Scientific Method and Experimentation in Biology


Scientific method in biology has been of great interest since the time of the Greek philosopher Aristotle in the fourth century Before the Common Era. Generally, the aim has been to be like the physical sciences in being causal and increasingly showing biology as a topic governed by universal natural laws. However, there has always been a debate about the end directed nature of organisms, which seem to require explanations in terms of final causes. Although these were expelled from the physical sciences in the Scientific Revolution, they remained in biology until Darwin wrote the Origin of Species. Even after that, they remained but today can be seen to be natural and brought on by Darwin's mechanism of natural selection.

Keywords: Charles Darwin; Georges Cuvier; Aristotle; final cause

Further Reading

Aristotle (1984a) De Generatione de Animalium. In: Jonathan B (ed.) The Complete Works of Aristotle, pp. 1111–1218. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Aristotle (1984b) De Partibus Animalium. In: Jonathan B (ed.) The Complete Works of Aristotle, pp. 1087–1110. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Bacon F [1605] (1868) The Advancement of Learning. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Bernard C (1957) An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine. New York: Dover.

Boyle R (1966) A disquisition about the final causes of natural things. In: Birch T (ed.) The Works of Robert Boyle, 5, pp. 392–444. Hildesheim: Georg Olms.

Cuvier G (1817) Le règne animal distribué d'aprés son organisation, pour servir de base à l'histoire naturelle des animaux et d'introduction à l'anatomie comparée. Paris: Déterville.

Darwin C (1859) On the Origin of Species. London: John Murray.

Gould SJ and Lewontin RC (1979) The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist program. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences 205: 581–598.

Ruse M (2003) Darwin and Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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Ruse, Michael(Mar 2008) Scientific Method and Experimentation in Biology. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003455]