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17. History of Physics|NoS [Prof. Rocha, Brazil]

Start Date:
6. June 2019, 13:45
Finish date:
6. June 2019, 14:45



New Frontiers in the Teaching of the Nature of Science



I will be arguing in my lecture that there are many areas unexplored by the literature on Nature of Science (NOS) that might as well be just as important as any other of the so-called “tenets” currently incorporated in the initiatives towards teaching an adequate understanding of the nature of science (NOS) as a central component of scientific literacy (examples of such tenets are that science is a dynamic, on-going activity, rather than a static accumulation of information, that there is no “one” single scientific method, but as many methods as there are practices, that science is always tentative, that the uses of inference, observation, and evidence in science are theory laden, and so on). I will first focus on a suggestion, which has been brought to my attention since my PhD research, that the search of meaning motivates a large amount of people looking for non-formal teaching and learning spaces for scientific literacy as well as the literature in science popularization (see for instance LEANE, 2007). Steven Weinberg, American theoretical physicist, pointed out for example in a popular physics book that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless”. Nevertheless, readers of popular science books, as well as students in formal science education, hoping somehow that scientific inquiry could address this very human search for meaning, still seek for some sort of meaning in the scientific picture of the universe – such as so often in popular science books on cosmology, quantum field theory (or particle physics), and so on. As science education/ physics teaching does not clarify that, it is an epistemological issue, concerning the understanding of the NOS, that misleads people in searching for meaning in science, as epitomized by Wittgenstein: “even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all”. Should that important realization be included in the teaching of the NOS? Moreover, it is apparent in the literature on NOS that it has been restricted to what Science Studies as whole (including history, philosophy and sociology of science) developed up to around the early 1970s, not advancing into important areas as postcolonial science and technology studies, feminist epistemology, the “women in science” literature, and so on. I will outline the advantages of incorporating some of these neglected literature into the teaching of NOS.


  • Leane E (2007) Reading Popular Physics: Disciplinary Skirmishes and Textual Strategies. Ashgate Publishing Company
  • Weinberg S (1994) Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist’s Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature. Vintage
  • Wittgenstein L (1922) Tractatus Ligico-Philosophicus. Routledge & Kegan Paul LTD