How science works.

I am exhausted by the constant necessity of defending discovery and exploration science as being as legitimate as (and, in my opinion, far more influential than) “the” scientific method of testing very focused hypotheses. I am especially tired of having to reassure my graduate students that, despite what other faculty insist on implying, what they are doing is good science. As you can imagine, I am thrilled to see that the excellent resource site Understanding Science (a follow-up to their equally wonderful Understanding Evolution) agrees with me.

The alternative that they propose is pretty complex, but so is the real world.


If you’re one of those people who thinks there is one scientific method and that it involves only testing hypotheses, then you owe it to yourself and to your (and my) students to read this resource.


3 comments to How science works.

  • Larry Moran

    The site only gives two examples of the process at work. One of them, the Watson and Crick story, is distorted and factually incorrect. It doesn’t actually show what really happened in 1951-53.

    Instead, the description goes out of its way to raise questions about whether Watson and Crick behaved ethically.

    When communicating science to the general public the top three requirements are accuracy, accuracy, and accuracy. The Understanding Science site gets a failing grade.

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  • T Ryan Gregory

    You can disagree with the examples, but the fundamental message that the cookbook method is too simple is very much necessary

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  • Jonathan Badger

    Absolutely. There’s no need to feel embarrassed by research that doesn’t follow the grade school “scientific method” of “testing hypothesis”. Non-hypothesis driven projects aren’t just “fishing expeditions”, as they are often sneeringly referred to.

    In regard to the questionable ethical actions of Watson and Crick, the simple fact is that they viewed Franklin’s unpublished data without her permission. Even Watson himself said so in “The Double Helix”. That’s unethical behavior, period.

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