1/16/2012 1:23:00 PM
Science is a method of inquiry, a way of learning and knowing things about the world and
It‟s a conscious, rigorous and deliberate undertaking
Most of what we know is a mater of believing what we‟re told
We know things through agreements
We can also know things through direct observation and experience
If experience contradicts with agreements, there is a good chance that we‟ll surrender our
experience in favor of the agreement
Looking for Reality:
Scientists have a certain criteria that must be met before they accept the reality of
something that hasn‟t been personally experienced
Must make sense
Must not contradict actual observation
Science does offer a special approach to the discovery of reality through personal
Ordinary Human Inquiry:
Practically all people have a desire to predict future circumstances.
Humans seem prone to undertake this task using:
o Causal Reasoning:
Recognizing that future circumstances are conditioned by present ones
o Probabilistic Reasoning:
The effects of a circumstance occur more when the causes arise – but not
Science makes these concepts more explicit and provide techniques for dealing with
them more rigorously than does causal human inquiry
We need to distinguish between prediction and understanding:
o We can make predictions without understanding
o We are also willing act on a demonstrated predictive ability without
Satisfying the primitive desire or instincts of motivation in humans depends on the
ability to predict future circumstances. The attempt to predict depends heavily on the context of knowledge and understanding:
o If you can understand why things are related to one another and why certain
patterns occur, you can predict better than by simply observing and
remembering those patterns.
Human Inquiry therefore aims at the “what” and “why” by observing and figuring out.
Second Hand Knowledge:
Attempts to learn about the world are only partly linked to direct, personal inquiry or
experience. Most of the knowledge comes from agreed upon knowledge that others give
us, those things that “everyone knows”.
Agreement of reality; “it‟s the way it has always been”
o You think it is true because everyone seems to believe it is true
o Can be going to school, using utensils [fork, knife] etc.
We inherit some form of culture that gives us some widely accepted knowledge about the
workings of the world.
We may choose to test a few of these “truths” but we would rather just accept them as we
It rarely occurs to people to seek a different understanding of something we all think is
o Spared the task of starting from scratch
o Cumulated information
o We may be called fools to test out old claims ourselves
o Knowledge changes & you may be unaware of those changes if you simply
resort to tradition as a source of information [may inhibit knowledge and the
way you see the world]
People or institutions (who have power in the form of prestige and status) – this includes
the media, educational institutions/universities, celebrities, professors, doctors, etc.
o Acceptance of new acquisitions depends on the status of the discoverer
Advantages (of relying on authority as a source):
o can influence people very quickly (ex. media), you do not have to do the work
all the time (ex. do not yourself need to become an expert but can simply listen to an expert) – simplifies things for you (you can benefit from the knowledge
you can get from others)
o authority may not always be right, things can be distorted (framed, edited,
presented in a variety of ways), can be deceptive (ex. celebrities promoting
certain products – ex. a woman refusing treatment after seeing Oprah‟s specials
on the book „The Secret‟ which was dangerous because of relying strictly on
o Legitimate authorities that err within their own province
o Authority experts speaking outside their realm of expertise
3. Seeing is believing:
Personal experience, experiencing reality directly
4. Common Sense:
Can originate in tradition – “this is right because it just makes sense”
Errors in Human Inquiry and Solutions:
o Daily observations are a semi-conscious and causal activity
o Scientific observations are conscious activities
o Making observations more deliberate reduces errors
o Simple and complex measurement devices help guard against inaccurate
o The assumption that certain similar events are evidence of a general pattern
o Overgeneralization is greatest when there is a pressure to arrive at a general
o It can misdirect or impede inquiry
o Larger sample sizes and replication of inquiry help to keep overgeneralization
o It emerges as a danger of overgeneralization
o Once we see a certain pattern existing we focus on only those events and
situations that fit the pattern and disregard the rest.
o We take notice of things which confirm what you already believe/know
(selectively look at interactions) o Racial and ethnic prejudice heavily depends on selective observations.
o Reason contradicting or disregarding the principles of logic
o Saying of “exception that proves the rule”.
An exception can draw attention to a rule but in no way can it prove the
rule it contradicts
o Gambler‟s Fallacy:
A consistent bout of good or bad luck foreshadows its opposite.
Example: A man playing poker consistently loses but keeps playing
because he feels that a win is just around the corner.
o Scientists avoid this pitfall by using systems of logic consciously and explicitly.
o Cognitive bias where a trait (characteristic of a person or object) influences
another trait or traits of that person or object.
o Tied to relying solely or predominantly on “authority” – believing those with
prestige without questioning and thinking critically
Science is a deliberate activity and it attempts to protect itself from the common pitfalls
of ordinary inquiry
Accurate observation and understanding reality is a complicated matter
Errors in Scientific Inquiry:
Logic and Observation:
o Logic is theorizing the analysis of what you find
o Observation is collection of data and empiricism
o They are dependant on each other and you cannot separate them.
o It is a haphazard way of putting the information together and making sense of
what you are looking at.
o A pursuit of knowledge that is methodical; carried on by using step-by-step
o Different tools of research for data collection, use different analytical tools to
make sense of what you are looking at
Objectivity: o The ability to see things as they really are (we strive to do so – though many
believe it is not fully possible)
o Clarity and precision in defining concepts and measures
o Procedures (and products) should be publicly accessible:
why you chose this type of methodology, why you researched this etc
o Needs to be publicly accessible to academic community and larger community
can offer information to other researchers so they can do a similar test and
see if they get similar results
o Use of previous research
o Literature review
think about gaps in the literature
don‟t‟ want to ask the same questions over and over again
Differing Views on Reality:
Reality is often more complex than we assume it to be.
Philosophers often call most humans way of seeing reality “naïve realism”
Assumption that everything was real as it was seen.
This assumption was so fundamental that it wasn‟t even seen as an assumption
However, they came to recognize that others did not always shared their views