The Scientific Method by Massimiliano Di Ventra

The Blurb On The Back:

This book looks at how science investigates the natural world around us.  It is an examination of the scientific method, the foundation of science and basis on which our scientific knowledge is built.  Written in a clear, concise, and colloquial style, the book addresses all concepts pertaining to the scientific method.  It includes discussions on objective reality, hypotheses and theory, and the fundamental and inalienable role of experimental evidence in scientific knowledge.

This collection of personal reflections on the scientific methodology shows the observations and daily uses of an experienced practitioner.  Massimiliano Di Ventra also examines the limits of science and the errors we make when abusing its method in non scientific contexts.  By reflecting on the general method, the reader can critically sort through other types of scientific claims, and judge their ability to apply it in study and in practice. 

You can order The Scientific Method by Massimiliano Di Ventra from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Massimiliano Di Ventra is Professor of Physics at the University of California, San Diego.  In this book (illustrated by Matteo Di Ventra) he aims to provide readers with an understanding of scientific methodology and its limitations so that readers can evaluate scientific claims.  However, while it’s intended as an easy read, you need some scientific knowledge to follow everything and while I got the overall gist, at times I was left confused.

The book seeks to break scientific methodology down into steps, such as by distinguishing the evidence-based approach required by science as opposed to the more open questions that can only be answered at present by philosophy or theology and then breaking that methodology down into logical questions, proof by experimentation, the difference between hypotheses and theory and scientific consensus.  Although Di Ventra intends this to be easy to follow, he also admits that this is pitched at people who have either a first year college experience of Natural Sciences or high school students.  The cartoons that open each chapter by Matteo Di Ventra are fine but didn’t really add a huge amount, given how heavy the scientific references can get.

As someone whose scientific knowledge is quite limited (having stopped my studies after GCSEs), I have to say that I found it quite difficult to follow some of Di Ventra’s arguments, notably in the chapters on Observation And Experimentation and The Role of Human Faith In Science despite the fact that he includes a little checklist of what’s covered at the end of each chapter.  This is because he frequently refers to Newtonian science and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity without breaking down what those mean and as someone who has at best a hazy knowledge of either, I couldn’t follow through what he meant by some of his illustrations and points.

I was able to follow the broad gist of Di Ventra’s arguments, and I found that argument interesting (particularly his points on where science is limited) but I can’t say that I came away from the book feeling equipped to challenge scientific claims – although those with a better grasp of Natural Science may have a different experience.   

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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