The ultimate goal of science is to explain the world. Observations should, therefore, be related to theories to make a lasting contribution to science.
In the inductive approach, science starts with unbiased observations from which general theories are developed. Such theories cannot be proven in a logical sense. Critics of the approach maintain that observations always are biased, since they rely on theory in some form. The theories obtained by induction have no explanatory power.
In the hypothetico-deductive approach, science starts with an hypothesis, a tentative theory, which is to be tested against observations. Hypotheses that do not survive the tests are discarded. The others may become established theories with time. Neither these theories can be proved logically, but they have explanatory power. A disadvantage of this method is that it seems counter-intuitive to many scientists, who tend to think of the progress of science as governed by confirmation of theories, rather than falsification of them.
Observation and experimentation have more central roles in practical science than in the inductive and hypothetico-deductive approaches, and may even exist independently of theories. Theory-independent observations often play an important role in the discovery of new phenomena but they must be related to theories to explain the phenomena.
Observation is a skill. Our powers of observation can be improved by training and experience. This does not imply that skilled ...
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