Journal Article

How Science Textbooks Treat Scientific Method: A Philosopher's Perspective

James Blachowicz

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 60, issue 2, pages 303-344
Published in print June 2009 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online March 2009 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axp011
How Science Textbooks Treat Scientific Method: A Philosopher's Perspective

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This paper examines, from the point of view of a philosopher of science, what it is that introductory science textbooks say and do not say about ‘scientific method’. Seventy introductory texts in a variety of natural and social sciences provided the material for this study. The inadequacy of these textbook accounts is apparent in three general areas: (a) the simple empiricist view of science that tends to predominate; (b) the demarcation between scientific and non-scientific inquiry and (c) the avoidance of controversy—in part the consequence of the tendency toward textbook standardization. Most importantly, this study provides some evidence of the gulf that separates philosophy of science from science instruction, and examines some important aspects of the demarcation between science and non-science—an important issue for philosophers, scientists, and science educators. 1

Scientific Method in Science Textbooks

1.1

Textbook selection

1.2

Topic frequency

Part I: Preliminaries

2

Science versus Non-science

2.1

Subjective experience/bias

2.2

Too many unmeasurable variables

2.3

Non-phenomenal objects

2.4

Falsifiability

3

Scientific Method in Everyday Activities?

4

When Did Science Begin?

4.1

Greek science?

4.2

Seventeenth-century origins

Part II: Components

5

Formal Logic

5.1

Deduction: ‘if–then reasoning’

5.2

Induction

6

Hypotheses, Theories, Laws, Models

6.1

Description and explanation

6.2

Models

6.3

‘Only a theory’

6.4

Simplicity

Part III: Dynamics

7

The Generation of Hypotheses

8

The Testing of Hypotheses

8.1

Proof/verification/confirmation

8.2

Why is confirmation inconclusive?

8.2.1

Inductive generalization

8.2.2

Alternative hypotheses and the hypothetico-deductive method

8.3

Disproof/falsification

8.4

Why is falsification inconclusive?

8.4.1

Saving a hypothesis through ad hoc exceptions

8.4.2

Revising/correcting a hypothesis

9

Experimental Controls and the ‘Broken Lamp’

10

Conclusion

10.1

Different sciences, different concerns

10.2

Simple empiricism

10.3

The demarcation question

10.4

Textbook standardization and the avoidance of controversy

Journal Article.  16644 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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