Thinking as a Scientist
After considering the scientific method explained in the textbook, write an essay about how it compares to the way nonscientists approach problems. Identify some problems that are solvable scientifically and some that are not. Using one or two small problems, describe the process you would go through in solving that problem using the scientific method. Discuss the significance of the scientific approach to the development and advancement of human knowledge. Your essay should be about 300 words.
The Scientific Method
Biology consists of a great deal of knowledge. Much of that knowledge takes the form of facts that we refer to as theories. Or perhaps this is better understood by saying that biologists treat theories as though they were facts. But, they are special kind of fact. They are not a fact the way your social security number is a fact. A theory is a fact that has been derived using the scientific method.
The scientific method always starts with an observation. And notice carefully that we use the singular word, observation, and not the plural ‘observations’, even if a thousand events were observed. The observation leads to a question. Questions come in many shapes and forms, but the scientific method needs to pose only very specific questions. This is because the question must be able to be worded as a hypothesis. What is a hypothesis? A hypothesis is a specific statement in which a cause and effect scenario is central. For an example, follow along with the scenarios presented in the assigned textbook readings. You will see that a hypothesis can never be an open ended question. It must be specific. For example, this is a hypothesis: If I put a cover over a flame, it will go out. This is not a hypothesis: Why does the flame go out when I put a cover over it? After you have created a hypothesis, you design experiments to see if you can support your hypothesis. Keep in mind that in the biological sciences, while you can support a hypothesis, you can never prove one. This is one of the most misunderstood concepts in science. You will never account for every possible condition for a given hypothesis; therefore, you can never prove it beyond any shadow of doubt.