The Scientific Methods: Crash Course History of Science #14


I started this course by saying that people
have made knowledge about the natural world, pretty much forever. They’ve done this by carefully observing
the world and then devising tests to find out if their ideas are true. Today, we refer to a specific series of steps—coming
up with a hypothesis, testing it, and drawing conclusions—as the scientific method. But, historically speaking, there is no one
scientific method. There’s more than one way to make knowledge. Still, if you look at some of the great minds
who helped shape today’s concept of the scientific method, a set of basic principles
starts to emerge. Like rationality. Experimentation. And ruthless self-examination. For these ideas and a lot of other stuff, we have to
thank three of the natural philosophers who pioneered this abstract “scientific method”:
Galileo, Bacon, and Descartes. [INTRO MUSIC PLAYS} Galileo, Bacon, and Descartes are each so fascinating that they could each have their
own episode. But one reason to talk about them together
is that they lived at roughly the same time. A lot changed in European natural philosophy
between the mid-1500s and the mid-1600s, when Newton started dropping his hits. We’ll get there later! But first, Dr. Galileo Galilei was born in
Pisa in 1564. He considered becoming a priest, studied art,
attended school for medicine, but then attended a lecture on geometry, and went on to study
math in secret, because his dad wanted him to focus on medicine. Much to his father’s chagrin, I’m sure,
Galileo became a professor of a bunch of math-related stuff at University of Pisa, a lowly, poorly
paid position. In 1593, Galileo took a job as a ballistics
consultant at the Arsenal of Venice, which is a heck of a title to have on your C.V. Then, starting in 1609, he built and refined
telescopes, which eventually made him famous. The very first telescope was invented by Dutch
spectacle-maker Hans Lippershey in Holland in 1608. But Galileo’s versions were much better. And telescopes are a good example of how scientific
instruments change the nature of scientific practice. We often design experiments around how we
can use our instruments—in the case of astronomy, around what we can see through a telescope. With his new telescopic success, Galileo quit
his job at Pisa for a much better one at Padua, and he also took on the role of Chief Mathematician
and Philosopher of Florence. I love this guy’s resume!!! As he continued to research the night sky,
Galileo became convinced that Copernicus was right: the earth is not the center of the
universe. He also looked into Kepler’s ideas but wasn’t
convinced by them. By 1611, Galileo’s name had been brought
up by the Inquisition. And, of course, nobody expects that. But it seems that his vocal support of Copernicanism
was creating some friction in the Florentine court. Among many others, the Grand Duchess Christina,
who was basically one of his patrons, said she took issue with the idea of heliocentrism. So in 1615, he wrote to a letter to explaining
that the Bible and nature did not disagree: One was God’s word to the masses—a story
about how to behave and why. The other was God’s work—the physical
reality that He created. So science, he said, was simply the uncovering
of God’s work. Galileo was a man of faith! Unfortunately for him, Church officials didn’t
like this explanation. In 1616, the Church added Copernicus’ text,
De rev, to its official list of banned books. The Inquisitors deemed heliocentrism “foolish
and absurd in philosophy.” This was bad news for Galileo: he was told
not to uphold or defend Copernicanism. (But he may have been able to teach a heliocentric
astronomy as a thought experiment. Historians aren’t sure.) But Galileo wasn’t having any of it. In 1623, Galileo published a pamphlet called
the Assayer that basically said scientists should be free to do their work. Pope Urban VIII, Galileo’s personal friend,
was a fan. He said that God could move the heavens in
numberless ways, so the ultimate source of truth would always be faith. So sure, Galileo, you want to spend your nights
staring at tiny dots of light? Knock yourself out. Urban even renamed Galileo’s next book,
Dialogue on the the Two Chief World Systems of 1632. All Urban asked was for his friend to treat
different astronomical systems fairly. But… Galileo picked a fight. The Dialogue made a clear argument for Copernicanism,
comparing it point by point with the Aristotelian–Ptolemaic system. He brought new data to the battle: he described
the phases of Venus, which appears to grow larger and smaller like earth’s moon. This phasing did not fit with a geocentric
model. An even stronger argument came from the tides,
whose movements seemed to prove that the earth moves. And the pope was not happy. Urban felt that Galileo had not heard his
warning. All copies of the Dialogue were recalled. And in 1632, Galileo was called to Rome to
speak to the Inquisition. His trial got under way in 1633, and in time,
he was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. Amazingly, Galileo didn’t give up. Humiliated, under arrest, he kept sciencing. Beyond his contributions to astronomy, physics,
and the scientific method, Galileo is a rockstar thanks to his fearlessness. Galileo’s last text was also perhaps his
most relevant to the idea of methods in science: His Two New Sciences of 1638 was a mathematical
treatise about how bodies fall through the air, and how wooden beams break. It was also a record of the process by which
he discovered these physical laws. He called for specific tests that would let
experimenters confirm his laws with their own senses. This, in his words, was the mark of a “true
scientist”: independent confirmation. This is an awesome norm to try to live up
to! So, we shouldn’t be surprised that a lifelong
nerd like Galileo would have played a critical role in developing better methods of doing
science. But Francis Bacon, born in London in 1561,
is more of a historical surprise. For one, he was cast out of public office
for taking bribes. Two, some people for some reason think he
was Shakespeare. And I mean, if you’ve ever read these two
writers… there’s a clear difference. And most of Bacon’s impact on science was
posthumous. We can basically boil it to down to a new
approach to science, which was practical, instrumental, and supported by the state. Bacon wanted to create a whole replacement
system of natural philosophy—that meant philosophy, mathematics, physics, biology,
all wrapped up together. He rejected the Aristotelian way of doing
science—arguing rationally using logic. Instead, he believed that natural philosophers
should help improve the wellbeing of humanity through technological advances. Bacon expressed this within a Christian framework,
casting Aristotle’s philosophy as a dereliction of the Christian duty of charity toward others. Improving wellbeing meant understanding and
controlling the chaos of the natural. Bacon described nature as female and passive,
and humanity as male and active. So, science was supposed to be a masculine
activity: it allowed humans to exploit nature. Now, this metaphor has not aged well at all,
and not just because it was sexist and horrible. We also now have plenty of examples of all
the ways that humans simply can’t control nature. And yet this metaphor is, sadly, still very
much alive. So. What did Bacon’s new system of natural philosophy
look like up close? Help us out, ThoughtBubble: For Bacon, control over nature meant deriving
useful arts—or technē—like gunpowder, silk, and the printing press, from basic knowledge. And how were Baconians supposed to make useful
knowledge? They needed first-hand experiences. This meant testing answers to important questions,
without relying on the words of long-dead Greek and Arabic philosophers. For Bacon, science also required central planning
and state support. Natural philosophy should not be the domain
of a few random nobles, he thought. It should be a program, or system, that worked
for the public good. He outlined a vision of a utopian science
bureaucracy in his book called New Atlantis, published in 1626. Bacon proposed creating a hub for intellectual
work, a kind of super-university called Salomon’s House. Here, the personnel—all male, of course—would
be strictly segregated into specific roles. Some would travel the world to gather facts. Others would conduct experiments to generate
new facts. Yet others would extract potential facts from
books—but these proto-facts would have to be tested experimentally. Further up the hierarchy, others would analyze
all of the different natural facts and experimental outcomes and direct the next round of research. And at the very top were the Interpreters
of Nature—three men who would take all facts and use them to produce axioms. Working along with them were “dowry men”
who drew conclusions from these axioms to yield specific practical benefits. That, in a nutshell, is the scientific world
according to Bacon. Thanks Thought Bubble, Now, another thinker who advocated for a practical science was René Descartes. Born in central France in 1596, Descartes
lived mostly in the Netherlands. He’s known as a founding figure in mathematics
and modern philosophy. So, that’s not bad. In math, he’s known as the dude who bridged
geometry and algebra. We call the numbered X–Y axes the plane
of “Cartesian” coordinates. You can map a lot of math with this system. Now, Descartes knew what had happened to Galileo,
and his publishers in France didn’t want to wind up on trial, too. So Descartes stopped publication of his own
Copernican book, Le monde or The World, in 1633. But he did come up with a whole new cosmology,
based on Copernicus, that featured a chaotic, rapidly moving ætherial fluid in which the
planets and stars were suspended—instead of perfect crystalline spheres. His Discourse on Method, published in 1637,
was his major contribution to the history of making knowledge. But, more than Galileo—a practicing experimentalist—or
Bacon—a statesman thinking about the practical uses of natural philosophy—Descartes was
a pure philosopher. He started at the very beginning with an abstract
question: how we know what we know? This is question at the heart of the philosophical
discipline of epistemology, which Descartes redefined. Philosophers today are still debating some
of the questions Descartes raised about the origins of knowledge. Descartes wanted to replace Aristotle as the
king of philosophy. And Descartes’s attack on Aristotle boiled
down to two arguments: one, knowledge obtained through the senses lacks absolute certainty,
because the senses often deceive us. And two, human reason can also be deceived! Logical conclusions from false premises will
lead you to the wrong answers. So Descartes was like, welp, time to formulate a whole
new philosophy to address these points. Ultimately, to be certain of the truth, Descartes
could only count on one thing: his mind. So he described the world reductionistically,
meaning using math to represent physical phenomena. Only math, which is either right or wrong,
could found a total system of natural philosophy. For Descartes, the universe is composed only
of things that math can describe. He thought that philosophers should be able
to provide causal explanations for all observed phenomena, showing the or the mechanical
principles behind the things that happen in the universe. And the tactic Descartes used for checking
the validity of your own knowledge is famous and still useful today: systematic doubting. When in doubt, doubt yourself! This pairs nicely with what Bacon argued:
don’t trust old books; check! When you add Galileo’s focus on independent,
rational comparison of theories about natural phenomena to Bacon’s focus on experiment
and social norms promoting scientific research, and then Descartes’s reminder to always
ask yourself how sure you are that you know stuff, you get a kind of method or system. Was it thought of as a single philosophy at
the time? Sort of. Some of the most important members of the
early Royal Society, where we’ll head in a couple of episodes, pointed explicitly to
Bacon as an inspiration. But this story isn’t all all about better
descriptions of the Solar System. It’s also about winning wars and conquering
new territory. Stay tuned. Next time—we’ll look at how the “new
science” affected the healing arts and beliefs about the human form… and, yes, there will
be dissections. A lot of dissections! Crash Course History of Science is filmed
in the Dr. Cheryl C. Kinney studio in Missoula, Montana and it’s made with the help of all
this nice people and our animation team is Thought Cafe. Crash Course is a Complexly production. If you wanna keep imagining the world complexly
with us, you can check out some of our other channels like Scishow, Nature League, and
The Financial Diet. And, if you’d like to keep Crash Course
free for everybody, forever, you can support the series at Patreon; a crowdfunding platform
that allows you to support the content you love. Thank you to all of our patrons for making
Crash Course possible with their continued support.

69 Comments

  1. marsha woods

    July 20, 2018 at 1:40 am

    I am so glad to see your back!!!

  2. Chris G

    July 20, 2018 at 6:16 am

    Was Bacon the first to maintain that natural philosophers should help improve the wellbeing of humanity ("raise mankind out of his misery"), or who were the predecessors in this approach that might have influenced him?

  3. Mojos Bigstick

    July 20, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    I'm pink, therefore I'm Spam.

  4. Fish in a Barrel

    July 21, 2018 at 4:42 am

    A horse walks into a bar and asked for a drink. The bartender asks "Are you an alcoholic?" and the horse replies "I don't think I am" and POOF! disappears. If you're familiar with the concept of Cogito Ergo Sum – I Think, Therefore I Am – then you might get a laugh out of the joke. If not, could have explained it, but that would be putting Descartes before the horse.

  5. Invention Exchange

    July 21, 2018 at 1:23 pm

    Nice post! 🙂

  6. Dez Fernandez

    July 26, 2018 at 9:38 am

    For me, the best part of this episode was the Ace Attorney parody. :))

  7. Gernuts

    July 29, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Nullius in Verba

  8. nomar Dinkleberg

    July 30, 2018 at 12:13 am

    Hmmmmm Baconnn

  9. J P

    July 31, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    If in doubt, doubt!

  10. EozTheNew

    August 1, 2018 at 4:59 pm

    Bacon would, in the present climate, be accused of being naive and possibly an extremist, proposing such wild ideas like "The scientific endeavour for new knowledge should not be the realm of a few wealthy people, but should instead be funded by the state, from everybody's contributions, for the good of all".

  11. Alexander Hickey

    August 3, 2018 at 4:10 am

    E pur si muove

  12. Manju Sahu

    August 7, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    Are bhai. Hindi me translate to karo samajh nai aye kay kay kathe

  13. UteChewb

    August 8, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    I always liked Bacon's brilliantly terse quote, "Nature to be commanded, must be obeyed." If you want to get things done then you have to play by Nature's rules.

  14. Claude Faust

    August 11, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    4:26 I like the Phoenix Wright reference there.

  15. Lance Bermudez

    August 15, 2018 at 5:56 pm

    You Green brothers are frickin’ awesome!

  16. Ron Budd

    August 17, 2018 at 3:23 am

    ANDY WORHAL SUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Iris Seyrena

    August 18, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    So that's how we got the D.

  18. Rebekah Morgan

    August 20, 2018 at 2:21 am

    I am a high school science teacher and would love to use this video in my class. However, one of my students is blind and it would be incredibly helpful if I could Braille the script for this episode to help her understanding. Is there any way I can get a transcript?

  19. Richard Wise

    August 25, 2018 at 9:05 pm

    None of the people credited with discovering the scientific method are people of color so i'm sure it's wrong and colonialism is lying via this video.

  20. NEPTY

    August 27, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    I thought he was literally speaking about bacon…. I am a dumb.

  21. Abram Thiessen

    September 3, 2018 at 4:04 am

    So Bacon does make everything better?

  22. Fluid Mosaic

    September 4, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    Bacon is my inspiration 🐷

  23. Darin Roodman

    September 14, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    YES!!! YOU DID IT! YEEEEEEEES! NO ONE EXPECTS THE INQUISITION!!!!

  24. creperman2306

    September 17, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    im gona eat u bacon man

  25. oldcowbb

    September 29, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    religion save the days again

  26. AlterDieg8

    October 20, 2018 at 11:09 am

    Weird history of privilege men.

  27. Habiba Ahmed

    October 22, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    Please add an arabic subtitle🙏

  28. Orion Rodriguez

    October 29, 2018 at 4:20 am

    Generic support comment!

  29. shishisennin

    October 31, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    why did you not mention that the founder of the scientific method was a muslim.

  30. CS18S506 SURI BHASKER SRI HARSHA

    November 2, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    wasting half of the time on galileo while claiming the video to be about scientific method

  31. Spencer

    November 8, 2018 at 11:19 am

    Wasn't Galileo's last text "lol, y'all flat-earthers are crazy af! :p"

  32. I’ll leave oil

    November 13, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    BACON!

  33. Billy Lucius

    November 17, 2018 at 5:02 am

    Francis Bacon would have supported NASA…maybe!

  34. Reghan Bailey

    November 29, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    wya john green

  35. Danilo In-der-Wildi

    December 9, 2018 at 11:23 pm

    Loved the Monty Python pun. <3

  36. David Stinnett

    December 13, 2018 at 4:08 am

    The inquisition, let’s begin
    The inquisition, look out sin

    We’re in a mission, to convert the jewwwws

    (Thank you Mel Brooks for ruining the Spanish Inquisition for me)

  37. Tom Patterson

    December 20, 2018 at 4:42 am

    nature can kill us in a million different ways, nature is what we try to hide from.

  38. Shirley Liu

    January 12, 2019 at 3:16 am

    why is no one talking about the fantastic phoenix wright reference?

  39. Yu ユMerwyn ミツハ

    January 28, 2019 at 1:31 am

    Descartes looks a lot like V for Vendetta without the mask

  40. Kely Ch

    February 12, 2019 at 10:08 pm

    he's just a poor boy, from a poor family

  41. Crazy8 Pizza

    March 10, 2019 at 2:03 am

    is Francis Bacon edible?

  42. Parker Dixon-Word

    March 25, 2019 at 1:03 am

    Isn't Galileo the one who faked a bunch of his data though? Like, the objects falling data, since his theories didn't account for factors like air resistance, which heavier objects with the same surface area can better ignore.

  43. christian nrx

    April 9, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    'there is no scientific method' lol translation: religion are feable minded fools because they're not like us but then again-neither are we

  44. Orestis Papadopoulos

    April 11, 2019 at 11:50 pm

    Saying the male is active and the female is passive is just describing reality. For whomever had heterosexual sex in his/her life, you know what I'm talking about. For aliens and virgins who don't know, the man is the active agent moving his pelvis penetrating the passive woman. We call the female passive because she is penetrated and acted upon by the male. Anyway, I don't care about feminists and you shouldn't either crash course.

  45. Sverre Munthe

    April 17, 2019 at 8:58 pm

    My thought through this whole video has been “How do you combine this with your stance on climate change?”

  46. Justin Bufanda

    April 24, 2019 at 1:53 am

    hey, ace attorney

  47. Jeb Winger

    April 25, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    I'm just realizing that most complicated project management methods like Lean Six Sigma (A certification that costs like $400 to get) is basically just the scientific method wearing a hat

  48. La Katrrina

    April 28, 2019 at 6:38 pm

    Really? No mention of "Cogito, ergo sum"?

  49. Eric_in_Atlanta

    April 29, 2019 at 5:37 pm

    Pluto is not a planet. That is all.

  50. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

    May 13, 2019 at 3:18 am

    I love Science that’s why i had also an educational channel. Please subscribe to my channel! Thanks! 👍

  51. Pokemoneuro

    May 15, 2019 at 7:45 pm

    The Christian church is a ridiculous thing. In name of Christ so many people have been killed and progress slowed down by Christians thinking they're right because of their God…

  52. Nicanor Núñez

    June 4, 2019 at 3:53 pm

    2

  53. Bhramit Aatma

    June 18, 2019 at 9:21 am

    HOW is "dont trust old books" paired nicely with "when in doubt doubt yourself"
    Are we donkeys??

  54. Nick J

    June 24, 2019 at 10:16 pm

    8:19 – Is that guy wearing an egg around his neck?

  55. Robert2Real

    June 29, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    There is only one scientific method and ironically this video doesn't mention it

  56. Simple Human

    July 14, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    10:06 IB veterans?

  57. Big Shiba

    August 8, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    This sucks

  58. EatDatPuhh 445

    August 16, 2019 at 12:16 am

    epic

  59. Lizard King

    August 25, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    i want a fried egg pendant 😀

  60. jeonghoon choi

    August 29, 2019 at 11:32 pm

    High school freshmen where are y’all

  61. Matthew Beltran

    September 9, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    boring af

  62. Fat Seals

    September 19, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    Who the hell dId I get from watching memes to watching history ?

  63. Linda Vilma Ole

    September 23, 2019 at 10:04 pm

    Conflict between science and religion (Galileo and the Church), conflict between methods (Galileo's method and Bacon's way). rising beyond conflicts to suggest a new way (Descartes) relayed to us by this fantastic storyteller:the whole journey becomes more pleasurable…THANK YOU!

  64. Matthew Arendse

    September 26, 2019 at 11:32 am

    1:21 Galileo
    6:00 Bacon
    9:05 Descartes

  65. Kasha Breer

    September 27, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    Did he say BACON? hmm. HE DID!!!!

  66. Jason Reynolds

    September 30, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    Descartes @ 9:04

  67. حسن نور

    October 20, 2019 at 5:03 am

    francis ham!

  68. Stephen Tashiro

    October 28, 2019 at 6:36 am

    Since the topic is history, explain who invented the very popular modern description of the scientific method as a series of steps. USA students are taught about steps of observation, hypothesis, experiment etc. In searching books in Engish with Google, I don't find any texts of the 1800's and early 1900's using this description. Was it used before the 1950's?

    As far as powerful historical influences go, I think the inventor of the modern approach has more influence on the average student than Galileo does.

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