Bacon, Descartes & the Scientific Method

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  • 0:01 The Scientific Method
  • 2:01 Early Development
  • 2:40 Roger & Francis Bacon
  • 3:56 Rene Descartes
  • 4:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will learn about the scientific method. We will look at how men like Roger Bacon, Francis Bacon, and René Descartes helped develop the Scientific Method we know today.

The Scientific Method

How can we be sure that what we know about the world we live in is true? How can we be sure the planets revolve around the sun? How can we be sure a particular dinosaur ate a particular diet? Do scientists simply take a guess and hope it's right (and hope everyone else just believes them)? Of course not! Scientists use a very specific process to arrive at a scientific truth. We call this process the scientific method. The scientific method is a technique used to establish knowledge or modify existing knowledge. The scientific method allows scientists to formulate theories, and then test them, to determine whether those theories are correct or not.

The scientific method involves several steps. The process begins with asking a question. The scientist would then conduct research, and then propose a hypothesis, which is basically an educated guess answering the original question. Next, the scientist would test the hypothesis through experiments. After that, the scientist would analyze the results of the experiment, and then form a conclusion. The conclusion might support the hypothesis, or it might show something entirely different.

The scientific method can vary considerably depending on the field. For example, in the field of astronomy, the testing of the hypothesis might involve performing complex mathematical computations, while in the field of botany, it might involve exposing a particular plant to a particular substance or putting the plant under certain conditions. In any case, the basic structure of the scientific method remains the same.

Early Development of the Scientific Method

The scientific method, as we know it, didn't simply pop up overnight - it evolved into being. The Ancient Greeks were keen students of science, and many Greek philosophers helped develop ways to arrive at scientific knowledge. Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher, in particular, helped devise formal ways to inquire about the universe. During the Middle Ages, Christian scholars, called scholastics, combined Christian teachings with Greek logic, and came up with improved ways of ascertaining knowledge.

Roger and Francis Bacon

The real breakthrough in the development of the scientific method, however, came from a man named Roger Bacon. Roger Bacon (1214-1294) was an English philosopher. Bacon's contribution to the development of the scientific method stems from his emphasis on experimentation. Bacon suggested scientific truth could be found out through the cycle of observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and independent verification.

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