|REFLECTIONS ON SCIENTIFIC METHOD|
GOALS OF SCIENCE : Understanding and control of its subject matter, or
DESCRIPTION, PREDICTION and CONTROL
starts with the basic premise that events in nature are ordered and lawful, and
the goal of the scientist is the search for ORDER AND SIMILARITY. Two critical
foundations of science are
observation = the empirical gathering of value-free, unabstracted data, acquired by the primary senses or instrumentation
experimentation = the active reasoning about these observations and their manipulation for further knowledge.
Observation takes us to hypotheses; hypotheses take us to experimentation; and experimentation takes us to the search for order and uniformity, on which we try to base LAWS.
A LAW, as usually described, is a collection of facts about behviors, grouped into a consistent body of knowledge from which it becomes possible to make PREDICTIONS.
We ask of PREDICTION that it be based on the lawful ORDERING OF EVENTS and that it forecast as accurately as possible, what will happen in the FUTURE, within a range of uncertainty.
Observation, experiment and prediction all pose problems of MEASUREMENT and DOCUMENTTION; all measurements must have some physical referent and doumentation must faithfully record what was observed at the lowest level of abstraction.
The narrower the FOCUS of activity, the more likely measurement problems can be solved, i.e., apply the BREAK DOWN EVENTS principle. (analyze)
By extracting the essential nature of particulars through the instrumentality of CONCEPTS we come to know what things are. Among other things, the inductive process is supposed to enable us to formulate generalized hypotheses.
Then, by working deductively from generalized hypotheses, we can predict the particular.
Once we understand the events and their relationships (in a PROCESS flow sense) and can demonstrate them experimentally, we can achieve a degree of control over them.
Bronowski said science is a way of describing reality, and is therefore LIMITED by the limits of observation.
Einstein suggested that the fundamental unit in physics was the "EVENT - SIGNAL - OBSERVER " ie, when an event occurs, it sends some signal that can be recognied and recorded by an observer. ( person or object)
Heisenberg advanced a Principle of UNCERTAINTY, i.e., to study an event, the observer must interfere with its natural course.
Bachrach stated one of the critical requirements of observation is that it be REPLICABLE, ie, reported by others who are also able to see and record it. This is what requires the DATA LANGUAGE of science.
One of the basic investigator's dilemmas is a lack of a UNIVERSAL DATA LANGUAGE for observations.
MILLS' CANNONS of EXPERIMENTAL INQUIRY include:
- the method of agreement;
These Cannons summarize most investigtive approaches.
L. Benner USC ISSM 514 SESSION 3: 1978 Rev. 08_94