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THE NATURE OF SCIENCE
Explanations and Investigations EXPLANATIONS Concerned with things or events observed Can come from the results of experiments, from an educated guess, or just from imaginative thinking Can have various names, each depending on intended use or stage of development Explanations Hypothesis Explanation in an early stage of development A tentative thought – or experiment – derived explanation Tested by experiment and is rejected, or modified, if a single observation or test does not fit. Scientific Laws Law Describes a relationship between events that seems to happen time after time. Murphy’s Law “ if anything can go wrong, it will”. Scientific Laws Scientific Law Describes an important relationship that is observed in nature to occur consistently time after time. Describes what happens in nature Identified with the name of a person associated with the formulation of the law Scientific Laws Charles’ Law For example: With all other factors being equal, an increase in temperature of the air in a balloon results in an increase in its volume. Likewise, a decrease in the temperature results in a decrease in the total volume of the balloon. The volume of the balloon varies directly with the temperature of the air in the balloon, and this can be observed to occur consistently time after time. Scientific Laws Charles’ Law This relationship was first discovered in the later part of the 18th century by two French scientists, A.C. Charles and Joseph-Gay Lusaac. Scientific Laws They do not dictate the behavior of objects; they simply describe it. They do not say how things ought to act but rather how things DO act. They are descriptive; it describes how things act. Models and Theories Models a description of a theory or idea that accounts for all known properties can be an actual physical model, a computer model, a sketch, an analogy or an equation Conjecture = an explanation or idea based on speculation, or one based on trivial grounds Models and Theories Theory defined as a broad, working hypothesis based on extensive experimental evidence. ○ Plate tectonic theory Scientific theory Reserved for historic schemes of thought that have survived the test of detailed examination for long periods of time ○ Atomic theory Laws and Theories Laws describe the way in which the matter and energy of the universe have been observed to behave. For example, when the science of chemistry was in its fairly early developmental stages, people were doing a lot of experiments in which they combined different elements to see what they would get. One result of this activity was a set of "laws of chemical proportion." These were observations like, "If you get carbon to interact with oxygen, you will use up one part carbon for every two parts oxygen“. Laws and Theories Theories, on the other hand, attempt to explain why the laws are the way they are. As a result, theories are generally more complex and have more "working parts," so to speak, than laws do. The theory which explains our laws of chemical proportion is the atomic theory, or the theory of atomic structure. When the laws of chemical proportion were worked out, the concept of the atom didn't really exist. It was a couple of hundred years before anybody really began to get some evidence about atoms and what they were made of. Quite a few explanations for atomic structure were evaluated and discarded before our current theory was accepted — because they didn't explain the laws of chemical proportion and other bodies of evidence that were building up about atomic behavior. Science vs Nonscience Science Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Biology Nonscience Art, Literature, Theology, Philosophy Concerned with beauty, human emotions and speculative thought rather than with facts and verifiable laws. Pseudoscience is a belief or process which masquerades as science in an attempt to claim a legitimacy which it would not otherwise be able to achieve on its own terms; it is often known as fringe- or alternative science. The most important of its defects is usually the lack of the carefully controlled and thoughtfully interpreted experiments which provide the foundation of the natural sciences and which contribute to their advancement. Research Basic Research Driven by a search for understanding and may or may not have practical applications Basic (aka fundamental or pure ) research is driven by a scientist's curiosity or interest in a scientific question. The main motivation is to expand man's knowledge , not to create or invent something. There is no obvious commercial value to the discoveries that result from basic research. For example, basic science investigations probe for answers to questions such as: ○ How did the universe begin? ○ What are protons, neutrons, and electrons composed of? ○ What is the specific genetic code of the fruit fly? Research Applied Research Has a goal of solving some practical problems rather than just looking for answers. Applied research is designed to solve practical problems of the modern world, rather than to acquire knowledge for knowledge's sake. One might say that the goal of the applied scientist is to improve the human condition . For example, applied researchers may investigate ways to: improve agricultural crop production treat or cure a specific disease improve the energy efficiency of homes, offices, or modes of transportation The Nature of Science An important thing to know about science is that isn't something that you have; it's something that you do, and even more significantly, it's a way you think. All scientific concepts are tentative; there are no "proven" laws or theories. Because all laws and theories are experience - based, they are all ultimately tentative. In fact, that's one of the most important features of any scientifically useful concept. The terms you usually hear used in this respect are "falsifiability" or "testability." All these mean is that for an idea to be scientifically respectable, there must be some way that it can be challenged. Limitations of Science Science has limitations; it's not the only problem solving system people use, and it's not the most appropriate system for some kinds of questions. All of the primary limitations on science are ultimately due to the requirement for testability. Limitations of Science The three major areas of limitation of science are: Value Judgments: You can't scientifically determine whether a rose is more beautiful than a gumamela, or whether that rose smells nicer than a sampaguita, or whether an ounce of gold is worth more than an ounce of silver. Moral Judgments: You can't scientifically determine what is ethically good or bad. Note that this does not mean that scientists shouldn't be held morally responsible for what they do. Issues of the Supernatural: By definition, the tools of science are limited to the natural laws of the universe. "Super" means "above," so "supernatural" literally means "above the natural." Sorry, but no scientist can use science to demonstrate whether there is or isn't a God. This doesn't necessarily mean that this isn't an important question — just that science isn't the avenue to follow to attempt to answer it.
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