So many of you will already be aware that there isn’t one scientific method. The one we usually learn and teach about however, goes a bit like this:
Looks familiar right? Now remember when I said there isn’t only one scientific method, let’s consider the field of epidemiology. In epidemiology which is a branch of biology we try to understand human diseases, how they originate, how they spread, what are some factors that predetermine the acquisition of disease and so on. Now it’s really frowned upon to do experiments on people. For example, we can’t PROVE that smoking causes lung cancer because we can’t say “Oi, you 30 people, come over here and smoke for the next 20 years of your life and we’ll see if you get lung cancer, and you 30 over there, you’re fine just don’t smoke”. I’m sure you can see how ridiculous that would be!
So how do we get around this problem? Well by a lot of observation. Epidemiology relies on life already carrying out the method and results, and epidemiologists just go out and try to observe people and find patterns. It’s a very complicated but extremely fascinating process that relies very much on statistics. I might do a post on the bell curve if I get a chance – it’s actually really cool.
So anyway, here is a template you can use with high school students to scaffold for them the (traditional) scientific method.
Can you think of another situation where the classical scientific method doesn’t hold true?