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What is Science?

Author(s): Kelly O'Donnell

Science Forward

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This video has a philosophical focus and explores the nature of science. We’ll hear about how science is both a body of knowledge and a process. Peer review and confirmation bias will also be covered.

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Version 1.0 - published on 24 Jul 2018 doi:10.25334/Q46129 - cite this


What is Science?  How does it work? What questions does it ask and answer? How should we approach scientific information? This video starts from the basics.  How is science defined and what are some of the misconceptions about it? What makes it different from other ways of looking at the world? From thought experiments to skepticism to confirmation bias, scientists discuss what we are doing when we do science.

Science Senses:

Knowledge Sense

  • The nature of science
  • Making progress in science
  • Recognizing bias
  • Being reasonably skeptical
  • Reporting scientific findings through peer review

Classroom Ideas:

  • Have students define science: first alone, then paired, then groups. Start with one group definition on the board, then have other groups taking turns editing it. (KS – the nature of science)
  • Assign students the task of finding things that claim to be scientific from the internet (or bring in some yourself). These can be news reports, blogs, advertisements, etc. Have them decide what makes these items suspect. This activity can go in many directions. You can discuss what it means to be reasonably skeptical, what pseudoscience is, what good scientific reporting looks like, the difference between communicating science to scientists versus the public, or how to look for the actual scientific basis for the claims in online databases of peer reviewed literature. (KS – Distinguishing between science and pseudoscience, being reasonably skeptical, communicating science, making progress in science)

Possible Readings:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction to Scientific Literacy from White and Dennin. 2008. Science Appreciation: Introduction to Science Literacy. OER

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