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Fear Not The Science

Originally appeared on

   What is Science? Many associate it with an eccentric villain, a misguided asocial misfit, or an unknown sinister lab profaning nature to our ultimate demise. Most associate it with the unknown, which they project their fears upon. The latter sentiment has been true from the earliest days of the Scientific Method. In highly religious climates, those preaching logic and evidence were often treated as heretics, with every effort to defame them employed to disastrous end. Others see Science as another religion, just trying to preach another set of beliefs, but those perceptions are misconceptions. Science is not a maniac perverting some immaculate nature to twisted, unintended, evil ends. Science is not a dogma or mythology. Science is not technology, though it surely fuels it. Heck, Science isn’t really even its own body of knowledge. Science is a method. Science is a verb. Science is a way to test and discover. Science is a way to determine. Science is the means to the end. Science is the way to approach learning and answering questions which, when done correctly, leaves bias and preconception behind. Science is how the universe is learning about itself.

Have I explained it horribly? Here’s a flow chart for the visually-inclined!

Have I explained it horribly? Here’s a flow chart for the visually-inclined!

In a nutshell, the Scientific Method is a process which, logically, answers a question. It was designed (and refined) to provide an objective means to do that. Science begins with a question. The question is examined and refined to be very specific. Preliminary research and evidence gathering commences and, from that, a hypothesis is born. The hypothesis, next, must be tested and it must be done with objective rigor to control for potential result-skewing variables. (This is where the phrase ‘controlled double blind study‘ comes from. Fun times!)

Once all testing is done and data has been collected, the researcher(s) will analyze the data and report the results. If the study was conclusive, a conclusion will be drawn. Did it confirm or smash the hypothesis? Did it show the hypothesis needed more refining? If the question wasn’t answered or the hypothesis was not confirmed, it’s back to the drawing board! With the results, a new hypothesis can be developed and we go ahead again from there. Wash, rinse, repeat. Do we have a seemingly correct idea yet? Great!

The paper then goes before peer review for publication. If it passes that scrutiny, congratulations! You’ve been published! The peer review doesn’t end there. The hypothesis and every aspect of the study then is dropped in the global sea of the scientific community to be pecked at, picked apart, and run through the proverbial ringer. Other researchers will attempt to reproduce the results. Other aspects of the hypothesis will be examined. The process never ends!

Humans are incredibly fallible. We’re terribly unbalanced, emotional, biased, lazy, and utterly flawed beasts of burden. We’re embarrassingly prone to botch objectivity, which is why the edicts of logic, skepticism, and rigors of science are so vitally important. Unfortunately, despite these, badly executed science slips through the cracks. Usually, the wider scientific community will pick up on it and point it out. It is important for anyone who cares about issues, which science plays a role, to be educated in the basics and to know what to look for.

Don’t be afraid of Science. Science is learning. Science is discovery. Science is illumination and wonder all wrapped into one. Science is beauty.

Recommended reading:
What is Science?
The Definition of Science: What is Science?
10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing