Science and the Scientific Method

Scientific concepts and the scientific method have emerged as the consequence of our curiosity to understand and control our environment. We can see how this feature has served an evolutionary survival advantage: science is important to us because it works. Through science, supernatural explanations of the universe have been replaced progressively by rationalist, materialist ones and, at least in the West, science has been founded on reason and empiricism.

Scientific concepts and methodology and their accompanying technologies have been a determining factor in the history of the human species. More than religion or political beliefs, more than art or philosophy, the ideas of science have changed the way we live and what we think. And now, with genetic engineering, science has the power to change not only how we live but also to change what we are. Whether or not we think this is a benevolent development, we can recognise that the techniques of science have delivered huge gains in knowledge and human physical welfare.

The scientific method is a potent technique (for some, the only technique) for gaining a secure understanding of ourselves and the universe. Importantly, we can see that the scientific method has delivered a body of knowledge which is universally recognised, accepted and used – and yet remains open to challenge and to change. We will see in the following chapters that this provides us with a useful paradigm for a universal belief system which embraces a full range of human concepts, beliefs and values.