Lecture Reflection: Methodology – Observations, Experimentation, Theories, Models

In the lecture session, we continued to speak about the methodology of science. He started the class with the meaning of the term empirical evidence. Upon hearing this new word, I immediately remembered why I am not a big fan of this course. The lecturer, before divulging into the definition on this new term, gave us a historical background of how the term was derived by referring to the contributions of Ancient Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristole. He then proceeded with the meanings of the terms observations, experimentation, models and theories; as well as employed videos and pictures for some of the unknown terms, which assisted with my understanding. For example, he presented two videos when explaining experimentation; he showed the work of William Harvey (circulatory system) and another on Galileo (use of telescope to the heaven and falling objects). Moreover, he touched on the differences between scientific laws and theories, which I always thought meant the same thing. Empirical evidence is information acquired by observation or experimentation. This process is a central part of the scientific method. The scientific method begins with scientists forming questions, or hypotheses, and then acquiring the knowledge through observations and experiments to either support or disprove a specific theory. Observations means to study carefully; upon observing a hypothesis can be formed which refers to making an educated guess about what will happen. For the hypothesis to be useful it must be testable thus experimentation is needed.

My interest in the use of empirical evidence and the scientific method was peaked when I realized that this method can be used by non-scientists like myself. For instance, last week I asked my single friend, Lily, if she thinks a boy in our class, Mike, liked her. I asked Lily this question because I observed Mike always watching her during classes. As a result, this led me to form a hypothesis that Mike and Lily would make a good couple as she is single, and Mike seems to be interested. Thus, I tested my hypothesis by inviting Mike to my birthday dinner, where I placed him to sit right next to Lily. They spoke with each other for the entire dinner; however their conversation was based solely on school work and Mike’s love for his girlfriend, Jess, who was studying abroad. Therefore, my hypothesis proved to be false but with time my hypothesis may be true as many long - distance relationships do not last. In the lecture we also spoke about the differences between scientific theories and scientific laws. A scientific theory is an explanation of a natural phenomenon with a broad range of significance and application whereas a scientific law is an empirical statement of great generality of something which seems to always be true (lecture slides). I appreciated seeing the word theory in this course as it is a term with which I have become familiar in my area of study. For example, in law there are many theories relating to the definition of a crime. There are the positivist, naturalist and socialist theories. The lecturer ended the session by speaking about scientific models. I understood this to simply mean a representation of an item. It is not a replica of the item, but it is similar to it. He used examples like the solar system and the theory of evolution.

In my opinion, the lecture would have been more effective if the lecturer showed how all these terms were related. It was only upon further reading of the course manual that I truly understood the relationships of these terms. I learnt that the results of observations and experiments provide a starting point for formulating hypotheses, models and theories. Furthermore, observations, experimentation and reasoning are unavoidably related with laws and theories and lead to predictions and explanations.

15 April 2020
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