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Experiment!: Planning, Implementing and Interpreting by Oivind Andersson

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2.6 Perception is Personal

According to the inductive method, scientists seek – and find – the truth without being guided by personal opinions or preferences. Inductive science begins with objective observation. The resulting theories always enter the picture at a later stage.

One of the criticisms against this method that we have mentioned is that theories cannot be proved on the basis of observations. This problem remains unresolved in the hypothetico-deductive method. If we define truth in strictly logical terms, we have to live with a certain degree of uncertainty about the truth of our theories, regardless of which method we use. To prove something logically, we need access to all the facts relevant to our problem. This is possible, for example, in mathematics, where theories are derived from axioms laid down by people. Axioms can be said to define the researcher's private universe, because if we make the rules ourselves we have access to a complete set of facts. In the natural sciences, Mother Nature makes the rules and the researcher's job is to find them. For this reason, empirical scientists must play down the role of logical proofs and find ways to compensate for the naturally incomplete information they have to work with – and they have to do this whatever scientific approach they use. One way is to search for many independent types of support for a theory. Although we may not have information sufficient for valid logical proofs, the collected support for a theory may ...

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