1st Edition

Scientific Method
How Science Works, Fails to Work, and Pretends to Work

ISBN 9781138295360
Published December 11, 2017 by Routledge
158 Pages

USD $57.95

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Book Description

This book shows how science works, fails to work, or pretends to work, by looking at examples from such diverse fields as physics, biomedicine, psychology, and economics. Social science affects our lives every day through the predictions of experts and the rules and regulations they devise. Sciences like economics, sociology and health are subject to more ‘operating limitations’ than classical fields like physics or chemistry or biology. Yet, their methods and results must also be judged according to the same scientific standards. Every literate citizen should understand these standards and be able to tell the difference between good science and bad. Scientific Method enables readers to develop a critical, informed view of scientific practice by discussing concrete examples of how real scientists have approached the problems of their fields. It is ideal for students and professionals trying to make sense of the role of science in society, and of the meaning, value, and limitations of scientific methodology in the social sciences.

Table of Contents

1. Basic Science 2. Experiment 3. Null Hypothesis Statistical Testing 4. Social Science: Psychology 5. Social Science: Economics 6. Behavioral Economics 7. ‘Efficient’ Markets 8. Summing Up

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John Staddon is James B. Duke Professor of Psychology, and Professor of Biology and Neurobiology, Emeritus at Duke University. He does research on adaptive behavior, economics, and the history and philosophy of science.


"John Staddon’s aim in this highly readable book is to provide a guide through the ‘blizzard of scientific and pseudo-scientific information that rains on the public every day.’ He starts by taking a critical look at sciences such as biology and physics and then provides a fascinating and thought-provoking critique of the social sciences, particularly psychology and economics, where he argues that fashionable ideas are often based on untested and untestable theories. Staddon jolts us out of complacent acceptance of how the media often present science." - Marian Stamp Dawkins, University of Oxford, UK

"In a digital world where many struggle to tell fake news from scientific facts, Scientific Method provides an easy-to-read primer for scientific thinking. The book lives from John Staddon’s masterly use of examples that clarify problematic methods plaguing the social sciences, such as the proliferation of mathematical formulas without well-defined or measurable terms, near-unfalsifiable theories that are defended with confidence, and the ritualistic testing of null hypotheses. Science affects our lives, and this short, clear, and enjoyable book will affect how its readers think about science." – Gerd Gigerenzer, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Germany

"John Staddon does not take prisoners. In this new book he displays his erudition and sharp critical intelligence to discuss what he sees as the main weaknesses of social sciences today, and especially of mainstream economics. If you are a social scientist, and especially an economist, pray your work has not been chosen as an example. If you are not, the book will provide you with and illuminating survey of real and potential pitfalls of current work in social sciences." - Alex Kacelnik, University of Oxford, UK

"Staddon demonstrates scientific method in action, applying his analytic/critical skill to dozens of applications in epidemiology/biomedicine, animal behavior, social psychology, and the ever-dismal science of economics. He shows that both correlational data and ‘gold-standard’ multi-group designs may suggest hypotheses, but not explanations, which require the discovery of causes across time."John C. Malone, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA

"The author paints a worrying picture of academia, where motions of "doing science" and the production of publications are incentivized over actual scientific understanding. Fortunately, JS is more then up to the task of providing a much-needed counter-balance, producing a text that should be required reading in any introductory class on research methods. SciM is a welcome addition to the literature on scientific research methods and is highly recommended for all students of behavior." - Micah Amd, Federal University of Sao Carlos, Montreal, Canada