"I was trained, as a chemist, to use the classic scientific method: Devise a testable hypothesis, and then design an experiment to see if the hypothesis is correct or not. And I was told that this method is equally valid for the social sciences. I've changed my mind that this is the best way to do science. I have three reasons for this change of mind."These three reasons are:
- the importance of observations, without explicitly testing hypotheses
- testable hypotheses are not interesting
- the scientific method often leads to proving a hypothesis, not testing it
These three reasons point out some major misunderstandings of the scientific method (see this post, or this post) :
- the context leading up to the hypothesis-prediction-test (the question, background information, etc.) forms an essential part of the scientific method
- the discussion of results (the information increase that leads to the next cycle) also forms an essential part of the scientific method. This is exactly what she points out "... the exciting part is a series of interrelated questions that arise and expand almost indefinitely".
- this is a general misunderstanding that Dr Peppenberg correctly identifies. But this is not a reason to dismiss the method, but more a call for better education.
We always tell our students that a full understanding of the scientific method, despite its apparent simplicity, is actually more challenging than it looks like. And now we can point them to this article, because this is a successful scientist from one of the best universities in the world (Harvard), who has a very limited idea of the scientific method.