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Science: "to know"

What Constitutes a Scientific Question?

Are some questions scientific in nature and other questions philosophical in nature?  What about the questions: who, what, when, why, where, and how?

Let’s take the human eye for example. Three scientific questions that might be asked: What is

an eye?  What does an eye do?  How do we treat eyes for disease?

What makes those questions of a scientific nature?  It is because it fits the scientific standards of being observable, testable, and

reproducible.  A question is scientific in nature if an experiment could be designed or measurements taken to discover the answer. Would the answer be of a nature that it would be falsifiable?

Some philosophical questions that might be asked: Why do we have an eye?  Where did eyes come from?  I can’t think of a way “who” might be applied, unless we ask: “Who has eyes?”  But that would be about every life form in the animal kingdom.

Is the answer to the question: “Why do we have an eye?” falsifiable? Is there any experiment that could be designed to discover the answer?  Is there any experiment that could be designed to discover the answer as to the origin of eyes? 

If you believe we have eyes because of one reason, but someone else might believe in a different reason for why we have eyes, is there any scientific way to discover which answer is correct?  Is there a way to falsify either belief about the origin of eyes? 

These types of questions come down to what we believe about eyes, rather than what we know about eyes, can observe about them, or learn through experimentation.

How about the question as to what an eye is? We certainly could examine an eye and determine what eyes are, what they do, and how we could treat them for disease.  However, even with these types of questions, there may be more than one way of interpreting the observable evidence.

Human eyes are very complex systems.  Would it be proper to ask if a certain process could produce such complexity?  Is there any way to observe the process as it happens?  Is there any way to reproduce the process through experimentation?  Even if we could, would this prove that is how it happened originally?

Some excellent references and worksheets on asking scientific questions can be found here:

(1) Do a Google search for: (PDF) Forming Answerable Scientific Questions with Notes

(2) Do a Google search for: (DOC) Testable Questions and Variables


Much of the clip art on this site is courtesy of Phillip Martin.