Science is a systematic and logical approach to discovering how things in the universe work. It is derived from the Latin word “scientia,” which translates to knowledge. Unlike the arts, science aims for measurable results through testing and analysis. Science is based on fact, not opinion or preferences. The process of science is designed to challenge ideas through research. It is not meant to prove theories, but rule out alternative explanations until a likely conclusion is reached.
The Scientific Method
When conducting research, scientists observe the scientific method to collect measurable, empirical evidence in an experiment related to a hypothesis (often in the form of an if/then statement), the results aiming to support or contradict a theory.
The scientific method goes something like this:
- Make an observation or observations.
- Ask questions about the observations and gather information.
- Form a hypothesis — a tentative description of what’s been observed, and make predictions based on that hypothesis.
- Test the hypothesis and predictions in an experiment that can be reproduced.
- Analyze the data and draw conclusions; accept or reject the hypothesis or modify the hypothesis if necessary.
- Reproduce the experiment until there are no discrepancies between observations and theory.
- The hypothesis must be testable and falsifiable.
- Research must involve deductive reasoning, not inductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning is the process of using true premises to reach a logical true conclusion.
- An experiment should include a dependent variable (which does not change) and an independent variable (which does change).
- An experiment should include an experimental group and a control group. The control group is what the experimental group is compared against.
This does not mean theories are not meaningful. For a hypothesis to become a theory, rigorous testing must occur, typically across multiple disciplines by separate groups of scientists. Saying something is “just a theory” is a lay person’s term that has no relationship to science, because in science, a theory is something that is very well supported by observation and experimentation.