5 Limits of the Scientific Method

by Travis Stockelman

In our culture, it appears that far too many people do not understand that every field of study has its limits. Far too many people believe that science is the exception to this rule. These individuals fail to realize that science, just like every other branch of knowledge has its limits. The scientific method, in particular, is incredibly limited in what it can demonstrate. The scientific method is an inductive method of gaining understanding that relies on observing and repeatedly testing hypotheses. The following are 5 limitations of this methodology:

1. The scientific method cannot establish absolute certainty.
I have pointed this out before. As an inductive method of arriving at conclusions, the scientific method cannot establish absolute certainty in anything that it touches in the same way that a logical deduction or mathematical proof can. Inductive methodologies can only provide a probability, but not a certainty, about truths. In order to establish a certainty, scientific discoveries and principles must be paired with a deductive argument (philosophy) or mathematical proof (mathematics). It cannot do this on its own.

2. The scientific method cannot prove any unfalsifiable claim.
The scientific method cannot prove any claim that cannot be falsified. If a theory is to be considered scientific, it must be provable or falsifiable. It must expose itself to the possibility of being demonstrably false. If it does not, it is not a scientific theory, since it cannot be tested by the scientific method. The scientific method, for example, cannot prove that you are not a brain in a vat of chemicals being stimulated into thinking that you are reading this blog post right now. For all you can prove with the scientific method, the external world may not even exist at all! This cannot be verified or falsified by the scientific method, but rather belongs to the realm of philosophy…


5 Limits of the Scientific Method