Even before Aristotle, man has been pursuing scientific studies. But the meaning of ‘science’ and ‘scientific method’ has also been undergoing growth and change. Today, it is so different that few are ready to accept knowledge accumulated by the ancients as ‘science’. Only that knowledge which is patterned after the methods of natural sciences is regarded scientific. Scholars believe that by adopting the ‘scientific method’, this discipline can also attain the status of science.
Formerly, there was little difference between ‘science’ and ‘philosophy’ as both indicated special knowledge which was quite distinct from common sense. Even today, countries like France, Germany and Norway accept this affinity.
Meaning of ‘science’ took a special form when study of physical sciences started using a particular method making their conclusions definite, objective, general, reliable and predictable. Knowledge thus obtained has revolutionized human life through technology. Social scientists somehow want to attain a similar status and have its utility for the society. As such, they prefer to imbibe ‘science’ in the narrow or limited sense only.
Science relates to the world and worldly things. It concerns with what has been, or is, or will be, whatever be the ought irrespective of the person or his ideology. Science describes reality and is, therefore, limited by the conditions and constraints of observation. It does not claim anything beyond observation.
Science involves three things:
(ii) System, and
There are many sources of knowledge, such as, sense-experience, reason, authority, intuition and analogy. Science is related only to sense-experience, and reason based on the former. It is an accumulation of systematic and verifiable knowledge. Stuart Chase, George A. Lundberg and others have observed that science goes with method, and not with the subject-matter. Karl Pearson has observed, ‘There is no short cut to truth; no way to gain knowledge of the universe except through the gateway of scientific method.
The scientific method is one and the same in all branches of knowledge. The unity of science, according to him, consists in its method, not in its material alone. It is not the facts which make science but the method by which they are dealt with. It is not related to any particular subject matter, culture or country.
Scientific method is a mode of investigation by which science is built up. It is a procedure followed in determining and classification of regularity found in the political world. There is judicious and systematic use of observation, verification, classification, and interpretation of political phenomena. R.N. Thouless designates it as ‘a system of techniques for attaining the end of discovering general laws’.
These techniques may be different in many respects in different sciences but retain the same general character. It is a process or a set of interrelated and systematic activities for knowing an event or a thing in the form as it is, neither more nor less.
The truth or validity of this ‘knowing’ depends upon its further ‘knowing’ by other interested persons also. In other words, that knowledge should possess the merit of verification or testability. Scientific method, thus, is simply a way of systematic study for acquiring reliable, precise and exact knowledge. It provides in the words of Arnold Brecht ‘inter-subjectively transmissible knowledge’. Such knowledge is found among the individuals, and is communicable among them.
The use and uniformity of scientific method throughout all branches of knowledge enables them to do so. When facts, concepts, and generalisations are obtained through scientific method, everyone accepts them, and the need to replicate, reproduce or observe them again is considerably reduced. In a sense, it is a way to save human energy, time, and money from being wasted on repeated observations of the same phenomenon.