The Scientific Method


David Deutsch discusses the advent of the scientific method and how it lifted humanity out of millenia of stagnation. He also points out the requirements for a "good explanation".

The Scientific method can be defined as the following:

Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.

Many believe that they understand what science is all about, and would see as almost trivial, the idea of reflecting on the scientific method. This is the case because the vast majority of the time, people do not undertstand it at all.

Unsuprisingly, most people believe that science is all about the search for the truth. This seems correct generally, but in detail, it is the opposite that gets us where we want to go.

The scientific method is not really about proving things true. Strangely, the very idea of proving something true is actually impossible. How can you be sure that what you are saying is true? It might be only partly true because you don't understand all of the influencing factors in what you are trying to explain. Maybe your explanation is adequate in certain circumstances but not in others

What many people don't understand, is that the scientific method is actually a tool for proving things false. You make a claim (or advance a hypothesis), and then the idea is to try and prove it false. If it stands up to deep scrutiny and experiment then it is likely you are getting closer to the truth.

Taking the scientific method seriously is a statement of humility. In order to do science properly, you must to be able to admit that you are wrong, when it is shown that you are. This is very hard for the human psyche, we just don't like being wrong. Nonetheless, it is a requirement for moving forward.