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The Scientific Method

David Wallace Croft

A sermon presented to the
Humanist Church of North Texas
2003 Sep 20 Sat

* What We Believe
* "What is Humanism" by Corliss Lamont

* My kids learned of Bloody Mary at school a few days ago
* We put it to a test
* One child unwilling to try for fear of consequences
* Reminded me of Pascal's Wager

* Humanists praise the Scientific Method frequently
* When we use the term "science", we often mean the Scientific Method
* I remember it from high school science class about 2 decades ago
* Time for a review

* Definitions

"a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data are
gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from these data, and the hypothesis is
empirically tested."

"Date: 1854
: principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge
involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of
data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of
Merriam Webster Online

* Better definition from the sci.skeptic newsgroup mailing list FAQ
* We have our own local skeptic organization,
  North Texas Skeptics
* Overlap in its membership with Humanists and Atheists

1. Observe some aspect of the universe.
2. Invent a theory that is consistent with what you have observed.
3. Use the theory to make predictions.
4. Test those predictions by experiments or further observations.
5. Modify the theory in the light of your results.
6. Go to step 3.

* Expanded version of Scientific Method from Wikipedia
* Wikipedia is "the free encylopedia"
* Voluntary contributions and edits online
* I like this definition because it provides a memorable one-word
  label for each step

* Observe: Observe or read about a phenomenon.

* Hypothesize: Wonder about your observations, and invent a hypothesis,
  a 'guess', which could explain the phenomenon or set of facts that
  you have observed.

* Predict: Use the logical consequences of your hypothesis to predict
  observations of new phenomena or results of new measurements.

* Verify: Perform experiments to test these predictions, to find just
  which prediction occurred.

* Evaluate: Search for other possible explanations of the result until
  you can show that your guess was indeed the explanation, with confidence.

* Publish: Tell others of your results. A reputable journal will have
  your draft reviewed by other, independent scientists in the field,
  before publishing the results. This process is known as peer review.

* Reproduce: Other scientists will review your published work and attempt
  to repeat the results. If the results are not reproducible, the original
  hypothesis is not verified and weaknesses in the reasoning or methods
  must be sought.

* "Religion explains; Science predicts."
  -- Quoted by                                                               
  -- Joel N. Franklin, Ph.D., Professor of Applied Mathematics, Caltech

* To be tested by the Scientific Method, a theory must be falsifiable
* Many of our Founding Fathers were Deists
* Deists believe that a creator created the Universe
* Their logic is that this must be so since the Universe exists
* The alternative theory is that the Universe always existed
* Did the creator always exist?
* If not, who created the creator?

* Deists also believe that the creator no longer intervenes
* The Universe plays itself out like a giant clock wound up and released

* Deism is not falsifiable so we cannot apply the Scientific Method
* Theists, on the other hand, believe in a prayer-answering god
* This is falsifiable

* Rugby player joke

An atheist professor was teaching a college class. One morning he announced
to the class he was going to prove that there was no God.

He said, "God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this
platform. I'll give you 15 minutes!"

Ten minutes went by, then 12, then 14. He kept taunting God, saying, "Here
I am, God; I'm still waiting!"

It was down to the last minute and suddenly a huge 250-pound rugby player
happened to walk by the classroom door.

Hearing the professor's challenge, the rugby player walked into the
classroom, hit the professor full force, and sent him flying off the

The professor got up, obviously shaken. "Where did you come from, and why
did you do that?"

The rugby player replied, "God was busy. He sent me!"

[Humanist Humor, Humanist Network News, Institute of Humanist Studies]

* I don't want to get whacked off of the pulpit
* So I suggest an alternative experiment
* Pray for half of the members in the room to become trillionaires
* The other half would be in the control group
* Tune in next month to evaluate the results

* More info

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© 2003 David Wallace Croft
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.5.

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