Lecture 1 - Science as a Process
What is Science?
Science is frequently only presented as the "Scientific Method."
While there is nothing wrong with the scientific method, it is not the only
means through which science is done.
- Science – the study of the natural world
- Science – a frequently misunderstood process by which new knowledge is
Introduction to the Scientific Method
The Hypothetico-Deductive Method (a.k.a. The Scientific Method)
- The word “Science” is derived from the Latin verb meaning “to
- A process known as the Scientific Method outlines a series of steps for
answering questions about the natural world
- The Scientific process is less structured than most people realize
- Few scientists adhere rigidly to its prescription (which is a good
Inductive vs. Deductive Reasoning
- Step 1: Observation or asking a question
- Science occurs when someone is curious
- The first scientists only sought to explain the natural world around
them (why does it rain, why are days longer in summer than in winter,
- Step 2: The Hypothesis
- A hypothesis is a tentative answer or solution to the question or
problem at hand
- A good hypothesis is structured as an “if-then” statement (i.e. if
"A" happens then "B" will occur)
- Hypotheses are general causes or explanations of phenomena
- Hypotheses reflect past experience with similar questions or
- Multiple hypotheses should be proposed whenever possible
- Hypotheses must be testable
- If you cannot disprove it (or at least come up with a way to
invalidate the hypothesis), it isn’t a valid hypothesis
- Hypotheses can be eliminated but never confirmed with absolute
Example 1: Why do Giraffes have long necks?
- Deduction – general premises are extrapolated to specific
- Sherlock uses what he as learned from previous cases to create a
possible scenario based upon the specific clues left at the scene of the
- Sally used what has previously been studied about the behavior of mice
to interpret the behavior of her pet rat
- Induction – reasoning from a set of specific observations to form
a general conclusion
- Sherlock has observed the clues from several linked crimes to create a
profile of the criminal
- From this profile, he will be able to predict the criminal's
- Are these predictions using inductive or deductive thought?
- In science, inductive thought is often called "model
Other Things to Watch For
- Hypotheses 1 - The Feeding Hypothesis:
- Giraffes have long necks because the long necks enable them to reach
food that is unavailable to others.
- Giraffes have long necks so that they can better feed on leaves on
tall trees that other animals cannot reach
- This was so logical that it was never tested…until now bwahahahahaha…..
- Studies were done and they determined that giraffes feed at heights
approximately 40 -60% of their height
- However, some giraffes feed at full height – the breeding males, for
- These observations do not support the feeding hypothesis, so this
hypothesis has fallen out of favor. A new hypothesis must be
- Hypothesis 2: The Mating Combat Ritual (Simmons and Sheepers)
- Giraffes have long necks because long necks are effective weapons for
one male against another during mating.
- This study was more observational in nature – it was difficult, if
not impossible, to experimentally test their hypothesis
- Does this make it scientifically less sound?
- Actually, most science is done in this way – observation and
inductive thought are often more common than experimentation and
- This doesn’t make it bad science, it just makes it a different
way to perform science
- Assumptions of the hypothesis:
- Giraffe neck length is variable
- Giraffe neck length is heritable
- They couldn’t do in-depth mating experiments, so it was
assumed that this was true
- The long neck aids the males in ritualized mating behavior – the
males beat each other with their heads in mock combat and to the
winner goes the right to mate
- The ritualized mating behavior was observed in nature (this
was the basis of this hypothesis)
- No other organism does this specific type of combat, but
ritualized combat is common among mammals (look at elks and
- Observations were made – the giraffes with the longer necks were
at an advantage in these combats
- The longer necks allowed the males to generate more
momentum and, therefore, hit harder
- When you knock a rival down, you get to breed and pass your
long-neck genes to your offspring
- More observations
- Measurements were done and males have a proportionally longer
neck than do females
- After the body quits growing, the head and neck continue to
grow, strengthening the neck and adding thicker bone to the
- Other questions:
- why do females have longer necks, since they don’t need to
beat each other up for the privilege of mating?
- Why don’t giraffe necks continue to elongate indefinitely?
- Was this selection for longer necks to increase mating combat
efficiency always present in giraffes or is it a newer
- The scientists themselves said that this is not the end-all answer
and invited other scientists to add to or argue against their
- If you ever see a study that claims that it was performed at a “major
mid-western university” don’t believe it!
- Publication is the lifeblood of science – any study worthy of
discussion is worthy of citation
- If “scientists” are ever shown who doesn’t state where they work or
from where they got their Ph.D., don’t believe them either!