Science in Context
There are many ways to interpret the world around us. People rely on common sense, personal experience, and faith, in combination and to varying degrees. All of these offer legitimate benefits to navigating one’s culture, and each offers a unique perspective, with specific uses and limitations. Science provides another important way of understanding the world and, while it has many crucial advantages, as with all methods of interpretation, it also has limitations. Understanding the limits of science—including its subjectivity and uncertainty— does not render it useless. Because it is systematic, using testable, reliable data, it can allow us to determine causality and can help us generalize our conclusions. By understanding how scientific conclusions are reached, we are better equipped to use science as a tool of knowledge.
Answer – Test Yourself 1: Can It Be Falsified?
Answer explained: There are 4 hypotheses presented. Basically, the question asks “which of these could be tested and demonstrated to be false?”. We can eliminate answers A, B and C. A is a matter of personal opinion. C is a concept for which there are currently no existing measures. B is a little trickier. A person could look at data on wars, assaults, and other forms of violence to draw a conclusion about which period is the most violent. The problem here is that we do not have data for all time periods, and there is no clear guide to which data should be used to address this hypothesis. The best answer is D, because we have the means to view other planets and to determine whether there is water on them (for example, Mars has ice).
Answer – Test Yourself 2: Inductive or Deductive
Answer explained: This question asks you to consider whether each of 5 examples represents inductive or deductive reasoning. 1) Inductive—it is possible to draw the conclusion—the homeowner left in a hurry—from specific observations such as the stove being on and the door being open. 2) Deductive—starting with a general principle (gravity is associated with mass), we draw a conclusion about the moon having weaker gravity than does the Earth because it has smaller mass. 3) Deductive—starting with a general principle (students do not like to pay for textbooks) it is possible to make a prediction about likely student behavior (they will not purchase textbooks). Note that this is a case of prediction rather than using observations. 4) Deductive—starting with a general principle (students need 100 credits to graduate) it is possible to draw a conclusion about Janine (she cannot graduate because she has fewer than the 100 credits required).