The System of Science
It is possible to construct a simplified model of the scientific method in the form of a card game for at least four players. Let us call it the game of refutation. To form our pack of cards we take the first cards of each one of the suits (red hearts, black hearts, etc.), as many as the participating number of players. Once the cards are carefully shuffled, they are distributed among the participants, four to each player. Each one will try to hide his hand from the other players, since the purpose of the game is to guess the complete hand of any of the other players. In order to do this, each participant in turn will try to get information, publicly formulating a hypothesis.
The hypothesis formulated, the player whose hand is mentioned in it will abstain from playing that turn; the other players not proposing the hypothesis will say whether they can or cannot refute it; if they can, they will show in private one of the cards mentioned, only to the person that proposed it. Otherwise, the formulator can announce that, since no refutation was forthcoming, his hypothesis is considered confirmed. If refutation is not produced even then, he will show his own cards to demonstrate that neither he is in position to refute. He will hence be considered the winner. Unless, of course, the player mentioned in the hypothesis proves it false, whereupon the match will be annulled due to dishonesty or incompetence on the part of the players(1).
Obviously, the strategy to play this game well consists in observing and retaining (paper and pencil may be used) all the information that arises. Thus, if someone refutes and shows us a card, we will write down that the card belongs to him, which is equivalent to an atomic proposition we know is true, as the result of a scientific experiment; if someone refutes, but shows the card to somebody else, we will write down that at least one of the cards mentioned belongs to him; if a player cannot refute, we will assume that he does not have the cards of the hypothesis. Many more notes can be taken. In general, the game proceeds as a system of conjunctions and disjunctions, whose constituents are affirmations or negations. The hypothesis formulated is a conjunction of affirmations; the impossibility to refute, a conjunction of negations; refutation to the one not seeing the card, disjunction of affirmations; consequence of the unseen refutation concerning the other players, disjunction of negations, etc. In this game, there are excellent opportunities to use modus ponens, syllogisms, and dilemmas. Furthermore, since we are never sure that the person formulating the hypothesis is mentioning only cards he does not have, there is a considerable element of inductive logic in all conclusions drawn.
Play this game with your classmates and friends as a way to reinforce what you have learned in this course.
This case, the failure of the game, represents the always present possibility of science falling short of itself, due to the ineptitude of its practitioners, either of moral or technical character.