I’ve listed definitions of the scientific method from 5 different sources as follows:
A method of investigation involving observation and theory to test scientific hypotheses
A method of discovering knowledge about the natural world based in making falsifiable predictions (hypotheses), testing them empirically, and developing peer-reviewed theories that best explain the known data
Systematic approach of observation, hypothesis formation, hypothesis testing and hypothesis evaluation that forms the basis for modern science.www.emc.maricopa.edu/faculty/farabee/BIOBK/BioBookglossS.html
The set of rules used to guide science, based on the idea that scientific “laws” be continuously tested, and replaced if found inadequate.
A process that is the basis for scientific inquiry. The scientific method follows a series of steps: (1) identify a problem you would like to solve, (2) formulate a hypothesis, (3) test the hypothesis, (4) collect and analyze the data, (5) make conclusions.
I was a little surprised by what I read. I remembered scientific method in a more strict sense. But scientific method is a heck of a lot of observation with conclusions that become more and more fine tuned as more and more is observed. Relative to global warming, reports will change either for the better or worse as more data is collected. Observation is the first step of the scientific method.
The second step in most of these definitions is the need to test a hypothesis. I thought I’d better refresh my memory on that one too. The definition of hypothesis: A hypothesis (from Greek ὑπόθεσις [iˈpoθesis]) consists either of a suggested explanation for an observable phenomenon or of a reasoned proposal predicting a possible causal correlation among multiple phenomena. The term derives from the Greek, hypotithenai meaning “to put under” or “to suppose.”
There is also the phrase empirical testing. Hmmm looked that one up too and it seems the word empirical gets confused with experimental more often than not. According to Wikipedia: “Empirical method is generally taken to mean the collection of data on which to base a theory or derive a conclusion in science. It is part of the scientific method, but is often mistakenly assumed to be synonymous with the experimental method where data are derived from the systematic manipulation of variables in an experiment.” I know we’re talking reliable sources here and encyclopedias aren’t considered reliable sources because they constantly change and are updated, but this is just for definition sake.
Finally there is the term “theory.” A theory, in the scientific sense of the word, is an analytic structure designed to explain a set of empirical observations. A scientific theory does two things:
1. it identifies this set of distinct observations as a class of phenomena, and
2. makes assertions about the underlying reality that brings about or affects this class.
Our climate scientists have clearly been using scientific methods for global warming predictions. For instance:
Identify a problem to be solved: Global warming. The most commonly cited indication of global warming is the trend for globally averaged temperature near the Earth’s surface. Expressed as a linear trend, this temperature rose by 0.74°C ±0.18°C over the period 1906-2005. The rate of warming over the last 50 years of that period was almost double that for the period as a whole. Temperatures in the lower troposphere have increased between 0.12 and 0.22 °C (0.22 and 0.4 °F) per decade since 1979, according to satellite temperature measurements. Temperature is believed to have been relatively stable over the one or two thousand years before 1850, with regionally-varying fluctuations such as the Medieval Warm Period or the Little Ice Age.
Formulate a hypothesis: Global warming has doubled over the last 50 years of the decade. It may be due to industrialization and the pollutants big industry produces, as well as population growth and loss of forest areas. But what exact pollutant has an affect on massive warming trends? CO2 and methane were found in ice core samples dating back thousands of years to the first Ice Age. There is a need to test the hypothesis that rising amounts of CO2 cause rising global temperatures.
Employ the empirical method to test the hypothesis: Data collection begins for changes in air, the earth, the oceans, and ecosystems on which to base a theory or derive a conclusion that an overabundance of CO2 produced by the burning of fossil fuels for industry and transportation is causing a rapid rise in global warming compared to the earlier part of the century. This is the climate model most skeptics claim is faulty. This empirical method is, however, part of the scientific method. Perhaps the skeptics confuse empirical with experimental too.
Even though the scientific method does not include the experimental method, global warming scientists have accomplished that also. In my blog, “New Findings Show Relative Relationship between CO2 Emissions and Global Warming,” http://www.blogsmonroe.com/world/2009/07/new-findings-show-relative-relationship-between-co2-emissions-and-global-warming/, scientists report they found that there is a linear relationship between CO2 and global warming, which means X amount of CO2 in the air will result in Y amount of global warming at some point in time. A formula can be applied. This theory will be published in the journal Nature. And the online journal Science published findings that “appear to confirm the validity of the types of computer models that are used to project a warmer climate in the future,” like the theory that is being published in Nature.
Both Nature and Science are peer reviewed journals! Peer reviewed reports have become very important in the argument over global warming. Not only are many global warming skeptics out of their realm of expertise to report about climate change, but are highly motivated by the industries that produce excess CO2, and have not published properly peer reviewed material. They exist to cause doubt.
Global warming theory comes from climate scientists who have employed the scientific method using observations that many of us are witnessing. They will continue to collect data regarding changes around the world in an effort to gain more and more insight to tackle the problem. The results will produce as with all things new in science a constant evolution of facts and predictions. The face of global warming will continue to change. Let’s hope that the time factor involved is correct–that we still have time to act.