Collecting Data and Observing

As you already know, scientists use a specific process known as the scientific method to learn more about the world around us. In the previous module, you learned about how to ask scientific questions. The next part of this process is data collection and making observations. Scientists must be objective in their observations. This means observations must be fact-based and measurable. Imagine seeing a stranger several feet away. An objective observation would be, “His coat is red.” Subjectivity is the opposite of objectivity and involves personal opinions or points of view. A subjective observation for the same stranger might be, “He looks friendly.” Subjective observations should not be used in science, as they may be based on personal perceptions or beliefs rather than gathered facts.

Is It Good or Bad?

Throughout history, people have disagreed on issues surrounding the natural world. Remember that it took many, many years and advances in technology, among other things, to agree that the earth is round. Everything from general relativity to plate tectonics underwent decades of intense scrutiny before becoming accepted. This is considered “good” science—taking the time to collect ample data and evidence, process ideas, and draw conclusions. As the scientific revolution has progressed, however, plenty of “bad” science has taken place. One only needs to watch late-night infomercials or browse the internet to see the abundance of bad science. Pseudoscience is a concept presented as scientific but not supported by evidence gained using the scientific method. Some ideas that may be considered pseudoscientific include magnet therapy and handwriting analysis. Understanding the difference between good and bad science enables people to judge whether the information they receive is valid. This allows individuals to make better informed decisions.