THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD:
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES
Fifi, the Flea, Guest Writer
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NOTE: I found the following undated paper, titled The Scientific Method: Its Advantages and Disadvantages, in my files. It was written for a philosophy class while I was a college student. It received a P+ grade.
Hi! My name is Fifi, the Famous Flea. I’m a unique flea—because I’m a thinking flea. This seeming absurdity enables me to observe Man and come to some objective conclusions about His “way of life.” Let me begin with what Man considers His greatest asset to progress in the 20th century—namely, the scientific method.
The scientific method is particularly responsible for Man’s modern position—and His dilemma.
To apply the scientific method, there must first be DOUBT, or inquiry, either in the form of an original question or in the form of questioning another man’s truths.
Man, to find an answer to that doubt, evolved the SCIENTIFIC METHOD, in which EXPERIMENT (that is, observation and reason)) plays a prominent role. How does Man apply this procedure? Let me use examples from one Man’s diary—Dr. X.
Dr. X notices some phenomena in another man, Z. A question arises: Is Z in good health or not? There is doubt. Dr. X, using the scientific method, has universally accepted facts, proven previously by the scientific method. (Otherwise, a lifetime would be taken up repeating experiments that have already proven to be true.) This is acceptable on the basis that, should He ever have any doubt about a fact, He can set up an experiment of his own and either confirm or deny the truth in question.
Observations are made by Dr. X and his assistant: Z has extremely flushed skin, a temperature of 106 degrees F, and a white cell count of 2.5 times the norm. Dr. X reasons and concludes, on the basis of these known facts, that Z is not in good health.
A new question has arisen from the answer to the first question. What is the cause of Z’s ill health?
Dr. X makes an educated guess: Z has an infection. This raises another question—What kind of infection?
Again, reason enters and a method must be devised to attain the truth. Pathological bacteria cause infections. Test for bacteria. Tests prove there are bacteria present in Z’s throat.
Previous experiments have shown that antibiotics can kill the pathological bacteria. Treat Z with the proper antibiotic. Observation: Z’s phenomena disappear within 24 hours. Reason concludes that the diagnosis was correct and Z is on the road to recovery. However, if the phenomena had not subsided further questions would arise. For example, Was the treatment correct or could the infection have arisen elsewhere?
There is a key factor in Man’s scientific method: Man is searching for an absolute truth, which can be disproved with only one negative test result. Science is never absolutely certain of its result because it is impossible to check every infection there ever was, so the one negative case might never be found. It is impossible to universally check any fact. Thus Man never has the complete reassurance of truth.
With accurate observation and correct reasoning Man can learn any FACT about the world, aye, even about the universe. What one man has proven by the scientific method can be universally applied so that any other man can also prove the same fact, if it is a truth. However, Man is limited to factual knowledge with the scientific method.
Yet, there are many questions that He has concocted throughout the ages before the method was ever discovered. The major question of all time seems to be: WHAT WAS THE BEGINNING AND WHERE IS THE END? Man has yet to apply the scientific method to attain the truth about His existence. Or does He really exist? Is He merely a necessary figment of the imagination? Did an Intelligent Being create the universe or was it always there, to exist until infinity, perhaps changing form but always present?
And then there is the moral question.
Dr. X has another patient, J, a young woman suffering from a terminal cancer, expecting to live for only three months. She is in great pain and has requested extra sleeping pills. Dr X is restrained by a medical oath to preserve life to its utmost. Can he apply the scientific method to this question—Should I do as this patient wills or should I follow the standard medical code? No, he cannot. The scientific method cannot cover moral, ethical, or religious questions for Man at this time.
Man once considered disease as mystic, unconquerable, and/or a punishment by the gods. But his scientific method uncovered the facts, which took away the mysticism. Perhaps, one day, Man will be able to apply the scientific method to problems like these, and to uncover the truths about the world. Or perhaps the scientific method will always prove inadequate on moral, ethical, and religious questions, and Man in His power will evolve a new system to attain truth.
I believe that someday Man’s day will come, and He will uncover the answers to all His questions. Meanwhile, I must take a rest. Thinking is such tiring work. I’ll leave it to Man. Thank you for reading my article.
Fifi, the Famous Flea