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What Is Science?

  Nature and process of science

Science is a way of understanding the world, not a mountain of facts. Before anyone can truly understand scientific information, they must know how science works. Science does not prove anything absolutely -- all scientific ideas are open to revision in the light of new evidence. The process of science, therefore, involves making educated guesses (hypotheses) that are then rigorously and repeatedly tested. For a better understanding of the nature and process of science, check out these links, books, and articles.


Featured Multimedia Resources
What Killed the Dinosaurs?What Killed the Dinosaurs? Find clues to one of life's most compelling mysteries, and discover how evidence can support a variety of hypotheses.

Resource Type: Web Activity

Evolving Ideas: Isn't Evolution Just a Theory?Evolving Ideas: Isn't Evolution Just a Theory? This video for high school students explores the scientific meaning of the word "theory" and illustrates how evolution is a powerful, well-supported scientific explanation for the relatedness of all life.

Resource Type: Video
Length: 6:15

Hygiene HypothesisHygiene Hypothesis Dr. Erika von Mutius studies the relationship between early childhood exposure to microbes and the development of asthma and allergies in this segment from Evolution: "The Evolutionary Arms Race."

Resource Type: Video
Length: 3 min, 56 sec


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Evolving Ideas: Isn't Evolution Just a Theory?

Evolving Ideas: Isn't Evolution Just a Theory?
This video for high school students explores the scientific meaning of the word "theory" and illustrates how evolution is a powerful, well-supported scientific explanation for the relatedness of all life.

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What Is Science?


Hygiene Hypothesis

Hygiene Hypothesis
Dr. Erika von Mutius studies the relationship between early childhood exposure to microbes and the development of asthma and allergies in this segment from Evolution: "The Evolutionary Arms Race."

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What Is Science?


What Killed the Dinosaurs?

What Killed the Dinosaurs?
Find clues to one of life's most compelling mysteries, and discover how evidence can support a variety of hypotheses.

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What Is Science?


Science as Inquiry

Science as Inquiry
This video segment from Evolution: "Why Sex?" shows biologist Marion Petrie's experimental research on sexual selection in peacocks.

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What Is Science?


Walter Gehring: Master Control Genes and the Evolution of the Eye

Walter Gehring: Master Control Genes and the Evolution of the Eye
In an interview filmed for Evolution: "Great Transformations," Professor Walter Gehring of the University of Basel in Switzerland talks about his role in researching the genetic tool kit that governs development in all animals.

Interview

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What Is Science?


Finch Beak Data Sheet

Finch Beak Data Sheet
This graphic presents data from the Galapagos Islands, showing that a severe drought put selective pressure on the population of Darwin's finches and resulted in a change in the average beak size in the next generation.

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What Is Science?


A Symposium on the Nature of Science: What is Science?

A Symposium on the Nature of Science: What is Science?
This site, which includes a slide show from a recent symposium at the Fermi National Accelerator Lab, is for science educators frustrated with students' inaccurate perceptions of nature and evolution. The video function isn't reliable, but manually advancing through the slides will take you to exceptionally helpful information.

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What Is Science?


Evolution is a Fact and a Theory

Evolution is a Fact and a Theory
This site explains why scientists sometimes discuss the fact of evolution, and sometimes the theory of evolution, and reconciles the two notions in light of the nature of science. Hosted by Talk.Origins.

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What Is Science?


How Science Works: Bee Dances

How Science Works: Bee Dances
This activity for grades 9-12 allows students to reenact the scientific inquiry that led to the discovery that honey bees dance to communicate the location of pollen to other bees. A bibliography and links to online information provide essential background information. Hosted by the University of Arizona.

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What Is Science?


Introduction to the Scientific Method

Introduction to the Scientific Method
Written for a college audience, this site provides an overview of the scientific method. Hosted by the University of Rochester.

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What Is Science?


Modelling the Scientific Method

Modelling the Scientific Method
Especially interesting for teachers and parents, this short news article about a hands-on University of Wisconsin-Madison teaching "experiment" explains how the use of models dramatically accelerates science learning.

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What Is Science?


Nature of Science

Nature of Science
This site provides seven tables of links to short definitions and descriptions of terms that relate to nature and to the scientific process.

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What Is Science?


Nature of Science Lessons

Nature of Science Lessons
This Web portal leads to many activities designed mainly for middle school science students. Each activity teaches students to think like scientists, from forming a hypothesis (Checks Lab) to discerning between observation and interpretation (Palpating Pachyderms). Synopses of each activity guide you to the links you can use in your classroom or at home. Hosted by ENSI.

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What Is Science?


Scientific Method: Selecting Software for Science Class

Scientific Method: Selecting Software for Science Class
This site lists several software programs suitable for teaching science and the scientific method to K-12 students and adults. Hosted by electronic-school.com.

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What Is Science?


Standards for Science Teacher Preparation: Nature of Science

Standards for Science Teacher Preparation: Nature of Science
This site outlines what science teachers need to understand about the nature of science. The bibliography provides several additional references, especially useful for science teachers. Hosted by the National Science Teacher Association.

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What Is Science?


Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science

Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science
Available online, this book is an invaluable reference for grade 5-12 biology teachers. It provides a compendium of essential information and activities for teaching evolutionary biology. By the Working Group on Teaching Evolution, National Academy of Sciences [Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1998].

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What Is Science?


Teaching History and Nature of Science

Teaching History and Nature of Science
This site provides opportunities for elementary and middle school students to learn about science through activities mainly about chemistry and physics. Hosted by the Bakken Library and Museum.

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What Is Science?


The Decline of Reason?

The Decline of Reason?
This article points out that science is something we all do in our everyday lives and is not alien or incomprehensible. The author suggest that science provides a creative, exciting way of understanding the world. Hosted by the University of California Museum of Paleontology.

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What Is Science?


The Method of Scientific Investigation

The Method of Scientific Investigation
In this full-text version of Thomas Henry Huxley's original article, the author outlines the process of scientific investigation and then explains how everyone carries on such investigation to some extent. Hosted by Pasadena City College.

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What Is Science?


The Nature of Science

The Nature of Science
This site offers a concise and accurate introduction to the fundamental aspects of science, including the worldview of science, scientific inquiry, and the scientific enterprise. Hosted by project2061.org.

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What Is Science?


What Science Is and Isn't

What Science Is and Isn't
Directed toward those with an interest in medicine, this page provides a well-rounded discussion of many elements of scientific thought, alerting the reader to possible sources of misunderstanding and fraud. Hosted by QuackwatchSM.

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What Is Science?


A Feeling for the Organism

A Feeling for the Organism
This biography of Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Barbara McClintock chronicles her personal and professional life and reveals the difficulties she encountered as a woman scientist. By Evelyn Fox Keller [New York: W.H. Freeman, 1983].

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Graduate Research: A Guide for Students in the Sciences, 3rd rev. ed.

Graduate Research: A Guide for Students in the Sciences, 3rd rev. ed.
This hands-on guide is written for beginning graduate students and advanced undergraduates considering continuing their education in the sciences. It covers topics ranging from how to choose a good school and advisor to how to successfully carry out graduate-level research. By Robert V. Smith [Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998].

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What Is Science?


How Do You Know It's True?: Discovering the Difference Between Science & Superstition

How Do You Know It's True?: Discovering the Difference Between Science & Superstition
Written for a young adult audience, but also suitable for older readers, this book clearly explains how critical thinking works and why it is central to science. By Hyman Ruchlis [Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1991].

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Science as a Way of Knowing: The Foundations of Modern Biology

Science as a Way of Knowing: The Foundations of Modern Biology
Intended for a general audience, this book chronicles the history of evolutionary and developmental biology and describes the scientific methods developed along the way. By John A. Moore [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993].

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Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method

Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method
In this book, the author debunks many public misperceptions about the nature of science. Science is not a perfectly objective process, but is affected by and affects our social, economic, and political lives. By Henry H. Bauer [Urbana-Champaign, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1994].

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The Advancement of Science: Science without Legend, Objectivity without Illusions

The Advancement of Science: Science without Legend, Objectivity without Illusions
In this book, the author recounts some of the most important scientific discoveries of all time, focusing on the human element that pervades every scientific investigation. By Philip Kitcher [New York: Oxford University Press, 1993].

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The Beginners Guide to Scientific Method

The Beginners Guide to Scientific Method
Written for undergraduates, this concise introductory text teaches the basics of the scientific method and then asks students to design and assess experiments. By Stephen S. Carey [Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1997].

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What Is Science?


The Flight from Science and Reason

The Flight from Science and Reason
In this collection of 42 symposium lectures, a variety of opinions are presented on how the American scientific community is moving away from rationalism. Edited by Paul R. Gross, Norman Levitt, and Martin W. Lewis [New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 1997].

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The Mismeasure of Man

The Mismeasure of Man
In this book, the author exposes the flaws that led to grossly incorrect conclusions about the intelligence of various human races. By Stephen Jay Gould [New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1996].

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What Is Science?


The Nature of Science

The Nature of Science
This textbook for fifth to ninth grade students, and the accompanying teacher's resource package, provides clear explanations about science and the scientific method. It also includes a selection of activities to use in the classroom. By Anthea Maton [Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1993].

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What Is Science?


The Nature of Science in Science Education: Rationales and Strategies (Volume 5)

The Nature of Science in Science Education: Rationales and Strategies (Volume 5)
Mainly of interest to science teachers, this collection of manuscripts provides justification and methods for incorporating the history and philosophy of science into science curricula. Edited by William F. McComas [Boston: Kluwer Academic, 1998].

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What Is Science?


The Scientific Method

The Scientific Method
This video examines the work of some important contemporary scientists. Produced by Jim and Elaine Larison [Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 1993].

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What Is Science?


The Scientific Revolution: A Historiographical Inquiry

The Scientific Revolution: A Historiographical Inquiry
In this book, the author conducts a critical examination of science since the Scientific Revolution. By H. Floris Cohen [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994].

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Understanding Scientific Reasoning

Understanding Scientific Reasoning
Written for undergraduate students, this book explains the process of scientific reasoning and explains how to assess scientific information. By Ronald N. Giere [Austin, Texas: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1998].

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Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud

Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud
In this book, the author explains honest errors and fraud in science. By Robert L. Park [New York: Oxford University Press, 2000].

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What Science Is and How It Works

What Science Is and How It Works
This book provides a clear and thorough introduction to the history, philosophy, and practice of science in an effort to teach how to use scientific reasoning in interpreting the world. By Gregory Neil Derry [Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999].

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What Is Science?

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