1.0 IMPORTANCE OF METHODOLOGY
1.1 PROTECTION FROM MISTAKES /
Methodology is needed to be able
to protect the researcher from mistakes due to inconsistencies of personal
bias. Study of methodology is rapidly emerging as an important and independent
1.2 DISCIPLINE DEFINITION
Methodology and not content
defines a discipline; a discipline cannot be recognized as independent until it
evolved a methodology.
1.3 A COMMON METHODOLOGY
There is a methodological
framework common to all disciplines since there is Tauhid of knowledge and the
source of knowledge is one. This common methodology can be reached by deep
study and reflection of any discipline.
2.0 METHODOLOGY: A HISTORICAL
Science and technology are as old
as humanity. The first recorded scientific activity was teaching Adam the names
of things. Naming and classification are basics for scientific research and
communication. The historical record is silent after that first event. We
however know from archaeological evidence that a lot of empirical discoveries
were made. Human curiosity and the search for practical solutions to problems
of life led to discoveries by empirical observation or trial and error. In this
way early man discovered fire, agriculture, animal husbandry, manufacture and
use of weapons.
2.2 ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS
The science and technology
(S&T) we have today is a product of human endeavor to which all known
civilizations contributed: ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Roman empire,
Phoenicia, Persia, China, and India. These societies were the first to develop
agriculture and a sedentary life-style. The need to solve practical problems as
well as the stability and order that existed in settled communities allowed the
development and spread of ideas on S&T. The beginnings of the empirical
methodology can be traced to these communities. Knowledge was able to spread
easily because these communities had also developed writing.
2.3 TRANSFER OF KNOWLEDGE TO
THE MUSLIM WORLD
Muslims played a crucial role in
preserving and improving ancient Greek learning and passing it to Europe just
before the scientific revolution at the start of the 16th century H.
The Umayyad Khalif, Khalid Ibn Yazid, started translations of Greek science and
philosophy into Arabic. This effort intensified in the 3rd century H
under the Abassid rulers. Muslims became leaders of science in its various
disciplines by correcting defects in Greek science but also making innovative
additions of their own.
2.4 MUSLIM CONTRIBUTIONS TO
Before Islam, Greek scientific
methodology founded by Aristotle was dominant. It was based on logic and
definitions. Greek logic was more deductive than inductive. Muslims on the
other hand were inspired to use inductive logic and empirical observation. Al Hasan ibn Haytham depended on experimentation,
observation, and induction before Roger Bacon wrote about the empirical
methodology. Jabir Ibn Hayyaan used experimentation and developed a logical
structure for reaching conclusions.
2.5 TRANSFER OF KNOWLEDGE TO
During the renaissance or age of
enlightenment, the suppression of science ended. At the same time Muslim
science, carrying with it the empirical method, reached Europe through
translations or study of Europeans at Muslim universities in Spain and other
countries. It is possible but not proved that it was the Muslim influence that
triggered the intellectual and knowledge renaissance of Europe which was a
pre-cursor to the scientific revolution in Europe of the period 1500-1750 CE.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), the first European to write about the empirical
methodology, was repeating ideas and concepts that Muslim scientists had
already elaborated. Francis Bacon (1561-1626 M) In his book ‘Novum Organum’
described the scientific method depending on method and order of empirical
knowledge. He laid primary emphasis on observation as the only source of valid
3.0 CONCEPTS AND PARADIGMS
3.1 THE PARADIGM OF (TAUHID)
The tauhid paradigm has the
following concepts: unity of truth, unity of knowledge, unity of life, and
unity of humanity. The concept of Tauhid is the bedrock for causal relations
and a rational predictable universe. Science shows that the complex universe is
actually a simple one made up of a few fairly identical building blocks called
atoms, sub-atomic particles and molecules. The natural laws that govern the
interactions among these particles are simple and are usually written as simple
mathematical equations. Under the Tauhid paradigm revelation and reason are
complementary. Since knowledge and truth are a unity, both revelation and
reason are searching for the same goal of truth. The Tauhid paradigm also
implies an all-embracing aspect. Since everything has the same creator and one
source, there must be order and harmony since that creator knows all His
creation. The concept of Tauhid liberates the human intellect from stagnation,
dependency, blind following. It frees the human from being a slave of his own
whims and fancies. It encourages innovation by emphasizing the Tauhid of the universe and its wide expanse. It is
the final guarantor against methodological biases because the human observing
and interpreting natural phenomena is in the same frame of reference as the
events being studied.
3.2 PHYSICAL LAWS
Science is empirical observation
of the environment using sense organs and interpretation of the observations.
The human intellect is used in the observation and especially the
interpretation. Science unravels causal relations between phenomena. The
principle of causality, ie a physical phenomenon must have a preceding humanly
understandable cause, is very consistent. There are however exceptions when the
principle is suspended. These exceptions involve intervention of divine will
beyond human understanding in the form of miracles. Humans can ignore the
principle of causality with the consequence of lack of creativity, lack of
innovation, and lack of activity and they lapse into a stuporous state of
stagnation. The physical laws of the
universe are of 2 types: those known by Creator alone and those knowable by
humans. The laws in the world of the unseen are different from those in the world of the seen;
the former are beyond human reach but the latter can be reached by humans
through experimentation and observation.
3.3 REASON and EMPIRICISM
The Greeks made many
contributions to science but at the same time did a disservice to it by not
emphasizing the inductive methodology. Most break-throughs in S&T today are
a result of inductive processes. Interaction with Greek science did actually
hamper methodological development for centuries.
BASIS FOR EMPIRICAL
OBSERVATION AND INTERPRETATION
The inductive method reaches
conclusions by looking at nature. The entire cosmos was put at the service of
humans for their own benefit. They therefore must observe and investigate the
earths and heavens to discover causal relations that can be manipulated fir
human advantage. Observation is accompanied by interpretation. Use of
evidential knowledge is emphasized. Biased
observation is condemned.
The concept of objectivity promotes
valid and un-biased research. The straight path unaffected by personal biases
and prejudices leads to success. The straight path is defined by measures of central tendency to the
golden mean or equilibrium. The straight path can also be defined negatively as
rejection of what leads to bias such as personal whims. False knowledge, blind
following, mistakes, and forgetting can all be causes of deviation from the
straight path. Diseases of the heart such as prejudice can color and distort
objective observation and interpretation resulting in bias. There are practical
measures for avoiding mistakes such as insisting on a written record and
calling witnesses. Use of evidence protects against false conclusions.
CAUSES OF LACK OF OBJECTIVITY
It is virtually impossible to be
objective if you do not stick to and follow a definite methodology. Deviation
from methodology may be caused by personal biases or inclinations or personal
interests. A person who does not have a methodology cannot be expected to be objective.
4.0 THE EMPIRICAL METHOD
4.1 BASIC CHARACTERISTICS OF
THE EMPIRICAL METHODOLOGY
Empiricism is basing knowledge,
beliefs, and attitudes on practical experience of the sense organs. Exclusive
empiricism thus defined rejects knowledge from intuition, revelation,
conjecture, and reasoning. Absolute empiricism denies existence of a priori
The European use of the empirical
method has a distinguishing characteristics of reliance only on empirical
observation as the source of knowledge with rejection of any other sources such
as history, and transmitted knowledge.
The following characteristics of the empirical method are alleged but may not
always hold in practice. The method is open-ended. Theories are abandoned if no
longer sustained by facts. It is methodological (systematic, repeatable, and
consistent). It is accurate, precise, and objective.
4.2 USE OF HYPOTHESES IN THE
Scientific investigation starts
with hypothesis formulation. The hypotheses are tested by empirical observation
and deductions/inductions are made. Ibn Haytham, in his ‘Book of Optics’, illustrates the use of the empirical method. He did a
lot of experiments and interpreted the findings. He realized the importance of
mathematics. He used a combination of both inductive and deductive logic. He
formulated hypotheses in 2 ways: observation and analogy.
In his observation of natural
phenomena, he observed that light passing through a hole has the shape of that
hole and therefore formed a hypothesis that light travels in straight lines. He
concluded by analogy that since the moon gets its light from the sun, the stars
cannot get light from the sun. To verify the hypotheses about the stars above,
Ibn Hytham made the observation that unlike the moon, the shapes of the stars
did not change with distance from the sun. He concluded that the stars must
emit light of their own. Ibn Hytham moved from experiment to generalize into a
law by making 2 conclusions. The first was that light of whatever type travels
in straight lines. The second was that the incident ray, the reflected ray, and
the normal are in the same plane.
OF THE EMPIRICAL
The major strength of the
empirical methodology is that it enables rapid growth of knowledge.
4.4 THE EMPIRICAL METHODOLOGY: A HISTORICAL
EMPIRISISM IS INNATE
Empiricism could be said to be an
innate character of humans that they share with animals. Humans always want to
know the explanation of natural phenomena and what relates one event to another.
In the absence of empirical knowledge or wahy they have sometimes resorted to superstition.
MUSLIM PIONEERS OF THE
Greek science was conjectural and
hypothetical. Greeks preferred reasoning and looked down upon perceptual
knowledge. They would spend years in their comfortable arm-chairs reasoning
instead of going out of the room and making observation or setting up a simple
experiment to close the issue. Aristotle for example never thought of testing
his theory about the speed of fall of heavy and light objects. Muslims
criticized Greek logic.
Muslim scientists in the golden
era of Islam were pioneers of the systematic use of the empirical method.
Muslims developed a complete empirical methodology in the form of. Allama
Muhammad Iqbal in his ‘Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ argued
that the empirical method was not a European discovery. He quoted contributions
of Ghazzali, Ishraqi, Ibn Taymiyyat, Abubakr al Razi, and Ibn Hazm. Other
pioneers of the empirical method were: Ibn Sina, Al Biruni, al Kindi (d. 260H),
Jabir Ibn Hayyan (d. 200H), Ibn Haytham (d. 340H), al Khawarizmi (d. 387H).
EUROPEAN PIONEERS OF THE
European history ascribes
‘discovery’ of the empirical method to Roger Bacon (1561-1626H). Other European
pioneers of the method such as San Simon (1760-1825 M), August Kant (1798-1857
M), Emile Durkheim (1858-1917 M) built on Bacon’s ideas.
5.0 WEAKNESSES IN THE USE OF THE EMPIRICAL
5.1 PROBLEM IN USE AND NOT IN
The empirical methodology is
innately good but the manner and context of its use lead to the following 4
problems: biases due to a priori assumptions, limitations of observation by
human senses, limitations of human intellect, and lack of an integrating
5.2 BIASES DUE TO A PRIORI ASSUMPTIONS
European use of the empirical
method has many biases: A priori
assertions or non-assertions, (assertions by default) bias the selection of
fields/issues of investigation, formulation of hypotheses, selection of
hypotheses for testing, reporting of data, interpretation of data, and use of
The source of frustration with
empiricism is that some assertions are understood but are not stated explicitly
so that the uninitiated may not recognize their existence. Materialist thought
has several manifestations as positivism, empiricism, and pragmatism. A
materialistic view of the universe contradicts the view of duality of matter
and spirit, mind and body, soul and intellect, philosophy and religion, and the
here and the hereafter.
The theory of evolution evolved
England in the 19th century. It coincidentally provided
justification for industrial exploitation for the less fit in Europe and the
colonies by the fittest that alone had the right of survival. The theory has
had a big impact on the thinking of many natural and social scientists.
Scientific hypotheses, scientific language, and choice of what to study reflect
an underlying assumption of the innate superiority of the most ‘evolved’ human
species in Europe.
Psychological leanings cause
bias. Personal or group selfish interests can unconsciously lead to bias
because of the dichotomy between science and morality.
The life of the scientist is not
put in the equation. A scientist is a prisoner of his culture. Many of the
leading scientists were morally corrupt even psychologically sick yet their
theories and discoveries were not suspected. There is an implied unscientific
assumption that a person who tells lies in his ordinary life will not do so about
his laboratory research. The character and moral worth of the investigator is
not taken into account when judging the validity of the data on the assertion
that science is morally/ethically neutral. This is the cause of so much
scientific fraud most of which is undetectable. There is a need to check the
moral worth of the researcher in the assessment of any research data to void
the possibility of scientific fraud.
Regarding natural laws as final
and accepting the laws of evolution that explain the start and progress of life
as chance or accidental events make the scientist consider the existence of a
creator superfluous. No empirical experiment can be set up to test the
proposition yet there are observable indications especially in empirical
behavior of humans that there is a super-natural power.
Diseases of the heart can lead to
biased empirical observations. Among these diseases are rancor, hatred, and
deception. Medical literature is replete
with biased research and conclusions that associate undesirable diseases and
conditions like low IQ & low educational achievement with the disadvantaged
races or ethnic groups. In most cases it is the poor physical and social
conditions of the disadvantaged that cause the disease or the conditions and
not their race or ethnicity.
5.3 LIMITATIONS OF OBSERVATION
BY HUMAN SENSES
Empirical knowledge is
relativistic and probabilistic. Science can be too arrogant in stating its
conclusions as established facts when the observations on which they are based
may be wrong. Empiricism depends on human senses. Human senses are limited in
their observation and can be deceived; this failure is not cured by use of
instruments because they are aids and extensions of the basic human senses.
Both empiricists, those who assert that empirical experience is a source of
knowledge, and rationalists, those who assert that human reason is source of
knowledge, agree that there is no source of knowledge outside the human. The
assertion that empirical knowledge is the only source of valid knowledge
excludes 2 major fields of study: ultimate questions about the universe and
There are ultimate questions
about the universe that cannot be answered empirically or rationally. These
questions about the universe include its start, its future, its end, its
purpose of human life, the nature of life, the nature of death and the nature
of after death. Human behavior cannot be explained empirically or rationally.
No empirical experiment can be set up to investigate motivations of human behavior
and human spiritual experiences.
The paradigm that does not
recognize existence of limits to human senses and intellect cannot accept that
some matters cannot be investigated empirically. A distinction is made between
scientific assertions that can be investigated empirically and non-scientific
assertions that cannot be investigated empirically. Matters classified as
non-scientific are just ignored as if they do not exist. A proper approach
would have been a declaration by the empiricists and rationalists that some
questions lie outside the bounds of unaided human investigation. They would
then have to consider other sources of knowledge about these matters for
The argument of secularist
empiricists and rationalists rejecting anything that cannot be investigated
empirically as unscientific is flawed. There are many phenomena in science that
are believed but are not yet proved empirically. A good example is the disease
of cholera. It was established that contaminated water was a cause of cholera
and that the disease-causing agent is transferred from the sick to the healthy
by means of such water. It was only later that the vibrio cholerae organism was isolated. By that time public health
measures had already controlled out the disease in the industrialized
countries. These measures did not depend on complete knowledge and had a
measure of belief in the unseen yet no one disputed their effectiveness.
There are three sources of
knowledge, two being primary and the third being dependent on the first two.
Revelation and empirical observation are
independent sources of knowledge and intellect in a dependent source of
knowledge. Both revelation and empirical observation need intellect for understanding.
Revelation remains the absolute
source since human senses and intellect are known by ordinary human experience
to be fallible. The empirical method performs well in investigation of the
present but is awfully incompetent in its historicity and futuristicity.
Investigation of the past and the future requires knowledge of the unseen that comes only from revelation. The unseen can be
absolute or relative. Empirical investigations continually roll back the
frontiers of relative unseen but cannot even start looking into absolute
unseen. The problem is that the modern use of the empirical method just assumes
that un-investigatable matters just do not exist or are irrelevant. Untestable
assertions are classified as unscientific.
Existence is at 5 levels: inner/real, empirical/perceived,
imaginary, intellectual/abstract, and illusionary. The empirical method can
only observe the empirical, the rest have to be inferred. It is therefore
limited in the understanding of the whole existence. Modern empiricism, by
looking at the human as only matter, does not have the tools to understand
human duality as spirit and body. It fails in understanding causal relations in
situations in which humans change the ecosystem and their own internal
environment. Humans can create new facts that accord with their inner biases
such that an investigator coming later is confused about the causal chain and
cannot tell the correct order.
5.4 LACK OF BALANCE
The way science and technology
are used today shows lack of balance which leads to transgression. We live in a
world that is technologically advanced but lacks spiritual and social balance
and the end-result is a lot of human misery and human suffering.
5.5 LACK OF PURPOSE
Technology seems to have become
an automaton with its own dynamism that is sometimes not related to any
understandable human purpose. It sometimes seems that we are building
structures for amusement only with no underlying purpose.
5.6 LACK OF AN INTEGRATING
Too narrow specialization in
science has resulted in a situation of knowing the parts and failing to put
them together. Knowing the whole picture makes the study of the parts more
meaningful and is the holistic approach. Empiricism as used does not
acknowledge the basic assertions of Tauhid that there is one creator for the
universe and that therefore there must be an integrating paradigm for all human
research and actions. A practical consequence of this is that one advance in
one area is a catastrophe in another to the extent that many insightful
scientists fear the ultimate destruction of the ecosystem. Industrialization
causes air and water pollution. The modern society has destroyed the family.
Increased material wealth has been associated with more stress and unhappiness.
Nuclear energy generates electricity but is also a potential destruction of the
whole universe if nuclear weapons are ever used.
5.7 LIMITATIONS OF THE HUMAN
Human intellect is necessary for
interpretation and understanding of empirical observations. This intellect has
limitations and there are matters like the human himself that lie outside its
reach. A human cannot understand himself fully. There are transgressions in the
use of reason that lead to false results. This occurs when reason is employed
in areas that are exclusive for revelation.