From the controversy in this question, I would like to know what differentiates "the scientific method" from other method. I'm asking for differentiation, rather than a definition, because definitions call for an all encompassing answer, which is often hard to find. If someone asks "what is an alternative to the scientific method," I would like to be able to start by being able to reliably say whether a particular method is the scientific method or not.
Of course, being a linguistic issue, the definitions of words themselves are flexible. For instance, it is not uncommon to hear one in science talk of "truth" in a sense which is incompatable with the mathematical meaning of "truth." Accordingly, I would like to stick to the following ideals in wording whenever possible:
- Prefer mathematically accurate terminology. Ideally the word "proof" should be used in the form found in proof theory, and "true" and "false" should be used in the form of Boolean algebra.
- No method should claim a hypothesis which predicts the state of the future is "true" unless they claim soothsaying abilities (most scientific theories include a random variable to avoid needing to claim soothsaying abilities... this is legitimate)
- Words which imply direction should be clarified carefully. "Good" and "bad" are notoriously difficult, but phrases such as "advancing society" can also be very tricky as well.
- The physical world and the world of information theory should be treated differently. In particular, the concept of "testing a hypothesis" will likely need to be broken down into testing and observing the physical world, taking measurements (which should have errors associated with them), and only then is the hypothesis compared against the results of the measurements.
- Mathematically extending arguments into infinity (such as claiming some specific cellular level learning process qualifies as the scientific method) are valid, but may rapidly make it harder to distinguish non-scientific methods from scientific ones. Such claims should be made carefully, but they are not inherently invalid.
If these ideals are too strict, you may bend them, but you should qualify such choices with an explanation of why my recommended wording choices are too strict. Their goal is to put different methodologies on the levelest playing fields that I can manage in this medium.
Being stack exchange, bonus points for references to existing theories, though you may need to paraphrase their results to fit with the ideals I'm recommending for these answers.
Answers may be tested two ways:
- Positive: If we think something is the scientific method, does it meet the requirements set forth?
- Negative: If we think something is not the scientific method, does the answer explain why it is not?