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The Significance of the Arab Scientists in the History of Research Methods

Natural Science

The research paper provides an investigation on the issue of scientific methods. The Arab scientists have always been influential in the process of scientific development. Moreover, it is considered that some of the Arab scientists were the first to use scientific methods. This paper discusses the problems associated with the organization of the process of scientific research, basic philosophical and scientific methods of empirical and theoretical levels of knowledge and their practical use in research and practice. The current research emphasizes the role of scientific methods in the implementation of research not taking into consideration the time of their use. The first part of the paper gives information about the Arab influence on the history of scientific research. The second part focuses on the most influential Arab scientists of the past. The third part provides the data about the modern types of scientific research methods. The research aims to emphasize the significance of the Arab scientists in the history of the development of research methods, and evaluate the major ideas of the modern scientific investigation.

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The authors of the research paper would like to thank their tutors, who had provided the overall guidance during the preparation of the current study.
Scientific research is a form of existence and development of science. The process of scientific knowledge is particularly related to regularity and consistency. Scientific research is always organized and targets specific investigation. Therefore, scientific investigation as one of the types of human cognitive activity would be impossible without the ability to apply different methods of cognition. The use of the methodology of science can effectively help to search for new knowledge, and reasonably choose methods in the study of new scientific problems. The Arab scientists were the first in the world who adopted the use of the scientific methods in their works, and significantly influenced further development of science as a whole. The research aims to emphasize the significance of the Arab scientists in the history of the development of research methods, and evaluate major ideas of the modern scientific investigation.

The History of the Use of Scientific Methods among the Arabs

In the Arab East and Central Asia, the scientific knowledge is not separated from philosophy, religion and art. However, this does not imply that the role of scientists in the development of the world science was not significant. On the contrary, at the beginning of the era of European Renaissance the scientific knowledge has been practically unchanged and became the property of the new generation of scientists of the historical period thanks to the efforts of Arab, Central Asian and Caucasus researchers (Dear, 2008). The reason for the fusion of the philosophical, religious and scientific knowledge appeared to be a schematic setup of Eastern culture and in-depth knowledge of the human inner world, rather than external factors, as in the European tradition (Gower, 1997). However, the need to solve practical problems gave impetus to the development of measurement disciplines that were particularly in demand in the spheres of trade, navigation, construction, and military affairs (Gower, 1997).
The scientific method is a system of regulatory principles, techniques and methods, which is achieved through an objective knowledge of reality within the framework of scientific and cognitive activity. The study of methods of scientific and cognitive activity discovers their possibilities and limits the use of integrated scientific methodology. The problem of obtaining knowledge and methods of familiarizing with them through education and training in the Arab world has a long history. In the pre-Islamic period, it was the practical knowledge and skills that were necessary for survival in the harsh conditions of nomadic life (Gower, 1997). The major method of their production and transmission was the process of home schooling and imitation of adult instruction in later years. With the advent of Islam in the time of Prophet Muhammad, new approaches to the problem of knowledge had appeared.
During this period, knowledge appears as a divine revelation in the Qur’an (Gower, 1997). The task of learning was to provide the knowledge requirements and the truths of the new doctrine, the connection of the spiritual and physical development of young people with a view to their active participation in the spread of Islam (Gower, 1997). Among the methods of education of that period, along with the home education and training by private teachers, was spreading the attendance of the religious schools of the first and second stage, together with military training. With the development and strengthening of the Arab Caliphate, there was made further improvement of the educational system, as a pedagogical science. It creates a new type of school, known as Madras, which adds the theological science studies and secular sciences into the process of education (Gordon, 2007). The modern system of education in many Arab countries copies the former systems of colonial period, for example, the current educational system was influenced by the French educational system (Gower, 1997). However, in particular cases, it takes into consideration the specific nature of national culture.
The least studied pages of the history of science include the classification of sciences proposed by the thinkers of the medieval Eastern countries. The most common was the theory of classification of sciences put forward by Aristotle (Gordon, 2007). According to this classification, scientific methods are divided into three parts: theoretical (logic, physics, mathematics, and metaphysics), practical (ethics, economics, and politics) and creative (poetics, rhetoric, and art) (Gordon, 2007). In the East, based on this classification there was most commonly used the division of all knowledge into theoretical and practical (Dear, 2008). The speculative knowledge about the general structure lies in the understanding of the theoretical implications of the clear knowledge on the Earth. From a practical point of view, it is the knowledge about human activities of the society and the family. In addition to this classification, some outstanding thinkers of the medieval East made their original teachings of the classification of sciences, which have played a progressive role in the development of scientific knowledge. Especially detailed vision was given by Abu Nasr al-Farabi (Gordon, 2007). All subsequent classification of sciences in the East, various reference books, and terminological dictionaries were dedicated to the issue and in varying degrees, were based on the initial classification.

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The Influence of Arab Scientists on the Development of the Concept of Scientific Method

Arab scholars have made outstanding contributions to many fields of knowledge. Unique in this respect is the Ibn al-Haitham, or Alhazen, 965- 1039 (Gordon, 2007). The author’s major work on topics “Kitah al-manazir,” or “Opticae thesaurus Alhazeni” was in many ways a breakthrough in the science (Gordon, 2007). Ibn al-Haitham has achieved great success in the study of lenses, spherical and parabolic mirrors (Gower, 1997). Moreover, he was an outstanding representative of the experimental approach to the study of optical phenomena and made accurate for his time structural analysis of the functioning of the eye (Gower, 1997). Contrary to Aristotle, he claimed that the beam of light comes from the observed object and not from the eye. Today, Ibn al-Haitham is regarded as the greatest physicist in the Arab world (Gordon, 2007). He had a profound influence on Western scientists, including Roger Bacon, Kepler and Newton. Scientists believe that he was the first to use the scientific method in his studies afterwards, this concept was fixed in the world science (Gordon, 2007).
The Arab scientific methods had played a significant role in the development of science. For example, the contribution of the Arabs in the mathematical sciences had an outstanding value. In the VIII century, and especially in the IX-X centuries, Arab scholars made important discoveries in the field of geometry and trigonometry (Dear, 2008). Abu’l-Wafa, who lived in the X century, gave the sine theorem of spherical trigonometry and calculated the table of sines at intervals of 15 ° to introduce the segments corresponding to the secant and cosecant (Dear, 2008). Poet and scholar Omar Khayyam wrote “The algebra”, which is a remarkable essay, containing a systematic study of third degree equations (Gower, 1997). He also successfully dealt with the problem of irrational and real numbers. In 1079, he introduced a calendar, which gave more accurate data than the Gregorian date (Dear, 2008). The Arab digital system was immediately picked up and became known in Western Europe under the name of the Arab in the XII century (Gordon, 2007).
Abu Rayhan Biruni was a great scholar of Khorezm, the author of many major works on the history, geography, philology, astronomy, mathematics, geodesy, mineralogy, pharmacology, geology, etc. (Gower, 1997). Biruni was knowledgeable in almost all the sciences of his time. According to reports, the posthumous list of his works, compiled by his students, took 60 closely written pages (Dear, 2008). As the largest scientist of his time, Biruni developed his own method of scientific research, which is described in detail in many books (Gower, 1997). Biruni was devoid of all mysticism, which influenced many scientists in Europe at that time. In the East, the majority of scientists were skeptical to the superstitions and occult beliefs. However, no one ridiculed the pseudoscientific theory so passionately, with fierce irony and mercilessly as Biruni (Gower, 1997). His approach and attitude to the scientific method is the most probative and relevant today. Priority pilot study is a scientific method created by the scientist. Biruni experimented beyond all kinds of research. Each carefully designed experiment described experimental results, and there were made necessary theoretical calculations to formulate the conclusion (Gower, 1997). In this sequence, experimental method of Biruni is similar to the procedure of Galileo, which was formulated in 500 years (Dear, 2008).
Some experimental work has not become popular and well known and was ignored, as many scientists were afraid of provoking conflict with the Sharia. Biruni required the multiple repetition of experience, and he accomplished this. One of the end results was the distinction between scientific truths and religious dogmas (Gower, 1997). Biruni has created a device for determining the density of liquids that is something like a hydrometer. Biruni also anticipated the method of a hydrostatic weighing method based on Archimedes’ principle, by which today the density of solids is determined. Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni has also made accurate astronomical measurements (Gower, 1997). Biruni observed and described the change in color of the Moon during lunar eclipses and the phenomenon of the solar corona during total eclipses of the sun. He suggested the Earth was moving around the Sun, and believed in the geocentric theory of the very vulnerable (Gower, 1997). He wrote an extensive essay about India and translated “Elements” of Euclid and “Almagest” of Ptolemy into the Sanskrit language (Dear, 2008). Astronomical studies of medieval Arab scholars, along with other achievements of the Arab science and technology became later known in Europe, and stimulated the development of European astronomy (Gower, 1997).

Interpretation of Modern Scientific Research Methods

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Scientific knowledge, as opposed to ordinary, is not obtained spontaneously, and uses specially developed methods to achieve its objectives. Research methods greatly facilitate knowledge and play an important role in the development of any science. As a rule, the crises in the development of one or another branch of scientific knowledge are related to the exhaustion of the capacity of existing principles and methods (Gimbel, 2011). The variety of human activities leads to a diverse range of techniques that can be classified according to different reasons. First, there should be highlighted the methods of spiritual, perfect (including research) and practical methods, as well as material activities (Dear, 2008). It is now clear that the system of methods, the methodology cannot be limited only by the scope of scientific knowledge. It must go beyond it and will certainly be included in its orbit, and scope of practice (Graziano & Raulin, 2012). It is necessary to bear in mind the close interaction between these two fields.
With the transition to the present stage of natural sciences to the study of large and highly organized objects, old methods of classical science prove to be ineffective. Now the world is understood as a dynamic system, where components interact and acquire new qualities. To study this system, there was developed a systematic approach (Gimbel, 2011). The main task of the overall system theory is to find the set of laws explaining the behavior of the functioning and development of the whole class of objects as a whole (Graziano & Raulin, 2012).
In modern philosophical and methodological literature, there are several aspects of the methods as such. Therefore, some researchers believe that each method has two main aspects: objective and informative, the operational and praxeological (Graziano & Raulin, 2012). The first aspect expresses conditionality method of the object of knowledge through theory (Graziano & Raulin, 2012). The operational aspect captures the dependence on the content of the method as not on the subject, but on the subject of knowledge, based on the competence and ability to translate theory into an appropriate system of rules, principles and methods, which together form a method (Dear, 2008). The praxeological aspect of the method consists of such properties as the efficiency, reliability, clarity, construction, etc. (Graziano & Raulin, 2012).
In modern science, the concept of multilevel methodological knowledge works successfully enough. In this regard, all the methods of scientific knowledge can be divided into the following main groups according to the degree of generality and breadth of application (Graziano & Raulin, 2012). General scientific approaches and methods have been widely developed and applied in modern science. They act as a kind of “interim methodology” between philosophy and fundamental theoretical and methodological provisions of the special sciences (Gimbel, 2011). Scientific concepts often include such concepts as information, model, structure, function, system, element, optimal, probability, and others (Gimbel, 2011).
The characteristic features of scientific concepts include first of all the fusion in their content of individual properties, signs and concepts number of private science and philosophical categories (Johanson & Williamson, 2013). Secondly, they are characterized by formalization, clarification by means of mathematical theory, and symbolic logic (Johanson & Williamson, 2013). There are various classification methods of scientific knowledge. Depending on the scope of this or that method, there are distinguished general (universal), general scientific and special methods. Universal methods have philosophical nature and characterize human thought in general (Dear, 2008). This is the method of ascent from the abstract to the concrete, historicist method, the method of the unity of the historical and logical way of observation (Johanson & Williamson, 2013). Scientific methods are divided into methods of empirical and theoretical levels of scientific knowledge (Johanson & Williamson, 2013). The empirical methods include observation and experiment (Johanson & Williamson, 2013).
On the basis of the scientific concepts there were formulated appropriate methods and principles of knowledge, which provide connectivity and optimum interaction of philosophy with a specially-scientific knowledge and methods. Among the general scientific principles and approaches are systemic and structural-functional, cybernetic, probabilistic modeling, formalization and others (Johanson & Williamson, 2013). The theoretical level of methods includes abstraction, analysis and synthesis, induction and deduction, analogy, modeling, and others. This class of methods is actively used in all sciences, and it makes sense to analyze it in detail (Johanson & Williamson, 2013).
Such scientific disciplines as the synergy, which is the theory of self-organization and development of open, integrated systems of any nature – natural, social, and cognitive have been rapidly developed (Trochim, Donnelly, & Arora, 2015).
Among the basic concepts of synergy are order, chaos, non-linear, uncertain, instability, dissipative structures, bifurcation, and others (Trochim et al., 2015). The synergistic concepts are closely related to and intertwined with a number of philosophical categories, especially such categories as being, development, time, accident, opportunity, and others (Trochim et al., 2015). The important role of general scientific approach is that by virtue of its intermediate nature they mediate mutual transition and scientific philosophical knowledge, as well as the appropriate methods. The fact is that the first is imposed purely outside, directly on the latter. Therefore, “point blank” attempts to express scientific content in the language of philosophical categories is usually unhelpful and ineffective (Gimbel, 2011).
Disciplinary methods are a system used in a particular scientific discipline, a part of any branch of science or the one that emerged at the intersection of sciences. Each fundamental science is a set of disciplines, which have their own specific object, and its peculiar methods of investigation. Methods of interdisciplinary research as a collection of a number of synthetic, integrative methods are aimed mainly at the joints of the scientific disciplines. The widespread use of these methods is found in the implementation of complex scientific programs. In addition to the universal and scientific methods, there are special methods of investigation, which are assessed in specific sciences. These include the method of spectral analysis in physics and chemistry, statistical modeling method in the study of complex systems, and others (Trochim et al., 2015).
The method of analogy is a logical technique by that allows making a conclusion on the objects’ similarity and other grounds (Johanson & Williamson, 2013). The analogy is not an arbitrary logical construction, which is based on the objective properties and relations between the objects (Johanson & Williamson, 2013). The rule is similarly formulated as follows: if two similar single subjects have some symptoms, they can be similar in other characteristics found in one of the compared items (Johanson & Williamson, 2013). On the basis of reasoning by analogy the simulation method was formed being widely used in modern science. Modelling is a method of research object through the construction and study of its analogs or models (Trochim et al., 2015). The knowledge gained in the study of the model is transferred to the original based on its analogy with the model. Simulation is used where the study of the original is impossible or difficult to conduct due to the high costs and risks (Johanson & Williamson, 2013). A typical technique of modeling is to study the properties of the new aircraft designs in their reduced models, placed in a wind tunnel. Modeling can be substantive, physical, mathematical, logical, and symbolic. It depends on the choice of the nature of the model (Johanson & Williamson, 2013). With the advent and widespread development of computer generated modeling, special programs are now being used (Trochim et al., 2015).
In modern science, various kinds of experiments are also conducted. The simplest is a high-quality experiment that is carried out to establish the presence or absence of the alleged theory of the phenomenon. Quantitative experiments are aimed to identify quantitative parameters of the object. The basic research widely uses a thought experiment in which scientists do not work with real objects and their ideal models. Depending on the specific object, it distinguishes the physical, chemical, biological, and social experiment (Trochim et al., 2015). The development of computer technology facilitated the spread of computational experiments, which are based on computer calculations and variants of mathematical process models (Trochim et al., 2015). The results of any experiment should be interpreted in terms of the theory of defining its framework conditions (Trochim et al., 2015).
Thus, the methodology cannot be reduced to a single method, even a very important one. A scientist should never rely on some unique teaching and should never limit the methods of his thinking to a single philosophy. The methodology is not a simple sum of the individual methods of “mechanical unity.” The methodology is complex, dynamic, and holistic, a system of subordinated methods, techniques, principles of different levels, the scope, focus, heuristic capabilities, content, structure, etc. (Trochim et al., 2015). It is important for the scientific knowledge to develop criteria of the scientific theoretical concepts. One of the most important modern criteria of the science-parallel existence of competition and research programs is the dignity that is not a criticism of the theory as such, but the creation of alternative concepts that allow seeing problems from the different points of view. Today, in the foreground is the scientific criteria such as ease concerns, the search for the perfection of the internal organization of knowledge and valuable socio-cultural aspects in the development of knowledge.


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The questions of scientific research and the emergence of new knowledge had been of much concern among the philosophers and scientists throughout the history of science. The influence of the famous Arab scientists cannot be underestimated. The former research methods have significantly influenced the investigation in the modern science. Today, the scope of research activities involves hundreds of thousands of people around the world, and the results of their research are becoming a direct productive force and to a large extent determine the direction and development trends of modern society. The new forms of organization of science are created and generated in the large research teams, in which scientists are faced with the need to systematize the methods used, and to develop interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research strategies. Science has become a huge, complicated social organism. In this context, the theoretical research in the field of scientific methodology is of particular relevance. Today, there is a marked expansion and complication of the problems of the methodology of scientific knowledge.

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