Nilgün ÖZTÜRK / PHED
NATURE OF SCIENCE
The nature of science refers to ideas which provide a description of science as a way of knowing. Over the whole human history, people developed many interconnected and validated ideas about the physical, biological, psychological, and social worlds. Those ideas have enabled successive generations to achieve a comprehensive and reliable understanding of the human species and its environment. Let’s start from scratch, the existence of mankind.
Mankind wants to know the nature and dominate to nature from existence. For this reason, mankind fights with nature from existence. Recently, the inverse of this opinion is argued. Human try to live with nature in peace. In my opinion, these two prospects are equal. As some politicians say, for continuous peace, we must be ready for continuous war. Some natural disasters or events like thunder, lightening flash or solar eclipse are most of the time interested by human as well as be frightened. On the other hand, this fear compel human to overcome it and satisfy his curiosity. The only way for human to overcome this fear is know about the real reasons of natural events and be sovereign over them. All too soon, the only reason for the war between mankind and nature is that? In other words, the motive which creates sciences is mankind’s necessity? Absolutely, yes!
So what is science? ‘Science is the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence.’ (Online Document, Science Council, 2012) In order to find evidences as stated in the above definition, scientists must do researches. Due to another resource, ‘Science is a systematic and logical approach to discovering how things in the universe work. It is derived from the Latin word “scientia,” which translates to knowledge. Unlike the arts, science aims for measurable results through testing and analysis. Science is based on fact, not opinion or preferences. The process of science is designed to challenge ideas through research. It is not meant to prove theories, but rule out alternative explanations until a likely conclusion is reached.’ (www.livescience.com)
Scientific knowledge is accumulated by systematic study and organized by general principles and has some characteristics. For example; conclusions of science are reliable, though tentative. Which means that ‘science is always a work in progress, and its conclusions are always tentative but just as the word "theory" means something special to the scientist, so too does the word "tentative." Science's conclusions are not tentative in the sense that they are temporary until the real answer comes along. Scientific conclusions are well founded in their factual content and thinking and are tentative only in the sense that all ideas are open to scrutiny. In science, the tentativeness of ideas such as the nature of atoms, cells, stars or the history of the Earth refers to the willingness of scientists to modify their ideas as new evidence appears’. (evolution.berkeley.edu)
Secondly, science is not democratic. ‘Scientific ideas are subject to scrutiny from near and far, but nobody ever takes a vote. If the question of plate tectonics had been decided democratically when it was first presented in the early twentieth century, we would, today, have no explanation for the origins of much of Earth's terrain. Scientific ideas are accepted or rejected instead on the basis of evidence’. (evolution.berkeley.edu)
Thirdly, science is non-dogmatic. ‘Nothing in the scientific enterprise or literature requires belief. To ask someone to accept ideas purely on faith, even when these ideas are expressed by "experts," is unscientific. While science must make some assumptions, such as the idea that we can trust our senses, explanations and conclusions are accepted only to the degree that they are well founded and continue to stand up to scrutiny’. (evolution.berkeley.edu)
Fourthly, science is non-dogmatic. ‘Nothing in the scientific enterprise or literature requires belief. To ask someone to accept ideas purely on faith, even when these ideas are expressed by "experts," is unscientific. While science must make some assumptions, such as the idea that we can trust our senses, explanations and conclusions are accepted only to the degree that they are well founded and continue to stand up to scrutiny’. (evolution.berkeley.edu)
Finally, science can not make moral or aesthetic decisions. ‘Scientists can infer the relationships of flowering plants from their anatomy, DNA, and fossils, but they cannot scientifically assert that a rose is prettier than a daisy. Being human, scientists make moral and aesthetic judgments and choices, as do all citizens of our planet, but such decisions are not part of science’. (evolution.berkeley.edu)
It is important in nature of science to understand the difference between observation and inference, too. However, this knowledge in itself is not enough. We should also learn to make good observations and inferences, and understand the role that observations and inferences play in the development of scientific knowledge. Let’s start with observations. When we describe an environment based on our five senses, it is called an observation. For example, ‘Upon magnification, the painted lady eggs appear bluish and barrel-shaped. Observations are direct enough that most would make the same observation in the same situation.’ (www.teacherlink.org)
Secondly, When we bring our past experience into making a judgment based on an observation, it is an inference. For example, ‘The caterpillar appears as if it is about to form its chrysalis is an inference, because you are interpreting observations according to knowledge from past experience. Inferences are important in science in making explanations, but one must be careful not to confuse observations with inferences when conducting a study.’ (www.teacherlink.org)
Nature of science’s other important content is about the difference between theory and law. Let’s start with some everday life definions. A fact is something that is true whether you like it or not. Generally, it is the strongest thing that can be said about anything. A law is on the same level as a fact. It is something that is true, that generally explains or answers lots of different things. Outside of scientific circles, a theory is more of a supposition. It may or may not be true but it’s a supposition that is supported by some sort of observation. A hypothesis is sort of on the same level as a theory if slightly below.
People think that the pieces of scientific knowledge they learn as facts but we should not refer to scientific knowledge as fact, because ‘that would tend to perpetuate the idea that scientific knowledge is inalterable.’ ‘Scientific facts are observable phenomenon in a particular situation. "Dinosaurs were cold-blooded" is not a scientific fact, because this phenomenon cannot be observed. "The caterpillar is 2.6 cm in length" is an example of a fact, because the phenomenon was observed in a particular situation.’ (www.teacherlink.org)
Hypotheses is an “idea” that is formulated to explain observations. I can hypothesize that there is a force that pulls on the ball, counteracted when I’m holding it or that the wind exerts a force on the flag that causes it to flutter. ‘The purpose of a hypothesis is to explain one or more observations in a cogent way. A good hypothesis must be testable – it must be able to make predictions about what would happen in similar situations – otherwise a hypothesis can never be verified nor refuted and it remains “just a hypothesis.” At present, String “Theory” is really just a hypothesis.’ (pseudoastro.wordpress.com)
Laws are a descriptive generalization about how some aspect of the natural world behaves under stated circumstances. For example, ‘Kepler’s Three Laws of Planetary Motion are;
(1) Planets travel in ellipses with one focus being the Sun
(2) Planets sweep out equal area in equal time
(3) A planet’s period-squared is proportional to its semi-major-axis-cubed’ (pseudoastro.wordpress.com)
Finally, theories are often ideas that have not been validated. In science, a theory has a much stronger meaning. ‘Scientific theories are broadly based concepts that make sense of a large body of observations and experimentation. Because theories successfully tie together such a huge amount of information, they are among the most important ideas in science.’ (www.teacherlink.org) Examples these days are the Theory of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, the Germ Theory of Disease, and yes, the Theory of Evolution.
To conclude, in those days, information age is lived and our state needs individuals who can use knowledge rather than store it. If teacher says to student everything in a way that students can not make any decisions; students could not learn how to stand on their own feet and they can not found no way out to their problems. By teaching students the nature of science, we also teach them how the science exists, how scientists work and think. Therefore, teachers should promote students’ scientific enterprise by assume scientific roles because students who are educated by this method can examine and posses the ability of problem solving and generating notion.
- The Guardian Science Blog. 2009. Retrieved from www.sciencecouncil.org/definition
- K., Zimmerman, R., Britt. 2012. Retrieved from www.livescience.com/20896
- Berkeley. 1998. Retrieved from evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/nature_06
- Staff. 2010. Retrieved from www.teacherlink.org/content/science/class_examples/
- S., Robbins. 2008. Retrieved from pseudoastro.wordpress.com/2008/12/21/terminology-