How Science Works

If Bloom’s taxonomy is a model for learning in education, here’s how science works as can be seen per individual and historical context.

Individual Context

Chaos (anything goes) – Paul Feyerabend (human nature, unpredictable)

Collective Perspective

Order (scientific method, scientific consensus, viewpoints improve in time)

1.) Evolutionary – Karl Popper

In Popper’s view, the advance of scientific knowledge is an evolutionary  process characterized by his formula:

PS_1 –> TT_1 –> EE_1 –> PS_2

In response to a given problem situation (PS1), a number of competing conjectures, or tentative theories (TT), are systematically subjected to the most rigorous attempts at falsification possible. This process, error elimination (EE), performs a similar function for science that natural selection performs for biological evolution. Theories that better survive the process of refutation are not more true, but rather, more “fit”—in other words, more applicable to the problem situation at hand (PS1). Consequently, just as a species’ biological fitness does not ensure continued survival, neither does rigorous testing protect a scientific theory from refutation in the future. Yet, as it appears that the engine of biological evolution has produced, over time, adaptive traits equipped to deal with more and more complex problems of survival, likewise, the evolution of theories through the scientific method may, in Popper’s view, reflect a certain type of progress: toward more and more interesting problems (PS2). For Popper, it is in the interplay between the tentative theories (conjectures) and error elimination (refutation) that scientific knowledge advances toward greater and greater problems; in a process very much akin to the interplay between genetic variation and natural selection.

2) Paradigms – Thomas Kuhn

Examples:

Ptolemaic -> Copernican -> Galileo -> Kepler -> Newton -> Einstein

Light phenomenon: Wave theory, Particle theory -> Wave-particle duality

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