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Thread: The Scientific Method - when did teaching it as steps begin?

  1. #31
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    Algorithmic processes were used way back in ancient Sumerian/Babylonian times, dating back to about 3000BC. I think the answer to your question is embedded in the History of Mathematics. Al-Khwarizmi (750-850BC) played a role in the formalisation of algebra, (which is all about method/process).

    I think the word “Algorithm” is actually a corruption of Al-Khwarizmi’s name?
    "It's only a model....?" :-)
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  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by plant View Post

    I think the word “Algorithm” is actually a corruption of Al-Khwarizmi’s name?
    Although future students may accidentally believe it has something to do with Al Gore... ;-)
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  3. #33
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    From the educational perspective*.

    Ørsted in the 1800s was a big fan of the scientific method, and he may shed some light on why this question is so hard to nail down. He had 3 steps, but implicitly stated that those steps would never be found in a textbook. It's "a process of human intellect" to him. Obviously, someone had broken the process down into steps before him but he doesn't say who taught him.

    Exactly when did the use of steps for the scientific method become a teaching method? I don't know if that is knowable.

    *Edit - I was provoked to find an answer when a student with autism asked me "why is everything in steps? I hate steps, let just do it already." Obviously, it wasn't a literal question, but since asking a non-literal question was one of his weak points, I tried to find an answer. And failed. I did tell him, I tried and failed, which made him feel better.
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  4. #34
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    For me, the SM is first a package deal, followed by the steps; the cake itself, not just the recipe. Gilbert's great efforts in experimental science had part of the recipe but he made cookies, or perhaps cup cakes. Grosseteste, followed by his student (?) Bacon, was amazing and both seemed to get the ingredients right, IIRC.

    And a single cake by any one person deserves credit but it can only satisfy a few. A cake bakery is what was needed and the arguments favoring Galileo for this are reasonable. He was up against teleology (what is discovered must have purpose behind it and, for Galileo's world, that purpose must be from God), so his cake had to be better than averag in pleasing anyone willing to try it. His eloquence in making arguments favoring what we call the SM were powerful and often persuasive, but even he could not convince enough theologians, though some, to re-interpret their subjective-based reasoning with the enlightenment of overlapping objective evidence. His bravado, too, both helped him and hurt him.

    He claimed math as the language of science; objectivity and experimentation are critical and distinctly different than subjective (i.e. religious) viewpoints. He tried to walk on egg shells but had lead feet.
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  5. #35
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    As I predicted in the OP, the discussion of the long history of the scientific method is an irresistible digression. Many people take some version of the modern stepwise description as the natural and correct outcome of historical trends. Even if it is, the person who came up with the modern stepwise description deserves recognition. Currently, the scientific method *is* the stepwise description because that's how it is taught nowadays and teachers who wish to vary from a description in steps are obligated to mention the steps as a point of reference. Examine material from that great teacher the worldwide web by doing a search for images associated with "scientific method".

    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    . Grosseteste, followed by his student (?) Bacon, was amazing and both seemed to get the ingredients right, IIRC.
    The modern description refers to a step of "observation", which avoids the historic controversies about "induction". The step of "observation" also doesn't affirm or deny the compilation of similar instances advocated by the Baconian method. "Observation" was a very diplomatic choice of language!

  6. #36
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    But this question begs the question, because it is not always steps in the sense of sequence. The periodic table for example or the Copenhagen interpretation were from considerations of a wealth of knowledge at the time and both made prediction and new experiments possible. In my education there was a strong dose of an historical sequence with demonstration experiments copying some of the pivotal ones from history. That was a different meaning of steps.
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  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by tashirosgt View Post
    As I predicted in the OP, the discussion of the long history of the scientific method is an irresistible digression. Many people take some version of the modern stepwise description as the natural and correct outcome of historical trends. Even if it is, the person who came up with the modern stepwise description deserves recognition. Currently, the scientific method *is* the stepwise description because that's how it is taught nowadays and teachers who wish to vary from a description in steps are obligated to mention the steps as a point of reference.
    It wouldn't surprise me if the steps were initially for the purpose of teaching the method rather than used as an explicit tool by early scientists. It would indeed be interesting to see its first use in any school book. But, if so, that would not come about until such teaching was acceptable. Galileo had great difficulty convincing even those fond of him how significant objective-based science could assist in discovery and that objective science could overrule religious views. Given two religious interpretations, science would give favor to the evidentiary one.
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  8. #38
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    If you look at the "steps" on Science Buddies at https://www.sciencebuddies.org/scien...entific-method, it gives a kind of flow chart, but basically I can hardly imagine how you could do anything remotely resembling science without following something pretty close to that flow chart. If this were culinary art, the "steps" would be something like "gather foods, prepare foods, taste foods, decide if you like the result." One could call that the "steps" of culinary art, and make a nice flow chart, but it's saying little beyond the obvious. What it comes down to is, science is about making objective observations and using them to generate and test theories. If you are doing that, it's science, I'm not sure that looking for "steps" really says that much.

  9. #39
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    It appears that our ancestors evolved in an environment in which many patterns repeat over time, so natural selection chose those who had brains that could take advantage of this. That's why when we observe a repeating pattern our brains expect it to continue, such as a fruit that has always tasted good is expected to continue to taste good. I'm guessing that science began when someone first made an additional observation for the purpose of confirming a pattern rather than just noticing such an event. I suppose that first scientist might have tried to teach this to a comrade before a dinosaur ate them both.

  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck View Post
    I suppose that first scientist might have tried to teach this to a comrade before a dinosaur ate them both.
    It would be more scientific to say "a lion", but there were indeed places where predatory birds were a threat to our distant ancestors...
    The greatest journey of all time, for all to see
    Every mission makes our dreams reality
    And our destiny begins with you and me
    Through all space and time, the achievement of mankind
    As we sail the sea of discovery, on heroes’ wings we fly!

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