Friday, August 8, 2014

Jonathan Bullock: The Scientific Method and Western Culture

Environmental Studies
Warner Pacific College
August 7, 2014

“Science, my boy, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.” – Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth
When we talk about western culture, what do we mean?  And what do we mean by the scientific method?  Is one the result of the other, or did one influence the other?  In this paper we will give one definition of western culture.  We will also take a closer look at the scientific method and how its use has influenced and continues to influence, western culture.
According to one understanding, “western culture is a body of knowledge derived from reason” and “can also be referred to as advanced culture…because its ideas and values promote the development and sustainment of advanced civilization (retrieved from  Western culture can trace its roots thousands of years as far back as when we believe the invention of writing occurred in ancient Mesopotamia around 3,000 BCE.  Some suggest that western culture has its roots even further back, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years to a time when forms we can recognize as art have been linked to. 
“The scientific method is a technique for testing ideas with observations.  It is a formalized version of the way any of us might naturally use logic to resolve a question” (Withgott & Laposata, p. 10).  The technique the scientific method lays out starts with observations.  Those observations spark questions and from those questions we develop hypotheses, which lead to predictions.  But do those predictions hold weight?  To find that out, we must test and look at the results.  If those results don’t support our hypothesis, we then must develop a new hypothesis (Withgott & Laposata). 
Given the definition of western culture above as well as our current understanding of the scientific method, it could be successfully argued that the scientific method has indeed influenced western culture since its inception.  We can look as an example to “the Neolithic revolution…when our ancestors learned to farm and domesticate animals, allowing them to give up their nomadic ways, and settle down to build cities and civilizations” (retrieved from:  Obviously, to move from being a nomadic culture to an agricultural culture had to have involved some form of the scientific method.
Based on the school of thought presented in this paper, it should be assumed that the scientific method’s continued use in our society today, perpetuates the continued expansion of the western culture.  Think about the kid who can’t sleep after being put to bed by his or her parent.  The kid reaches for their tablet to read or play a game, clicks the power button and nothing happens (the observation).  This observation is quickly followed, even without thinking, by a questioning of what is the problem is and a hypothesis is quickly developed that the battery has been depleted.  The kid knows, intrinsically that by plugging in their tablet, the battery will recharge thereby allowing the devise to work.  So, they plug it in and viola, the scientific method has played out.  This illustration shows us that “the scientific method is not mysterious or difficult” (O’Leary & Shelly, p.35).
Has the scientific method influenced western culture and its expansion?  Without a doubt we can say that since the dawn of time, the scientific method is what has driven the development and growth of western culture and, what will continue to drive its expansion for the foreseeable future.
A beginner’s guide to the history of western culture. (n.d.).  Retrieved August 7, 2014 from Khan Academy:
O’Leary, N., & Shelly, S. (2003).  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Science Fair Projects.  New York, NY.  Alfa Books.  ISBN: 1-29257-137-9
What is Western Culture? (n.d.).  Retrieved August 7, 2014 from Western Culture Global:

Withgott, J., & Laposata, M. (2013).  Environment: the science behind the stories (5th Ed.).  New York, NY.  Pearson Benjamin Cummings.  ISBN-13: 978-0-321-89742-8

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