From their grade school classrooms forward, students of science are encouraged to memorize and adhere to the 'scientific method' – a model of inquiry consisting of five to seven neatly laid-out steps, often in the form of a flowchart. But walk into the office of a theoretical physicist or the laboratory of a biochemist and ask, 'Which step are you on?' and you will likely receive a blank stare. This is not how science works. But science does work, and here award-winning teacher and scholar Steven Gimbel provides students the tools to answer for themselves this question: What actually is the scientific method?
Exploring the Scientific Method pairs classic and contemporary readings in the philosophy of science with milestones in scientific discovery to illustrate the foundational issues underlying scientific methodology. Students are asked to select one of nine possible fields – astronomy, physics, chemistry, genetics, evolutionary biology, psychology, sociology, economics, or geology – and through carefully crafted case studies trace its historical progression, all while evaluating whether scientific practice in each case reflects the methodological claims of the philosophers. This approach allows students to see the philosophy of science in action and to determine for themselves what scientists do and how they ought to do it.
Exploring the Scientific Method will be a welcome resource for introductory science courses and all courses in the history and philosophy of science. Readings include: Aristotle from Posterior Analytics and Physics; David Hume from An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding; Thomas Kuhn from The Structure of Scientific Revolutions; Bruno Latour, The Science Wars: A Dialogue; and, Karl Popper from The Logic of Scientific Discovery.
Steven Gimbel is associate professor of philosophy at Gettysburg College. He is the author of several books, including The Grateful Dead and Philosophy and Defending Einstein, and the 2005 recipient of the Luther W. and Bernice L. Thompson Distinguished Teaching Award.
"This is a truly unique approach for a textbook. The philosophical positions that Gimbel chooses to focus on are important and the choices of primary source articles are excellent. Exploring the Scientific Method will be attractive to anyone teaching courses on the history and philosophy of science."
- Mara Harrell, Carnegie Mellon University
"The way Gimbel integrates core readings in the philosophy of science with case studies works extremely well. As far as I know, Exploring the Scientific Method is the first book that does this, and I think this is exactly the approach that is needed to orient new students in the field."
- Mathias Frisch, University of Maryland
"All things considered, Gimbel succeeds in creating an innovative textbook that combines philosophical and historical approaches to the study of scientific method. Exploring the Scientific Method is not a comprehensive introduction to philosophy of science, and it does not provide an adequate foundation for advanced study in HPS, but those are not Gimbel's intentions. Focusing on scientific method specifically, rather than on the broader scope of philosophy of science, allows Gimbel to include an impressive variety of material while maintaining the clear themes of characterizing scientific reasoning and the structure of theories. This volume is ideal for a course geared toward students in scientific and other disciplines who wish to gain insight into scientific method, and the unique integrated approach is invaluable for students with no background in HPS."
- Brooke Abounader, Isis