Hi everyone,

I'd like a little help with something I'm trying to find - a simple rundown of the scientific method, what it is and why it's a good method to use.

This is for people who have no background in science but are currently working in a field where basic knowledge of the scientific method would be invaluable. I've looked around on the internet for something like this, but haven't had any luck so far.

Any suggestions are welcome.

Tags: help, primer, scientific method

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Try Understanding Science from UCBerkeley. There is also a companion Understanding Evolution site.

Although the sites are somewhat large, there are a variety of materials that can be downloaded / printed that might serve your purposes. One of their audiences is teachers so you might find something down those paths, too.

Let me know what you think and how useful they are for your purposes.
Although this picture is meant in jest, the Science side of it might be useful (it is much simplified, of course.)


What is lost here, however, is the distinction between hypothesis and theory in science. I'm sure some of the real scientists here can jump in with useful corrections. (Adriana, are you listening?)
Wow! This is awesome! Thanks Glenn.

Here, I think, 'idea' is synonymous with 'hypothesis' but, for many people, 'idea' is a word that requires less explanation. However, 'hypothesis' may be better described as an untested idea that may provide a viable explanation once tested. 'Theory' (simplistically) could be defined as an hypothesis that has held up to rigorous testing via repeatable experiment performed by independent researchers.

I think that the thing this chart oversimplifies (on the left) is a clear definition of 'experiment'. For example, the use of controls, the idea of 'double-blind', and other methods to avoid things such as designing an experiment in a way that is likely to favor the hypothesis, or allowing for too many variables, or arriving at conclusions via fallacies such as 'post hoc ergo proctor hoc' (after therefore because), etc.

On the right, I think that is an oversimplification as well - but hilarious. Faith often has some truth or other reason it is attractive (it is tenacious for some reason or another) and is shared by a community of people. Nonetheless, this chart does seem to boil it down rather nicely.
Adriana,

I just copied your comment above to have as a reference when (attempting to explain) explaining the scientific method. Fabulous little list.
Thank you!
Theory, in science, doesn't mean speculation, as in "I have this theory that...". A theory has been proven. It is basically a scientific law, ...

From a Tim Minchin show:

Heckler: But evolution is just a theory.

Tim: I hope you feel the same way about the theory of gravity and just float the fuck away.
Yeah, I know - Tim is pretty frikkin' sharp.

And, while I actually think clutter helps my creative process - I can't stand a dirty keyboard either!
simply great!
Scientific method for dummies? Not sure if there is one...
Seems to me you are asking a question that philosophers have wrestled for thousands of years!
So...
Maybe if you could be a bit more specific?
Hi, thank you for the reference. I've checked Amazon and some of the pages - you have written a great contribution to science in practice - another book for my library.

My interests are in two particular areas: (1) science as a human activity with a history in a social context - social knowledge and so on; (2) the conceptual underpinnings of scientific research - nature of knowledge.

Even though I've been a critic of the extremes of post-modernism, I've felt that most science-supporters (and, perhaps, scientists) have believed in the "Professor Anybody" (nicely put) mythology of dispassionately uncovering necessary and universal knowledge. They have then rejected any analyses in social and philosophical terms. The simple 'science is fact' and 'religion is fiction' is a common theme on this forum. Alex
Bravo! I'm currently working on a book called "Nonsense for Smarty Pants" that delves into 'cosmology' from the perspective of an artist. For many artists vantage point, context, scale, and contrast are key - because perception is all we have to judge the world by. I definitely tend to the second umpire's way of looking at the world. In fact, one major reason I am an atheist is because religion is too sure of itself and unwilling to adjust to new information.
Read: Richard P. Feynman. Meaning of it all: Thoughts of a citizen-scientist. Addison Wesley, 1998.
Simplest definition I can think of: Identifying and reducing the unknown.

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