What is the scientific method and how does it work?
Without science we would not have reached the current level of development. Thanks to the scientific method humanity has been creating great medical and technological advances , and even the field of psychology, a side of reality that seemed too confused and ambiguous to be analyzed, has developed to the point of allowing us to know well what is behind our acts and thoughts.
What is the importance of the scientific method?
However, What is the real reason why science has such prestige? Where exactly is its value? And why is it necessary to use the scientific method for science to progress?
I will try to shed some light on the issue in question starting with the root of the matter: the birth of science .
The origins of science and its epistemology
During the sixth century, in Ionia (a part of ancient Greece located in what is now Turkey), a world full of mysteries was presented to the Hellenes. The starting point was a situation of almost total uncertainty, but little by little, from the observation of nature, the ideas of an orderly and rational Universe, capable of being analyzed, were emerging .
At first, many of the Greeks believed that reality was formed by a matter composed of an essence that was barely known, governed by the action of equal and opposite forces that were maintained in dramatic struggle, always staying in an eternal Balance. In that historical moment and from these concepts arises a primitive science (or proto, rather than experiencing theorized) properly Greek.
The Renaissance brings the paradigm shift
It was not until the sixteenth century, with the arrival of the Renaissance in Europe, when a qualitative leap in scientific-technical knowledge that culminated in the eighteenth century AD began. with the Enlightenment .
In this scientific revolution many medieval prejudices were abandoned that were already dragged (some) from antiquity, and it came to consolidate a concrete and effective method to find out the truth: the scientific method, which It would allow to examine all aspects of nature in the best possible way .
And why "scientist"?
The science and its method were not reached by chance, but by survival . The primitive human civilization always found itself challenged by hecatombs of great magnitude (wars, floods, epidemics, etc.) that required a protocol that could give us reliability in the production of new knowledge to be able to face these adversities satisfactorily.
Thanks to the scientific method we could abandon the eternal paralysis produced by not understanding what is happening or what may happen in the future, because we begin to have good reasons to think that something is false or true ... although, ironically speaking, doubting is part of the scientific method and the skeptical spirit that accompanies it. In the words of the American physicist Robert Oppenheimer:"A scientist should take the liberty of raising any question, of doubting any claim, of correcting errors."
The role of the brain
But not only catastrophes are the cause of the scientific method. One of the reasons for his birth is none other than our ability to reason, a miracle of evolution that enables us to avoid and solve errors of logic, cognitive biases and errors in perception. In summary, we can see the logic of things because our brain structured so that it allows to examine premises and arguments seeking consistency and coherence in them.
However, as relatively instinctive and emotional animals that we are, the level of cognitive abilities necessary to be absolutely skeptical and rational (someone who can recognize and order ideas and theories perfectly to detect defects in them) is impossible even for the more cultured and intelligent people. That is why science is, in part, a shared project and based on the consensus of many experts and specialists who offer their different points of view.
The scientific procedure
From the above it follows that science is not made by four geniuses or enlightened individually (the opposite would be to make scientific knowledge rely entirely on a fallacy of authority). Conversely, is the result of collective cooperation: the call scientific community .
Scientific knowledge is built on a previous one, investing decades of research along which numerous experiments are carried out (the test of double-blind, for example) and hypotheses and theories are proposed.In fact, scientific procedure is so and so collective that scientists often ask their colleagues (the scientific community) to review possible errors in their studies (even if this implies that their alleged discoveries are denied). This has the advantage that the more scientists researching, the more likely they are to find errors in previous research and conclusions. .
Pursuing scientific objectivity
It is clear that absolute objectivity does not exist even in the hard sciences , but that does not mean that it can not be taken as a reference or an ideal. That is why another of the pragmatic characteristics of scientific procedure is to delegate responsibilities in the research and development of hypotheses in auxiliary scientists who are not emotionally involved in the project.
In this way a greater objectivity is assured; essential feature of all science. These auxiliary scientists repeat the experiments and compare and analyze the information obtained , because any statement or sentence that claims to have the infallible seal of scientific quality must be able to be refuted or demonstrated by someone outside the project.
Would anyone believe a doctor who claims to have found the gift of immortality without giving the option for others to check if he is right? In a way, it's a matter of common sense.
The role of the media
The media have a great importance in the scientific future . When television, for example, tells us that researchers from some university have actually discovered something that they want to express (perhaps in a non-pedagogical way), this research is not finished much less, because its conclusions must be subject to repeated checks before having a good level of acceptance.
It is at this point that other professional colleagues must verify the certainty of such claims. After an exhaustive selection and a correct arbitration, if the study is still valid, it will be considered that the empirical evidence in favor of the hypothesis that has been raised are robust and serve to explain a phenomenon well.
In this way humanity will have advanced one more step. A step that may need to be revised in the future to continue advancing, because the scientific method always leaves the door open to a reformulation of the theories; the opposite would be to fall into a dogma.
Pseudosciences, sciences that really are not
Unfortunately, sometimes we fall into the error of developing pseudoscientific hypotheses , that as they are raised can not be worked through the scientific method.
And what is a pseudoscience? Pseudoscience is a belief or practice that is presented as a science but does not follow a reliable scientific method Ergo can not be checked. Usually characterized by ambiguous, contradictory and unspecific statements where the use of fallacies and exaggerations is the order of the day.
In the pseudosciences there is a dependence on confirmation but never proof of refutation, not to mention the lack of willingness to collaborate with the scientific community so that it can evaluate the situation. In short, if we already sometimes fall into propositions pseudoscientific without wanting to, imagine what level of development we would have if our knowledge about nature was only based on this type of assertions. It is in this comparison that all the value of science resides: in its usefulness .