Limitations of the Scientific Inquiry Approach


Scientific research is a process of inquiry into the surrounding world. It often yields data that helps people to understand the world better and handle problems. For instance, scientific inquiry could help find a solution to the question of why some living species on Earth are becoming extinct. The scientific inquiry process calls for making observations, interpreting data and coming up with explanations that a scientist can support based on data. This sort of approach has its limitations, though.

Controlled Experiments

  • One factor that limits the scientific inquiry approach is that it is not always possible to create a controlled environment. In case a scientist is studying a complex system such as the Earth, for instance, it is not possible to create a model for scientific study purposes. For instance, scientists are surmising that rising levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere are contributing to a global warming effect. However, they cannot replicate the Earth in a laboratory and can only use models to study this sort of theory.

Isolation of Factors

  • Nature is complex and works in mysterious ways. There are many interconnecting aspects to any effect. Scientists may isolate a single factor and study it in a laboratory. This does not provide the whole picture. There could be other related factors that impact a process and scientists could have missed them by just isolating one factor.

Time Factor

  • Although scientists may be in a hurry to discover something, such as a cure for cancer, they can only work on nature's schedule. They cannot time a cure to suit them. There is no guarantee that they will find a solution to any problem within a given time frame. This does not mean that they should give up on the research though.

Objective Approach

  • Scientists approach their work in a spirit of objective inquiry, so that the results are accurate and not influenced by their biases. They don't make any value judgments about whether an outcome is good or bad, beautiful or ugly. Thus, scientific inquiry is not a panacea. The uses of what develops from scientific inquiry have to be weighed in on using input from other disciplines such as philosophy.

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  • "Biosphere 2000: Protecting Our Global Environment"; Donald G. Kaufman, et al.; 2000
  • "Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science"; National Academy of Sciences (U.S.). Working Group on Teaching Evolution; 1998
  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/ Images
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