A Nomenklatura científica é real, mas o método científico é um mito!

quinta-feira, outubro 29, 2015

The Scientific Method is a Myth

By Daniel P. Thurs | October 28, 2015 12:25 pm

It’s probably best to get the bad news out of the way first. The so-called scientific method is a myth. That is not to say that scientists don’t do things that can be described and are unique to their fields of study. But to squeeze a diverse set of practices that span cultural anthropology, paleobotany, and theoretical physics into a handful of steps is an inevitable distortion and, to be blunt, displays a serious poverty of imagination. Easy to grasp, pocket-guide versions of the scientific method usually reduce to critical thinking, checking facts, or letting “nature speak for itself,” none of which is really all that uniquely scientific. If typical formulations were accurate, the only location true science would be taking place in would be grade-school classrooms.

Source/Fonte: Shutterstock

Scratch the surface of the scientific method and the messiness spills out. Even simplistic versions vary from three steps to eleven. Some start with hypothesis, others with observation. Some include imagination. Others confine themselves to facts. Question a simple linear recipe and the real fun begins. A website called Understanding Science offers an “interactive representation” of the scientific method that at first looks familiar. It includes circles labeled “Exploration and Discovery” and “Testing Ideas.” But there are others named “Benefits and Outcomes” and “Community Analysis and Feedback,” both rare birds in the world of the scientific method. To make matters worse, arrows point every which way. Mouse over each circle and you find another flowchart with multiple categories and a tangle of additional arrows.

It’s also telling where invocations of the scientific method usually appear. A broadly conceived method receives virtually no attention in scientific papers or specialized postsecondary scientific training. The more “internal” a discussion — that is, the more insulated from nonscientists —the more likely it is to involve procedures, protocols, or techniques of interest to close colleagues.

Meanwhile, the notion of a heavily abstracted scientific method has pulled public discussion of science into its orbit, like a rhetorical black hole. Educators, scientists, advertisers, popularizers, and journalists have all appealed to it. Its invocation has become routine in debates about topics that draw lay attention, from global warming to intelligent design. Standard formulations of the scientific method are important only insofar as nonscientists believe in them.

The Bright Side

Now for the good news. The scientific method is nothing but a piece of rhetoric. Granted, that may not appear to be good news at first, but it actually is. The scientific method as rhetoric is far more complex, interesting, and revealing than it is as a direct reflection of the ways scientists work. Rhetoric is not just words; rather, “just” words are powerful tools to help shape perception, manage the flow of resources and authority, and make certain kinds of actions or beliefs possible or impossible. That’s particularly true of what Raymond Williams called “keywords.” A list of modern-day keywords include “family,” “race,” “freedom,” and “science.” Such words are familiar, repeated again and again until it seems that everyone must know what they mean. At the same time, scratch their surface, and their meanings become full of messiness, variation, and contradiction.

Sound familiar? Scientific method is a keyword (or phrase) that has helped generations of people make sense of what science was, even if there was no clear agreement about its precise meaning— especially if there was no clear agreement about its precise meaning. The term could roll off the tongue and be met by heads nodding in knowing assent, and yet there could be a different conception within each mind. As long as no one asked too many questions, the flexibility of the term could be a force of cohesion and a tool for inspiring action among groups. A word with too exact a definition is brittle; its use will be limited to specific circumstances. A word too loosely defined will create confusion and appear to say nothing. A word balanced just so between precision and vagueness can change the world.

The Scientific Method, a Historical Perspective

This has been true of the scientific method for some time. As early as 1874, British economist Stanley Jevons (1835–1882) commented in his widely noted Principles of Science, “Physicists speak familiarly of scientific method, but they could not readily describe what they mean by that expression.” Half a century later, sociologist Stuart Rice (1889–1969) attempted an “inductive examination” of the definitions of the scientific method offered in social scientific literature. Ultimately, he complained about its “futility.” “The number of items in such an enumeration,” he wrote, “would be infinitely large.”

And yet the wide variation in possible meanings has made the scientific method a valuable rhetorical resource. Methodological pictures painted by practicing scientists have often been tailored to support their own position and undercut that of their adversaries, even if inconsistency results. As rhetoric, the scientific method has performed at least three functions: it has been a tool of boundary work, a bridge between the scientific and lay worlds, and a brand that represents science itself. It has typically fulfilled all these roles at once, but they also represent a rough chronology of its use. Early in the term’s history, the focus was on enforcing boundaries around scientific ideas and practices. Later, it was used more forcefully to show nonscientists how science could be made relevant. More or less coincidentally, its invocation assuaged any doubts that real science was present.

Timing is a crucial factor in understanding the scientific method. Discussion of the best methodology with which to approach the study of nature goes back to the ancient Greeks. Method also appeared as an important concern for natural philosophers during the Islamic and European Middle Ages, whereas many historians have seen the methodological shifts associated with the Scientific Revolution as crucial to the creation of modern science. Given all that, it’s even more remarkable that “scientific method” was rarely used before the mid-nineteenth century among English speakers, and only grew to widespread public prominence from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries, peaking somewhere between the 1920s and 1940s. In short, the scientific method is a relatively recent invention.

But it was not alone. Such now-familiar pieces of rhetoric as “science and religion,” “scientist,” and “pseudoscience” grew in prominence over the same period of time. In that sense, “scientific method” was part of what we might call a rhetorical package, a collection of important keywords that helped to make science comprehensible, to clarify its differences with other realms of thought, and to distinguish its devotees from other people. All of this paralleled a shift in popular notions of science from general systematized knowledge during the early 1800s to a special and unique sort of information by the early 1900s. These notions eclipsed habits of talk about the scientific method that opened the door to attestations of the authority of science in contrast with other human activities.

Such labor is the essence of what Thomas Gieryn (b. 1950) has called “boundary-work”— that is, exploiting variations and even apparent contradictions in potential definitions of science to enhance one’s own access to social and material resources while denying such benefits to others. During the late 1800s, the majority of public boundary-work around science was related to the raging debate over biological evolution and the emerging fault line between science and religion. Given that, we might expect the scientific method to have been a prominent weapon for the advocates of evolutionary ideas, such as John Tyndall (1820–1893) or Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895). But that wasn’t the case. The notion of a uniquely scientific methodology was still too new and lacked the rhetorical flexibility that made it useful. Instead, the loudest invocations of the scientific method were by those who hoped to limit the reach of science. An author in a magazine called Ladies’ Repository (1868) reflected that “every generation, as it accumulated fresh illustrations of the scientific method, is more and more embarrassed at how to piece them in with that far grander and nobler personal discipline of the soul which hears in every circumstance of life some new word of command from the living God.”

Read more here/Leia mais aqui: Discover Magazine



Destaquei a inexistência do método científico em uma palestra na Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie em outubro de 2012. Fiz uma pausa após a afirmação e olhei firmemente a audiência - perplexidade geral. Calma, eu disse aos ouvintes que, embora não exista o método científico par excellence, mas por ser o empreendimento científico composto por várias ciências, cada uma delas demanda o seu método científico. Ficaram mais aliviados.

Este blogger fica feliz em saber que outros cientistas partilham do mesmo sentimento contra a ditadura do método científico quando são vários os métodos científicos.