Elements of the Nature of Science
Grouped by ENSI NOS Categories
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Realm & Limits
Deals only with natural phenomena, not supernatural (as such)
Can only use natural explanations, never supernatural
Must follow the rules of science
Based on observable evidence
All findings are tentative / uncertain / open to change
Degree of tentativeness/uncertainty decreases with repeated testing and confirmation
Fair Tests could go either way – not committed to dogma, authority or opinion
Limited by our assumptions about what is real, that we can perceive and understand the natural world, that natural processes are sufficient for understanding natural world, and that nature operates uniformly throughout the universe
Our senses have their own biological limitations
Our mental processing of sensory data is not always reliable
It’s impossible to know if we have considered all possible alternative explanations
Scientific knowledge is necessarily contingent knowledge (and therefore uncertain)
Descriptive: Observe, look for Patterns, Organize/Categorize, Record.
Historical / Pre-Historical: “What happened?”; Look for Clues, Patterns; Hypothesize (possible explanation); Predict observations if hypothesis correct, and if wrong; Search for those clues.
Experimental: Observe, pose Problem, Create Hypothesis, Design Test, Predict Results, Do Test, Reach Conclusion.
Some explanations are better than others (those that repeatedly survive testing)
Quantitative wherever possible (for precision and to enable reliable repetition)
Mostly collaborative (therefore more reliable)
Subject to critical review: publishing required for peer review, repetition by other scientists
Subject to bias
Why Science Works (And Is
the Most Reliable Form of Knowledge)
Based on critical observation
Ideas subject to critical assessment / testing / attempts to disprove (not prove).
Multiple Independent Lines of Evidence produce greater confidence.
Mystical, magical, supernatural explanations not allowed (not denied, but simply not used)
Reason: such explanations cannot be disproved – any test outcome is possible.
Not tied to dogma, authority or opinion.
It works: Results are more reliable and useful than any other way of knowing.
Problems with Science
Pseudoscience – alleged “science” that does
NOT follow rules of science
Poorly done science
Vested interest science
Misuse of the word “science” (and other words used in science)
Popular misconceptions about science