History of the Scientific Method

After being introduced to the scientific methods as early as elementary school, we often don’t think about all the different ways it can be used and the different variations of collecting observations. The readings provided a new alternative perspective into something that seemed so familiar.

I thought Skinner made a very interesting point about the evolution of the scientific method. In his first paragraph he talks about how college simply teaches students standard procedures and methods in the laboratory, but scientific thinking needs to be practiced. His point that not all discoveries used these scientific methods throughout history stood out to me. Some of the greatest discoveries in history were by accident and exploration within a field of study. We are taught in school about these basic methods and how to conduct experiments, which I think is definitely important, but we have to remember its not all about order and precise measurements. I liked how he went on to explain that his one experiment went on to develop into many more based upon the alterations that needed to be done after observations with the rats. The unanswered questions from one experiment leads to more and more hypotheses. I think this series of events is sometime more important than the actual results found in some studies. The continual discovery of knowledge and information is crucial and will continue to be important. We can never know too much.

In the college environment, I think we as students can take advantage of the scientific method in a more casual sense. We don’t necessarily need to get caught up in the nit-picky details but the general process can help us assess problems and think critically to find solutions. For example, double checking the reverse causation or coincidental correlation can help avoid making mistakes in assuming false conclusions. I think the knowledge of some form of the scientific method is helpful in everyday logic and problem solving for any situation, not necessarily just scientific research.


3 responses to “History of the Scientific Method

  1. I totally agree Megan, the scientific method has been a tool for students to use since elementary school, however we rarely use it in the strict sense. We definitely don’t need to get caught up in nit-picky details (unless we’re actually conducting an experiment), but we can use the steps of the scientific method as a strategy to problem solve.

  2. Like Megan, I was intrigued by Skinner’s differentiation between the scientific method in theory and how the process often works in reality. Before reading the article, I had never considered the scientific method to be a creative process in any way–to me, it was all facts, figures, and logical steps to be followed. Skinner made me realize, however, that the scientific method can come in several shapes and sizes. Not only is it used in the “hard” sciences, but also in the social sciences and even the humanities. As enchanted as I was with Skinner’s creative interpretation of the scientific method that emphasizes innovation, I can’t help but question if his unique approach would yield verifiable results in reality. I appreciate the sentiment that lays beneath his ideas–namely, that science and art aren’t mutually exclusive–but feel that within a specific experiment the steps of the scientific method should be strictly adhered to. The creative aspect of science, however, plays a significant role outside of the experiment being conducted.

  3. Skinner’s article was definitely very intriguing, especially since it was written so long ago. There was a clear disconnect with some of the things he was saying with how they are viewed today. I agree that many important discoveries have been obtained by accident, for example, penicillin, however the accidental discoveries were stumbled upon while scientists were following the scientific method. I would be very interested in what Skinner might say about the scientific method if he was still alive today. Would he still stand by everything he said previously?

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