We had a great student question in class about the atomic theory of matter. This is the nowwell-established theory that the structure of matter and its behavior can beexplained by "atoms," tiny building blocks of matter whose properties definethe larger properties of materials. This idea was first advanced in India, and in Greece by thethinkers Leucippus and Democritus (the latter being the most famously associatedwith this idea) around the 5th century BCE. However, like most of their contemporaries the idea of experimentation was anathema to an understanding of the world. It wasn't until overtwo millennia later that the idea that experimental tests of the natural worldcould establish "useful" and "useless" ideas was accepted.
In an attempt to provide a more realistic view of science and point outissues on which science teachers should focus, this article presents anddiscusses 10 widely-held, yet incorrect ideas about the nature of science.
“Fact-Hypothesis-Theory Word Jumble”
There is no implication that all students, or most teachers for thatmatter, hold all of these views to be true, nor is the list meant to bethe definitive catolog.
Consider the example of the white swans discussedearlier.
It's fairly easy to think that the Big Bang theory simply says that a long time ago there was this big explosion that started the universe. End of story.
With a theory, the issue is much the same.
CORRECTION: Because science classes sometimes revolve around dense textbooks, it's easy to think that's all there is to science: facts in a textbook. But that's only part of the picture. Science a body of knowledge that one can learn about in textbooks, but it is also a process. Science is an exciting and dynamic process for discovering how the world works and building that knowledge into powerful and coherent frameworks. To learn more about the process of science, visit our section on .
There is one majorproblem with the idea of conjecture and refutation.
The fox terrier mentioned in the titlerefers to the classic comparison used to express the size of the dawnhorse, the tiny precursor to the modem horse.
It is impossible tocollect and interpret facts without any bias.
During the Apollo 8 mission,astronaut Bill Anders responded to the question of who was flying thespacecraft by saying, "I think that Issac Newton is doing most of thedriving fight now." (Chaikin, 1994, p.
Myth 10: All Work in Science is Reviewed to Keep the Process Honest.
His response was understoodby all to mean that the capsule was simply following the basic laws ofphysics described by Isaac Newton years centuries earlier.
The Works of Francis Bacon (pp.
Even if not all of these things make sense immediately it should be clear that a theory is more than just a simple statement. A theory is the widest-ranging and most complex structure in science.