Most people know little about the methods of science. Yet, without these methods, the results of scientific work are meaningless. How do we know that the results are accurate and reliable if we do not know what methods have been used to find out those results? Take the question, "Are dogs more intelligent than hogs?" Most people would reply, "Dogs are." But what methods did they use to find this answer? Dogs are regarded by humans as friendly, cute, and loyal, and they are kept close as pets. Hogs and pigs are considered dirty, to be raised mainly for food. Because many people like to be around dogs more than pigs, they make the assumption that dogs are smarter than pigs, but they never test this assumption.
Method of observation is the key to learning the real answer to such a question. How do you go about making fair observations? How do you make observations in which your biases have little effect on the results? When you can be reasonably sure that your methods of investigation are going to help guarantee honest results—results not seriously affected by prejudgment you may have made—then you may say you are being scientific. Controlling the prejudice problem is a key difference between ordinary, "commonsense" knowledge and scientific knowledge.
If you work on a science project and want it to be really scientific, you must be sharply aware, at every step, of your own prejudice about the outcome. This doesn't mean that having a prejudice is altogether wrong, or that it should keep you from doing a particular project. Let's say you like dogs and really don't know anything about the intelligence of pigs and hogs. Okay, so you have a prejudice. You'd like to find out that dogs are more intelligent than pigs. How can you test the intelligence of both kinds of animals without letting your prejudice affect the results? Once you plan a fair method for doing that, you are getting scientific about it.
But science is more than just planning how to get an answer to a question. It is more than using your reasoning or your logic. Science means the actual observation of things, of events, of phenomena. You can't be scientific until you actually do some observing of your subject. Observing, of course, means more than just seeing. It means using all of your senses as well as your measuring instruments, such as rulers, meter sticks, balances, clocks, and thermometers. It means using instruments that amplify the stimuli that your senses receive, such as telescopes, microscopes, sound amplifiers, and oscilloscopes. It means using recording equipment of many kinds (beside pencil or pen), such as cameras and tape recorders.
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