Initially I will introduce the different views regarding the nature of science. At the same time I will critically analyse the different views expressed in the literature and explain how it has influenced my developing understanding of science and education.
Furthermore I intend to discuss my position on whether science is a set of value free facts or whether it is a creative, evolving human activity, based on the culture which practices it. Finally I aim to explore the current science National Curriculum and identify evidence of how it reflects my understanding of the nature of science and the impact my findings will have on my professional practice.
Until now science appeared to be a fixed set of facts based on; experiments, scientific method, observation, hypothesis, and evidence that together with theories and laws explain the world around us. I believed scientists used problem solving and logic to deduce facts that were then organised into discrete topics, presented in a didactic style for the majority of students to remember. My prior understanding of the nature of science could therefore be described as a traditional, logicoempiricist or realist.
This approach was held by the philosopher Karl Popper who proposed science is used to explain the world around us and scientific progress is an accumulative continuous, objective process involving falsification. He believed science is a discovery of things that already exist, where evidence from observations is believed to be true until they are falsified by contradictory evidence. For example; the hypothesis that all ‘swans are white’ until such a point where a black swan is observed and the theory is refuted. (Reiss, 2010)
However Driver et al (1994) referring to the work by Miller et al (1993) argues that there is no single nature of science. In addition the nature of science is complex, debatable and divides opinion (Smith and Scharmann, 1998).
Opposing Popper’s idea, the non-traditional anti-realist Thomas Kuhn contended, science is a tool and just one way to explain the world; it is a subjective, human endeavour with each person’s view being unique. (Reiss, 2010, Popper vs. Kuhn 2013). Schwartz et al (2004) backs this up when they state different views give different explanations.
The post-modernist Feyerabend (1993) cited in the work by Reiss (2010) maintains there is different kinds of science and people’s backgrounds affect the way they see the world and that they will learn about it in different ways. This supports Howard Gardener theory that there are as many as nine different learning styles, Smith, Mark K. (2002, 2008). Feyerabend (1993) also contradicts Popper’s notion of falsification stating that there is no standardized scientific method. Reiss (2010)
Kuhn adds, science is invention and not a smooth continuous progression suggested by Popper but rather a “gestalt switch” (Narasimhan, 1997, p.4) in paradigms described as ‘revolutionary’. Kuhn does however describe a ‘normal’ phase agreeing with Popper (Narasimhan, 1997, M. Reiss 2010).
The modern epistemology supports Kuhn’s view that theories are man-made interpretations of data varying from person to person Anon (2013) suggesting science is influenced by culture and society, an idea presented by Kuhn (Narasimhan, 1997, M. Reiss 2010). Alan Chalmers (1999) referred to by Reiss (2010) reinforced the idea that there is no reasonable argument for a paradigm shift and other factors affect a scientists’ judgement. An example of such influences were seen when the theory of evolution was published and when the theory of continental shift by Alfred Wegener was criticised.
Today the more accepted view incorporates a number of characteristics, Reiss (2010) refers to work by Latour and Woolgar (1979) when they state science is characterised and supports Popper and Kuhn. However Jim…