Talk:Scientific method/Archive 14

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(Please don't archive this section: it is a resurrecting issue, and a permanent pointer to discussion is useful)

Shouldn't this article begin with a The? Has this debate already been had? Isn't it, "The Scientific method is a body of techniques..." Mathiastck 06:58, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Yes, right at the top of Archive 11, there is debate on the definite article The. --Ancheta Wis 08:17, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
Ok well I vote to include "The" next time :) Mathiastck 18:12, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

At the outset of the discussion about this issue, User:Wjbeaty pointed out some of the published current discussion in the field per WP:VER and WP:RS. He said: "Many scientists object to ... the very concept The Scientific Method, and they fight to get it removed from grade-school textbooks. Examples:

Experience has taught that scientific method should be viewed as a cluster of techniques or body of techniques. When diagrammed it might look something like a sunflower with an identifiable core with a bunch of petals representing various fields of science. Add or remove a few petals, and it still looks like a sunflower. Kenosis 19:23, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

My modest opinion: I disagree on "The". A laboratory experiment, a computer simulation, a theoretical model: all may be scientific but are far from using a unique and univocal method. One thing is to single out a body of criteria in order to define if a method of inquiry is scientific, and another is to say that there is only one such method. Also (but I might be wrong), I think there is an implicit usage in Wikipedia so as to use "The..." in reference to a book or a specific theory (e.g. "interpretation of dreams" and "The Interpretation of Dreams"). -- Typewritten 08:21, 29 September 2006 (UTC)
"Experience has taught that scientific method should be viewed as a cluster of techniques"

If this article is about a collection of methods, then the title should be Scientific methods. indil (talk) 02:18, 29 December 2007 (UTC)

A redirect already exists. I personally oppose a page move. This article is referenced by thousands of other articles already, under its current title, and is well-known under its current name. A google search shows that the current title is referenced over 4 times more frequently than the plural. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 11:04, 29 December 2007 (UTC)

Redo the whole thing.

I came over from the Mathematics article. After reading both articles, I've come to a couple of conclusions. First the Mathematics article is very good. Not great because it is too wishy-washy on the Math=science thing. Second, here the Science thing appears to be designed by committee. Nothing I read in the article gives me any warm fuzzies except the beginning where it is mentioned that Science was equated with Knowledge a long time ago.

I can only make two suggestions. Solve the Mathematics=Science problem by including mathematics here in the science definition. Have a definition that shows Mathematics and Logic are also part of science and sciences in themselves.

Try to decide what it is that a scientist does differently from other forms of non-scientific searches. What is it that makes the scientific methods different, more reliable? Talk more about repeatability.

In addition, it is my humble opinion that the Popper rules of falsifiability are use incorrectly by most, and it appears wrongly used here. The word confuses more people than it helps. What is described in the "falsifiability" section is testing/verification, and peer review. Since it is so difficult to nail down an understandable meaning for Poppers theories, it would be better to leave them for another section. The definition of scientific method doesn't need the word falsifiability. There are better ways to identify the methods of science, than using that confusing word.

From what I can tell, scientists don't sit around striving to find a way for their theory to contain falsifiability. They instead look for connection and logic and other possible answers. They also look for consistency. They observe and record. They develop predictions from the data, and they test those predictions for consistency. It is important to make sure we note that a hypothesis or theory is developed from data, not a wild brainstorm and then see if the data can be fit to the theory. It isn't a theory until well tested from many directions.

Botanists mostly just observe, record, organize, and identify. The idea that scientists use many methods is important. The idea that they use a subset for their particular field of science is also important. The idea that assumptions lead to reductions of potential study areas is also important. It is important to have enough variations in methods that failure to observe a phenomenon is not caused by failing to use a valid method.

Just a beginning: Science requires repeatability. Not in everything, but in the background if nothing else. Science requires verification. If happens in another way it is false, and no longer science/knowledge. Science requires a logically sound test procedure. A test must have more than one outcome. Falsified is only one possible outcome of the testing process. Science requires recording of the event. Science requires peer review. Scientific methods are developed to improve the reliability of data, theory, and our general understanding.

Mathematics is repeatable, every time the induction is performed it comes out consistently the same. Mathematics is observable, without observing the logical steps in a poof, the proof isn't done. Mathematics is verifiable. After a proof, it does come out as explained. Mathematics is logically sound, any test comes out the same, see repeatability. Mathematics is recorded. Mathematics is always subjected to peer review. Errors are sometimes found at this stage. Mathematical methods are the reason science is more reliable. To explore/study those methods is a science in itself.

Eric Norby 04:53, 29 January 2007 (UTC)

Eric Norby, I have included George Polya's work in the article. --Ancheta Wis 11:19, 15 September 2007 (UTC)

Has anyone seen this 4-step formulation?

  • Proper scientific methodology usually requires four steps:
    1. Observation. Objectivity is very important at this stage.
    2. The inducement of general hypotheses or possible explanations for what has been observed. Here one must be imaginative yet logical. Occam's Razor should be considered but need not be strictly applied: Entia non sunt multiplicanda, or as it is usually paraphrased, the simplest hypothesis is the best. Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.
    3. The deduction of corollary assumptions that must be true if the hypothesis is true. Specific testable predictions are made based on the initial hypothesis.
    4. Testing the hypothesis by investigating and confirming the deduced implications. Observation is repeated and data is gathered with the goal of confirming or falsifying the initial hypothesis.
  • Pseudoscience often omits the last two steps above. [2]

The difference between this 4-step process and what the article says, is that this one recommends drawing conclusions from the hypothesis. The scientist then compares each conclusion with the facts. Any facts which contradict a conclusion invalidate the hypothesis.

Logically, it works like this:

  • Hypothesis: the moon is made of green cheese.
    1. If this is true, then the spectrum of light coming from the moon should match the spectrum for green cheese.
    2. Astronomer X did a spectral analysis of moonlight and found that it did not match green cheese.
    3. Therefore, the hypothesis is untrue.

If you want an example that isn't so light-hearted, we could list the criteria used by medical researchers to determine whether a particular germ causes a disease. Such factors as:

  • Does the disease ever occur without the presence of the germ (or at least antibodies indicating its presence)?
  • Does the germ ever appear without the diserase manifesting? If so, how much? Is there a threshold?

I think this was used in determining whether e. coli bacteria in water makes people sick.

Sorry I don't have all the details at hand - I'm not a card-carrying scientist - but I think I've captured the essentials. Can we work together as "science writers" to fix up the article? --Uncle Ed 15:46, 13 March 2007 (UTC)

See Demarcation problem, which deals with, or should deal with, the issues raised above. ... Kenosis 17:18, 13 March 2007 (UTC)
What a stodgy article! Sounds like it was written by a high-school science teacher. What do they know? Real science as practised by real scientists is more about playing around with things until something interesting turns up. Of course, a scientist has to prepare herself to recognise what is interesting. Well, to the good, this article will drive new people away from science and thereby keep the demand (and salaries up for real scientists like us. Cool!--MajorHazard 01:52, 7 April 2007 (UTC)
User:Ed Poor, I have added material to the article which resembles your commentary. --Ancheta Wis 11:19, 15 September 2007 (UTC)

This page is a diservice.

This article serves only to obfuscate; it is far too long and lacks succinctness. Better to focus on the laymen and leave the philosophy to a separate section.

   The essential elements[3][4][5] of a scientific method[6] are iterations[7], recursions[8],
   interleavings, and orderings of the following:
   * Characterizations (Quantifications, observations[9] , and measurements)
   * Hypotheses[10] (theoretical, hypothetical explanations of observations and measurements)[11]
   * Predictions (reasoning including logical deduction[12] from hypothesis and theory)
   * Experiments[13] (tests of all of the above)

For an outline, the language is verbose and has low readability. The philosophical take on the topic is clear as Kuhn is mentioned before this outline is presented.

   A linearized, pragmatic scheme of the four points above is sometimes offered as a guideline 
   for proceeding:

This is impractical prose with poor grammar.

   7. Publish results

This is not an aspect to scientific inquiry.

Trial and error in never discussed. 20:48, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

Welcome to Wikipedia. Thank you for your participation; Scientific method has been practiced for 1000 years, as shown by the citations below. Fleck discussed these concepts (including trial and error, as part of the initial stage of fact gathering) 70 years ago with no response by his readers for 30 years.
Since this is a wiki; all are welcome to give it some thought, write and wait for the responses of others. See: Wikipedia:Five Pillars.
If you select a username you can begin to build a reputation for the quality of your edits.
It may help to read the editing guides before continuing your edits, however. This article has been worked-on by hundreds of editors, with thousands of edits, since the beginning of the encyclopedia, as evidenced by the archives linked above.
I considered a kid-level version of scientific method, but there are philosophical problems with that version which I have been attempting to address in the #Introduction to scientific method below. But since you mentioned it, here goes:
  1. Look
  2. Guess
  3. Tell
  4. Test
The cycle would be 1,2,3, 4. If 4 true, continue with 3, 4, 1, etc; but if 4 false, go back to 2, try a new 3, 4, etc.
The problem is with 1: Look at the horse pictures at the bottom of this talk page. They show clearly that even when we think we know something, we may not truly know. It takes special people to figure this out, and it has been a thousand years of effort on scientific method, so far.
As part of this, how would you answer the following? It is not enough to base scientific method on experience alone:
  • "... the statement of a law - A depends on B - always transcends experience." p.6 —Max Born, Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance
Imagination is needed as well. (in steps 1, 2, 3, 4 above) --Ancheta Wis 21:47, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
See the newly added intro to the article. It was developed on this talk page over the course of the past 30 days. --Ancheta Wis 12:23, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
In defense of the page, it notes that our observation is intertwined with our perception. It shows how the direct observation of a predicted phenomenon is no proof of a generalization. Yet it shows that repeatability follows, by application of scientific method from one iteration to the next. In 4 steps, iteratively or recursively. It doesn't get much simpler than that. Yet it has taken 1000 years to get to this. I realize that other serious charges can be brought. You can state them and we can address them in turn. For example, I have not brought in Polya and mathematics yet, except in the citations. Stay tuned, or better, contribute. --Ancheta Wis 00:12, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Why is the "kid version" last?
Why is a simplified introduction considered a "kid version?"
The simplified "kid version" is as obfuscating as the rest of the article.
    I considered a kid-level version of scientific method, but there are philosophical problems
    with that version which I have been attempting to address in the #Introduction to scientific 
    method below. But since you mentioned it, here goes:
       1. Look
       2. Guess
       3. Tell
       4. Test
This is sarcastic, arrogant, and incorrect.
This articles' message is foiled by the messenger. Do not mistake criticism for the article as criticism of its message.
Regarding editing guidelines, "you" are welcome to remove these words at your convenience.
    It takes special people to figure this out
    This article has been worked-on by hundreds of editors, with thousands of edits,
This is also arrogant and claims proof by majority.

Earth to McFly 16:37, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

Earth2McFly, life is short; let's enjoy what we have of it. There have been thousands of edits and tons of passion expended by hundreds of editors on this page already. What we have in the article is the result. I invite you to read, maybe even the archives, if you have the time, and write your contribution, we look forward to the result. --Ancheta Wis 18:43, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Nice username, by the way. --Ancheta Wis 18:43, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
   Earth2McFly, life is short; let's enjoy what we have of it. 

The nature of Ancheta Wis comments are personal, sarcastic, and attempt humor; stick to the topic. Use proper user names.

   if you have the time, and  write your contribution, we look forward to the result.

"We"? This is the problem. This article is written in a high minded style that clearly assumes its audience is the same as the authors. What is the distribution of people searching "scientific method": novices, professionals, parents, etc. Of the thousands of edits how many of them were devoted to proportioned addressing to these audiences? The answer is the current page.

The Wiki manual of style says to "be bold." Given "you"r arrogant, circuitous, and indistinct responses to the above criticisms, "you" would likely have great difficulty with bold.

Why has Acheta Wis not responded to "Redo the whole thing"?

   you can begin to build a reputation for the quality of your edits.

What purpose would be served by a reputation among fellow editors?

With Google, the greatest inertias are subject to the mouse.

   Nice username, by the way.

"I" do not require your praise. "You" get the last word. Earth to McFly 14:49, 11 September 2007 (UTC)


Is it worth including evolution as an example? It stikes me as a pretty good case for the scientific method. 13:46, 16 May 2007 (UTC)

Merge suggestion

I suggested to merge the "Non-scientific" stub here. Two arguments: we don't write articles for adjectives and non-scientific method is nothing more than non-scientific method. Mukadderat 00:49, 12 June 2007 (UTC)

Oppose the merge. See the demarcation problem for separating science from non-science. The criterion for separating science from non-science need not be scientific method. For example, if someone holds myth more dearly than truth, there is no way that scientific method could work for him. --Ancheta Wis 08:44, 12 June 2007 (UTC)
Oppose. Nothing would be added by bringing the content here. Banno 08:53, 12 June 2007 (UTC)

Pathological science

This link is more about philosophy of science than about scientific method. I suggest reverting the link until more discussion on this talk page has taken place. --Ancheta Wis 08:51, 12 June 2007 (UTC)


it makes no mention about who came up with it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The quick answer is Galileo. But that would be an injustice to several thousand years of those who came before him. So it would be wrong to credit scientific method to a single 'who'. --Ancheta Wis 08:58, 27 June 2007 (UTC)

never mind there is a link that goes to the history of the scientific method. i think it should be mentioned though. i think a "see below" would be helpful

Star class for rational scepticism

Why Start? Banno 00:32, 12 July 2007 (UTC)


I propose augmenting the items on observation, description, etc. from the first elements box, as part of an introductory section on scientific method. The changes and their citations will appear here first for the editors of this article, that we might discuss and improve them here, before altering the article itself. --Ancheta Wis 14:12, 2 September 2007 (UTC)

Science requires a society[1][2]which applies scientific method to projects over an extended period[3] in order to progress.[4]. In this sense, science can be considered to be a cooperative enterprise.

Here is a paragraph from the article which is historiographical in nature, but which is related to the introductory material which I propose to add.

  • "There is a popular misconception, sometimes even taught in science classes, that a scientific idea progresses from being a hypothesis, to being a theory, to being a law, based on how much evidence has been established. This is not the case. Although scientists in different fields may use the three terms somewhat differently (especially the term "hypothesis"), the terms represent different types of scientific understanding which are not subject to the alleged progression. "

The difficulty expressed in the above statement is that we are mixing up the levels of understanding. What was once the opinion of an individual, a conjecture, gets stated, debated, and examined. When a statement gains the power of law, much has already been invested. When capital can be invested, when machinery can be put into place, when a statement has been shown to be repeatable and predictable, then a progression has already taken place. For example, a human being strolling the streets of some metropolis like Chicago or Shanghai is dwarfed by the creations of other human beings, the skyscrapers, the commercial networks, the laws.

Scientific method contains a conundrum, meaning a question whose answer is a conjecture, a question, or a riddle. The reason that scientific method excels at the discovery of new knowledge, that is, knowledge which is not yet known to all, is that we first isolate that which is not yet known to all. We seek the riddle; it is not enough to merely seek an answer, as it is too easy to fool our human nature by merely confirming what we already know. (Karl Popper called this kind of systematic bias, verificationism.) Rather, we posit conjectures, and seek to refute them. In other words, we make guesses[5] and seek to disprove them[6]. (Karl Popper called this falsifiability. See, for example, Popper's 1963 book Conjectures and Refutations.)

"In The Logic of Scientific Discovery ... we are interested in theories with a high degree of corroboration. ... as scientists we do not seek highly probable theories but explanations; that is to say, powerful and improbable theories" -- Karl Popper [7]

When Linus Pauling was pressed for his method of getting good ideas, he responded

The point of Pauling's statement was that he had criteria for determining 'the bad ones'. Like Popper, he was able to distinguish what might be wrong about a conjecture.

  • "You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination[8] is out of focus." —Mark Twain
  • "What I cannot create, I do not understand." —Richard P. Feynman
  • "Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought" —Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
  • "If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research, would it?" —Albert Einstein

Hypothetico-deductivism[9] first analyzed scientific method (such as the enumeration of steps 2,3,4)[10] in the nineteenth century. The full statement of steps 1,2,3,4[11] finally arose in the twentieth century:

1. Characterization[12]: Experience[13] and Measurement[14]

2. Hypothesis [15], also called conjecture[16] ,: in logical inference, hypotheses are also called premises or assumptions.[17]

3. Deduction is a logical inference (a prediction) from a conjecture (hypothesis).[18]

4. Falsifiability[19]and Experiment[20] which serve to ground the imagination (a requirement of Francis Bacon).

Iteration example from astronomy: [21]

Recursion example: the Earth is itself a magnet, with its own North and South Poles[22]

--Ancheta Wis 23:50, 2 September 2007 (UTC)


User:BenB4 has asked for citations on Scientific method. I can provide citations for my own contributions, but quickly, I learned scientific method by word of mouth; that is probably the reason that there are so many versions, as each scientist has his or her own teacher. Here is a list of my sources (I can provide page numbers, except for the verbal communications which I was fortunate enough to learn from. Page numbers will have to wait til the weekend.). It will be apparent that my sources are biased toward writers in English:

Scientific method by scientists

  • Galileo, Two New Sciences[23]
  • William Glen, Mass-Extinction Debates: How science works in a crisis
  • Andrew J. Galambos, Sic Itur ad Astra (who learned it from Felix Ehrenhaft)
  • William Stanley Jevons, The principles of science: a treatise on logic and scientific method
  • Ørsted, Selected Scientific Works of Hans Christian Ørsted
  • Max Born, Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance


  • Flora Dinkines, Introduction to Mathematical Logic
  • Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
  • Morris R. Cohen and Ernst Nagel, An Introduction to Logic and Scientific Method

Philosophy of science

  • Klemke, Hollinger and Kline (eds.) Introductory Readings in the Philosophy of Science
  • Peter Godfrey-Smith, Theory and Reality: An introduction to the philosophy of science
  • Galileo, The Assayer

Sociology of science

  • Ludwik Fleck, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact[24]
  • Everett M. Rogers (1995) Diffusion of Innovations 4th ed. ISBN 0-02-926671-8


  • Forest Ray Moulton and Justus J. Schifferes (eds.) The Autobiography of Science
  • Feynman, Lectures on Physics (my teacher)
  • G. Toraldo di Francia, The Investigation of the Physical World
  • Cesare Emiliani, The Scientific Companion
  • Leonard C. Bruno, The Landmarks of Science (first editions owned by the Library of Congress)

Mathematical method[25],[26]


  • J. P. Holman, Experimental methods for engineers
  • Ziman's memoir of P. W. Bridgman's experimental method - how he would never publish the last decimal of any of his observations/measurements.

I was fortunate to have discussed this subject since high school, with other students from around the US, at a National Science Foundation project which probably still brings students and scientists together every summer. (As an example, we yakked about the robotic exploration of space, which if it had been implemented, would have saved the lives of some astronauts and a lot of money. This was before the shuttle program was started.) --Ancheta Wis 08:42, 16 August 2007 (UTC)

Citations are prototyped below: --Ancheta Wis 18:37, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

Where would you propose to add some of this material? I am beginning to think that a topic fork may be more appropriate, such as Introduction to scientific method. ... Kenosis 00:17, 4 September 2007 (UTC)

Kenosis, I propose adding the Alhacen material in an Introduction section. That much clearly needs to be added. But the philosophical objections to unaided observation could be left out as too much for the first-time reader; my position is that Observation, Description, and Explanation are intertwined. That was the problem with medieval science, before the role of criticism and experiment blew open natural philosophy. The Heisenberg quote which was in the article several years ago stated this quite clearly. That also is the reason that Observation ought not to be baldly stated as the first step. It takes a special person 'to see what everyone has seen but to think what no one else has thought'. Popper states it quite clearly. It can also be found in Feynman, Character of Physical Law in his last chapter (how we start by guessing new laws).
The material needs to be introductory. When you consider that every freshman science book has about two pages on scientific method, we clearly need to step up and state this material more fully. As you already know, its sources are from all over science but this page is just about the only place where someone can see it from a synoptic perspective.
--Ancheta Wis 01:13, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
I personally have no problem with working over the two callout boxes with the bulleted summaries, nor even with revisiting the lead and the rest of the text to find a way to integrate what you've pulled together. The first callout box was originally drawn in significant part from Elmes,et al, Research Methods in Psychology (I'll need to get back to you on which edition/date). Recall that experimental psychology has needed to pay close attention to the demarcation problem in order to secure experimental psychology's place among the empirical sciences that use a valid, reliable form of scientific method. Since then, that first callout box has been worked over a bit by various contributors, resulting in some additional conflation of Observation, Description, and Explanation that others have thrown in there willy-nilly. Recently I reworked it to bring it somewhat back in line, but left a bit of the added material. A synoptic approach needs to be regarded as the conceptual minefield that it in fact is, IMO. The component parts, of which any "list of characteristics of scientific method" consists, depend very much on what level of approach one is taking in the description. Thus, "control" may be intended to mean the general objective of seeking to affect the outcome of events by the understanding of the phenomena under scrutiny, or it may mean the use of an unmanipulated indendendant variable (the "control") in comparison to a manipulated independent variable. "Observation" may mean the process prior to narrowing down a research focus to a particular set of variables, or it may run through the entire process of iterations and reiterations. Description too may describe the objective of (pardon me) objectively describing in finer-and-finer detail or other more-and-more accurate ways the phenomena, the dynamics, of the natural world and human behavior within it, and "description" may refer to something that runs through the entire process -- for instance, description is expected of everything pertinent to any experiment today is expected to be made available for scrutiny by others interested in the same phenomena. "Explanation" is somewhat more specific, and deserves, IMO, to be left in there in some form or other, because "explanation" in the context of scientific method refers to identification of cause-and-effect relationships as differentiated from mere correlation of events, or mere naming of something seen. I suspect that some caution needs to be exercised here with a complete rewrite of either the lead or the beginning of the "Elements of scientific method section". No matter what approach one takes, some bases are likely to remain uncovered in an article this length.

That said, I have no serious objection to discussing how to integrate the material you've just brought into the mix. Nice work, by the way, in preliminarily organizing it. ... Kenosis 02:22, 4 September 2007 (UTC)

Kenosis, Thank you for your kind words. Now that I understand that you are approaching this from the Experimental Psychology side, we could indeed work together to integrate some material that will be helpful for the lot of us. (I have an interest in the visual system so we might meet in the middle here.) --Ancheta Wis 02:43, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
Sure, but not just experimental psychology. I was merely attempting to point out that that particular field has undertaken to validate psychology as valid empirical science and to teach its upcoming practitioners valid scientific method. As such it is a valuable area of resource to draw upon. My own area of focus, which will remain undisclosed, requres that I be familiar with what's been done in that realm, but not limited to it. Anyway, I think this will take awhile to do it well, given the fits that participants went through to arrive at the article's present state, and deserves to be well discussed over, say, a month? or so? so it can be clarified as to what aspects of philosophy of science, theory of scientific method (early empiricism, positivism, Popper and others, through the modern synthesis by, e.g. the AAAS and similar organizations in other nations), through the several newer books that deal with practical acpects of scientific method, such as Gauch, along with others you've mentioned that run from the early foundations through the contemporary manifestations. If we and other participants keep it in perspective, it sounds workable, with the potential to end up with a better, more stable article. And thanks again. ... Kenosis 02:53, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
I have removed the callout box I mentioned above, since it is derived only in part from the source that I mentioned above. I wouldn't want to add anything that might arguably be WP:OR. ... Kenosis 05:01, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
Ouch. Sorry.

--Ancheta Wis 11:30, 4 September 2007 (UTC)

Fleck and Kuhn

Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions cites Fleck's book, which appeared about the same time as Karl Popper's Logik der Forschung. Popper found immediate success but Fleck had to wait for recognition. Kuhn found Fleck's book by reading Hans Reichenbach's Experience and Prediction, who had to cite Fleck's title Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact (written in German, 1935, Entstehung und Entwickelung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache: Einführung in die Lehre vom Denkstil und Denkkollectiv), although Reichenbach opposed Fleck's concept. Fleck, a Polish physician, selected the history of the Wasserman test as his vehicle for conclusions about sociology of science.

Pages 20-21 of Fleck, ISBN 0-226-25325-2 state "Biology taught me that a field undergoing development should be investigated always from the viewpoint of its past development. ... It is nonsense that the history of cognition has as little to do with science as, for example, the history of the telephone with telephone conversations. At least three-quarters if not the entire content of science is conditioned by the history of ideas, psychology and the sociology of ideas and is thus explicable in these terms.".

Kenosis, it ought to be possible to condense Fleck's thesis into a few sentences, which I propose as background for the problem of the theory-laden character of observation. You can expect this section to contain this precis as I read through Fleck's book. --Ancheta Wis 11:35, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

Some key concepts: Denkstil (thought style), and Denkkollektiv (thought collective). Fleck, p.64: "... to investigate successfully how assumptions change requires research into thought styles. ... [which] calls for a sociological method in epistemology."

Fleck, p.76: "From false assumptions and irreproducible initial experiments an important discovery has resulted after many errors and detours. ... If any discovery is to be made accessible to investigation, the social point of view must be adopted; that is, the discovery must be regarded as a social event."

Fleck's concept of fact: a coalition of viewpoints, housed in 'thought collectives'[27] (such as Wikipedia) which progresses from personal opinion, to journal entries and journal articles, to 'vademecum science': "a juggernaut of persuasion" (Bazerman 1988) [28]

Fleck p.84: "Observation and experiment are subject to a very popular myth. ... The knower is seen as a ... Julius Caesar winning his battles according to ... formula. Even research workers will admit that the first observation may have been a little imprecise, whereas the second and third were 'adjusted to the facts' ... until tradition, education, and familiarity have produced a readiness for stylized (that is directed and restricted) perception and action; until an answer becomes largely pre-formed in the question, and a decision confined merely to 'yes' or 'no' or perhaps to a numerical determination; until methods and apparatus automatically carry out the greatest part of the mental work for us." Fleck labels this thought style (Denkstil).

Fleck pp.92: "All empirical discovery can therefore be construed as a supplement, development, or transformation of the thought style.".

Fleck pp.94-95: (A description of variation in observation -- 1902, Neisser and Massini) "This example also exhibits three stages:

  • (1) vague visual perception and inadequate initial observation;
  • (2) an irrational, concept-forming, and style-converting state of experience;
  • (3) developed, reproducible, and stylized visual perception of form.

... The first, chaotically styled observation resembles a chaos of feeling: amazement, a searching for similarities, trial by experiment, retraction as well as hope and disappointment. Feeling, will and intellect all function together as an indivisible unit. The research worker gropes but everything recedes, and nowhere is there a firm support. Everything seems to be an artificial effect inspired by his own personal will. ... [H]e must distinguish that which obeys his will from that which arises spontaneously and opposes it. This [resistance] is the firm ground that he, as representative of the thought collective [(Denkkollectiv)], continuously seeks. ...

This is how a fact arises. At first there is a signal of resistance[29] in the chaotic initial thinking[30], then a definite thought constraint, and finally a form to be directly perceived. A fact always occurs in the context of the history of thought and is always the result of a definite thought style."[31]

Fleck p.99: "We can ... define thought style as [the readiness for] directed perception, with corresponding mental and objective assimilation of what has been so perceived. ... Because it belongs to a community, the thought style of the collective undergoes social reinforcement. ... It constrains the individual by determining 'what can be thought in no other way.' ... Heretics who do not share this collective mood and are rated as criminals will be burned at the stake [punished]... ."

Draft of a section for the article.

Introduction to scientific method

Alhacen: light travels in straight lines

From Alhacen (Ibn Al-Haytham 965 – 1039, a pioneer of scientific method) to the present day, the emphasis has been on seeking truth: "Truth is sought for its own sake. And those who are engaged upon the quest for anything for its own sake are not interested in other things. Finding the truth is difficult, and the road to it is rough. ..." [32]

"How does light travel through transparent bodies? Light travels through transparent bodies in straight lines only. ... We have explained this exhaustively in our Book of Optics. But let us now mention something to prove this convincingly: the fact that light travels in straight lines is clearly observed in the lights which enter into dark rooms through holes. ... the entering light will be clearly observable in the dust which fills the air." -- Alhacen[33]

The conjecture that "Light travels through transparent bodies in straight lines only", was corroborated by Alhacen only after years of effort. His demonstration of the conjecture was to place a straight stick or a taut thread next to the light beam[34], to prove that light travels in a straight line.

Thus scientific method has been practiced by some for at least one thousand years. There are difficulties in a formulaic statement of method, however. As William Whewell noted in his History of Inductive Science and in Philosophy of Inductive Science, "invention, sagacity, genius" are required at every step in scientific method. It is not enough to base scientific method on experience alone[35]; multiple steps are needed in scientific method, ranging from our experience to our imagination, back and forth.

In the twentieth century, a hypothetico-deductive model for scientific method was formulated:

  1. Use your experience - consider the problem and try to make sense of it. Look for previous explanations; if this is a new problem to you, then do #2:
  2. Conjecture or explanation - when nothing else is yet known, try to state your explanation, to someone else, or to your notebook;
  3. Deduce a prediction from that explanation- if #2 were true, then state a consequence of that explanation
  4. Test - look for the opposite of that consequence to try disprove it. It is a logical error to seek #3 directly. This error is called affirming the consequent.

This model underlies the scientific revolution. One thousand years ago, Alhacen demonstrated the importance of steps 1 and 4. Galileo also showed the importance of step 4 (also called Experiment) in Two New Sciences. One possible sequence in this model would be 1,2,3, 4. If the outcome of 4 holds, and 3 is not yet disproven, you may continue with 3, 4, 1, and so forth; but if the outcome of 4 shows 3 to be false, you will have go back to 2 and try to invent a new 2, deduce a new 3, look for 4, and so forth. For a more formal discussion, see below.

In the twentieth century, we found that we need to consider our experiences more carefully, because our experience may be biased, and that we need to be more exact when describing our experiences. These considerations are discussed below.

Truth and myth

A myth need not be true (although a myth can be true). [36]

Needham's Science and Civilisation in China uses the 'flying horse' image as an example of observation: in it, a horse's legs are depicted as splayed, when the stop-action picture by Eadweard Muybridge shows otherwise. Note that the moment that no hoof is touching the ground, the horse's legs are gathered together and are not splayed.

flying horse depiction

There are other paintings with the incorrect flying horse observation. This demonstrates Ludwik Fleck's caution that we see what we expect to observe, until shown otherwise.

End of draft section for the article.

Comment invited. If it is OK with the community, I propose to put this draft as introduction to the article. --Ancheta Wis 10:16, 9 September 2007 (UTC)


  1. ^ "And it is impossible for a man of many trades to do all of them well." —Xenophon (ca. 431 – 355 BCE), Kúrou paideía "The education of Cyrus"
  2. ^ Where the limitations of ostensive definition can be overcome by cooperative effort. —see: Ludwig Wittgenstein (1958), Philosophical Investigations ISBN 0-02-428810-1, investigation §258.
  3. ^ "The day will yet come when the progress of research through long ages will reveal to sight the mysteries of nature which are now concealed. A single lifetime, though it were wholly devoted to the study of the sky, does not suffice for the investigation of problems of such complexity." —Seneca, pp.100-101, as selected by Shmuel Sambursky (1974), Physical Thought from the Presocratics to the Quantum Physicists ISBN 0-87663-712-8
  4. ^ "... by calling these theories successful I simply mean that
    1. They are able to organize and unify a great variety of known phenomena.
    2. This ability to systematize the empirical data is more extensive now than for previous theories.
    3. A statistically significant number of novel predictions pan out; that is, our theories get more predictions right than mere guessing would allow. " —James Robert Brown (1985), Ratio 27, 49-66 as selected by Martin Curd and J.A. Cover, Philosophy of Science: the central issues ISBN 0-393-97175-9 pp.1136-7
  5. ^ "When it is not clear under which law of nature an effect or class of effect belongs, we try to fill this gap by means of a guess. Such guesses have been given the name conjectures or hypotheses." —Hans Christian Ørsted(1811) "First Introduction to General Physics" ¶18. Selected Scientific Works of Hans Christian Ørsted, ISBN 0-691-04334-5 p.297
  6. ^ "(2) The actual procedure of science is to operate with conjectures - to jump to conclusions- often after one single observation (as noticed for example by Hume and Born). (3) Repeated observations and experiments function in science as tests of our conjectures and hypotheses, i.e., as attempted refutations" -- p. 27, Karl Popper, "Science: Conjectures and Refutations" as selected by Klemke, Hollinger and Kline (eds. 1980) Introductory Readings in the Philosophy of Science ISBN 0-87975-134-7
  7. ^ pp.31-32, Karl Popper, Science: Conjectures and Refutations as anthologized by Klemke, Hollinger and Kline (1980), Introductory Readings In the Philosophy of Science ISBN 0-87975-134-7
  8. ^ "... the statement of a law - A depends on B - always transcends experience." p.6 —Max Born, Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance
  9. ^ p.236 —Peter Godfrey-Smith (2003), Theory and Reality: An introduction to the philosophy of science ISBN 0-226-30063-3
  10. ^ pp.265-6 —William Stanley Jevons (1873), The principles of science: a treatise on logic and scientific method
  11. ^ pp.65,73,92,398 —Andrew J. Galambos, Sic Itur ad Astra ISBN 0-88078-004-5(AJG learned scientific method from Felix Ehrenhaft)
  12. ^ "... the intension of the term "planet" embodies the set of properties that characterizes planets. The extension is instead represented by the set of individuals that we call planets, ..." p21. —G. Toraldo di Francia (in Italian 1976, in English 1981), The Investigation of the Physical World ISBN 0-521-29925-X
  13. ^ "The foundation of general physics ... is experience. These ... everyday experiences we do not discover without deliberately directing our attention to them. Collecting information about these is observation." —Hans Christian Ørsted("First Introduction to General Physics" ¶13, part of a series of public lectures at the University of Copenhagen. Copenhagen 1811, in Danish, printed by Johan Frederik Schulz. In Kirstine Meyer's 1920 edition of Ørsted's works, vol.III pp. 151-190. ) "First Introduction to Physics: the Spirit, Meaning, and Goal of Natural Science". Reprinted in German in 1822, Schweigger's Journal für Chemie und Physik 36, pp.458-488. Translated to English by Karen Jelved, Andrew D. Jackson, and Ole Knudsen, (translators 1997) Selected Scientific Works of Hans Christian Ørsted, ISBN 0-691-04334-5 p. 292
  14. ^ "The purpose of this book is ... to provide the reader with a quantitative basis and a feeling for the dimensions involved." p.2 —Cesare Emiliani (1995), The Scientific Companion: Exploring the Physical World with Facts, Figures, and Formulas. Second edition. ISBN 0-471-13324-8
  15. ^ Glen,William (ed.), The Mass-Extinction Debates: How Science Works in a Crisis, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 1994. ISBN 0-8047-2285-4. pp. 37-38.
  16. ^ "When it is not clear under which law of nature an effect or class of effect belongs, we try to fill this gap by means of a guess. Such guesses have been given the name conjectures or hypotheses." —Hans Christian Ørsted(1811) "First Introduction to General Physics" ¶18. Selected Scientific Works of Hans Christian Ørsted, ISBN 0-691-04334-5 p.297
  17. ^ p.37 —Flora Dinkines (1964), Introduction to Mathematical Logic Library of Congress card number 64-18143
  18. ^ "The student of nature ... regards as his property the experiences which the mathematican can only borrow. This is why he deduces theorems directly from the nature of an effect while the mathematician only arrives at them circuitously." —Hans Christian Ørsted(1811) "First Introduction to General Physics" ¶17. Selected Scientific Works of Hans Christian Ørsted, ISBN 0-691-04334-5 p.297
  19. ^ "... the criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability." pp. 33-41, 52-59 —Karl Popper (1963) Science: Conjectures and Refutations as referenced by p. 23 —E.D. Klemke, Robert Hollinger and David Kline (eds. 1980) Introductory Readings in the Philosophy of Science ISBN 0-87975-134-7
  20. ^ Salviati speaks: "I greatly doubt that Aristotle ever tested by experiment whether it be true that two stones, one weighing ten times as much as the other, if allowed to fall, at the same instant, from a height of, say, 100 cubits, would so differ in speed that when the heavier had reached the ground, the other would not have fallen more than 10 cubits." p.61[1] —Galileo (1638), Two New Sciences as translated from Italian to English by Henry Crew and Alfonso di Salvio (1914). A more extended quotation is referenced on pp.80-81 by Forest Ray Moulton and Justus J. Schifferes (eds., Second Edition 1960) The Autobiography of Science
  21. ^ Chaldean astronomers such as Kidinnu compiled astronomical data. Hipparchus was to use this data to calculate the precession of the Earth's axis. Fifteen hundred years after Kiddinu, Al-Batani, born in what is now Turkey, would use the collected data and improve Hipparchus' value for the precession of the Earth's axis. Al-Batani's value, 54.5 arc-seconds per year, compares well to the current value of 49.8 arc-seconds per year (26,000 years for Earth's axis to round the circle of nutation).
  22. ^ William Gilbert (in Latin 1600) De Magnete, or On Magnetism and Magnetic Bodies. Translated from Latin to English, selection by Forest Ray Moulton and Justus J. Schifferes (eds., Second Edition 1960) The Autobiography of Science pp.113-117
  23. ^ Galileo Galilei Linceo (1638), Discorsi e Dimonstrazioni Matematiche, intorno a due nuoue scienze. In Leida, Apresso gli Elsevirri M.D.C.XXXVIII. Two New Sciences was selected from the collection of the Library of Congress by Leonard C. Bruno (1988), The Landmarks of Science ISBN 0-8160-2137-6
  24. ^ Ludwik Fleck (1935), Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact ISBN 0-226-25325-2 Translated by Thaddeus J. Trenn and Robert K. Merton (1979) from German: Entstehung und Entwickelung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache: Einführung in die Lehre vom Denkstil und Denkkollectiv
  25. ^ "Philosophy [i.e., physics] is written in this grand book--I mean the universe--which stands continually open to our gaze, but it cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and interpret the characters in which it is written. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one is wandering around in a dark labyrinth." —Galileo Galilei, Il Saggiatore (The Assayer, 1623) as referenced by G. Toraldo di Francia (1981), The Investigation of the Physical World ISBN 0-521-29925-X
  26. ^ Robert Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan (2006) Out of the Labyrinth: Setting Mathematics Free ISBN 0195147448
  27. ^ Compare: "An invisible college is an informal network of researchers who form around an intellectual paradigm to study a common topic." --p.xvi Everett M. Rogers, The Diffusion of Innovations 4th Ed. ISBN 0-02-926671-8
  28. ^ Bazerman characterized Newton's 1727 Opticks as "a juggernaut of persuasion" --Charles Bazerman (1988), Shaping Written Knowledge: The Genre and Activity of the Experimental Article in Science, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. pp. xi + 356.
  29. ^ i.e., the resistance of the firm ground which the researcher seeks.
  30. ^ Compare to the first stage of Humphrey's 1989 Capability Maturity Model: 1. Chaotic stage; 2. Repeatable stage; 3. Defined stage; 4. Quantitatively managed stage. etc.
  31. ^ Merton notes that changes in thought style have a tendency to occur in times of social change. Merton was a translator for Fleck's book. Merton's note is on pp. 177-178.
  32. ^ Alhazen (Ibn Al-Haytham) Critique of Ptolemy, translated by S. Pines, Actes X Congrès internationale d'histoire des sciences, Vol I Ithaca 1962, as referenced on p.139 of Shmuel Sambursky (ed. 1974) Physical Thought from the Presocratics to the Quantum Physicists ISBN 0-87663-712-8
  33. ^ Alhazen, translated into English from German by M. Schwarz, from "Abhandlung über das Licht", J. Baarmann (ed. 1882) Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft Vol 36 as referenced on p.136 by Shmuel Sambursky (1974) Physical thought from the Presocratics to the Quantum Physicists ISBN 0-87663-712-8
  34. ^ p.136, as quoted by Shmuel Sambursky (1974) Physical thought from the Presocratics to the Quantum Physicists ISBN 0-87663-712-8
  35. ^ "... the statement of a law - A depends on B - always transcends experience." p.6 —Max Born, Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance
  36. ^ "Observation and experiment are subject to a very popular myth. ... The knower is seen as a ... Julius Caesar winning his battles according to ... formula. Even research workers will admit that the first observation may have been a little imprecise, whereas the second and third were 'adjusted to the facts' ... until tradition, education, and familiarity have produced a readiness for stylized (that is directed and restricted) perception and action; until an answer becomes largely pre-formed in the question, and a decision confined merely to 'yes' or 'no' or perhaps to a numerical determination; until methods and apparatus automatically carry out the greatest part of the mental work for us." Fleck labels this thought style (Denkstil). Ludwik Fleck, p.84 of Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact (written in German, 1935, Entstehung und Entwickelung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache: Einführung in die Lehre vom Denkstil und Denkkollectiv) ISBN 0-226-25325-2

Recent additions to the article

Ancheta Wis, I appreciate your taking the incentive here. Thank you. Since there is now a section entitled "Introduction to scientific method", it enables the next steps towards considering a separate "main article" such as Introduction to scientific method. Such an article would make easier the task of the many youngsters that come in trying to get an idea. I have no verifiable evidence of this, but rather it's a supposition based on the repeated vandalism of the article in ways that I personally surmise are expressions of frustration for not coming away with an easy read that those readers can use to do whatever assignment happens to confront them. Note that the vandalism rate picks up significantly around the beginning of September. You have my gratitude for the investment of time and energy into the recent talk-page discussion and the just-implemented article edits. ... Kenosis 02:32, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

Everyone, we can work together on this. {It was very suggestive to me that the un-named authors of an encyclopedia from 1000 years ago lived in the same city as Alhacen, a pioneer of scientific method. Sounds like Wikipedia, doesn't it?) --Ancheta Wis 09:13, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Kenosis, thank you. You are welcome to start the article; I will join in. --Ancheta Wis 18:15, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Quite welcome (and I apologize for the signing glitch awhile ago). I'll start making notes toward it. Perhaps in a couple weeks or so, I'll have something adequate to start off an article. I wouldn't want it put up for deletion at a very early stage of development. ... Kenosis 18:32, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

I am happy to announce that a succinct, hyper-text link to scientific method sits here. All that the reader need do is start there, and keep clicking the links to the DNA example, in order to get a sense of the flow of thought from one element to the next. 1,2,3,4 and so forth. --Ancheta Wis 17:00, 15 September 2007 (UTC)

The scientific method article is getting noticed. --Ancheta Wis 22:08, 23 September 2007 (UTC)


I'd like to request that this article be put into permanent semi-protection against anon-IP and newly registered users. The vandalism is quite frequent, presumably mostly from youngsters who find the material overly challenging, frustrating, or who are trying to find shortcuts for completing a school assignment and find it more suitable to play around with the article content than to stick to their work. The invonvenience of vandal patrol on this article, IMO, outweighs the occasional anon IP or new user who has offered useful contribution to this article. ... Kenosis 15:25, 20 September 2007 (UTC)

Permanent isn't happening, but I'll semi for a bit to give everyone a break. FYI, you may wish to ask on WP:RFPP next time. KillerChihuahua?!? 22:35, 20 September 2007 (UTC)

Limits of physical science

Does the term scientific method apply only to research and scholarship in the physical sciences such as astronomy, physics and chemistry? Or can it apply to the life sciences, economics, psychology, and other scholarly areas which involve human actions and choices? Can "science" study human emotion, thought and volition?

Has science voluntarily limited itself to the study of natural laws and processes alone, or can the scientific method be applied to non-physical phenomena as well?

What are the limits or boundaries between (1) the naturalism of physical science and (2) the study of phenomena which are not physically observable, such as the human mind? Is psychology a "science"? Is, for example, the approach to mental illness taken by rational-emotive therapy considered in any way "scientific" - or is it just pseudoscience, protoscience, or simply non-scholarly futzing around? --Uncle Ed 13:25, 30 September 2007 (UTC)

William Stanley Jevons (1874, 1877), to the best of my knowledge, was the first to write in English about steps 2,3,4 of scientific method. He invented the logic piano when he was living in Sydney, and is an intellectual progenitor of the computers we use today. He formulated scientific method to deal with economic issues (and not merely natural science), so it definitely applies to "astronomy, physics and chemistry, life sciences, economics, psychology, human actions and choices, human emotion, thought and volition" as you state above.
On pages 149-152, 735-769, of Jevons' The principles of science: a treatise on logic and scientific method, he writes at length on the limitations of scientific method. Thus "natural laws and processes" as you state above, are the domain of scientific method.
But Jevons draws the line at what he calls Imperfect Induction (p.149 "once we allow our conclusion to apply, at all events apparently, beyond the data on which it was founded. In making such a step we seem to gain a net addition to our knowledge; for we learn the nature of what was unknown. We reap where we have never sown. We appear to possess the divine power of creating knowledge, and reaching with our mental arms far beyond the sphere of our own observation." Jevons, on the same page, explicitly mentions "the Creator" upon whose will we hang, and (p.150) mentions his belief that "we do not really know the universe as a whole".
Jevons lived at the same time as Darwin, and did not hesitate to speculate that we are cousin to the sea squirt in his chapter on the limits of scientific method (p. 766: "My purpose, as I have repeatedly said, is the purely negative one of showing that atheism and materialism are no necessary results of scientific method.").
Jevons (p.766) then recapitulates what is in this encyclopedia article "Scientific Method must begin and end with the laws of thought, but it does not follow that it will save us from encountering inexplicable, and at least apparently contradictory results." and (p.768) "From science, modestly pursued, with a due consciousness of the extreme finitude of our intellectual powers, there can arise only nobler and wider notions of the purpose of Creation. ... True science will not deny the existence of things because they cannot be weighed and measured. It will rather lead us to believe that the wonders and subtleties of possible existence surpass all that our mental powers allow us clearly to perceive. ..." --Ancheta Wis 14:31, 30 September 2007 (UTC)

Thank you for your prompt and thoughtful answer. Maybe I should write an article on the Purpose of Creation. --Uncle Ed 22:23, 1 October 2007 (UTC)


I find it really ironic that this page is linked from a page that the scientific method needs to be redifined to acomidate it; when the theory which that theory is in diametric opposite to (and is accepted by most of science) and throws it out. That is kind of ironic. I just thought I'd throw that in... --Jorbian 19:57, 12 October 2007 (UTC)

Probably there are thousands of links to this article. Those of us who work on it are typically devoted to the truth, which is the foundation. Now belief is not the same as truth, and yet when we work to understand something, we have to start somewhere. So we start with our beliefs. It is not right for someone who knows something is true, but which conflicts with someone else's belief, to disillusion that someone else; we are all entitled to our beliefs. The difference is that scientific method has a built-in process for accommodating error, where others must cling to belief in the presence of error. But that is their problem.
I respect your decision to only allude to the link. You probably ought to copyedit that article to remove the link to scientific method, if it is completely bogus, a slogan only. However, if you see such an inconsistency in this article, please note it on the talk page, first. We tend to try to work things out by consensus. --Ancheta Wis 23:43, 12 October 2007 (UTC)

Dealing with error

Ancheta, you wrote:

scientific method has a built-in process for accommodating error ...

I wonder if this thought could be amplified in the article. How does science in general (or the scientific method in particular) deal with the human tendency to make errors? There are so many sources of error! You can just make a typo or "thinko" when recording data. You can blink at the wrong moment and miss the occurence of an event. You can accidentally introduce impurities into a sample. Then there's confirmation bias and the placebo effect.

Is this a good place to mention double-blind experiments, or the triple- and quadruple-blind processes used by the FDA when approving drugs?

Then there's my favorite issue: what happens when so many people want an idea to be true (or a theory to be accepted) that anonymous peer review of unpublished manuscripts becomes distorted? An invalid paper may be approved, or a valid idea may be rejected simply because its popularity or unpopularity sways human judgment. --Uncle Ed 17:52, 13 October 2007 (UTC)

Ed Poor, 'the built-in process occurs from iteration to iteration of scientific method'. My mental analogy is Newton's method for solving an equation. (The equation kind of represents the hypothesis, or model, in my mental map.) You start with a guess, and the solution converges with every iteration of Newton's method. (The convergence kind of represents the experimental error, in my mental map.) I can't put that in the article because I have never seen it in print, but the analogy is obvious to me. If someone has a citation, then it could go in the article. Someone could even write a Javascript section to animate the convergence process which could then serve as an illustration of convergence to an answer.
Now if something is defined precisely, like the second of time, or the kilogram of mass, then we can build systems to account for the error in a measurement.
But when something is poorly understood, then the errors occur not just in measurement, but also conceptually, which have to be serialized, to use a software term. What I mean is that on the conceptual side, say on the definition, or in the scale of the effect, the proposition has to remain stable, or else the measurement which looks for the effect might get drowned out by other contributions.
Then, by scientific method, a measurement can get repeated, iteration by iteration, and if the hypothetical proposition is sound, the effect is repeatable, iteration by iteration.
But here is where the serialization comes in. The contributor of the hypothesis must be involved in at least one complete cycle of scientific method, in order to see if his/her contribution is meaningful. If the hypothesis fails, then the contributor can at least fix his/her error, before publication. Otherwise, the incomplete contribution has to be published (visible to others), if the entire 4-step cycle is incomplete, and someone else has to participate in the next iteration. In this case, the proposed explanation from a previous cycle can then become just one more factor for the contribution of the next person.
'When scientific method has isolated something that repeats, cycle to cycle, it is termed an invariant' which definitely deserves publication, recognition, reward, etc. But then we are beyond scientific method, and in the realm of scientific enterprise (which is part of Science, capital S). In this case, error has now been reduced to something mechanical which can get systematized in some measurement apparatus. The creation of experimental equipment, such as a particle accelerator, is part of scientific enterprise, which if expensive enough, may affect Science. In that case, the patron is part of the enterprise. Some historical samples of this enterprise are the Royal funding of Caroline Herschel in the 1700s, to contribute to astronomical observation. George III said "I spend money on war because it is necessary, but to spend it on science, that is pleasant to me. This object costs no tears; it is an honour to humanity". Herschel's reward included the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the first awarded to a woman. The second Gold Medal to a woman took 128 years. Again, this bias is an issue about bias in the scientific enterprise, and not about scientific method. I propose that confirmation bias and the placebo effect be mentioned in a section on error but not in method.
The use of 'double-blind experiments, or the triple- and quadruple-blind' protocols are alluded to in the article section on Experiment, which I agree ought to be expanded in the article.
In answer to your 3rd question, 'Invalid contributions can only be ignored in Science'. It is the right of the contributor to make them. The damage is only to the reputation of the contributor, and to other participants in that cycle of scientific method. But reputation is part of the currency of scientific enterprise. Our own Jimbo Wales put the WP:NOR restriction on Wikipedia contributions in an attempt to stem the flow of invalid contributions about Physics to the encyclopedia. An example of this in Physics was the current state of General Relativity in 1962. Feynman was invited to a GR conference then, which made him swear never to attend another (pp 105-106, Stephen Hawking's 60th birthday Festschrift ISBN 0-521-82081-2). Thus reputation matters a great deal. Stephen Hawking writes that 1962 began the renaissance of cosmology/general relativity, but the eclipse of the S matrix (attention editors: S Matrix currently has been a tagged article since 2005). This is all beyond the scope of the article, and probably belongs to an article on Science Studies or Sociology of Science. I am reminded of a statement which I heard in a public lecture by C. N. Yang, where he said that all the Science he needed to know he learned in China, but that he came to Chicago to learn what 'mattered' (in the world of physics at the time). That good judgement got him a Nobel prize, of course.
As an example of scientific method and the validity of a proposition, namely the statement of its error --
Galileo's statement of the invariance of physical law involved measurements on the scale of a sailing ship. Thus his physics statements included first order effects, which were appropriate to the discovery of Newton's laws. Galileo's measurements did not detect the Coriolis effect, which do not matter on the scale of a sailing ship, but which are definitely detectable on the scale of a planet. Thus the Coriolis effect has to be included in the global weather simulations. But it currently takes our best computers to model the weather of Earth, and we are back to expense and the cost of the scientific enterprise. Thus Galileo's statement needs to include its context and scale, in order to remain true. The same holds for Newton's laws, which apply to our own scale. At other scales, for example, an insect can walk on water; in that case, surface tension trumps gravitation.
Finally, Archibald Garrod (1857-1936) noted "... scientific method is not the same as the scientific spirit. The scientific spirit does not rest content with applying that which is already known, but is a restless spirit, ever pressing forward towards the regions of the unknown, ... it acts as a check, as well as a stimulus, sifting the value of the evidence, and rejecting that which is worthless, and restraining too eager flights of the imagination and too hasty conclusions." --W.F. Bynum & Roy Porter, eds 2005. Oxford Quotations ISBN 0-19-858409-1 241:5. (This is the back story behind the "new knowledge" part of the first sentence of the article.)
Summary: This long answer has touched on scientific method, and its relationship to the scientific spirit of its contributors, who are rewarded by the scientific enterprise, which serves to benefit the rest of us. I believe that we ought to restrict the article to method, but relegate the rest to other articles, instead. I have placed some sentences in 'single quote' to denote what might reasonably go in this article on method. The rest is annotation.
Ancheta Wis 11:19, 14 October 2007 (UTC)
So here is a proposed alteration to the article:
  • A built-in process for reducing error occurs from iteration to iteration of scientific method. When scientific method has isolated something that repeats, cycle to cycle, it is termed an invariant. If error can be reduced, and the invariants can be identified, from cycle to cycle, then a record of our understanding emerges.
  • (Here is a proposed citation and example of iteration. The invariants are unchanged, such as the charge on the electron. But as you can see, there is still a lot in flux, with lots of room for error, in this case, even in concept:
    Arthur I. Miller (1996), Insights and Genius ISBN 0-387-94671-3 p.235 : The electron acts as if it were --
    1897 a charged billiard ball
    1904 deformable by Lorentz contraction
    1913 a particle in an energy state of the Bohr atom
    1923 a harmonic oscillator
    1920s represented by the mathematics of the Heisenberg picture or Schrödinger picture in quantum mechanics
    1930s subject to light quanta
    1949 subject to quantum electrodynamics
    1972 subject to electroweak theory. etc.)
    I hope it is clear that philosophical error is not necessarily a bad thing. It might be viewed as a stage in a progression. After all, by scientific method, we will never have a final answer, only a better and better answer. --Ancheta Wis 15:46, 14 October 2007 (UTC)

Complex adaptive systems

I undid the following contribution so that we might discuss it.

"The "Scientific Method" is subtley different to applying Complexity Science as a thought method in the search for new insights. The contrast is seen best through the shift in study focus from the end point to the influential factors within the "system". It is a shift from developing a hypothesis to solve the question to a focus on experimenting to find drivers within the Complex Systems or the Complex Adaptive System. The search shifts from discovering a truth to exploring for the influential factors."
  • One problem is that Scientific Method is not just thought. That certainly qualifies as part of each step, but action and its result is the crucial part especially in the Test/Experiment phase. Without action we cannot know what mattered in our search for understanding the Complex system.
  • According to a lecture I heard in 1990 from Murray Gell-Mann, who innovated the study of Complex adaptive systems (CAS) and who was instrumental in funding its study at the Santa Fe Institute, one might concentrate on the minimal length message between agents in the CAS. Thus the focus might be on the interaction between agents. If it is necessary to characterize the agents because they are not yet well-enough known, then this effort would precede hypothesis development.
  • By 'drivers' might you mean agents?
  • By 'factors' might you mean behavioral factors which control the agents?

--Ancheta Wis (talk) 22:54, 18 November 2007 (UTC)

I add the definition of agent which is buried in the history of the agent article: "An agent is an autonomous entity with an ontological commitment and agenda of its own. The term originated in philosophy. Each agent possesses the ability to act autonomously; this is an important distinction because a simple act of obedience to a command does not qualify an entity as an agent. An agent may interact or negotiate with its environment and/or with other agents. It may make decisions, such as whether to trust and whether to cooperate with others." --Ancheta Wis (talk) 11:51, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
To summarize: agents perform actions

--Ancheta Wis (talk) 23:40, 20 November 2007 (UTC)


I added some balancing quotations and references to indicate that Popper believed in scientific method. One quotation that I added shows that Popper believed in the self-corrective nature of scientific method. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 11:43, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

These references do not even mention scientific method or evidence, neither explicitly not implicitly, and certainly do not affirm anything about them. Popper did not believe in scientific method; he did not even believe in belief. The first quotation talks about empirical systems, that is, systems that can be criticized by observational statements. This is not a method, it is a property of systems. The second quotation talks about trial and error, in no sense that is specific to science in any way. Nowhere does he discuss a "self-corrective nature of scientific method", especially as Popper explicitly opposed essentialism, the belief that natures exist. Please quote Popper on what he says, not what you think shows what you say. --rtc (talk) 02:52, 25 November 2007 (UTC)
First of all, thank you for spending the time on this article. Karl Popper was ripe for his time (1935), but there was another from the same time, Ludwik Fleck, who was not noticed by the scholars of the field until a generation later. I have been trying to expand on Fleck in the article. Fleck does not contradict Popper, but complements him.
Fleck notes that the anatomy books of the middle ages were schematic rather than accurate renderings of the body (Fleck p. 33, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact (1935, translated into English 1976 ISBN 0-226-25325-2), which complements Popper's idea of falsifiability: "In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable: and in so far as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality." --Popper, Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959), 314.
One homely phrase from Popper "we can learn from our mistakes" gets expanded on p. 216; I highlight from the quote: "... science is one of the very few activities -- perhaps the only one -- in which errors are systematically criticized and fairly often, in time, corrected. This is why we can say that, in science, we often learn from our mistakes, and why we can speak clearly and sensibly about making progress there" -- Conjectures and Refutations (1963)
Here is some evidence that Popper accepted evidence, from one of your own references: "... there is no reason why I should not admit that some [scientists] get their ideas by observing, or by repeating observations". --Realism and the Aim of Science (1983). (I find it revealing that Popper's emphasis was on getting ideas, however, which he credited to drinking and smoking, as well as to observation. Attention-getting? yes. Good rhetoric of science? well, how repeatable a method would that be. Popper acknowledges this in the quote. )
I highlight from the quote:"Almost everyone ... seems to be quite sure that the differences between the methodologies of history and of the natural sciences are vast. ... In both we start from myths ... and from these we proceed by criticism: by the critical elimination of errors. ... By correcting our mistakes, we raise new problems. And in order to solve these problems we invent conjectures ... directed towards the elimination of error."-- Karl Popper (1993), The Myth of the Framework: In Defence of Science and Rationality, 140. As quoted by W.F. Bynum and Roy Porter, Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations 505#2.
Thus Feynman's admonition to aspiring theorists: You must be your severest critic, which is tough if one has expended almost all one's energy just getting the initial result.
It is clear that Fleck's ideas are diffusing outward from a few people like Kuhn and Merton. Here is Thaddeus Trenn's translation of Fleck's forecast: "The thought style is a social product. It is formed within a collective as the result of social forces. This circumstance links problems of natural science with those of sociology and especially the sociology of thought, a science which unfortunately still remains grossly neglected, but is bound soon to move into the center of intellectual interest." --L. Fleck (1935), "Zur Frage der Grundlagen der medizinischen Erkenntnis", Klinische Wochenschrift 14 1255-9 (1935) as quoted in Thaddeus Trenn's preface, p.xviii, to the translation of Fleck's Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact
But Fleck was a physician as well as a laboratory worker. Fleck operated in the tradition of the laboratory protocol, which contains a division of function which allows people of various capabilities to contribute to the common goal of understanding a subject. Thus getting the idea is but one step, and following through on the protocol can then influence the formulation of the idea. In this way the community arrives at an understanding, not only the individuals who might have sparked the advance.

It should be noted that Popper was professor of scientific method, among other interests, and that his critique of it does not 'throw out the baby with the bath water', but rather reformulates it. After all, Popper is one of the popularizers of the hypothetico-deductive method.
Since it is off-topic I point the editors to some entertaining reading about the rivals Wittgenstein and Popper, who are the antagonists of Wittgenstein's Poker.
--Ancheta Wis (talk) 23:04, 25 November 2007 (UTC)
Please quote Popper on what he says, not what you think shows what you say. You are severely distorting Popper's position (even to the contrary of what he said). Nothing of what you quote in any way says or implies that Popper held that evidence or scientific method exists, and he has explicitly and repeatedly stated the opposite. Please read a competent clarification of Popper's position, such as Bartley's and/or Miller's, instead of taking some passages out of context and attributing an affirmation of evidence or scientific method to them that is simply not there. PS: "In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable: and in so far as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality." was a clear, early mistake that preceded the publication of the Logic and that Popper regretted later. (What you quote is not part of the Logic, but merely a reprint of an earlier paper that's included in it.) PPS: Popper was not an adherent or even the popularizer (as the article claims) of the hypothetico-deductive method; he was an opponent of the claim that it even existed. --rtc (talk) 01:22, 26 November 2007 (UTC)
Thank you for the references to some competent clarifications of Popper's positions. In view of the noise in Popper's messages I believe the implicated passages might be removed in favor of a statement about models, which after all are only aids to our understanding of a situation and which need not necessarily speak to what is real. However the situation you have described is real; it actually occurred, per the citations. 'Popper says A. Popper says not A.' As Wittgenstein mused to the students in his classes, one can even gain from contradiction. This is a perfect example of how we can learn from our mistakes, from the formulator of the phrase. Back to Popper and hypothetico-deductive method: probably the article ought to drop the offending sentence in favor of a citation to Conjectures and Refutations.
Did Popper change his chair? Or was he professor of scientific method only for a little while?
What are some references to any Popper retractions about his statements on falsifiability? Did he retract anything? Or do all his papers stand? Or are they Conjecture waiting for Proof?
Now back to the article. I propose dropping the Popper sections until the dust settles and some statement can be made on the talk page with which you can live. For my part, I will hold to Popper's slogan we can learn from our mistakes. Then the improved sections might be reinstated. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 11:13, 26 November 2007 (UTC)
It is false that 'Popper says A. Popper says not A.' It is rather that 'Popper says A. Popper says B.' plus you think that B = not A. Poppper did make a minor correction of falsifiability, which does not concern the demarcation as such, but only its relation to arguability. (He said clearly already in the Logic that he did not share the positivist's rejection of metaphysics, see section 4.) This is recorded in footnote 9 on p. 40 in Objective Knowledge, which says "In [Logik der Forschung, 1934, English translation Logic of the Scientific Discovery, 1959], I wrongly identified the limits of science with those of arguability. I later changed my mind and argued that non-testable (i.e. irrefutable) metaphysical theories may be rationally arguable." See also David Miller: Critical Rationalism (1994), especially chapters 1, 2, 5 and 6, and William W. Bartley: The Retreat to Commitment (1984), second edition, especially appendix 2, and there especially page 205. And again: Falsifiability is not a method; it is a property of statements. Note that it is a demarcation criterion, not an exclusion criterion as it is often misunderstood. Demarcation criteria merely serve to identify statements that can be criticized in a certain way (see Hans Albert, Treatise on critical reason, chapter V), not to exclude statements that cannot be criticized in this way. Falsification is a (negative) method, but it is only a special case of the universal method of conjectures and refutations or trial and error (which includes all human intellectual activity, and also the evolution of life). A method in the traditional sense, i.e. one that in some special way legitimates the outcome, for example as scientific, probable, corroborated, etc., does not exist according to Popper. "There are no such things as good positive reasons; nor do we need such things[...] [You] obviously cannot quite bring [your]self to believe that this is my opinion, let alone that it is right", do you? (The Philosophy of Karl Popper, p. 1043). --rtc (talk) 02:39, 27 November 2007 (UTC)

New section

The current content of the new section is history of science. But perhaps this new section might become part of the History section farther down the page, perhaps as a subsection. There is no mention of neo-Platonism, surprisingly. The Basra brotherhood which existed just about the time of Alhacen believed in neo-Platonism, as shown by the respective sections of their encyclopedia. And Alhacen lived in Basra. --Ancheta Wis 18:02, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

Moved the new section down, next to the history section. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 09:38, 5 December 2007 (UTC)

Section labelled "Scientific method in ancient civilizations" should be considered for deletion

This section is poorly written, relies on questionable sources and is not even consistent with these sources, which in some cases are inconsistent with each other. For instance, one of the first claims is that Pythagoras "learnt his basic geometry from the Sulva Sutras of Budhayana in 800 BC". In fact, however, the notion that Pythagoras learnt anything from the Sulva Sutras, or was even aware of their existence, is not stated in either of the sources referred to. Moreover, the dating of the Sulva Sutras to "800 BC" is the extreme estimate: source [4] gives a range of 800 BC to 500 BC, whereas source [3] gives a range of 600 BC to 300 BC. As such, if these sources are taken at face value, it is far from certain that the relevant Sulva Sutras even predate the works of Pythagoras.

In addition to the dating issue, there is no suggestion in the sources cited that the Sulva Sutras contain mathematical proofs of the theorem, or are even concerned with the issue; they simply make use of the result in reference to religious rituals. Indeed, the author of source [4] writes, "no book on Hindu mathematics explains the system of axioms and postulates assumed", and merely speculates that the result used was not a product of "experience and measurement". This certainly brings the relevance of the Sulva Sutras into question in relation to the topic of scientific method. If the contributor of this section wishes to discuss the origins of Pythagoras' theorem, this article is not the place to do it.

The rest of the section appears to be equally shoddy, and I can see it has already been flagged for lack of citations. I suggest, rather, that the section be either deleted or completely rewritten. As it is now, the writing level in this section is well below that expected in an encyclopaedia, sources are not sufficiently cited, the section is not even faithful to the sources it does cite (which are themselves inconsistent and of questionable validity) and is arguably irrelevant to the article in any case. (talk) 11:55, 15 December 2007 (UTC)

This article is still a disaster

This article is still a disaster; I think it might be best to just re-write the entire thing rather than try and salvage it as it currently is. The observer bias section is a mess and needs to be completely tossed out on its ear, the section actually explaining the scientific method is often wrong and is confusing to read (no, Einstien DID prove Newton's theories to be wrong; saying otherwise is absolutely incorrect. Newton's equations are -nearly- correct at low velocities/masses but not -actually- correct). Ect. Titanium Dragon (talk) 21:26, 11 January 2008 (UTC)

Richard Feynman pointed out that Einstein's changes made Newton philosophically wrong, rather than practically wrong. Practically speaking, we still use Newton in everyday life, and we include Einstein when it counts, such as in the synchronization of atomic clocks in the global positioning system. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 02:52, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Titanium Dragon , if you have any books or other references written by any renowned physicists claiming that "Einstein DID prove Newton's theories to be wrong" I would be very interested in seeing it. DanielDemaret (talk) 00:50, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
In particular, repeated mention of creativity sounds like someone who doesn't have any idea whatsoever about science and the scientific method went through and worked on this article, potentially in an effort to sell something or perhaps because they simply didn't know what they were talking about. The entire point of the scientific method is to come up with a hypothesis, then come up with an experiment whose failure has the ability to disprove your hypothesis; at its core, that is what the method is all about. It doesn't give you the truth so much as it gets rid of everything that is wrong. Science cannot "prove" anything, but it can disprove things to the point where what is left is basically proven (but not absolutely so). Titanium Dragon (talk) 21:34, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
Is there a source that science never proves anything? For example, does the fact that water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen remain unproven? If so, in what manner? MilesAgain (talk) 11:43, 20 January 2008 (UTC)
Here is a counterexample: the discovery of oxygen, the discovery of hydrogen, the decomposition of water, first chemically, then by Faraday's laws of electrolysis, occurred in sequence from about 1750, onward, with the attendant concepts discovered first, and then their interrelation, discovered afterward. So the psychological sequence of discovery/proof, in this case, was from the bottom-up.
But the history of the discovery of the structure of DNA was from the other direction.
I imagine there are cases where discovery/proof occurred from the inside-out, and from the outside-in as well.
--Ancheta Wis (talk) 12:21, 20 January 2008 (UTC)
The elimination of error as part of scientific method was one of the contributions of Francis Bacon (1620), Novum Organum. He neglected hypothesis, however, being Lord Chancellor and not actually responsible for doing science. We still rely on guessing and brute force creation of ideas to come up with anything new, ala Linus Pauling. I am afraid that it is still true that it takes a special person to come up with something new in science, and that Francis Bacon's dictum merely shows what is not rather than what is. That was the reason for the recently deleted section on DNA-Hypotheses, to give a concrete example from one piece of science. There are many examples of the hypothesis stage in Crick and Watson's discovery of the structure of DNA, so I am hopeful that a new example from Watson and Crick can be used to restore the recently deleted section. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 02:22, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Upon re-reading Watson's book, I believe that the hypothesis that DNA is a helix is the best example and propose that the recently deleted section be restored with the hypothesis that DNA is helical. Linus Pauling hypothesized that DNA was a triple helix, for example. (That was part of the deleted section) --Ancheta Wis (talk) 02:33, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Francis Bacon emphasized the role of observation (step 1) and experiment (step 4) to restrain hypothesis from taking wing, as he put it, and to ground theory solidly in experiment. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 11:57, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
  1. "The entire point of the scientific method is to come up with a hypothesis"

Are you saying that coming up with a story which encopmasses a potentially very large amount of data AND has a plausible causativity idea behind it does not have human creativity at its core??!

"then come up with an experiment whose failure has the ability to disprove your hypothesis" This pseudo-definition is one-sidedly Popperian. First, as Lakatos convincingly showed NO EXPERIMENT can falsify a hypothesis. But even if we disagree with Lakatos, it is NOT the case that falsificationism is either agreed upon or even known by all people working within science. Claiming that the the scientific community follows, or believes to be following, a method which has falsifiability at its core is simply inaccurate. As far as I can see, teh article should say it plain and simple that there is no such a thing as an agreed method in science, and then move on to discuss different trends and philosophies that various men of science as well as observes (i.e. historians and philosophers) have discussed, followedc etc. -- (talk) 14:57, 16 January 2008 (UTC)

The article should be structured logically and take into account people will come here to obtain a canon description of scientific method. Something that you will find in a text book used for education THEN go on to elaborate on the reasonning behind it and it's history. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:21, 18 January 2008 (UTC)
Adding words such as 'purported' or 'alleged' before 'method' should not make the structure illogical. It will, however, convey a less one-sided view, which is what we want, right?.

--Dakrismeno (talk) 09:34, 19 January 2008 (UTC)

See Wikipedia:Avoid weasel words and Existential quantifier. The strongest sentence is the most useful to the reader. If something is true then it will survive skeptical scrutiny with or without 'purported' or 'alleged' before it. But even the strongest sentence takes a test to verify its usefulness. And an action will trump words. So step #4 (test) in scientific method will silence the most ardent hypothesizer, if the hypothesis is in fact wrong. But when a statement is true, day after day, our minds tend to filter it out as old news, and our minds automatically go for the exception anyway. That does not make it less true. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 12:02, 19 January 2008 (UTC)
All, some, or none are better words to qualify a statement than 'purported' or 'alleged'. Note that there is is a synonym for some, and that not all is a synonym for some or none. But the siren words many or most are synonyms for not some. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 12:25, 19 January 2008 (UTC)

Restructuring this article

I am making this new topic in conjunction with the above topic "This article is still a disaster", except with the aim of restructuring this article from the ground up instead of breaking down the current article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Vloxul (talkcontribs) 03:02, 20 January 2008 (UTC)

The facts should come first and the history lessons second since people come to this article for "scientific method" and not "the background of scientific method and associated perspectives by people with different agendas". Also the most important part of scientific method are the canon 4 steps and the reasonning behind them, this should be a repeating theme throughout the article with everything relating back to the core concepts of scientific method or not being part of the article. I am currently strongly tempted to take the liberty of moving said 4 steps to the top of the page to help those people who come to this article between now and it's restructuring.Vloxul (talk) 03:13, 20 January 2008 (UTC)

I agree in principle, but people who are looking for a brief introduction will find it in the brief introduction. Shouldn't this be where the bite-sized explanation should be? And isn't it already there? Stephen B Streater (talk) 10:00, 20 January 2008 (UTC)
Yes and yes. MilesAgain (talk) 11:39, 20 January 2008 (UTC)
I plan to archive most of this talk page, as it appears some editors have plans for work, and propose that the group be bold. If any in the group need help formulating statements or positions, the talk page can be used to construct proposed sentences, outlines, paragraphs, etc.
The archive will occur today. If you need some specific sections retained on the talk page, please note them in a reply. For the moment, I plan to retain the first section on 'The', and the last section on restructuring.
N.B. This article is the reason I work on Wikipedia, so don't worry if you fear it getting messed up. We are watching it. Good luck on its improvement. Perhaps you all can get it up to Featured status. --Ancheta Wis (talk) 12:41, 20 January 2008 (UTC)