Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tammy L. Hooper's view on the Scientific Method and Western Culture

 PHS 100A, Environmental Studies
Warner Pacific University
December 29, 2011
The Scientific Method in Western Culture
            This paper will define and give examples of what the scientific method is and how it has influenced western culture.  This paper will also give a definition of western culture.
According to our text, the scientific method is “the traditional experimental approach that scientists use to learn how the world works” (Brennan, 2011, p. 11).  To break this down a scientist is interested in a subject and has an idea about it.  The scientist begins with observing some kind of occurrence that she would like to explicate, such as the germination of carrot and tomato seeds, and then loads of what, when, how, and why questions are posed by the scientist.  This sets things up for the scientist to develop a hypothesis which is a “statement that attempts to explain a phenomenon or answer a scientific question” (Brennan, 2011) and a prediction follows.   An example would be posing a question such as “Which seeds germinate quicker, carrot seeds or tomato seeds?  The hypothesis statement could be,” If I plant carrot seeds and tomato seeds, then (the prediction) carrot seeds will germinate quicker” (Poore).  The scientist then tests the predictions “one at a time by gathering evidence that could refute and disprove the prediction” (Brennan, 2011). 
The scientist will then test the predictions by performing experiments that manipulates variables or conditions that can change.  For example with our carrot and tomato seed hypothesis the scientist could make a prediction that a warmer temperature would affect the carrot seeds to germinate quicker.  The scientist would then grow the two pairs of seeds in two separate greenhouses with one being warmer than the other or one set being grown inside and one outside.  The warmer temperature would be the independent variable that is what the scientist manipulates and the germinating seed would be the dependent variable. To validate the hypothesis, the scientist will want to perform this experiment as many times as possible obtaining the same results each time.  The data from these tests is used to “determine the strength and reliability of patterns they find” (Brennan, 2011, p. 12).  There are also natural experiments in the scientific method in which researchers test their hypothesis by searching for correlations to validate their hypothesis.  This type of experiment would happen with large interests that could not be managed in a control setting.  The last two pieces to the scientific method are the peer review and conference presentations.  Peer reviewed work is when a scientists work is complete and the researcher writes up their findings to be considered for submission to a scientific journal for publication.  The editor of the journal will ask several other scientists (peers) to review the manuscript and provide comments.  Sometimes scientists present their work at professional conferences which gives their peers a chance to interact with the information being presented and give feedback and comments. 
The definition of western culture that I found most appealing states that:
Western culture is a body of knowledge derived from reason.  This foundation of reason has made possible a vast accumulation of understanding related to reality or nature, including human nature. This understanding is represented in several core ideals and values, which include individualism, happiness, rights, capitalism, science and technology. (What is Western Culture?, 2009)
This definition appears to have many similarities with the scientific method in that it is based on reason which has brought large amounts of data and understanding of nature and human nature.  The scientific method seems to be interconnected with western culture and a perfect fit for understanding how our western culture affects nature and ultimately ourselves. 

Brennan, S. &. (2011). Environment The Science Behind the Stories. San Francisco: Pearson Education, Inc.
Poore, S. (n.d.). Hypothesis. Retrieved December 29, 2011, from Science Fair Projects:
What is Western Culture? (2009). Retrieved December 29, 2011, from Western Culture Global:

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