Science is not dogma. It is not holy writ. Nothing is more hypocritical than a so-called scientist rejecting something out of hand without even putting it to the test and giving it a fair chance in experiment, no matter how ridiculous or outlandish it might sound, and these experiments not only have to be properly set up but they could take years. Science is solely based on a dedication to finding the truth, whatever that may be, and "calling the bluff" of whatever is claimed because science uses well-designed experiment (and hopefully proper statistical analysis for greater accuracy since numbers don't lie to you as much) as the sole test of truth, not "flawless human reasoning" or "past experiences of others" (bah!). It never claimed to "be the truth." It's just a tool for finding it. In fact, the #1 best way of getting into science is to become a skeptic about literally everything; to question everything. However, science is extremely focused on the truth. Science has the audacity to believe that the truth probably exists independent of the veils of each individual's flawed perception (i.e. poor hearing, poor vision, misunderstandings, poor comprehension etc.). In other words, if a tree falls in the forest, based on our observations up to this point, it probably makes a sound. The world doesn't revolve around the human that 'needs to be there to hear it fall.' It also has the audacity to claim that we'll never completely know the full truth, and that as a result we may never know if truth even exists at all - but that we can get as close to it as we need to for practical purposes. The closest discipline we have to 'knowing the truth' is mathematics, and logic, which is essentially math's twin sister. Since I am a huge nerd I will now send you here.
Science is not anathema to religion, either. Why? Well, think about this. If the Deity is the essence of infinite intelligence, wisdom, and truth, which created all that exists, and if the Deity wanted to reduce human suffering as much as possible because this Deity is also infinite Love, then rejecting a discipline of intelligence, wisdom, and truth which reduces human suffering, which is a part of what this Deity created, is... possibly disrespectful to Deity. There have historically been many scientists and innovators who created extraordinary things who were religious - Al-Khwārizmī (Muslim, possibly where we get the term "algebra" from), Avicenna (Muslim) and others from the Islamic Golden Age, George Washington Carver (researcher of peanuts/sw. potatoes to improve soil quality and more, Christian), Gregor Mendel (an Augustinian Christian friar), Robert Boyle (Anglican), Copernicus (Catholic), Edward Jenner (Christian, inventor of the vaccine), and many, many more. Indeed, science and religion have interesting parallels, and after spending most of my life speaking to many scientists and other nerds I can tell ya that most have a very interesting individual take on how they mix. What is really cool, however, is that regardless of religious differences scientists tend to get along really well, because science is something they can all agree on.
The Scientific Method:
- If the following is too complicated, this Wikipedia article should help
- 1. Observation. You notice something and spend time watching it. You begin to get curious about some aspect or other. You can't run an experiment on the whole thing because there are too many variables (things that change, usually things that change over time), so isolate one in particular. One thing you really want to know more about.
- 2. Come up with a hypothesis - that's a fancy word for a guess. Guess something about that one thing, and be very specific with your guess. Phrase it in such a way that you can either totally prove or disprove it relatively easily, hopefully with numbers because they're less likely to be subjective. NOTHING is off limits for a hypothesis, and it does not have to be an educated guess.
- 3. Come up with a way to test that hypothesis, to prove if you're right or wrong, or completely off the mark. Make sure your test is set up in such a way that the experiment is both a. measurable with concrete (NOT subjective) recordable information or (ideally) numbers, b. isolated from everything else in the subject's environment so other irrelevant stuff doesn't contaminate your results, and c. repeatable.
- 4. Run an experiment using the test you came up with to see if your hypothesis holds any water or if it's full of crap.
- 5. Analyze the results. Again, numbers are good.
- 6. Repeat the experiment until you start going crazy and never want to see it again, I mean until it's likely that whatever the outcome from the experiment is will give you good data. Why do you repeat experiments? Because you want to see what is most likely to happen in the future if you repeat the experiment in some way. Often, what you think happens most of the time is just a fluke and only happens once in a blue moon if you're really lucky, so you don't want to rely on that.
- 7. Analyze the results again.
- 8. Ask yourself where you screwed up and what could have gone wrong or led you astray from the truth.
- 9. Using knowledge of where you think things screwed up, modify, correct, and repeat the experiment yet again, and again and again, until you want to run screaming into the night. Modify only one variable at a time if there are many so you can see what is going right (or wrong) and not get confused.
- 10. If - and only if - your experiment's outcome is repeatedly the same if done under the same conditions, and there are no confounding factors (a.k.a. b.s. factors, such as faking results to match your pet hypothesis, instruments that don't measure properly, etc.), your conclusion isn't total crap. Rejoice.
- 11. Make a theory based on the evidence - an explanation that seems to fit the results of your experiment. A theory is a glorified hypothesis, and can never be completely proven. Even numbers can lie if you've gotten them from the wrong places, in the wrong way, or if you're just unlucky.
- 12. This is not officially a part of the Scientific Method, but it's always good to 'field test' theories by putting them to the test in real-world conditions that are as chaotic and messy as possible. See just how reliable these theories are. Little kids often do this when they're just discovering gravity by throwing stuff, pushing stuff off tables, dropping things on purpose, etc. Notably, scientists do this all the time with other scientists' pet theories, which is how we end up with things like General Relativity deposing the older Classical Mechanics, and other such innovation. After enough people in enough disparate situations field test and analyze theories, people inevitably run into new and better information and new and better results from experiments down the line that completely disprove the original theory. This often makes the scientists that came up with the original theory very, very upset.
An example of the Scientific Method in informal, not-too-rigorous practical usage:
Here is an example of the Scientific Method in use. Khan Academy
- 1. Observation - "I cooked rice today on the stove and it turned out good." Seriously though this is a tough experiment that you can run at home. It's not easy to make good rice on the stove and there are about a million different ways people recommend you do it. You might want to do some background research for the Observation phase, such as looking up recipes for rice on the stovetop from the best sources you can find. I'd recommend you try to use The Woks of Life and Yi Reservation, then try to go for the method that sounds best, perhaps a hybrid of various recipes. Background research often also includes a long period of observation, trial and error, because otherwise you wind up kind of spending way more time than you would otherwise on fruitless experiments because you don't know what you're doing, or looking for, or anything like that. So in order to reduce hassle you might want to try out a bunch of different stovetop rice recipes over a long period of time. Say two months, or whatever.
- 2. Hypothesis - "I think this method of cooking rice on the stove will work well for me in the future and I would like to find out if that is true." Generally speaking you should have a good reason for you hypothesis or your experiment will likely be a waste of your time. Why do you have that hypothesis? If for instance you say "I think this method of cooking rice on the stove will work well because I paid a lot for the rice" you'll have no way of knowing if that has anything to do with the outcome, but if you say "I think this will work because I weighed the rice after soaking and it weighs the same as it did the last time I cooked it and it worked out well then," you'll be able to determine whether that matters or not.
- 3. Setup of Experiment - "I will cook a pot of rice on the stove with the same exact ingredients, method, heat, equipment, cooking environment, chef, recipe, and cooking method. I will measure the heat throughout the cooking process with a food-safe thermometer attached to logging software so I can see the temperature of the pot during the entire cooking period."
- 4. Experiment -Let's say you were encouraged by the experiment because the rice turned out great.
- 5. Analysis of Experiment - "The temperature throughout and the cooking method seems to have cooked the rice. Plus I ate the rice. So far so good."
- 6. Repetition of Experiment - "I burn rice when I cook it 90/100 times using the same exact cooking method, equipment, recipe, heat, cooking environment, chef, and ingredients. Here are the graphs of the temperature of the pot as I cook the rice."
- 7. Analysis of Experiment, Yet Again -Since you don't have anything that could have told you what went wrong with the rice since cooking has so many variables, you're kind of stumped.
- 8. How Did I Screw This Up? - Rack your brains as to what could have gone wrong with your stupid rice.
- 9. Modify Experiment to Not Suck So Badly; Repeat A Gajillion Times - Modify the heat only for a bunch of tests to see if that works, using the thermometer and logging software to be sure your electric stove isn't turning off midway through and dropping the heat so it stops cooking out of nowhere, or something. No? Okay, then, modify the amount of liquid, measuring it as exactly as you can using the most precise measuring cup you've got, and doing a whole bunch of trials using gradually more liquid, say 5 amounts with the same additional increase added to each amount to see what works best. If that doesn't work, modify the pre-soaking time. Etc. Keep going until you manage to make a *@#&%*& pot of rice that @#(%&(& is properly @#($&%^!!! cooked. You might have sneaky variables that are screwing up your experiment, such as changing air pressure, rice that absorbs differing amounts of liquid each time you pre-soak it because of differing expiration dates/age of rice, different ambient temperatures in the room, an electric stove that loves to hate you and put out different heat outputs because it's evil, and so on, so if you're trying everything and still getting no answers think outside the box and get some instruments (barometer, scale to weigh the soaked rice, thermometer that gauges air temperature) to actually measure these things to see if they are even an issue.
- 10. Analyze Results, Again, If Successful; Draw Conclusions If Able -Hopefully you'll have managed, for this example, to make an edible pot of rice on the stove at least 90/100 times you try. Try to figure out why that happened. Your conclusions? Some of the rice from the store was old, based on expiration dates, and it works when the rice is not old.
- 11. Found a Working Theory, Woot -Let's say in this case you make a recipe for a pot of rice on the stove that isn't burned most times you try to make it, which requires rice that is under a year old from harvest to table in order to work. You're done, great.
- 12. Innovate - This could be finding a better and more reliable way of cooking rice, such as just using a rice cooker. Or you could spend a few months working to absolutely perfect the stovetop rice using methods no one can even imagine right now.
Simplified, the Scientific Method goes like this: Make an observation, ask a question, form a hypothesis (testable explanation), make a prediction based on the hypothesis, test the prediction, iterate iterate iterate iterate iterate iterate (use the results to make new hypotheses and predictions and repeat the entire process over and over again).
Here is another method of explaining it: ScienceBuddies
Here is a simplistic method of explaining it: Scientific Method
If you wish to come up with a hypothesis, it helps to keep a good experiment in mind so that you can test your idea in the real world instead of with wishful thinking. This is helpful for everything in life. With the scientific method, practice makes perfect, so if you wish to truly master how it works I suggest using it with everything you can think of. It is helpful for determining the truth, and that's what science is all about. These days, despots and their cronies are doing everything in their power to foster an anti-science attitude. Why? Because science works, and it is one of the keys to freedom, power, and living a good life. It kills fear and in its place creates independence; reasoning; freedom. More importantly, it's way more difficult to create a cult that gives you unearned goodies when you're dealing with scientists as opposed to the uneducated. People who want to be dictators would rather the general public not know that.
By the way, science is only boring when you're first learning it. The more you learn, the weirder it gets. And by weird I mean really bizarre. Weirder than folklore, fairy tales, urban legends, and conspiracy theories. Try A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. You'll see what I mean.
- The Handy Science Answer Book
- For young children, books by David Macaulay, especially the How Things Work series, are helpful
If you haven't had the benefit of seeing these before, please do yourself a favor and watch them. They are notorious for getting people, especially kids, absolutely fascinated with science. Sure worked for me!
- Bill Nye the Science Guy TV show - great for kids
- Beakman's World TV show - great for kids
- The Magic School Bus TV show - great for kids
- Eyewitness British TV show - great for kids
- Flight of Dragons movie
- Mark Rober