What do you Know about the Nature of Science?
To better understand and help others understand the nature of science it is important to continually apply your understanding to ideas related to science and search for the limits to those ideas. These questions were developed for that opportunity.
Focus questions for the nature of science
1. What is science? What makes science (or a scientific discipline such as physics, biology... different from other disciplines of inquiry such as religion, Philosophy, art.. and even opinion?
2. What is an experiment?
3 Is experimentation necessary for the development of scientific knowledge?
If yes, explain why. Give an example to defend your position.
If no, explain why. Give an example to defend your position.
4. Is there a function for change in scientific theories. After scientists have developed a scientific theory such as atomic theory, theory of evolution... does the theory ever change?
If you believe that scientific theories do not change, explain why and defend your
answer with examples.
If you believe that scientific theories include a function for change, explain why and defend your answer with examples. If they include a function for change, then explain why people still think it is important to learn theories.
5. What is the difference between a scientific theory and a scientific law? Use an example to explain your answer.
6. Science textbooks often represent the atom as a central nucleus composed of
protons (positively charged particles) and neutrons (neutral particles) with electrons
(negatively charged particles) orbiting the nucleus. How certain are scientists about the
structure of the atom? What specific evidence do you think scientists used to determine
what an atom looks like?
7. Science textbooks often define a species as a group of organisms that share similar
characteristics and can interbreed with one another to produce fertile offspring. How
certain are scientists about this characterization of what a species is? What specific
evidence do you think scientists used to determine what a species is?
8. It is believed around 65 million years ago the dinosaurs became extinct. Scientists
developed hypotheses to explain the extinction. Some scientists suggests a huge meteorite hit the Earth 65 million years ago and led to a series of events that caused the extinction. Other scientists hypothesize of a massive and violent volcanic eruption was responsible for the extinction. How are these different conclusions possible if scientists in both groups have access to and use the same set of data to derive their conclusions?
9. Some claim that science is infused with social, cultural, political values, philosophical assumptions, and intellectual norms of the culture in which it is practiced. Others claim that science is universal and transcends national and cultural boundaries and therefore, not affected by social, cultural, political values, philosophical assumptions, and intellectual norms of the culture in which it is practiced.
If you believe that science reflects social and cultural values, explain why. Defend your answer with examples.
If you believe that science is universal, explain why. Defend your answer with examples.
10. Scientists perform experiments/investigations when trying to find answers to the
questions they develop. Do scientists use their creativity and imagination during their
If yes, at what stages of investigations do you believe scientists use their imagination and creativity: planning and design, data collection, after data collection?
Please explain why scientists use imagination and creativity. Provide examples if appropriate.
If you believe that scientists do not use imagination and creativity, please explain why. Provide examples if appropriate.
Dr. Robert Sweetland's Notes ©