scientific Method is a myth. See myth #4 in his article "THE PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS OF THE NATURE OF SCIENCE: DISPELLING THE MYTHS", from the book "Nature of Science in Science Education," 1998, McComas ed., online at: --Wjbeaty 00:10, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

JA: Q. Whaddya get wben you cross a ho-hum with a hum-bug? Jon Awbrey 00:00, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

You get an emotional ploy not worthy of response. But if you believe that the NSTA isn't replacing "The Scientific Method" with NOS, perhaps you'd better read those links or even track down that issue of TST magazine. TST has far more influence on US science teachers than this entry in WP could ever hope to have. --Wjbeaty 20:59, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

DNA example is historically poor

Using the history of the double helix as a "classical" case of the scientific method is fairly laughable by itself, but the real warpage of historical facts to fit the structure is pretty inexcusable here. The case of DNA is not a neat case of "characterization -> hypotheses -> prediction -> experiment -> iterations"; it is not a neat case of anything. It is thoroughly messy as far as the history of science goes, and its messiness is very well known.

The "characterizations" section currently makes it sound like Watson and Crick were just following up on the work of Bragg in studying the structure of DNA. In fact the question of whether DNA's structure was biologically important was still completely up for debate at the time, and Watson and Crick were clearly more obvious inspired in their work by the success Pauling had with the alpha helix. The crystallography-centric approach favored by others did not pan out in comparison with the deliberate aping of Pauling's model-building approach favored by Watson and Crick, which was derided by the other physicists as not being serious science. It worked, in the end, but calling this any sort of an obviously logical path is clearly a post hoc accessment.

The "hypotheses" section makes it sound like Watson and Crick hadn't already perceived it as a race with Pauling before the latter had sent the triple helix manuscript to his son. This is false, and while the discovery of Pauling's error clearly invigorated Watson and Crick, it came relatively late into the game (after they had already considered the idea of a triple helix, for example).

The "predictions" section puts the horse before the cart: Watson had already seen the B-form photograph before they thought of proposing the double helix. The B photograph confirmed that the model was helical, but it did not by itself inspire the idea of a double helix (with the bases on the inside), and still held open the option that it was a triple helix. To call the Crick line from the DNA paper a "prediction" is pretty weak -- it is, at best, a general prediction, not a really scientific one. At worst, it is not a prediction at all: it was a conscious attempt by Crick to claim priority on the idea that the structure suggested ideas about DNA replication, without risking getting any of them wrong in this particular paper (Watson was still hesistant about the model's accuracy).

The "experiments" section doesn't really work either, since the experiments had been conducted before the model, and while they had influenced the possible outcome of the model, they did not confine it in any real way. The model-building clearly played more of a role in the Watson-Crick story than did the photographs, which only Watson had seen and even then only briefly. It misrepresents the role of Franklin as well -- she rebuffed their initial triple helix model on a theoretical basis. She was not initially against the final double helix model at all, and in any case she knew thoroughly well that the B-form of DNA was helical, she was not convinced about the A-form.

The "iterations" section says that Watson and Crick had conducted "fruitless experimentation", which is not true (they hadn't really experimented at all), and oversimplifies to the point of absurdity how they actually arrived at the structure for DNA, and what was important. It was a long, messy, and interesting process, not just a case of bond lengths + photos + models. The real innovation was 1. to try and study the idea at all (often the case in scientific work), and 2. to utilize that specific combination of approaches. But even with that, it required many idiosyncratic ideas, encounters, discussions with others, etc.

I go through the details here not to propose changes be made to them. The discovery of DNA is a lousy example for something like this, but it is not necessarily any more lousy than any other example in the history of science which is not written by scientists or philosophers. Work by historians of science have shown for at least four decades (even longer if you count the only later-appreciated Ludwik Fleck) that you cannot just line up true history of science with the idealized form of the scientific method. Personally, I think the examples should just be dropped. Aside from being inaccurate, they do not clarify anything about the method itself. It would be at least humorous if they were meant to be ironic (they do serve as a nice example of why you can't just say science works in simple, prescribed steps), but I don't think they are. --Fastfission 19:37, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

Fastfission, I welcome your thoughts on the article and examples. In defense, here is some reply to the most telling point (and heart of the method) The "predictions" section puts the horse before the cart: Watson had already seen the B-form photograph before they thought of proposing the double helix. In Watson's Double Helix memoir, he clearly states that he and Crick had already worked out the mathematics of the Fourier transform of a Helix as an X-shape. They had come upon it with the TMV (tobacco mosaic virus) and had already deduced TMV had a spiral shape. At the time of discovery (of structure of DNA) they did not know the orientation of the bases (inside or outside the helix) which Watson deduced by his concrete modelling of the nucleotide pairs. The discovery (of structure of DNA) came after, at least according to Watson's memoir. And Watson is still alive to clarify this for us. It is a golden opportunity for someone to ask and write down so that we can cite. But the article clearly states that scientific method is not linear, as you have well put. It is a horse-race between the steps, some of which can then be linearized after the moment of discovery, for publication. I do not mind the adjective lousy; in Feynman's words English is a lousy language, yet we somehow manage to communicate with it, and those of us who are prisoners of the tongue even attempt to think with it as well. --Ancheta Wis 23:34, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

Critical theory

This entire article is far too dogmatic (that is, it asserts beliefs about what scientists do and think far beyond any reasonable cognitive grounds), and probably far too long and even more, well, better not say (though one is reminded of the word of Asimov: "not very bright except in an academic sense"). I do understand, the discipline has been trying to figure out what knowledge is and how it's possible for well over 2,500 years, and that discussion does not compress well. In short, unless there is a solid critique of scientific method here — I can't find it... — I suggest the whole thing should be overhauled. --djenner 03:38, 19 June 2006 (UTC)

Perhaps a contribution under a Critical theory rubric might be in your area. Maybe some notes about the role of the political process and marginalization of some scholars and scientists? For example C.N. Yang has stated that he learned all the physics in China, but at the University of Chicago he learned what was hot or perhaps fashionable in the field. But what might you have in mind? --Ancheta Wis 03:48, 19 June 2006 (UTC)

Cause and effect v.s. the existencce of a God

So how is the concept of causility or "cause and effect" more justifiable than the existence of God? Both cannot be empirically tested; you can not "experience" both with your five senses. I understand that one concept can be "believed in more" than the other; for example, you COULD say that you believe in cause and effect more than you believe in the existence of God. But you can't say, from an empiricist point of view; that you KNOW casualty or God exists. So what I'm asking is how can scientists (and empiricists) believe in the concept of "cause and effect" more than they believe in the existence of God? How is causility more justified (and therefore, more readily "assumeable") than the existence of God? You can't say you know they both exist according to Hume, if you are an empiricist, but why would anyone be an atheist (not believe in God), but assume that causility exist? 21:03, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

Well it's an interesting question and people have tried to answer a number of ways. A book I recommend is "Scientific Method: A Historical and Philosophical Introduction" by Barry Gower (ISBN:0415122821), which gives quite a detailed overview of the various attempts to find logical grounds to inductive reasoning. If I get time to supply an overview of the book, I will. Sadly for your question, most, if not all, these attempts make further assumptions that would also need to be justified. Popper claimed to have avoided the whole problem of induction and might therefore have denied any obligation to justify causality. --Chris 22:16, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

Discovery method, or reporting method?

Sorry for not reading ALL of the discussion above, but it seems to me that the "Scientific Method" is presented in such a way as to assert that it is an orderly process that scientists usually carry out in a step-by-step way. I think it would be MUCH closer to the truth to say that it is a FORMAT in which scientific research is REPORTED.

There are false starts, abandoned hypotheses, failed experiments, etc., which are (by convention) ALWAYS excluded from journal articles. No one simply tells the story of how they made the discovery, unless they write a POPULAR account specifically aimed at laymen.

Perhaps "scientific method" is a rhetorical technique used to justify one's conclusions (or to "prove" that you've made a valuable discovery), rather than a process used while actually conducting research or making the discovery. --Math Teacher 13:57, 7 July 2006 (UTC)

RE "There are false starts, abandoned hypotheses, failed experiments, etc., which are (by convention) ALWAYS excluded from journal articles.": Yes such things virtually always are excluded from the journal articles. Perhaps they should be written about more often. This article describes successful method, and is quite well balanced by, for instance, a long blockquoted discussion by Heisenberg that sums up some of the difficulties encountered at, shall we say?, the boundary zones of discerning new paradigms. It even acknowledges Feyerabend. Not every competent researcher is a Heisenberg, a Watson or Crick, an Einstein, etc., but the vast majority do in fact do the kind of long hard work whose conceptual underlayment is described and summarized in the article (with a fine "real-life example", at that). ... Kenosis 15:40, 7 July 2006 (UTC)


This talk page certainly needs archiving. Not a chance of seeing the whole thing in Blazer. Could someone who has been paying attention oblige? Banno 00:07, 21 July 2006 (UTC)