The Scientific Attitude

[Chapter 1 Objectives]

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Having attempted it, I don't believe that it is possible to give a simple, complete, coherent description of scientific methods. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Hewitt, however, when he says:

"The success of science has more to do with an attitude common to scientists than with a particular method. This attitude is one of inquiry, experimentation, and humility before the facts." - Paul G. Hewitt, Conceptual Physics, Second Edition, p. 3

In these pages, I have tried to describe some of the general concepts and ideas common to scientific methods.

"Here is the crucial situation of the scientific method. A single new scientific fact disagreeing with the theory completely invalidates the theory. The willingness to give up an old established theory as soon as it is proved to be definitely inconsistent with a single scientific fact is the attitude of Science; no branch of knowledge without this attitude can be called a science." Boris Podolsky, "What is science?," The Physics Teacher , 71-73 (1965).

"Having a scientific attitude consists in being willing to accept only carefully and objectively verified facts, and to hold a single fact above the authority of the oldest theories. Nothing can be called scientific that is not based on such an attitude." Boris Podolsky, "What is science?," The Physics Teacher , 71-73 (1965).

The Scientific Method

"I like to say that there is no scientific method as such, but that the most vital feature of the scientist's procedure has been merely to do his utmost with his mind, no holds barred. " - P.W. Bridgman (American physicist), "New Vistas for Intelligence" in Physical Science and Human Values, edited by E.P. Wigner, 1947

" Finally we come to the difficult question of what is the scientific method. It is the method by which Science grows and develops; it is part of a complex process of social life itself, and no short description can give an adequate picture of it." - Boris Podolsky (collaborator of Einstein), "What is science?," The Physics Teacher 3, 71-73 (1965)

In section 1.3 of the text (p. 2) the author lists a 5-step "scientific method". This amounts to a good problem-solving strategy, but it is not a good representation of the scientific method. To his credit, the author then states:

"Although this cookbook method has a certain appeal, it has not always been the key to the discoveries and advances in science. ..." - Paul G. Hewitt, Conceptual Physics, Second Edition, p. 3

Science is much too rich and complex to ever be encapsulated by any "cookbook" list of steps. It might look nice in a text book, be easy to memorize and regurgitate on a test, but it is not the way science works!

[Chapter 1 Objectives]

BHS -> Mr. Stanbrough -> Physics -> About Science -> this page
last update June 6, 2000 by JL Stanbrough