I: What is nature of science?

• Science is an endeavour that seeks to
understand the workings of the natural world – for example, how did life began, are we alone in this universe, and can we travel to outer space Science makes use of logical tools to probe the mysteries of nature – these could be experimental and mathematical tools Science also refers to the corpus of knowledge that has been accumulated so far

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thinking. experimenting and validating • These ways represent a fundamental aspect of the nature of science and reflect how science tends to differ from other modes of knowing .II: What is Nature of Science? • A good understanding of living things & the environment has now been obtained • Techniques used to develop this body of knowledge include observing.

Nature of Science • We will concentrate on three aspects: (a)Scientific worldview (b)Scientific inquiry (c)Scientific enterprise .

Scientific Worldview • Scientists have developed a set of views and attitudes on what makes their work unique and how they go about doing it • These attitudes and views are shaped by the way the natural world has been made amenable to understanding through sustained logical probing and objective analyses .

Scientific Worldview – (a) the world is understandable • The phenomena and events that occur in nature can be understood if we study them systematically • Use of the human intellect as well as tools that stretch our sensory capabilities can uncover patterns in nature • The laws of science hold in all parts of the universe .

Scientific Worldview – (b) scientific ideas are subject to change • Science is a means for creating new knowledge • Scientific knowledge often exists in a state of flux • • • because new findings may challenge the validity of current thinking Just because a certain theory explains a set of observations or phenomena does not mean that another theory cannot do so – an alternative theory may well be equally valid It is difficult to attain total understanding or absolute truth in respect of an event or phenomena in nature but a good approximation is possible and this can explain many things rationally .

many facets of scientific knowledge are able to stand the test of time Progressive shaping of an idea to a level of acceptability rather than its total rejection is generally the norm in science • • • .Scientific Worldview – (c) scientific knowledge is durable • Scientists recognize the limitations of the scientific enterprise in attaining total understanding of something in nature – the gap between current understanding and total understanding represents an element of uncertainty that they can live with Notwithstanding the difficulty of achieving the absolute truth.

Scientific Worldview – (d) science cannot provide complete answers to all questions • There are limitations to the methods of science • Certain things cannot be probed objectively • • using the scientific approach Examples include existence of spirits. predicting an individual’s future and validity of superstitious beliefs With their training. scientists can. existence of supernatural powers. provide a useful perspective to the discussions . occurrence of miracles. however.

it figures as a mode of inquiry • It is possible for all of us to emulate the working approaches of scientists in order to exercise inquiry in matters of everyday significance .Scientific Inquiry • As science is perceived to be a means to probe the mysteries of nature.

magnetic fields Significant emphasis is devoted in science to developing more powerful instruments and techniques of observations When a scientist makes a claim. it is usually checked by others working in the same field • • • • .Scientific Inquiry – (a) science demands evidence • An outlandish claim made by a scientist can be confirmed or rejected by observations of related phenomena Observations and measurements allow scientists to obtain accurate data Use of instruments to probe characteristics not amenable to the senses allows scientists to overcome the limitations of the senses –for example.

Scientific Inquiry – (b) science is a blend of logic and investigation • Coming up with a new theory or hypothesis is • not an easy task – considerable thinking and imagination are often necessary A good analogy for coming up with a new theory or a hypothesis is the writing of poetry. composing of music or the design of an aircraft carrier At times. scientists stumble upon discoveries by accident or by chance Data obtained by a scientist but ignored in coming up with a theory may be analyzed by others to come up with new discoveries • • .

shapes of continents and contours of sea beds • • . fit between fossil types found on different continents. its validity is enhanced. Example: Theory of Moving Continents is able to explain linkages among unrelated phenomena such as volcanoes. earthquakes.Scientific Inquiry – (c) science explains and predicts • Current scientific knowledge can often be used to make sense of new observations and phenomena If a scientific finding relating to a phenomena can be used to show linkages with other phenomena.

he asks for proof Sometimes. emphasis by male scientists was on competitive social behavior of males. sex.Scientific Inquiry – (d) scientists tend to identify and avoid bias • • • • A scientist is skeptical by nature – if somebody makes an outlandish claim. It was only when female scientists entered this field that female primates’ community-building behavior was discovered . and political leanings can influence them to explore specific evidences while de-emphasizing other kinds of evidences Example: In study of primates. racial origin. bias can creep into scientific data unwittingly Scientists’ citizenship.

Scientific Inquiry – (e) Science is not authoritarian • In the annals of science. famous scientists have • • • been proved wrong a number of times Just because a scientist is famous does not mean that he has the monopoly of truth in a particular field No scientist believes that another scientist has the answers to all questions in a field Radical concepts that do not gel with current thinking may encounter criticisms .

social and institutional levels • Today’s society drives very much on scientific activities at various levels .Scientific Enterprise • Science is a dynamic enterprise that relates at the individual.

irrespective of ethnic.Scientific Enterprise – (a) Science is a complex social activity • Anyone. restrictions were placed on the education and employment of females – and thus their exclusion from most of science . in the 19th century and before. and teachers use a lot of science in their work As a social endeavor. science tends to impose values and views: for example. national and • gender backgrounds. technicians. librarians. can participate in science – scientists. doctors. engineers.

and schools . there is an overarching schemata to provide structure for organizing research and classifying findings Disadvantage is that the natural world is multidisciplinary in its workings – thus the segmentation of science does not mirror the way the world works and thus makes the establishing of linkages difficult Scientific disciplines generally have porous borders New disciplines are being formed at the interfaces of other disciplines Many institutions engage in science-based activities – for example. libraries. universities.Scientific Enterprise – (a) Science is organized into disciplines and conducted in various institutions • Science has developed so much that it is now organized • • • • • into disciplines With science being organized into disciplines. hospitals.

encouraging others to replicate their work. proper protocols must be observed .Scientific Enterprise – (c) There are ethical principles in the conduct of science • Scientists subscribe to a code of ethics in their work • Some of the traditions include maintaining proper records and notes. and allowing critical review of their work by other scientists • When live subjects are used. being objective.

Scientific Enterprise – Scientists participate in public affairs both as scientists and citizens • With their training and habits of mind. and scientists have their limitations to contribute to these discusions in a meaningful manner . scientists • • can bring useful insights into matters of public debate and interest They can help the public to understand the possible reasons for the occurrence of an event and the implications of certain policies Some matters of public debate are just too complex.

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