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Science and Behavior

Every educated person in today's world needs to understand the nature of science. . .its fundamental assumptions, its basic methods, and its limitations. Science has brought many changes to the quality of life; college students of today can hardly imagine a world without automobiles, boom boxes, and television. There is certainly much more to come. Whether you plan to be a scientist working on the cutting edge of knowledge, or whether you are just going along for the ride, you should know what science is, and is not.

Scientists spend a lot of time reading and writing about results of research, but science is not knowledge. Knowledge is the result of science, not science itself. Scientists often work with complicated apparatus and instruments, but science is not equipment. Equipment is the tool of science, not science itself. Pared to the bone, ÷science is method˛. Science is a way of thinking, a way of asking and then answering questions, a way of understanding events taking place in our bodies and in the world around us. Science is not the only way to do these things; it may not always be the best way. But it is a way with powerful implications.

During the last fifty years, the methods of science have been extended to the mind and behavior. Some of the results of this enter prise have been the principles of learning and memory stated in this book. An even greater outcome will result if you can learn to adopt a scientific attitude toward yourself and others. You don't have to be a scientist to think scientifically. Science cannot answer all of your questions about life; there is need for philosophy, religion, art, and the humanities. But where the scientific method applies, it replaces ignorance, myth, and superstition with empirical knowledge.

To begin adopting the scientific attitude, you first become a skeptic. You don't believe anything just because it was written in a book or because some important person said it. You don't even accept things that seem intuitively obvious. You become, first and foremost an empiricist. . .a person who is convinced only by evidence based on objective research. You may say, "According to so-and-so, something is true" but you don't necessarily believe so-and-so unless the claim is back up with empirical facts.



 
next up previous contents
Next: Popular Misconceptions Up: COLLEGE LEARNING WAYS & Previous: On Writing
Derek Hamilton
2000-09-05