Science and Scientific Reasoning


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Science and Scientific Reasoning
Critical Thinking

Some Common Myths About Science
Science: What it is and what it is not

Science and Technology
• Science is not the same as technology
– The goal of science is to come to an understanding of the world around us. The products of science are theories about nature.
– The goal of technology is to help us accomplish something. The products of technology are tools.
• Science and technology have a close relationship:
– Technology applies the knowledge given by science. – Scientific research may be driven by technological
needs or desires.
• ‘Popular Science’ magazine should really be called ‘Popular Technological Gadgets’

Science and Scientific Theories
• Science is not a set of scientific theories
– Science is like philosophy (in fact, science grew out of that branch of philosophy that studied nature and was called “natural philosophy” until mid-19th century): it is a method, study, investigation, or inquiry.
– Science can’t be wrong, as science makes no claims. – Scientific theories are like philosophies: they are sets of
beliefs. Scientific theories can be wrong.
• Science is the process of figuring out which theories are more likely than others.
– Who refutes scientific theories? Science itself!

Science and Scientific
Experiments
• Science is not doing scientific experiments using multi-million dollar equipment
– First of all, many scientific experiments can be done without any equipment at all.
– Second, doing scientific experiments is only that part of science where a scientific theory is actually being tested. Scientists first have to come up with a theory to be tested, have to think of a useful test, and have to draw conclusions from the results of that test.
• Many ‘scientists’ are really ‘technicians’.

Science and Math
• Science is not a bunch of equations. • To many people: science = numbers = truth • Just because we are dealing with a number,
doesn’t mean that that number is accurate (and remember: precision is not the same as accuracy). • And, again, science is so much more than just numbers and equations: it is the process that provided those numbers and equations!

Science and Truth
• Finally, science does not have a stronghold on the truth.
– In fact, it is quite the opposite. Scientists are critical of every theory that they propose: that is why they are constantly being tested. Indeed, this inherent self-reflection, self-modification, and self-correction is what really defines science.
• Science is critical thinking!

‘Hard’ Science and
‘Soft’ Science
• Fields like physics and chemistry are often referred to as the ‘hard’ sciences, where something like psychology or sociology are ‘soft sciences’.
• Moreover, the ‘hard’ sciences are often seen as ‘more’ scientific than the ‘soft’ sciences
– Indeed, physics is often seen as the ‘epitome’ of science.
• Now, it is certainly true that the results from physics and chemistry are more quantitative and allow for more reliable explanations and predictions … but that doesn’t make them more scientific!
– That merely reflects the ‘science = math’ and ‘science = truth’ mindset.

The Scientific Method
Understanding How Science Works and What It All Means

The Scientific Method

Puzzling Phenomenon

Explanation/ Hypothesis/ Theory

Creative

Experiment/ Test

Prediction

Evaluative

Real

Speculative

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Science and Scientific Reasoning