Stephen S. Carey teaches the scientific method in less than 150 pages. This book is geared for students in upper high school or the college level. It divides the scientific method into three steps, (1) observation of a problem or an anomaly, (2) explaining the phenomenon by creating a theory, and (3) testing the theory.
Mr Carey says these are important things to keep in mind when doing these three steps:
When you are looking for an answer to a problem, and you are observing the problem to find out more about it: (1) Keep a written record of your observations that you can refer back to. (2) Ask someone else to look over your observations to see if they see flaws in them. (3) Try to be aware of the assumptions you may be making about how you observe your data. (4) Look at the problem or the anomaly with a healthy dose of skepticism. Is it just a coincidence? (5) Be aware of how much our expectations and assumptions affect how we observe things.
Explanations in science are sometimes called hypotheses or theories. Hypotheses are more tentative and narrow in scope, while theories are broader and have a more developed body of evidence, and a law is something well established and almost universal.
There are different types of explanations: (1) explanations for the cause of things, and (2) explanations for a correlation or relationship between things.
Ockham’s Razor is the principle that when there are competing explanations, each of which can explain a problem, then we should chose the explanation that contains the least number of puzzling notions.
A scientific test needs to be (1) verifiable, (2) falsifiable, and have a (3) clear distinction between success and failure. Verifiability means that if the test succeeds, then nothing else but our theory could have explained the success. Falsifiability means that if the test fails, then we can know that our theory was false. Every test needs to have a clear distinction between success and failure. We can’t allow our biased observations decide this.
Pseudoscience often centers around controversial questions, problems, and anomalies that pseudo-scientists raise to our attention. They then advocate a solution that questions the views of mainstream scientists. There is nothing wrong with questioning mainstream science; this is how much advancement has been made. But pseudo-scientists often keep their audience unaware of the extent to which their new theory disagrees with established scientific theory, and how their theory has not been rigorously tested by independent scientists.
There are several fallacies that lead to pseudoscience:
This book provides exercises for each chapter. Some of these exercises are pedantic, but some are interesting and useful.
There are not many books teaching the scientific method at a basic level. I don’t think the explanations were always clear enough and the exercises weren’t focused practicing skills. The section at the end on science fallacies was very clear and relevant, and makes that book worth reading.
Copyright June 26, 2004, all rights reserved. 10467 views