Jan 4, 2010

About the Scientific Method

As a part of preparations for the IPO, we must learn to dabble with the prominent (albeit somewhat simple) issues from different areas of philosophy; the objective being to hone your skills in following & presenting philosophical arguments. Most of January we will spend on issues in the Philosophy of Science.
We already saw things about the scientific method and Kuhn's observations on the paradigms in science. Some may argue that the scientific method is not so well defined or that inductive thinking is not as well constrained as reasoning & logic, but works quite well. On this note comment on the following:

  1. Role of inductive reasoning in creating an hypothesis

  2. Is Ockham's razor justified, i.e. can it be used with certainty

  3. Is the scientific method rigidly followed? Should it be?

You may find Wikipedia very helpful along with maybe this link - http://www.sciencebuddies.org/


  1. Q1. inductive reasoning does have importance in an hypothesis. This type is most likely focused on observation and assumption only . e.g axioms in geometry are based on inductive reasoning as they cannot be proved or answered to, yet they are true. The idea of making assumptions in an hypothesis is something very basic in creating an hypothesis, as long as their rational.
    On the other side, a hypothesis based on such reasoning is highly probable to be wrong because, the observation or assumption made on which the hypothesis is based may or may not be true.
    Q2. Occam razor states that entities should on be multiplied beyond necessity i.e. any concept/hypothesis should have the least amount of assumptions, eliminating those unnecessary for explaining them. It sound rational enough, as the concept with the most factual proof(i.e hard proof) is more likely to be right rather than assumptions only. It goes completely against inductive reasoning and decisions given on experience. But Occam razor may not always right as there are cases in which that assumptions is required. One such example is mentioned in Q1. Other example are the theories such as origin of nature, universe, matter which are based on assumptions.
    Q3. the first Question seems to refer to someone or someplace or something. if it is please specify.
    The scientific method is applied in many fields but it has a some basic rules only thing is that each field focuses on certain rules of their own. These rules are
    1.Ask a Question
    2.Do Background Research
    3.Construct a Hypothesis
    4.Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
    5.Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
    6.Communicate Your Results
    This method is very rational and reasonable. Now, there are some cases in which methods other than this are successful but they are very rare. there is no other method yet found which is better than this method. So the he best method to use is the scientific method.

  2. sir v shld actually tel d meaning of it a wat?

  3. Hello Sir.

    1. Human beings, as a species, are masters at drawing conclusions from incomplete information. We are constantly observing the world and making predictions and conclusions many of which might not carry simple justifications. Inductive reasoning is a consequence of this ability. Deduction is powerful but narrow while inductive ideas are usually imaginative and open-minded. The power of generalization that induction carries is another great boost- It allows us to form better theories, theories that try to explain as many phenomenon as possible through a single set of principles.
    Thus, inductive reasoning carries an important role in creating a hypothesis.

    2. I don’t think that Occam’s razor can be used with absolute certainty. The notions of simplicity and complexity, used in the principle, do not carry any easily definable meaning, and depend on the context of application. Moreover, as science progresses continuously, it is difficult and unreasonable to decide beforehand that the additional assumptions or entities we may choose to ignore presently, might not have an important meaning or consequence in the future. As Neils Bohr said “Parsimony is judged after the event”.

    3. I don’t think that scientific method is rigidly followed. Scientists approach and solve problems with their creativity, perseverance and knowledge. One can argue that inventing a new scientific instrument does not involve steps like ‘hypothesizing’ but it is science. Perhaps, scientific method is one of the many and the most common ways in which scientific problems (especially theoretical) are approached.
    Another argument against scientific method goes like this- Performing an experiment to confirm the hypothesis is a part of scientific method and if the experiment does not confirm the hypothesis, the scientist must go back to the original hypothesis and make changes to it.(Popper’s falsification) In this view, what do we make of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, both of which fail if applied to the extremely small and the large respectively? Aren’t these theories ‘scientific’?
    In very similar spirits, I feel that scientific method should not be rigidly followed. The purpose of science is to uncover nature in whatever way possible. As the example above suggests, scientists do preserve even partially successful theories even when the theories developed do not conform to the definition of ‘scientific method’.


  4. Athang
    1.What a great artist the nature is.It has created a lot of useful things for us.Many natural phenomena are really very fantastic and amazing, but mysterious.When human came to understand his surrounding world,he started to solve these mysteries.But for solving, he might have assumed something because he had a very short knowledge of the universe.
    Method of inductive reasoning starts like this way.
    Inductive reasoning is a type of reasoning that involves moving from a set of specific facts to a general conclusion. It means that if we assumed a thing to be happened in some condition is true, then it is true in all conditions.Induction is employed
    in using specific propositions
    to infer general propositions. For example,: All ice I have ever touched has been cold. So,All ice is cold.
    Now as said above,human started to solve the mysteries of the universe by this method i.e. by assumption. It means that it has a big role in making hypothesis. But,main flaw in using this method is that our first assumption is wrong, then all the further steps and final conclusion becomes totally wrong. Sometimes, a phenomenon satisfies only a few conditions, not all. In such case,the phenomenon cannot be treated as the universal truth. For example,
    I always hang pictures on nails.
    All pictures hang from nails.
    In this case, pictures satisfy my condition because I behave in that manner. But, it is not necessary that all the pictures in the world must satisfy the given condition because it is according to people's behaviour. So, we are unable to prove 'All pictures hang from nails.' as the universal truth.
    So, role of inductive reasoning in making an hypothesis is important but first we should confirm that our assumption is universally true or at least satisfy all the conditions.
    2.Ockham's razor states that "entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity". This means that when a law is to be made, its base should be simple & stable enough to support it.
    Now it can justify as well as falsify.
    It cxan be justified because if the entities are multiplied, then one may get confused about finding solution. Then the person will try to find whether all the entities are true are not which is time-wasting job.If the truth is in only a few entities, then why should we go for all remaining entities?
    But, it can be falsified also because simpler theories contain greater empirical content. So, the chances of falsisying such theories are more than that of the complex theories.
    3.Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.
    Ther are 8 steps of the scientific method which the scientific community usually follow:
    Define the question
    Gather information and resources
    Form hypothesis
    Perform experiment and collect data
    Analyze data
    Interpret data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis
    Publish results
    But in today's fast life, there is no time for the indivisuals to go in this manner. Today, people only mug up all the things or do their job of any kind (whether it is of calculation or programming whatever it may be) only mechanically. They are not interested the main concept behind their job. It means that they do not follow the scientific method.
    But, this is not good.Scientific method should be rigidly followed because by following that method, the indivisual is able to increase not only his calculating but also his thinking power. If the indivisuals start to think, they will easily reason out the things. Also, some new ideas will emerge out in their brain which may lead to some new discoveries useful to next generations.
    So, though the scientific method is not followed rigidly, according to me, it should be rigidly followed.


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