The Scientific Approach: Basic Principles of the Scientific Method

The Scientific Approach: Basic Principles of the Scientific Method

The Scientific Approach: Basic Principles of the Scientific Method

The Scientific Approach: Basic Principles of the Scientific Method

Excerpt

Man is now witnessing the second great ideological onslaught of science, and he is both awed and appalled by what he sees. The first great turmoil in Western thinking occurred in the Middle Ages when the nascent science of Copernicus, Galileo and Newton forced medieval man to re-appraise himself in relation to the cosmos. Today, however, science is forcing man to reorient himself in relation to his potential survival on his own shrinking planet. To say that science now holds both the key to a better life and a trigger to complete annihilation is not metaphorical whimsy; it is all too literally true. For if modern man cannot devise ways to control this staggering potential for life or death within the near future, the probability of his very survival will become a question of serious doubt.

The time undoubtedly has arrived when every thoughtful person should have an understanding of both the distinct limitations and of the reasonable potentialities inherent in scientific method. No one can any longer afford to remain either ignorant of, or craven toward, this most potent force in man's history. To remain so is to invite exploitation at least, or destruction at worst. For ignorance of science or servility toward its use encourages unprincipled individuals to employ it for selfish or even destructive ends -- whether in the seductively distorted blandishments of political slogans, on the one hand, or in the deadly nose cone of an atomic missile, on the other.

In short, both everyday necessity and ultimate survival demand that every thoughtful person understand what science actually is: namely, an objective and reliable intellectual enterprise, a method of systematic analysis of phenomena, a logical form of problem solving, which in itself is neither -- and yet potentially can be made either -- good or evil. The layman should understand why quackery is often mistaken for science and therefore accepted just as blindly; why some scientists at times speak either unin-

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