Science and Theory
Science is a colossal human achievement. The effort to distinguish the operations by which that success is achieved is the study of scientific method. Systematic observation and experimentation, inductive and deductive reasoning, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses and theories are some of the processes that are often recognized as being characteristic of science. These can vary tremendously in terms of how they are carried out in detail, but qualities like these have been used to distinguish scientific activity from non-science, with only corporations that use some canonical form of scientific method or techniques being considered science. Science’s goals and goods, such as information, forecasts, and control, should be differentiated from the scientific method. The methods used to accomplish those objectives are referred to as “methods.” The scientific method should also be distinguished from meta-methodology, which encompasses the values and justifications that underpin a particular characterization of the scientific method (i.e., a methodology) — values like objectivity, reproducibility, simplicity, or previous successes. Methodological rules are proposed to govern methods, and whether methods that follow the rules satisfy given values is a meta-methodological question. Finally, the method is different from the comprehensive and contextual practices that procedures are implemented through to some extent.
Methodological and meta-methodological motives or justifications cannot be separated from methodological and meta-methodological accounts, and each component is important in defining methods. Methodological disagreements have thus arisen at the level of detail, rule, and meta-rule. Changes in beliefs about the certainty or fallibility of scientific knowledge, for example, which is a meta-methodological consideration of what we would expect from methods, have resulted in a different emphasis on deductive and inductive reasoning, or on the relative importance of reasoning over observation. Methodological and meta-methodological motivations and justifications are inextricably linked to methodological and meta-methodological accounts, and each is crucial in identifying methods. As a result, methodological differences have emerged at the level of detail, rule, and meta-rule. Changes in beliefs about the certainty or fallibility of scientific knowledge, for example, have resulted in a distinct focus on deductive and inductive reasoning, or on the relative importance of reasoning over observation, which is a meta-methodological consideration of what we can expect from the methodology.
The question of how pluralistic do we need to be about method has affected scientific method discussions the most in the last half-century. Nihilism is a form of radical pluralism that considers the effectiveness of any methodological prescription to be so context sensitive that it is not explanatory on its own; unificationists continue to hold out for one technique important to science; radical pluralism considers the effectiveness of any methodological prescription to be so context sensitive that it is not explanatory on its own.