Summary of the
This chapter begins by suggesting that
Physical Geography is a science. Physical geographers
use the scientific method as a tool to gather knowledge
about the workings of our natural world. The two main
tools used in this methodology are falsification and
The philosopher Karl Popper suggested
that it is impossible to prove a scientific theory
true by means of induction. Induction was the method
scientists used to gather their knowledge before the
turn of the century (proposed by Sir Francis Bacon).
Induction works this way. You gather data from nature
and then construct a theory. Someone using this method
may be fooled into thinking they had collected all
of the data that was available on that particular scientific
phenomenon. However, because the Universe is infinite
no amount of evidence can assure us that contrary evidence
will not be found. Because of this fact, Karl Popper
suggested that proper science must be accomplished
by deduction. Deduction involves the process of falsification
of hypotheses. In this process you develop a theory
first and then try to find evidence that contradicts
it. Of course in the real world one must start by collecting
data first (induction).
The scientific concepts of time and space
are then explored and their relevance to Physical Geography
is defined. Time and space are important to the study
of Physical Geography because natural phenomena are
influenced by these two universal factors.
Physical Geography has experienced a
radical change in its investigative methodology. In
the early years of Physical Geography, its practitioners
were primarily interested in gathering descriptive
facts about the world. However, there came a point
where scientists want to know why the phenomena of
Physical Geography exist. This involved studies of
process and the use of scientific method to test theories.
Thus, Physical Geography has been changing from a science
that was highly descriptive to one that is increasingly
experimental and theoretical.
List of Key Terms
Mean, Median, Mode,
Population Estimator, Population
Sample, Scale, Science, Space, Standard
Problems, and Exercises
(1). Discuss Karl
Popper's contribution to scientific investigation.
(2). What is the scientific method?
What are its goals? What tools are used to achieve
(3). How is science done? What are
its goals? How does it differ from fields of knowledge
like history or english?
(4). Why are the concepts of time and
space important in the study of Physical Geography?
(5). How has the scientific methodology
of Physical Geography changed?