The Process Of Science

In the previous post, I have given a brief introduction of science. I have checked the meaning itself from the dictionary and find the definition of science to be totally appalling. Somehow, they have the idea that science is just organised knowledge. The truth is science is more than that. Just because someone can organise some kind of knowledge, it does not make it “science”. For example, it is possible to organise the knowledge of astrology but it is still not science.

The question here is what makes science, science? The answer lies in the process. In this article, I am going to explain this scientific process that separates science from superstition.

Here we go. The process of science can be divided into the following steps:

  1. Identify a field/ phenomena to study and understand.
  2. Deduce or guess possible hypothesis to it.
  3. Conduct experiments and tests to verify the above hypothesis.
  4. The hypothesis that is able to pass the test will be taken as the true explanation until proven otherwise from the above process.

The above is very brief and therefore I will explain further.

 

Identify a field/ phenomena to study and understand.

There is no limit on what science can study. It is up to personal preference or the necessity of the time. Here are some examples:

 

  • Ancient civilisations devote resources to study hydrology and botany because they want to increase food production. As food productivity increased, they can support larger population, which in turn created more soldiers, artists, scientists and engineers which in turn make the civilisation stronger.

 

  • During the early stage of the Industrial Revolution, a lot of accidents happened due to explosion of boilers. Efforts were made to study these phenomena which gave rise to the creation of thermodynamics.

 

  • The study of medicine has always been important in all civilisations because no one likes to suffer from illness.

 

Apart from the above necessities, science was pursued out of pure interest. The most obvious example is astronomy. People have been staring at the night sky for generations wondering that is up there. It was only after some time that they conduct scientific study on it.

In short, there is no area of knowledge that we cannot apply scientific knowledge on it. This includes areas like astrology or God. How to do it? Let me show you some possible way.

In order to verify whether astrology can affect one’s luck, all you have to do is to gather the birthdates of all the lottery winners, tabulate them according to constellation at those dates and see if there is any “lucky” constellation.

If a believer is to argue that the luck component is month specific, then all we need to do is to group the winnings into various months. If the result of the study can show that there is a huge uneven proportion of winners in a certain month that were born under a certain constellation, then astrology is true.

The same can be done to the study on the affect of God. Gather a group of people with terminal illnesses and divide them into various subgroups. Each subgroup is to pray to a specific God. One of the subgroup is not to pray to anyone in order to serve as a control. If the result shows that a single subgroup has an excessive high rate of healing, then it is proof that the God it prays to is the true God or at least the most productive.

So, there is no area that science cannot be conducted on. The challenge is to determine the methods.

 

Deduce or guess possible hypothesis to it.

There are 2 ways to this:

  1. Deduce the most logical and simple hypothesis.
  2. Guesswork.

It is obvious that the first option is the preferred one. Everything else being equal, the hypothesis that is the most logical and simple will be preferred as the answer. It is only when the above does not work, will we result to guesswork and test it.

This is why the God Hypothesis will never be considered as an acceptable answer. In science, we use the known to explain the unknown. We do not use the greater unknown to explain the relatively lesser unknowns. The God Hypothesis is the greatest unknown ever existed in human history.  This means it is unfit to be use as an explanation.

This is something that religious fanatics cannot understand. In their minds “God did it” is the only answer. If all of us think the same, then there is no science because “God did it” can be literally used to explain everything.

We do acknowledge that there are many things that science cannot answer. Some of them might never be answered at all. However, that does not mean we must adopt the God Hypothesis for all the questions that we cannot answer. That is foolish, irresponsible, lazy and disrespectful to God. This is like telling God, “God I am putting you as the solution because I don’t know the real answer. After I find out what the real answer is, I will throw you out.” The God Hypothesis is pure blasphemy to both God and science.

Let me move on to guesswork. There is nothing wrong with guessing in science. In fact, many scientific breakthrough happen because there were scientists who guessed the answers which later found to be true. This is where the creative part comes it. Being creative and the ability to think out of the box are a part of the qualities to be scientists but this does not exclude vigorous testing.

 

Conduct experiments and tests to verify the above hypothesis.

This is the hard work part of science. Just because one can cook up an explanation, it must not be taken as true until tested. There are ways to test hypothesis. The best is through experiments where we create setups for the phenomena and measure the results. If experiments are not possible, then we will need to gather data and do statistical study.

The above studies will tell us one of the following:

  1. The hypothesis is completely true.
  2. The hypothesis is completely false.
  3. The hypothesis is true if conducted only under specific circumstances.
  4. Only a portion of hypothesis is true.

The first 2 possibilities are clear cut. It is either true or false. The next 2 are the ones that makes science interesting. When to do experiments and study the statistics, we will not only get the true or false result, we gather new information which can help us to enhance our understanding and thus add to our initial hypothesis. Not only that we can create new field of knowledge out of it. The Theory Of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics were discovered this way. These 2 fields are what I call “common sense unfriendly”. They were discovered from experiments that did not yield the expected results.

Experiments and statistical studies can add to our knowledge.

The main weakness to this step is, we may not have access to the complete data. As I explained earlier, we humans were never fully equipped to be scientists. Our senses are pitifully limited compared to what is available in the universe around us. As our technology improves we will gather more data that we could not get before. Some of these new data may even prove that the answers we got in the past as false. When it happens, we will have to revise those theories and form new ones.

Being a scientist demands the ability to reject earlier “proven” theories if the current data proves otherwise. This is the characteristic that separates science and religion. Science is not ashamed of changing minds and beliefs. In science, being a heretic and blaspheme against earlier proven theories are healthy practices as long as one can produce sufficient evidence to support this heresy. No religion can do this.

This tells us that science and religion are at the opposite end of the logic spectrum. Does it mean no one can do both? The answer is, many have done both and the way to do it is adopt the discipline to separate both.  When you are in your religious mode, you are free to believe in the things in it like making the world in 6 days, talking snake, dinosaurs in Noah’s Ark, walking on water and other miracles but when you are out of in and step into the real world where science is the way of progress.

 

The hypothesis that is able to pass the test will be taken as the true explanation until proven otherwise from the above process.

This is the part where the scientists publish the results to be verified by their peers. If the results are significant enough, the results may even in incorporated into textbooks.

As explained earlier, just because a certain theory is verified as true, it does not mean that it will always be true. Future data may prove otherwise. Science is a dynamic process. It exalts us from mere surviving into progress, teaches us to be open minded and most importantly makes us truly civilised.

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One Response to “The Process Of Science”

  1. Tim Coates Says:

    Try reading some Karl Popper.


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