Scientific Method Explained: Observation

It has come to my attention that the scientific method itself is very misunderstood. So I’m going to do a bit of a primer course on what it is and why it is the only way for us to determine the ‘truth’ about anything (in the observable universe that is).

A quick browse on the world wide web (which I think is just our pet name for the real skynet!) provides some decent and simple definitions for the word “Science” as follows:

1. knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic study.

2. systematized knowledge in general.

3. Systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.

Definition 3 sums it up nicely because it points out that it is knowledge gained through observation and experimentation.

The whole point of the scientific method is simply to determine what the cause of anything we can observe is.

Note: we are only talking about things in the observable universe, if you make a claim about something existing outside of the observable universe for example something you’ve dreamed up in your head well then we can’t really observe that…yet)

Our ability to observe things changes with our technology. For example before we had telescopes we couldn’t see far into space and wouldn’t have known about the rings around Saturn, or the rock formations on the moon etc.

Before we had microscopes we couldn’t see individual cells and determine what was going on inside them, scientists and what were considered educated men just assumed we had a ‘life force’ that flowed through us until we could see that each cell has distinct parts that interact with other cells through hormones and other messengers just like locks and keys.

The ability to observe is the starting point and the foundation of all scientific inquiry.

The more things we can observe, and the more accurately we can observe them, the better we can formulate our hypotheses and test them.

A lack of ability to observe all the factors that are present in a given situation is almost always the limiting factor to finding a solution.

Picture it like putting a puzzle together, but someone has hidden half of the pieces from you. Your first order of business in solving your puzzle is finding the pieces. Otherwise you’ll never really know for sure what you’re looking at.

The more pieces you can see, the closer you get to solving the puzzle.

That is essentially the first and most basic step of the scientific method. Looking at something and wondering “what is that” or “how does that happen”

The next step is formulating a hypothesis to explain whatever it is you are looking at.

John