Murdock Mysteries Demonstrate Scientific Methods

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 Murder Mysteries Illustrate Reasoned Approaches

TV murder mysteries do a great job of showcasing the methods of science. To have confidence in the scientific world-view, and not just rely on faith in “scientist-priests,” we need to understand:

  • How science works, and
  • How it develops its conclusions and views.

In today’s world, scientific ideas are competing in people’s minds with other ideas of the nature of reality, for example, speculative thoughts in spiritual and religious areas. For people to make informed judgments about world views, beliefs and ways of living, we need to understand how scientific ideas develop and become verified. I found a pleasant way – good detective stories. I watch several on Netflix.

Inspector Murdock Cracks Complex Murder Cases

I believe the best TV detective series for demonstrating the scientific approach is the Murdock Mysteries. As the flyer says, “A Victoria era Inspector William Murdock uses unconventional scientific methods to crack complex, high-profile murder cases.” Only revealing who did it at the end of the show, the series follows Inspector Murdock as he:

  • Is introduced to each case,
  • Begins collecting evidence, and
  • Develops an initial theory about what happened.

To add interest, the series shows how he collects evidence, develops his theories, and often runs into dead ends. Further collection of evidence many times points to another answer, or another suspect, which adds twists to the story.

Of course, what makes this series for me is Murdock’s use of scientific techniques to conduct his investigations. He starts out with a detailed study of the crime scene. Then pieces together a trial idea of what has happened, and comes up with a trial working theory, a tentative answer. He tests the theory against new evidence he finds.

Sometimes it works out and sometimes not. The evidence may point to one explanation, such as “the butler did it.” But if one piece of evidence doesn’t fit the story, he may continue to collect evidence, which can lead to another answer.

Science – Describing Reality Logically

Science is similar; it is a rational process which describes our reality. As scientists acquire more evidence, they discover new insights, modify long-held theories, or replace them with better ones. Given time, our knowledge of physical reality moves forward. In its simplest form, the scientific approach consists of:

  • Making systematic observations of the material world,
  • Using logic to make deductions about that world, and
  • Proving or disproving those deductions with further testing.

When these results become verified by further studies by other researchers, the work is called a “scientific theory.” These findings are far more certain, than when people say something is “just a theory.” The common use of the term “theory” means speculation, ideas based on little evidence. A “scientific theory” has a high level of certainty, for example, the “theory of relativity.”

In addition, the Murdock Mysteries offer glimpses of the wonder people had for the many new fangled inventions that appeared at the time. Things we now take for granted, like bicycles, motorcycles, lie detectors, electricity, and radio. People even speculated about sending pictures through the air.

Other great TV sleuths

But back to the TV sleuths. Other TV series that show the scientific method include:

  • Tom Selleck’s Jesse Stone movies concern a police chief in Paradise, Massachusetts,
  • The Longmire stories of a Wyoming sheriff, and of course,
  • The updated Sherlock Holmes series called Sherlock.

These shows are available on Netflix. So enjoy them, if your interested. Perhaps you use the scientific method, and do not realize it.


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