Thursday, 9 July 2009

Scientific Method

Scientific Method:
Of course, the main occupation of a scientist is problem solving with the goal of understanding the Universe. To
achieve this goal, a scientist applies the scientific method. The scientific method is the rigorous standard of procedure
and discussion that sets reason over irrational belief. The process has four steps:
l observation/experimentation
l deduction
l hypothesis
l falsification
Note the special emphasis on falsification, not verification. A powerful hypothesis is one that is actually highly
vulnerable to falsification and that can be tested in many ways.
The underlying purpose of the scientific method is the construction of simplifying ideas, models and theories, all with
the final goal of understanding.

The only justification for our concepts of `electron', `mass', `energy', or `time' is that they serve to represent the
complexity of our experiences. It is an ancient debate on whether humankind invents or discovers physical laws.
Whether natural laws exist independent of our culture or whether we impose these laws on Nature as crude
Science can be separated from pseudo-science by the principle of falsifiability, the concept that ideas must be capable
of being proven false in order to be scientifically valid.
Reductionism is the belief that any complex set of phenomena can be defined or explained in terms of a relatively few
simple or primitive ones.

For example, atomism is a form of reductionism in that it holds that everything in the Universe can be broken down
into a few simple entities (elementary particles) and laws to describe the interactions between them. This idea became
modern chemistry which reduces all chemical properties to ninety or so basic elements (kinds of atoms) and their rules
of combination.
Reductionism is very similar to, and has its roots from, Occam's Razor, which states that between competing ideas, the
simplest theory that fits the facts of a problem is the one that should be selected.
Reductionism was widely accepted due to its power in prediction and formulation. It is, at least, a good approximation
of the macroscopic world (although it is completely wrong for the microscope world, see quantum physics).
Too much success is a dangerous thing since the reductionist philosophy led to a wider paradigm, the methodology of
scientism, the view that everything can and should be reduced to the properties of matter (materialism) such that
emotion, aesthetics and religious experience can be reduced to biological instinct, chemical imbalances in the brain,
etc. The 20th century reaction against reductionism is relativism. Modern science is somewhere in between.
Closely associated with reductionism is determinism, the philosophy that everything has a cause, and that a particular
cause leads to a unique effect. Another way of stating this is that for everything that happens there are conditions such
that, given them, nothing else could happen, the outcome is determined.

Determinism implies that everything is predictable given enough information.
Newtonian or classical physics is rigidly determinist, both in the predictions of its equations and its foundations, there
is no room for chance, surprise or creativity. Everything is as it has to be, which gave rise to the concept of a
clockwork Universe.

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