The Scientific Method and Biological Anthropology

This paper discusses the relationship between the scientific method and physical anthropology. The scientific method is a research process whereby a question or problem is posed, a provisional explanation called an hypothesis is made that is then tested through the gathering of data (e.g. evidence) from observation or experimentation. Data is scientific information from which conclusions can be drawn. The word “data” is plural for “datum”. Since physical anthropology is a scientific discipline, it focuses on gathering quantitative data (e.g. data that can be expressed numerically) and empirical data (e.g. data that can be experienced) through observation or experimentation.  Thus the scientific method is an empirical approach to gaining knowledge from experience through observation or experimentation. The word “empirical” is from the Latin empiricus, meaning “experienced” (Jurmain 2010:16). If a phenomenon cannot be experienced with one’s five senses (sight, touch, taste, hearing and sensation) then it is not empirical.  Science itself is provisional knowledge that is gained and is constantly being refined through the scientific method of observation or experimentation of empirical data. The word “science” is from the Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge” (Jurmain 2010:16). Continue reading


Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium Theory

The Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium Theory is a simple mathematical model for the modern definition of evolution  that can be used to track the changes in allele frequencies within a population from one generation to the next. It is based on the idea of that no evolution– genetic equilibrium–is statistically unlikely. However, the hypothetical instance of no evolution can serve as a baseline in order to estimate and predict instances of allele frequency changes (evolutionary change) in descendent populations solely based on the proportion of phenotypic variances within a population (Jurmain 2010:438). Continue reading