Nature of Science

Jason van Tol, Myocum

I refer to Hans’ editorial (February 5), in which he compares, among other things, deductive and inductive forms of reasoning.

Basically, deductive reasoning moves from general principles to specific instances, whereas inductive reasoning is opposite, moving from specific instances to general principles. Hans states that ‘deduction can be a basis of scientific method, while induction is not [sic]’.

This is wrong. Science draws on both methods. So for example, the neutrino was discovered using deductive reasoning, by upholding the general principle of conservation of momentum. Evolution on the other hand, is widely accepted by scientists based on a vast amount of specific instances (inductive reasoning).

The philosophy and history of science is a fascinating field. For a specific treatment of the way inductive reasoning plays its part in science, one can read Karl Popper and the concept of falsification. For a much more general and arcane, perhaps even impenetrable, treatment of the philosophy of science, one can read Roy Bhaskar, and the field he spawned, called critical realism. The most popular work in the field though must be Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

One response to “Nature of Science”

  1. Wanda says:

    You’re right Jason, science utilizes both deductive and inductive reasoning. Besides Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and Karl Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Alan Chalmers ‘What is this thing called Science’ is also a basic text on the scientific method – all three books are a must-read for those interested in the Philosophy of Science.


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