What is the Scientific Method?

A scientist’s task is to invent a story to explain his or her observations and then to decide just how likely their story may be. Organizing this process into steps, we arrive at the “scientific method” consisting of three parts:

1. Observation
2. Hypothesis
3. Experimentation

These three steps may occur in any order during the scientific process, but usually a scientist first observes something that suggests a certain explanation. They then set up experiments and make further objective observations to test their hypothesis.

In the beginning they may modify their hypothesis from time to time, refining it to more closely fit the data. Eventually, they may reach the point where the hypothesis fits most, if not all, observations and they feel it can be refined no more. If they have verified it repeatedly and have a great deal of confidence in the hypothesis, they may then call it a “theory.” If many other scientists also verify the theory, it may become elevated to the status of a “law.”

A “law of nature” or a “law of chemistry or physics” is merely an accurate description of how certain parameters are related which have been verified over a period of time by many scientists. This is the scientific method.

When scientists have several theories, each of which partially describe a situation, but none completely, they may choose the theory with the fewest inconsistencies as being the “best theory.” It is not unscientific to apply a theory that has not been shown to be completely accurate if it is the theory that seems to account for more observations than any other.

As a scientist you never deal with absolutes. You must continually apply theories and ideas that, although not necessarily shown to be completely correct, are still workable and seem to yield acceptable results. Here, again, the idea of absolutes is one that only mathematicians can enjoy.

This lack of exactness in science is readily apparent in the life sciences where processes are so complex that precisely reproducible results are never obtained. In the limit, this lack of exactness is present even in the sciences of physics or chemistry which deal with the simpler inanimate world.

The truth is that there is no such thing as an “exact” science. No science is exact.

In the real world, we must always accept approximations and make choices between theories or paradigms, none of which are perfect or complete. If it were considered unscientific to use a theory that is not perfect, there would be no science. Choosing the better of two imperfects must be considered one of the most important aspects of the scientific method.

The last consideration leads us to the relative roles of objectivity and subjectivity in science because, as it turns out, the “choice” of one theory over another is primarily subjective and depends to a large extent upon the personal bias of the scientist.

Objectivity and Subjectivity in Science

The rules of the scientific method require that observations be objective. This means that, theoretically, regardless of who makes the observations, the account should be the same—within limits, of course. For example, if ten laboratories were to analyze samples from the same batch of frankincense or balsam fir, they should all get about the same results, although with some minor variations. Such data would be considered to be “scientific” and “objective.”

It is from objectivity that science gains its power. It is from objectivity that science obtains its universal appeal that cuts across the barriers of language, politics, and nationality. But paradoxically, while objectivity is its greatest strength, it is also its greatest weakness, because it is also objectivity that makes science incapable of dealing with most of the important aspects of human life—the aspects that bring us warmth, affection, pleasure, and happiness. Science cannot cope with the subjective. Where subjective experience has objective consequences, the consequences can be studied scientifically, but not the experiences themselves.

Scientific objectivity assumes that the observer can be, and is, separate and independent of the observation. While this is achievable to an acceptable extent in many areas of research, in the ultimate sense, it is impossible and un­achiev­able. This is because at some level, the consciousness of each and every human being is connected to all things, both animate and inanimate.

The Nature of Subjectivity

“Subjective” merely means that the experience has meaning only to the person involved and is beyond scientific measurement. Take eating, for example. It is almost purely a subjective experience. The way foods taste to you is your own unique experience. No one will ever quite have your experience. No one can know what a specific food tastes like to you. I know what vanilla ice cream tastes like to me, but how can I know what it tastes like to you? As a direct experience, I can only know the sensations of my own taste buds, but not yours or anyone elses.

Tasting food can be more or less objective to the extent that given a thousand people eating lemons, they would probably universally agree that they tasted sour. However, there would be many opinions as to “how sour,” what constitutes the sensation of “sour,” and whether or not “sour” is a taste that is “good” or “not good.”

Subjective experiences are essentially yours and, as such, cannot really be shared with others. If you smell a rose, that experience is yours. You can tell it to me in words, but until I smell it for myself, I cannot know what the smell of a rose is all about. Even after we have both smelled it, we can never know just how much each of our sensations was like the other’s. If it turns out that you don’t like the smell of the rose while I do, your experience does not make my experience any less pleasant or less real. Contradictory subjective experiences on the part of two people cannot invalidate the experience of either.

You can apply these concepts to your relationship with your physician regarding your own body or that of your children. If you conclude or feel one way and your doctor concludes or feels another, that does not make either of you wrong, necessarily. However, as an individual, since it is your life and body, or that of your child, you have rights that the physician does not have unless you give them up. Hence, when there is a conflict of opinion between you and your health care provider, you have the right to believe in yourself first.

There is a price to be paid for this freedom. If you do not follow the doctor’s words or the hospital’s policies, they may threaten you with legal action to intimidate you into compliance with their will. Ultimately, you must assume the  responsibility for the consequences, legal or otherwise.

You have a right to choose, for yourself and your family, what may seem to the medical profession, a wrong choice. By following your own thoughtful inclinations, when they differ from your doctor’s, you are assuming more personal responsibility than when you just go along with whatever the doctor or hospital says.

In reality, the responsibility for your health, or that of your children, is totally yours regardless of who makes the decisions in your health care. If you or your child are damaged by some medical procedure, neither the doctor nor the hospital will raise your child or care for you with your iatrogenic (doctor-caused) or nosocomial (hospital-caused) disability.

So What is the Answer?

It is clear from all of this that science cannot have all the answers and never will. Science alone cannot offer us adequate guidance through the various health crises, both big and small, that we experience from day to day throughout our lives. When we are in the midst of a crisis that is beyond the current models of science to address, we cannot wait for science to find answers for us when we need them now. What do we do, then, when we must make medical decisions regarding ourselves and our loved ones and science cannot help us?

First, let us develop the habit of always seeking direct advice from God, the master physician, master scientist, and provider of all that is healthy and good. But we must not wait until a crises to seek his guidance. We must develop a relationship with him by daily prayer and attunement, practicing his presence in all that we do.

A great saint once said, “If you don’t make God your summertime friend, he won’t come in the winter of your life.” It isn’t exactly that he won’t come, but what you must do is to develop your lines of communication with God during times of calmness and learn to hear his still quiet voice during the peacetime of daily practice. Otherwise, you may not be able to hear him during the battle din of a real emergency.

Second, let us look to nature as our teacher. Nature is permeated with God’s intelligence, humbly and patiently waiting for us to seek his advice and wisdom as he speaks to us through what he has made.Let us assume that nature knows best. Learn her ways, and harmonize with her in a conscious, intelligent way always praying to God for his perfect guidance.

Thirdly, let us also follow science appropriately when good data are available and let us apply the scientific method wherever possible to test the relative merits of alternatives in health care. But let us realize that science cannot lead us to the right answers unless we lead science to the right topics for research. When presented with a firm fact that contradicts current theory, let us be willing to accept the fact and give up the theory.

Fourthly, let us also understand and recognize where the efficacy of science ceases and rely on other means to base our judgments. Don’t be intimidated when what appears to be science contradicts your own true feelings in a crisis situation. Learn to trust yourself as the best judge in personal or family situations. Let us openly restore and practice our faith in our God-guided feelings and our common sense. Let us learn how to refine and develop the gift of divine intuition by practice, experience, reinforcement, and association with others that use it.

Let us also recognize and respect the natural nurturing and healing gifts that God manifests through women and the nurturing sides of men. Let us honor mothers appointed by God as natural healers for their families.

There is an intelligence and an order in our universe that already has all of the answers and to which we can directly appeal for solutions to all of life’s problems—now and whenever we are in need. There is a consciousness in creation that transcends science and the senses—a source of wisdom and knowledge to which we can apply for help at any time. Its name is God. Its language is prayer. Its condition for receiving is humility. Its channel is love.

It can never be through science, as we know it today, that the optimization of health care practice will be realized in the world. Science is a powerful ally, a gift from God that can be used for good or abused for ill. God leaves that choice to us, his children.

The limits of science today are a reflection of the limits of consciousness held by today’s scientists and the practitioners of professions that are supposed to be based on science. As individuals of the scientific community develop spiritually, expand their awareness, and become able and willing to see and recognize the reality of things beyond the physical that underly the manifested universe, then the limitations of the scientific method will become less constrained.

The point is this. Until scientists learn to pray and commune with God, in humility, they will lack the necessary awareness to perceive a more complete vision of the true nature of reality. Until scientists develop their spiritual gifts along with their intellectual gifts, the methods of science will remain limited and incapable of discovering the true nature of this world in which we dwell. The day must come when students of mathematics and the sciences will be educated in institutions that offer a balance between cerebral education and spiritual discipline. Then, and only then, will a true science come into being, the fruit of which is the truth of God.

Excerpted from the book: The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple: God’s Love Manifest in Molecules – pages 618 – 654

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