:: urbansheep (urbansheep) wrote,
:: urbansheep

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[ L Q ] The real method of scientific discovery: scientists don't sit around in their labs

Неплохой материал, который лишний раз объясняет, почему наука — это искусство, при этом с честным упоминанием того, что без развитого и глубокого знания изучаемой системы делать нечего. В любом случае, дух „свободного исследователя“ передаётся вполне.

The real method of scientific discovery

Scientists don't sit around in their labs trying to establish generalizations. Instead they engage in mystery-solving essentially like that of detective work, and it often involves a creative, imaginative leap.

[...] All this might be correct if induction were, indeed, the logical method of science. Unfortunately, it isn't, even though generations of science students have been told that it is. This is part of a kind of fairy tale about science, which is supposed to operate according to something called The Scientific Method. The idea that there is a single Scientific Method and that induction is a key part of it is one of the most unfortunate fables foisted off on innocent students, and I have often wondered if the very dullness of the method described in textbook after textbook is not responsible for turning many young people away from science. And I wonder why so many scientists seem to accept the idea when a bit of self-reflection would show that it doesn't really describe what they themselves actually do. (I am imagining a letter that begins, "Dear Professor Jones, We are rejecting your paper for publication in our journal, as the research it describes does not appear to have been carried out according to The Scientific Method.") To be fair, I have read recent textbookish accounts of The Scientific Method that describe science more realistically, though I think they miss the truly creative element I discuss below.

Scientists do not use induction as classically described. They do not sit around in their labs trying to establish generalizations about the color of crows or that the sun will rise tomorrow or that a turkey will continue to be fed every day. A little independent observation of scientists will show that, in fact, scientists engage in mystery-solving essentially like that of detective work. The principal difference between science and detection is that the former deals with relatively general mysteries, such as why carbon and silicon tend to form tetrahedral molecules, and the latter with particular mysteries, such as who killed Lord Chumley in his locked study while everyone in the mansion was apparently sipping cocktails in the drawing room.

The late American philosopher Norwood R. Hanson wrote extensively about the actual methods of scientific reasoning and discovery, particularly in his book Patterns of Discovery. Hanson quoted at length from the work of physicist and logician Charles Sanders Peirce and credited Peirce with first explicating the real logical pattern of scientific investigation. As Hanson notes, Aristotle set out the patterns of inference: deduction, induction, and a third called apagoge, to use the English-letter equivalents of the Greek. Peirce translated this third method as abduction or retroduction; it follows this pattern:

Some surprising phenomenon P is observed. P would be explicable as a matter of course if H were true.Hence there is reason to think that H is true.

A scientist does not make a lot of particular observations and then try to generalize from them to some hypothesis H. Instead, a scientist confronts puzzles that arise naturally in the course of her work. She ponders them in the light of the intimate knowledge of the system she has developed, and based on that knowledge, she makes a creative leap of the imagination to say, "This would all make sense if H were true!" I particularly want to emphasize that creative, imaginative leap, because this is the critical ingredient that makes scientific work different from following a cookbook (or a logic book), which makes it the exciting, challenging, creative human work that it is. This is the element that puts science on a par with the arts and other creative activities as an enterprise worthy of humans.

To emphasize the differences among the three forms of inference, let me quote Hanson quoting Peirce:

Induction sets out with a theory and it measures the degree of concordance of that theory with fact. It never can originate any idea whatever. No more can deduction. All the ideas of science come to it by the way of abduction. Abduction consists in studying facts and devising a theory to explain them. Its only justification is that if we are ever to understand things at all, it must be in that way.


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