Science As A Process

Science is characterized by an organized approach, called the scientific method, to learn how the natural world works. The methods of science are based on two important principles. The first principle is that events in the natural world have natural causes. For example, the ancient Greeks believed that lightning and thunder occurred because a supernatural god Zeus hurled thunderbolts from the heavens. By contrast, a scientist considers lightning and thunder to result from electric charges in the atmosphere. When trying to solve a puzzle from nature, all scientists, such as the one in Figure 1-8, accept that there is a natural cause to solve that puzzle.

A second principle of science is uniformity. Uniformity is the idea that the fundamental laws of nature operate the same way at all places and at all times. For example, scientists assume that the law of gravity works the same way on Mars as it does on Earth.

Steps of the Scientific Method

Although there is no single method for doing science, scientific studies involve a series of common steps.

1. The process of science begins with an observation. An observation is the act of perceiving a natural occurrence that causes someone to pose a question.

2. One tries to answer the question by forming hypotheses (singular, hypothesis). A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for the way a particular aspect of the natural world functions.

3. A prediction is a statement that forecasts what would happen in a test situation if the hypothesis were true. A prediction is recorded for each hypothesis.

4. An experiment is used to test a hypothesis and its predictions.

5. Once the experiment has been concluded, the data are analyzed and used to draw conclusions.

6. After the data have been analyzed, the data and conclusions are communicated to scientific peers and to the public. This way others can verify, reject, or modify the researcher's conclusions.

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