Scientific method

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The scientific method is the process by which scientists seek to understand reality. It is the thing that unites all sciences, however varied they may seem. Although imperfect, as any human enterprise is certain to be, it remains the most reliable method for understanding our world. As Albert Einstein once said:

"All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike — and yet it is the most precious thing we have." [1]

Perhaps best viewed as a way of eliminating alternative explanations for natural phenomena, the scientific method may be summarized (and somewhat idealized) as follows:

  1. Observation — A certain phenomenon is carefully observed and described.
  2. Hypothesis — One or more hypotheses are formulated to explain the phenomenon. Such hypotheses often take the form of causal mechanisms or mathematical formulations. They must provide testable predictions so that the next step can be undertaken.
  3. Testing — Independent observations or experiments are performed to confirm or disconfirm the original hypothesis, or to choose from among the competing hypotheses. Often these first three steps are repeated until a satisfactory explanation is found.
  4. Review — Results are published for peer review in scientific journals. Other researchers perform their own observations or experiments and may publish their own ideas about the phenomenon or criticisms of the original research. This provides a crucial mechanism by which poor explanations are "weeded out" and good explanations are made more precise or reliable.


See also


v · d Science
v · d General science
Scientific method   Scientific theory · Hypothesis · Evidence · Examining claims · Skepticism
Scientific Disciplines   Physics · Biology · Chemistry · Psychology · Medical Science · Mathematics
History of science   Library of Alexandria · Aristotle · Dark ages · Renaissance · The enlightenment · Heliocentrism · Newtonian physics · Darwinian evolution · Mendelian genetics · Relativity Theory · Quantum mechanics · Space exploration · Computer sciences · String theory
Champions of reason   Carl Sagan · Karl Kruszelnicki · Julius Sumner Miller · John Allan Paulos · James Randi
v · d Biology
Evolution   Overview of genetics · Genetic mutation · Hereditary change · Natural selection · Adaptation
Abiogenesis   Possible theories of abiogenesis · Building blocks of life · The Urey-Miller experiment
Evolutionary straw men   Life just exploded from nothing · So you think we came from monkeys · How did the first dog find a mate · Crocoducks · Banana argument · 747 Junkyard argument · Irreducible complexity · Chuck Missler's jar of peanut butter · What good is half a wing?
Notable Biologists   Charles Darwin · Alfred Russel Wallace · Thomas Huxley · Gregor Mendel · Stanley Miller · Norman Borlaug · Richard Lenski · Jerry Coyne · Richard Dawkins · PZ Myers
Notable quacks   William Dembski · Michael Behe · Geoffrey Simmons · Ken Ham · Michael Cremo
v · d Physics
Cosmology   Big bang · Relativity theory · The cosmos · Black holes
Quantum mechanics   Heisenberg Principle · Schrödinger's cat · Atomic decay
Physics straw men   Fine-tuning argument · Anthropic principle · Quantum mechanics and free will · Quantum mechanics and the after life · Quantum mechanics and Naturopathy · Something can't come from nothing
Notable Physicists   Plato · Isaac Newton · Albert Einstein · Maxwell Plank · Niels Bohr · Werner Heisenberg · Richard Feynman · Erwin Schrödinger · Freeman Dyson · Roger Penrose · Neil deGrasse Tyson · Stephen Hawking · Micho Kaku
Notable Quacks   Dinesh D'Souza · Ray Comfort
v · d Mathematics
Mathematics   Overview of mathematics · Numbers in reality · History of numbers
Statistics   Sample size · Selection bias · Data mining · Standard divination · Statistical significance · Statistical probability · Meta probability · Gambler's fallacy
Mathematics in nature   Golden ratio · Golden spiral · Fibonacci sequence
Mathematics and religion   Biblical value of pi · Noah's flood
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