What is The Scientific Method and how it relates to the foundation of Western Culture
Professor David Terrell
Warner Pacific College
June 2, 2011
According to The Science Buddies website (2011), “The scientific method is a way to ask and answer scientific questions by making observations and conducting experiments”. The steps of the scientific method consist of:
• Observation- According to Withgott & Brenan (2011), “Advances in science usually begin with the observation of some phenomenon that the scientist wishes to explain” (p. 11). When Sir Isaac Newton observed an apple falling from a tree he began to think about a specific kind of motion. He understood that an object with greater matter exerted greater force, or pulled smaller objects to it. Newton’s observation of this naturally occurring event laid the foundations of his discovery of the universal law of gravitation.
• Questions- Questions are the starting point of learning. My four year old son, Spencer, asks me at least a hundred questions a day! He does this because he is curious about the world around him and wants to learn and interact with his environment. Like children, scientists are curious about the world in which they live. They ask questions like: how, what, when, who, which, why, or where?
• Hypothesis- A hypothesis is an educated guess about how something works. It must be stated in a way that can be easily measured and constructed in a way that can help you answer your original question.
• Predictions- Predictions of the outcome can be made based on your hypothesis. They are specific statements that can be directly tested.
• Test- You test your hypothesis by doing experiments. This process helps determine if your hypothesis is true or false. It is essential that the experiments you conduct are fair. This can be accomplished by making sure only one factor at time can be changed while keeping all other conditions the same.
• Results- At this stage, you analyze your data from the experiment and draw a conclusion. Once the experiments are complete, collect measurements and analyze them to see if your hypothesis still holds true or not. Many times scientists discover their hypothesis does not hold up and end up developing a new one based on their discoveries. Even if your hypothesis is true, you may want to test it again another way to confirm the results are accurate.
The scientific method directly relates to the foundation of western culture. Its introduction to the western world evolved over time. Elements of the scientific method was introduced by Aristotle and the Greek philosophers of old, but the primary source of the scientific process that resembles the one we use today was developed by Muslim scholars between the 10th and 14th centuries. Al-Haytham was a great Muslim scientist credited with founding the scientific method. Al-Haytham’s method consisted of: observation of the natural world, stating a definite problem, formulating a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis through experiments, access and analyze the results, interpret data, draw conclusions, and publish findings. His process laid the foundation for the scientific method adopted by western civilization.
The scientific method found its way into Europe at the beginning of the Renaissance period and helped bring Europe out of the Dark Ages. Roger Bacon (1214-1284) is credited as the first European scholar to promote inductive reasoning. Roger’s method consisted of: observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and verification. Later on, Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and Descartes (1596-1650) continued to expand the west’s knowledge of the scientific method. Sir Isaac Newton further refined the method, and his process is the one we use today (Shuttleworth, 2009).
Science plays such a vital role in our daily life; from finding how we can maximize our natural resources to helping us live longer healthier lives, we owe thanks to a long line of great thinkers that stretch back through the centuries to the Middle East. It was these eastern and western pioneers who painstakingly developed and refined the scientific method in hopes that we would have a better understanding of the world in which we live in and to use this knowledge to make the world a better place.
Shuttleworth, M. (2009). Who Invented The Scientific Method? Retrieved June 1, 2011 from Experiment- Resources.com Web site: http://www.experiment-resources.com/who-invented-the-scientific-method.html
Withgott, J. & Brennan, S. (2011). Environment, The Science Behind The Stories. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Education Inc.
(2011). Steps of the Scientific Method. Retrieved June 1, 2011 from Science Buddies Web site: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_scientific_method.shtml