AOK 1 – NATURAL SCIENCES Lesson 1: Introducing the Nature and Methodology of the Natural Sciences Learning Objectives Understand what the term ‘Natural Sciences’ includes and excludes Understand what is meant by the ‘scientific method’ and what are the implications for knowledge claims in the natural sciences
What are the Natural Sciences? Natural sciences is defined as “knowledge of objects or processes observable in nature, as biology or physics, as distinguished from the abstract or theoretical sciences, as mathematics or philosophy” (Dictionary Reference, 2012) Try to list some examples of knowledge claims in this area of knowledge
The achievements ofthe natural sciences The natural sciences are considered to be one of the greatest human achievements This is because of their unparalleled capacity to both explain and make precise predictions; For the technological advancements that result from its applications; For the way in which their overall influence has come to increasingly permeate modern life. Any discussion about ‘truth’ or ‘reliable knowledge’ will probably lead to science as providing this kind of knowledge.
So what do we think of most when considering ‘the sciences’?For Task 1, complete the following activities,allowing 20 seconds for each:Draw a handDraw a houseDraw one thing that you think representsmathematicsDraw one thing that you think represents thesciencesList as many words as you can that you thinkdescribe a scientistBonus challenge: draw a scientist
Task 1 – follow up Compare your drawings of a hand and a house with others in the class. Are they similar? If so, why do you think this is so? Compare your drawings for mathematics and the sciences. Do some images or symbols recur? What characteristic features of these subjects are reflected? Share your words and final drawing. What impressions of the scientist emerge? How would you find out whether your images of the scientist are accurate or not?
Is this what you think of when considering the sciences?
In ToK we examine the nature of science and not just the subject knowledge that dominates the school curriculum However, the focus clearly remains on the three core sciences; Biology The study of living organisms and life processes. Chemistry The study of the composition, structure and properties of matter and its reactions. Physics The study of matter and its motion, of space and time, forces and energy.
What is the scientific method?“The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.” Albert Einstein Scientists search the physical world for regular and recurring relationships to describe and explain. The search for these patterns ranges from the subatomic world of neutrinos to the entire cosmos and from the study of inanimate crystals to the study of living cells. The scientific method is a highly structured process that is based around observations, reasoning and experiments that can be repeated and checked independently by others http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZaCy5Z87FA
Task 2 – The Scientific Card Game Aim: to figure out the rule! First, divide the class into groups of 4 or 5, with each group receiving a pile of 7 or 8 playing cards. Each group is, in turn, to offer a card which is either accepted or rejected according to the rule. A group can guess what the rule is if everyone agrees!.
Task 2 – continuedAfter the game, analyse the following:the way you first spotted a patternthe way you guessed a possible rulethe way you tested the ruleA specific process is operating here:Pattern spotting: this links to empiricalobservation.Guessing the rule: this links to the formationof an inductive hypothesisTesting the rule: this links to confirming orfalsifying the hypothesis
Task 3 – The Scientific Method Construct a flow diagram in your TOK journal that illustrates this process using key words such as: theory, experimental data, prediction, inductive hypothesis, etc 3. Prediction1. 2. 4. Theory and confirmed andExperimental Inductive experimental data or hypothesis tentatively test acceptedObservation 5. Theory is falsified (proven false) and discarded
Task 3 - continuedWhat are the similarities and differences between the following two flow charts. Compare these charts to yours.
Imagination and creativity in science American physicist Richard Feynman wrote:“But what is the source of knowledge? Where do the laws that are to be tested come from? Experiment itself helps to produce these laws, in the sense that it gives us hints. But also needed is imagination to create from these hints the great generalisations – to guess at the wonderful, simple, but very strange patterns beneath them all, and then to experiment to check again whether we have made the right guess.” (Alchin 2006:17)
Task 4 Read about the following two claims in Alchin, N (2006), Theory of Knowledge, Hodder Murray, p.17-18 1) The Earth is flat 2) The Earth is roundMake notes in your ToK journal in response to the following:1 Why did ‘claim 1’ become a reasonable scientific belief?2 What does this indicate about science and truth?3 How was this claim tested, and what were the implications?4 Why is imagination a necessary component of ‘claim 2’?5 How was this claim tested, and what were the implications?6 What aspects of this claim could have been falsified (provenfalse)?
PlenaryWhat are the natural sciences and what examplesof scientific knowledge claims can you think of?What is the ‘scientific method’ and which of theways of knowing are being used?What does it mean to ‘test’ or ‘falsify’ scientificknowledge claims? What does this suggest aboutthe nature of scientific truth?
Homework Science and PseudoscienceWhat is ‘pseudoscience’ and how is it different from‘science’? How could it be recognised?Outline the thinking that underlines ONE of thefollowing and evaluate its essential nature asscience or pseudoscience:AcupunctureAstrologyCrystologyFeng ShuiGraphologyHomeopathyPhrenology
AOK 1 – NATURAL SCIENCES Lesson 2: Understanding and Evaluating the Scientific Method Learning Objectives Understand further the way in which hypotheses are ‘confirmed’ or ‘falsified’, in the context of examples Understand reasons for and evaluate the regulation of the ‘scientific method’
What is the Scientific Method?Which Way of Knowledge is being used? 3. Prediction1. 2. 4. Theory and confirmed andExperimental Inductive experimental data or hypothesis tentatively test acceptedObservation 5. Theory is falsified (proven false) and discarded
Task 1 – Science and PseudoscienceWhat is ‘pseudocscience’ and how is it differentfrom ‘science’? How could it be recognised?Present an outline of the thinking that underlinesONE of the following and evaluate its essentialnature as science or pseudoscience:AcupunctureAstrologyCrystologyFeng ShuiGraphologyHomeopathyPhrenology
Task 1 – follow upThe question here is whether these practices usethe ‘scientific method’ to accumulate knowledge To what extent do these practices rely on experiments, observations, data, hypotheses, predictions, falsification? To what extent do these practices appear less scientific because their subject matter is more complex? What difference is there betweenstudying atoms or plant and the subject matter of each of these disciplines?
Scientific Truth What did Physicist David Bohm mean by the following: “The notion of absolute truth is shown to be in poor correspondence with the actual development of science. Scientific truths are better regarded as relationships holding in some limited domain”It is crucial to appreciate that a scientific claim can never be proven experimentally to be correct, although it can be proven to be wrong. It is commonly assumed (mistakenly) that scientific laws have been proven and therefore are absolute truth. It is always possible, however, that it will be shown to be incomplete or even totally wrong using the inductive method.
Albert Einstein What did Einstein mean when he said ‘Truth is what stands the test of time’?The longer a theory has resisted falsification, themore confident we are that it is right. In this sense,it is perhaps more meaningful to consider claims asbeing ‘scientifically valid’ as opposed to being ‘true’.Watch the following clip and consider the implicationsfor the validity of scientific knowledge claims:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOnodvgLpf0&feature=related
Scientific ProgressIf nature of science is to discover new theories andknowledge, to what extent should this be free from values and regulation?
Task 2: The ModernPrometheusIn Greek mythology, Prometheus,whose name means “foresight” was aTitan known for his wily intelligence,who stole fire from Zeus and gave it tomortals for their use. As punishment,Prometheus was chained to a rockwhere his regenerating liver was eatendaily by a vulture. His myth has beentreated by a number of ancient sources,crediting or blaming him for playing apivotal role in the early history ofhumankind.As ‘a modern Prometheus’, explore and assessthe regulation of one of these controversialscientific endeavours:Designer babies Prometheus released by Heracles
PlenaryWhat is the ‘scientific method’ and which ofthe ways of knowing are being used?What is the difference between science andpseudoscience?What is scientific ‘truth’ and how is thisdifferent to other areas of knowledge such asmathematics?What modern controversial scientificendeavours are there and to what extentshould these be regulated?
HomeworkReview the notes you have made about thenatural sciences as an area of knowledge. Readthe chapter 2 from Alchin’s book ‘Theory ofKnowledge’, supplementing your notes whererelevant.