Entering graduate students in oceanography and other marine sciences have diverse backgrounds from many fields of science, engineering and mathematics. Remarkably few, however, have had formal exposure to the process as opposed to the products of science other than by example (apprenticeship). Some may be able to choose a good hypothesis from a bad one intuitively, but few can articulate the criteria that they use. Undergraduate education in science usually focuses on the products of science, i.e., published knowledge and technology that result from the practice of science, but little on the process by which this knowledge and technology are acquired.
"Aha," you may say, "I took a lab course, so I know how to do science!" The sad truth is that most laboratory courses fail to communicate how new science is done, since the answer that one is supposed to get already is known to the instructor and generally to the students. In doing real science one first has to formulate the question and then find an answer for the first time, not confirm someone else's answer to an already formulated question.
If unfamiliarity with the process of science characterizes most science majors, it is small wonder that non-science majors have little idea of where and how the products, scientific knowledge and technology, arise. I incorporate some of the material given here in undergraduate oceanography courses, and for that purpose I try to delete as much of the complex terminology of the philosophy of science as I can without losing the fundamental ideas. Hence you will find metaphors and homespun interpretations of jargon. For similar reasons, I avoid the strong but tedious tools of formal logic.
By scientific knowledge, I mean both observations (including results of experiments) and theory -- the stuff of textbooks. I do not mean to imply that all technology arises from the practice of science. It is quite clear that pure science can lead to technology even well beyond scientific instrumentation that begets more science, but the opposite is also true. Electromagnetism, for example, was reasonably well understood for fifty years before any result of this new knowledge was widely used in technology. Conversely, metallurgy is far older as a technology than it is as a science. These particular examples are well developed by Ziman (1976). In general, if something was extremely useful to human survival, it developed early as an empirically based technology -- from metal spearpoints to medical and agricultural practices -- before it became a science. Along similar lines, I would argue that environmental management in many cases is an empirically based technology whose corresponding science has not yet caught up. Environmental problems are real and sometimes threaten human life, and no elegant solutions may be known, but environments need management nonetheless. Where needs are acute, empirical, correlative knowledge often precedes mechanistic understanding.
The readable references that have helped me to practice science day to day come from very diverse sources that are not well covered by search engines even today, and I would like to make it easier for others to find and add to this list. I owe to Gene Gallagher my own introduction to the writings of Imré Lakatos, which I find by far the most useful from among the many choices in the literature of the philosophy of science. They clearly deserve to be popularized far more than they have been. What sets them apart from the usual Popperian treatments is a balance between the two phases of doing science, creating hypotheses and knocking some of them down. I know of many rehashes of Popper that I have not included here. I would appreciate knowing of additions, corrections and differences of opinion, particularly on the literature-sparse issues of creating hypotheses and evaluating the quality of hypotheses.