The Rapprochement Between History, Philosophy and Science Education

Science has been the foremost contributor to our understanding of the natural
and soc
classrooms and staffrooms, questions that the deliberations and researches of
philosophers and historians of science could illuminate. These questions were:
• What characterises the scientific method?
• What constitutes critical thinking about empirical statements?
• What is the structure of scientific disciplines?
• What is a scientific explanation?
• What role do value judgements play in the work of scientists?
• What constitute good tests of scientific understanding?
These questions are of perennial concern to science teachers and scienceteacher education programmes. However, Ennis made the melancholy
observation that: ‘With some exceptions philosophers of science have not
shown much explicit interest in the problems of science education’ (Ennis
1979, p. 138). Pleasingly, in recent decades, there has been a degree of
rapprochement between these fields. Both the theory of science education
and, importantly, science curricula and classroom pedagogy have become
more informed by HPS. (These themes will collectively be referred to as
history, philosophy and science teaching (HPS&ST).) This book contributes
to HPS&ST by:
• outlining the arguments for the role of HPS in science education;
• reviewing the history of school science curricula in order to situate the
claims of HPS-informed teaching against other approaches to science
• examining the successes and failures of previous efforts to bring HPS into
closer connection with the science programme;
• elaborating some case studies where the contrast between HPS and
‘professional’ or ‘technical’ approaches to science teaching and curricula
development can be evaluated;
• examining some instances of prominent educational debates in science
education – constructivism, feminism, multiculturalism, worldviews and
nature of science – that can be clarified and informed by HPS;
• outlining the contribution that HPS can make to science-teacher
It is hoped that the book will stimulate interest in educational matters
among historians and philosophers of science, and encourage interest in
historical and philosophical matters among science teachers and, particularly,
the educators of science teachers.
When Ennis wrote, in the late 1970s, the exceptions among post-war
historians and philosophers who had written on science education included
Michael Martin, who published a series of articles (1971, 1974, 1986/1991)
and wrote a popular book, Concepts of Science Education (1972), on
philosophy and science education. Other philosophers and historians of
science, who 40 years ago, had written on the subject include Stephen Brush
2 History, Philosophy and Science Education
(1969), Robert Cohen (1964), Yehuda Elkana (1970), Herbert Feigl (1955),
Philipp Frank (1947/1949), Gerald Holton (1975, 1978), Noretta Koertge
(1969), Ernst Nagel (1969, 1975) and Israel Scheffler (1973). Happily, this
situation of relative philosophical and historical neglect has changed, and, in
the past few decades, many philosophers of science1 and historians of science2
have addressed different of the myriad theoretical, curricular and pedagogical
problems of science teaching.
The engagement of philosophers and historians with science education can
be seen in contributions to thematic issues of the journal Science & Education3
and in contributions to anthologies such as History, Philosophy and Science
Teaching (Matthews 1991), Science, Worldviews and Education (Matthews
2009), Epistemology and Science Education (Taylor & Ferrari 2011) and
Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators (Kampourakis 2013) and
to the three-volume, 76-chapter International Handbook of Research in
History, Philosophy and Science Teaching (Matthews 2014).
Ennis’s six questions are pe
influential positivist philosopher of science Rudolf Carnap has said of himself
that he ‘was as unhistorically minded a person as one could imagine’ (Suppe
1977, p. 310). Carnap’s student, Willard van Orman Quine, has said the same
thing; his influential epistemological corpus is devoid of any historical
reference (Quine 1960).
On the other side, for those wishing to keep history of science separate from
philosophy, questions arise such as: How do we identify the history of science,
without some philosophical presuppositions? How do we separate useful
history of science from useless history of science, without some prior
conception of proper method? It seems that we need to know in advance of
writing a history of science what will count as science; if we do not have such
a view, then we could presumably set off researching astrology, numerology
and stamp collecting, rather than chemistry or geology.
As with many either/or questions, the answer lies somewhere between. The
relationship between history of science and philosophy of science has to be
interactive. There is ample evidence of history of science being written in the
service of philosophical, political and religious commitments. It is notorious
that Galileo has become a ‘Man for all philosophical seasons’ (Crombie 1981),
with every methodologist seeing their own favoured methodology being
followed by Galileo. Here, history is at best cherry-picked, and the opportunity
for history of science to refine or change philosophical commitments is lost.
Thomas Kuhn’s story of his philosophical transformation, occasioned by
having to teach a Harvard general education course on the history of science,
is a well-known recent example where history transformed philosophy. Phil –
osophy is required to begin writing history, but it should be capable of being
transformed by historical study.4
This debate about the place of history is characteristic of many issues in
philosophy of science – it would be a rash person who said that the contentious
matters of realism, empiricism, causation, explanation, idealisation, truth,
falsification and rationality have been settled. But some things regarding
the interplay of philosophy and history are agreed upon. Clearly, the history
of science should be used to illustrate positions arrived at in philosophy of
science. An exposition of the nature of science, of theory evaluation or the
ontological commitments of science that did not make mention of Galileo,
Newton, Kepler, Lavoisier, Darwin, Mendel, Mach or Einstein, and the
scientific controversies they engendered, would be very odd. Unfortunately,
philosophy of science courses too often neglect the history of science.
Commonly, students read of the debates over scientific methodology engaged
in by Carnap, Nagel, Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyerabend, Laudan, van
Fraassen and others, but have to take the contenders’ historical interpretations
of Aristotle, Galileo, Huygens and Newton on faith; students become
spectators to an academic game. What should be a course that enhances
appreciation of the scientific tradition and deeper thinking about it can, in
the absence of history, become more like a catechism class. This is particularly
odd in educational settings where science teachers and science students have
heard of the famous names and might expect to see their work figure in any
4 History, Philosophy and Science Education
discussion of the nature of science or other philosophical issues occasioned
by science.5 This is Bildung in the European tradition.
Science and Liberal Education
The present rapprochement between HPS and science education represents,
in part, a renaissance of the long-marginalised liberal, or contextual, tradition
of science education, a tradition contributed to in the last 100 years by
scientists and educators such as Ernst Mach, Pierre Duhem, Alfred North
Whitehead, Frederick W. Westaway, E.J. Holmyard, Percy Nunn, James
Conant, Joseph Schwab, Martin Wagenschein, Walter Jung and Gerald
Holton. At its most general level, the liberal tradition in education embraces
Aristotle’s delineation of truth, goodness and beauty as the ideals that people
ought to cultivate in their appropriate spheres of endeavour. That is, in
intellectual matters, truth should be sought, in moral matters goodness, and
in artistic and creative matters beauty. Education is to contribute to these ends:
it is to assist the development of a person’s knowledge, moral outlook and
behaviour, and aesthetic sensibilities and capacities. For liberal educationalists,
education is more than the preparation for work; education is valued because
it contributes to the cognitive and moral development of both the individual
and their culture.
The liberal tradition has a number of educational commitments.6 One is
that education entails the introduction of children to the best traditions of
their culture, including the academic disciplines, in such a way that they
understand the claims and theories of a specific discipline and know something
about the discipline itself – its methodology, assumptions, limitations, history
and so forth. A second commitment is that, as far as is possible and gradelevel appropriate, the relations of particular subjects to each other, and their
relation to the broader canvas of ethics, religion, culture, economics and
politics, should be acknowledged and investigated. The liberal tradition seeks
to overcome intellectual fragmentation. A third commitment is that education needs to be conducted in an ethical manner, and this is applicable to
both classrooms and the wider institutional conduct of schooling. Ethics has
both proximal and distal reach.
The liberal tradition maintains that science education should not just be an
education or training in science, although of course it must be this, but also
an education about science. Students educated in science should have an
appreciation of scientific methods, their diversity and their limitations. They
should have a feeling for methodological issues, such as how scientific theories
are evaluated, how competing theories are appraised, how common controversy is in science, and how scientific argument and debate are engaged in the
resolution of these controversies; they should also have an appreciation of
the interrelated role of experiment, mathematics, and religious, philosophical
and ideological commitment in the development of science. All students,
whether science majors or others, should have some knowledge of the great
episodes in the development of science and, consequently, of culture: the
History, Philosophy and Science Education 5
ancient demythologising of the world picture; the Copernican relocation of
the earth from the centre of the solar system; the development of experimental
and mathematical science associated with Galileo and Newton; Newton’s
demonstration that the terrestrial laws of attraction operated in the celestial
realms; Darwin’s epochal theory of evolution and his claims for a naturalistic
understanding of life; Pasteur’s discovery of the microbial basis of infection;
Einstein’s theories of gravitation and relativity; and the discovery of the DNA
code and research on the genetic basis of life.7 They should, depending upon
their age, have an appreciation of the intellectual, technical, social and personal
factors that contributed to these monumental achievements.
Clearly, all of these goals for general education, and for science education,
require the integration of history and philosophy into the science curriculum
of schools and teacher education programmes. As will be elaborated in
Chapter 12, good teachers of science, and indeed of all subjects, need to know
something of the history and philosophy of the discipline they are teaching
and be able to enthuse students with these dimensions of science.
History, Philosophy and Technical Education
The rapprochement between HPS and science education is not only dependent
on having a liberal view of science education: a good technical science
education also requires some integration of history and philosophy into the
programme. Knowledge of science entails knowledge of scientific facts, laws,
theories – the products of science; it also entails knowledge of the processes
of science – the social, technical and intellectual ways in which science develops
and tests its knowledge claims. HPS is important for the understanding of these
process skills. Technical – or ‘professional’ or ‘disciplinary’, as it is sometimes
called – science education is enhanced if students know the meaning of terms
that they are using; if they can think critically about texts, reports and their
own scientific activity; if they know how
attention to who Boyle was, when he lived and what he did, is to teach in a
disappointingly truncated way. More can be made of the educational moment
than merely teaching, or assisting students to discover, that, for a given gas
at a constant temperature, pressure multiplied by volume is a constant. This
is something, but it is minimal. Similarly, to teach Darwinian evolutionary
theory without considerations concerning theory and evidence, the roles of
inductive, deductive and abductive reasoning, Darwin’s life and times and the
religious, literary and philosophical controversies his theory occasioned is
also limited. Students doing and interpreting experiments need to know
something of how description of data relies upon theory, how evidence relates
to the inductive support or deductive falsification of hypotheses, how real cases
relate to ideal cases in science, how messy ‘lived experience’ connects with
abstracted and idealised scientific theories, and a host of other matters that
all involve philosophical or methodological concerns. Science has a rich and
influential history and it is replete with philosophical and cultural ramifications. An education in science should present students with something of this
richness and engage them in some of the big questions that have consumed
scientists. Whether these questions are regarded as extra-scientific or intrascientific is, pedagogically, not very important.
Problems with Science Education
It is internationally recognised that there are problems with science education.
Orthodox, technical, non-contextual teaching is largely failing to engage
students or to promote knowledge and appreciation of science in the population. There is a well-documented crisis in contemporary science education,
evidenced in the flight from the science classroom of both teachers and
students, and in the appallingly high figures for science illiteracy in the Western
world. This has prompted massive rethinking and reforms in national curricula
and science-education policy across the world.
The Flight from Science
In the US, these reform efforts have been rolling on for the past 30 years.8
Two decades ago, in the US, 70 per cent of all school students dropped science
from their programme at the first available opportunity. The American
National Science Foundation (NSF) charged that, ‘the nation’s undergraduate
programmes in science, mathematics and technology have declined in quality
and scope to such an extent that they are no longer meeting national needs.
A unique American resource has been eroded’ (Heilbron 1987, p. 556) Recent
US reports on college science enrolments are similarly bleak (Ashby 2006).
The National Research Council (NRC) says, in its Next Generation Science
Standards, that:
The U.S. has a leaky K–12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics
(STEM) talent pipeline, with too few students entering STEM majors and careers
History, Philosophy and Science Education 7
at every level. . . . We need new science standards that stimulate and build interest
in STEM.
(NRC 2013)
In Europe, political and educational effort has gone into similar wideranging reform initiatives. A 1995 European Commission report said that:
Traditional science teaching, aiming at the mastery of a strictly logic order, of the
deductive system, of abstract notions among which mathematics dominate, seems
to paralyse and to make a passive subject of the learner, suffocating his
(EC 1995, in Dibattista & Morgese 2014)
Acknowledging the failure of science teaching and the flight from science,
a 2004 European Commission report was bluntly titled ‘Europe needs more
scientists’ (EC 2004)! The following year, the Commission commissioned a
Europe-wide survey that revealed that 50 per cent of adults saw their school
science courses as ‘not sufficiently appealing’, and curriculum and pedagogical
changes were called for to redress the science literacy and engagement
Science Literacy
Given the amount of state and private money and resources provided for
science education, the levels of adult scientific illiteracy are depressing (Roberts
2007, Shamos 1995). For over four decades, Jon D. Miller and colleagues
have conducted a series of NSF-sponsored, large-scale studies on scientific
literacy in the US (Miller 1983, 1987, 1992, 2007). For Miller, literacy is
measured on two dimensions: knowledge of scientific content and knowledge
of scientific processes. The former includes basic knowledge of the meaning
of concepts such as ‘atom’, ‘gravity’, ‘gene’ and so forth, and basic factual
knowledge. For the latter, literacy requires some knowledge of how science
works, what it is to study something scientifically and some basics about
experiment and hypothesis testing. In 1985, he judged only 3 per cent of highschool graduates, 12 per cent of college graduates and 18 per cent of college
doctoral graduates to be scientifically literate. Among statements to which he
asked a representative sample of 2,000 adults to answer true or false were,
‘The earliest human beings lived at the same time as the dinosaurs’ and
‘Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria’. Only 37 per cent of the sample
answered the first question correctly, and 26 per cent the second. He concluded
that 5–9 per cent of US citizens were scientifically literate (Miller 1992,
p. 14). In 2005, his testing was extended to thirty-four nations; pleasingly,
the US science literacy rate rose to 28 per cent, but only one country, Sweden,
registered an adult science literacy rate above 30 per cent (Miller 2007).10
There are, of course, separate arguments about what constitutes scientific
literacy11 and why citizens and educational administrators should be concerned
8 History, Philosophy and Science Education
about low and falling levels of scientific literacy. The standard reasons for
concern have been:
• cultural – science, like music, religion and art, is an important part of our
cultural heritage and so needs to be known;
• vocational – science, like mathematics and computer competence, is
indispensable for a wide range of contemporary occupations and so needs
to be mastered;
• disciplinary – without a spread of basic scientific knowledge, there will
not be a big enough pool of school students who might decide to pursue
higher studies and careers in science, or a public supportive of their taxes
funding research in scientific disciplines;
• environmental – people ought know something about the inhabitants,
constitution and processes of natural physical, plant and animal worlds
in which they live, and that need to be sustained;
• utilitarian – scientific knowledge is useful for myriad everyday life and
The final reason reverts back to the ‘science of everyday things’ that once
dominated curricular decision-making, is now making a comeback and is
perhaps the most common justification for promoting science literacy and
enforcing compulsory school science. As two sociologists of science ventured,
science education is helpful because it helps us, among other things, ‘know
where in the oven to put a soufflé’ (Collins & Pinch 1992, p. 150). Yet
research suggests that knowledge of disciplinary science has precious little, if
anything, to do with everyday decision-making in kitchens, in supermarkets,
on the road, in hospitals or most other places, even when explicitly socioscientific issues are being resolved.12
HPS-informed curricula and classroom teaching are surely not the sole
solution to these ‘problems’ of science education, but assuredly they can make
the subject more ‘appealing’, engaging and better connected with other subjects
being learned – mathematics, history, philosophy, religion and so on. That it
is not immediately useful in the kitchen is not a great drawback; much
‘standard’ science is not immediately useful either. Apart from better learning
of science, a HPS-informed science curriculum can have significant impacts
on people’s worldviews and their religious and cultural understandings. These
impacts are not useless.
Occult and Pseudoscientific Belief
The figures on scientific illiteracy are doubly depressing, as they not only
indicate that large percentages of the population do not know the meaning
of basic scientific concepts, and thus have little if any idea of how nature
works, but because such illiteracy is linked to widespread antiscientific and
illogical thought. Gallup polls consistently show that about one-third of
History, Philosophy and Science Education 9
Americans believe in ghosts, telepathy, demonic possession, psychic powers
and a range of such completely discredited and dangerous ideas (Gallup &
Newport 1991). Newspaper astrology columns are read by far more people
than are science columns; the tabloid press, with their Elvis sightings and
Martian visits, adorn checkout counters and are consumed by millions
worldwide each day. Countless thousands of Internet sites and telephone
yellow-page directories offer services such as: astrological therapy, palm
reading, aura readings, past-life interpretations, feng shui alignments, futurelife happenings, dealing with aliens, clairvoyance, tarot-card readings and the
whole gamut of such misplaced and misdirected engagements.13
It is unfortunate that these ‘alternative’ beliefs are frequently associated with
artistic endeavour. Communities with the greatest concentration of artists also
have the greatest concentration of ‘New Age’ practitioners. The only town in
the Australian state of New South Wales to reject fluoridation of its water
supply was the artistic hub of Byron Bay. In Arizona, the town of Sedona is
deservedly famous for its scores of art galleries and hundreds of artists, but
the town is also awash with purveyors of every kind of occult and psychic
therapy and treatment. Everything is for sale: Chakra healing, crystal healing,
spiritual acupuncture, past-life therapy, Tao-card analysis, guru sessions and
so on. And there are special cosmic energy lines where, for a fee, people can
sit at their precise node or vortex and absorb the energy by osmosis.14 One
of the hundreds of alternative business operations claims to:
have discovered some of the most potent concentrated energy fields (Vortex
Phenomena) in the Sedona area to reconnect you with the energetic nurturance
of Mother Earth’s NEMFs (natural electro-magnetic fields).
Most of the thousands of people in Sedona who, every year, pay money to
charlatans and purveyors of nonsense have studied high-school science. One
of the tasks of this book will be to understand how ‘orthodox’ school science
makes possible this level of credulity, and how HPS-informed school
science might make folk more informed and sceptical, more resistant to
nonsense. There is ample ‘mystery’, wonderment and metaphysics available
within science, if it is properly taught.
When thought becomes so free from rational constraints, then outpourings
of racism, prejudice, hysteria and fanaticism of all kinds can be expected. For
all its faults, science has been an important factor in combating superstition,
prejudice and ignorance. It has provided, albeit falteringly, a counter-influence
to the natural inclinations of people to judge circumstances in terms of their
own experience and self-interest. When people, en masse, abandon science,
or science education abandons them, then the world is at a critical juncture.
At such a time, the role of the science teacher is especially vital and in need
of all the intellectual and material support possible.
No one thinks that just technical science education can ‘roll back’ the tide
of questionable, if not completely nonsensical, personal and cultural beliefs.
10 History, Philosophy and Science Education
There is much evidence that achievement of even high-level technical
competence in science is consistent with deeply held, silly beliefs. For example,
Sir Oliver Joseph Lodge (1851–1940) was an eminent British experimental
physicist, a contributor to the nascent science of radio transmission and
creator of the first spark plug for automobiles; nevertheless, he held spiritualist
belief about life continuing after death and in the ability of mediums to
connect with the deceased in séances.15 The First Spiritual Temple website says
of Lodge that:
Sir Oliver sought to bring together the transcendental world with the physical
universe. He affirmed, with great conviction, that life is the supreme, enduring
essence in the universe; that it fills the vast interstellar spaces; and the matter of
which the physical world is composed is a particular condensation of ether for
the purpose of manifesting life into a conscious, individual form.
A hundred years after Lodge’s less than illuminating musings, Edgar Dean
Mitchell, the NASA astronaut who was the sixth person to walk on the Moon
after piloting the Apollo 14 craft and who has science and engineering
doctorate degrees from MIT, had a similar constellation of ‘extra scientific’
beliefs. Mitchell has claimed that, on his way back from the Moon, he had a
Savikalpa Samadhi experience, during which his soul absorbed the fire of
Spirit–Wisdom that ‘roasts’ or destroys the seeds of body-bound inclinations.
After this experience, he conducted in-flight ESP experiments with his
friends back home. These experiments were published in the Journal of
Parapsychology. Mitchell believes a remote healer, Adam Dreamhealer,
cured his kidney cancer over the telephone. He also believes in UFOs and
interplanetary visitations and believes he has had personal encounters with
these extraterrestrials.
There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Lodges and Mitchells
for whom first-rate science education seems to have little if any flow-over effect
on the rest of their beliefs. This is a particular problem for those believing
that science education should have beneficial impacts on students’ personal
life and for the advancement of culture more generally. This was the
expectation of the Enlightenment philosophers and educators, it was John
Dewey’s hope, and it is the expectation of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science (AAAS), which maintained that:
The scientifically literate person is one who is aware that science, mathematics,
and technology are interdependent human enterprises with strengths and
limitations; understands key concepts and principles of science; is familiar with
the natural world and recognises both its diversity and unity; and uses scientific
knowledge and scientific ways of thinking for individual and social purposes.
(AAAS 1989, p. 4; italics added)
History, Philosophy and Science Education 11
In its Benchmarks for Science Literacy, the AAAS says that education has to:
‘prepare students to make their way in the real world, a world in which
problems abound – in the home, in the workplace, in the community, on the
planet’ (AAAS 1993, p. 282).
The unique contribution of the science programme to this more general,
problem-solving and society-improving educational goal is the cultivation
and refinement of scientific habits of mind. These are meant to ‘flow on’ from
the laboratory bench to the home, workplace, community and planet. For the
AAAS, the wider ‘planetary’ problems are not just material – they are social,
cultural and ideological – but application of a ‘scientific habit of mind’ is
necessary for solving these wider problems. They are not solved by listening
to gurus, holding Ouija boards or consulting astrologers. A major problem
is that scientific habits of mind are poorly cultivated in school science
The same hopes for flow-on effects energised Nehru’s inclusion of the state’s
duty to promote ‘scientific temper’ in the first constitution of the independent
India. However, 60 years later, despite enormous investment in, and spread
of, science education, these expectations have not materialised. As two Indian
scholars maintain:
If one were to pick out three or four most important reasons for the country’s
backwardness or failure in many areas, the lack of scientific temper would be one
of them.
(Bhargava & Chakrabarti 2010, p. 277)
As will be shown in Chapter 2, such Enlightenment hopes depend upon
science education embracing the history and philosophy of its subject; without
such embrace, there is little chance that learning science will have positive
personal, social and cultural effects beyond the classroom; indeed, the
contrary. This recognition is one of the elements in the current rapprochement
between science education and HPS. This is not to say that HPS-informed
education is sufficient for the purpose, but, as Spinoza so wisely said, ‘the best
should not get in the way of the better’.
Critics of Science
Science has not been without its critics. In the seventeenth century,
Giambattista Vico (1668–1744) turned his back on the new science of Galileo
and the new mathematics of Descartes in favour of a return to ‘ancient
wisdom’. Subsequently, many other critics, including the literary Romantics,
some religious traditions and various counter-cultural movements, have
repeated Vico’s stand.16 Phenomenological philosophers such as Edmund
Husserl (1859–1938) criticised the mathematisation of science inaugurated
by Galileo because of its failure to grasp the experiential realities of the life
world (Husserl 1954/1970). Postmodernist philosophers have attacked the
12 History, Philosophy and Science Education
universalist and realist assumptions of science. Prince Charles, the future King
of England, has fulminated against Galileo and the modern science tradition
he launched, saying that it is materialist, that it objectifies the world and that
it is ‘an affront to the world’s sacred traditions’.17 After criticising the twocentury-old marriage of science and commerce, he opined:
This imbalance, where mechanistic thinking is so predominant, goes back at least
to Galileo’s assertion that there is nothing in Nature but quantity and motion.
This is the view that continues to frame the general perception of the way the
world works and how we fit within the scheme of things. As a result, Nature has
been completely objectified – ‘She’ has become an ‘it’ – and we are persuaded to
concentrate on the material aspect of reality that fits within Galileo’s scheme.
It is not just outsiders who criticise science. Glen Aikenhead, a senior
Canadian educator and leading figure in international science-education
research, has stated that, ‘the social studies of science’ reveal science as:
‘mechanistic, materialist, reductionist, empirical, rational, decontextualised,
mathematically idealised, communal, ideological, masculine, elitist, competitive, exploitive, impersonal, and violent’ (Aikenhead 1997, p. 220).
It is imperative for science teachers to identify what is correct in these
critiques, but also what is incorrect. If the claims of phenomenologists,
postmodernists, Prince Charles and supposedly the social studies of science
are accepted in toto, then the standard purposes and justifications of science
teaching have to be abandoned, along with at least the compulsory teaching
of science. Does anyone want children learning something that is exploitive,
competitive, violent and destructive of comfortable worldviews? Clearly, the
appraisal of these claims requires some knowledge of HPS, as this is precisely
what the critics appeal to. The arguments of this book are that HPS can defend
the core principles and practice of science, but also can contribute to the muchneeded improvement and reform of science curricula and teaching.
Curriculum Developments
The HPS&ST programme is energised because of curriculum developments
that, in the past few decades, have been instigated by numerous government
and educational bodies. These will be documented in some detail in Chapter
3. Among these have been the AAAS in two of its very influential reports,
Project 2061 (AAAS 1989) and The Liberal Art of Science (AAAS 1990); the
US NRC, with its Next Generation Science Standards (NRC 2013); the British
National Curriculum Council (NCC 1988); the Science Council of Canada
(SCC 1984); the Danish Science and Technology curriculum; and The
Netherlands’ PLON programme. In all of these cases, HPS is not simply
another item of subject matter added to the science syllabus; what is proposed
is the thesis of this book, namely more general incorporation of HPS themes
into the content of curricula.
History, Philosophy and Science Education 13
The AAAS provides a nice summation of the foregoing curricular initiatives
when it says:
Science courses should place science in its historical perspective. Liberally educated
students – the science major and the non-major alike – should complete their
science courses with an appreciation of science as part of an intellectual, social,
and cultural tradition. . . . Science courses must convey these aspects of science
by stressing its ethical, social, economic, and political dimensions.
(AAAS 1989, p. 24)
It should be obvious that, for the realisation of the aims of all of these
curricula, there needs to be HPS input into documents, teaching materials,
assessment schemes, textbooks and teacher education.
Science and its associated technology are the defining features of the modern
world; that they should be better understood is an educational truism. The
inclusion of HPS in curricula, teacher education and classroom lessons does
not, of course, provide all the answers to the problems of modern education
– ultimately, these answers lie in the heart of culture, politics and the economic
organisation of societies. However, HPS has a significant contribution to
make to improving science teaching and learning and, consequently, personal
and social flourishing. This contribution can be itemised as follows:
• HPS can humanise the sciences and connect them to personal, ethical,
cultural and political concerns. There is evidence that this makes science
and engineering programmes more attractive to the many students, and
particularly girls, who currently reject them.
• HPS, particularly basic logical and analytic exercises – Does this
conclusion follow from the premises? What do you mean by such and
such? – can make classrooms more challenging, and enhance reasoning
and critical thinking skills.
• HPS can contribute to the fuller understanding of scientific subject matter
– it can help to overcome the ‘sea of meaninglessness’, as Joseph Novak
once said, where formulae and equations are recited without knowledge
of what they mean or to what they refer.
• HPS can improve teacher education by assisting teachers to develop a
richer and more authentic understanding of science and its place in the
intellectual and social scheme of things. This has a flow-on effect, as there
is much evidence that teachers’ epistemology, or views about the nature
of science, affect how they teach, the message they convey to students
and, ultimately, the epistemology of students.
• HPS can assist teachers in appreciating the learning difficulties of students,
because it alerts them to the historic difficulties of scientific development
and conceptual change. Galileo was 40 years of age before he formulated
14 History, Philosophy and Science Education
the modern conception of acceleration; despite prolonged thought, he
never worked out a correct theory for the tides. By historical studies,
teachers can see what some of the intellectual and conceptual difficulties
were in the early periods of scientific disciplines. This knowledge can assist
with the organisation of the curriculum and the teaching of lessons.
• HPS can contribute to the clearer appraisal of many contemporary
educational debates that engage science teachers and curriculum planners.
Many of these debates – about constructivist teaching methods, multicultural science education, feminist critiques of science, issues about the
relation between science and religion, environmental science, enquiry
learning, science–technology–society curricula, teaching controversial
issues such as evolution, and so forth – make claims and assumptions
about the history and epistemology of science, or the nature of human
knowledge and its production and validation. Without some grounding
in HPS, teachers can be too easily carried along by fashionable ideas that,
later, sadly, ‘seemed good at the time’, but that wreck educational and
cultural havoc.
1 See at least: Mario Bunge (2000, 2003, 2011), Martin Carrier (2013), Hasok Chang
(2011), Alberto Cordero (1992, 2009), Richard Grandy (1997), Rom Harré (1983),
Gürol Irzik (2013, 2011 with Robert Nola, 2014 with Robert Nola), Peter Kosso
(2009), Hugh Lacey (2009), Peter Machamer (1992), Martin Mahner (2012, 2014,
1996 with M. Bunge), Robert Nola (1997, 2003, 2005 with Gürol Irzik), Robert
Pennock (2002), Cassandra Pinnick (2005, 2008), Demetris Portides (2007), Jürgen
Renn (2013), Michael Ruse (1990), Harvey Siegel (1979, 1989, 1993, 1997, 2004),
Peter Slezak (2000, 2014), Wallis Suchting (1992, 1995), Paul Thagard (2010 with S.
Finlay, 2011) and Emma Tobin (2013).
2 See at least: Fabio Bevilacqua (1996 with E. Giannetto), William Brock (1989, 2014
with Edgar Jenkins), John Hedley Brooke (2010), Ricardo Lopes Coelho (2007, 2009),
David Depew (2010), John Heilbron (1983), Mercé Izquierdo-Aymerich (2013), Helge
Kragh (1992, 1998, 2014) and Cibelle Celestino Silva (2007).
3 See at least: Hermeneutics and Science Education, 1995, 4(2); Religion and Science
Education, 1996, 5(2); Philosophy and Constructivism in Science Education, 1997,
6(1–2); Galileo and Science Education, 1999, 8(2); Thomas Kuhn and Science Edu –
cation, 9(1–2); Constructivism and Science Education, 2000, 9(6); Science Education
and Positivism: A Re-evaluation, 2004, 13(1–2); Models in Science and in Science
Education, 2007, 16(7–8); Feminism and Science Education, 2008, 17(10); Science,
Worldviews and Education, 2009, 18(6–7); Darwinism and Education, 2010, 19(4–5,
6–8); Philosophical Considerations in the Teaching of Biology, 2013, 22 (1–3);
Philosophical Considerations in the Teaching of Chemistry, 2013, 22(7); Mendel,
Mendelism and Education, 2015, 24; Conceptual Change in Science and in Science
Education, 2014, 23.
4 Some useful discussions of the connection between history of science and philosophy
of science can be found in Hacking (1992), Lakatos (1971), McMullin (1970, 1975),
Shapere (1977) and Wartofsky (1976).
5 Some of the historical texts with introductions can be read in Matthews (1989).
6 There is a large literature on the theory and practice of liberal education. Sometimes,
it is given the name ‘general’ or ‘humanistic’ education. Peters (1966, Chapters 1, 2)
and Bantock (1981, Chapter 4) are useful introductions to these traditions.
History, Philosophy and Science Education 15
7 The AAAS in its Science for All Americans lists ten episodes in history that have had
major social and cultural impact in the West and beyond, and that should be appreciated
by all citizens (Rutherford & Ahlgren 1990, Chapter 10).
8 The most visible and influential have been the NRC’s National Science Education
Standards (NRC 1996), Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards (NRC
2000), America’s Lab Report (NRC 2006), Taking Science to School (NRC 2007),
A Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC 2012) and Next Generation Science
Standards (NRC 2013); the AAAS’s Science for All Americans (AAAS 1989), The
Liberal Art of Science (AAAS 1990) and Benchmarks for Science Literacy (AAAS
9 The research literature on European science education reform, and especially the place
of HPS in those reforms, is reviewed in Dibattista and Morgese (2014).
10 Miller’s research is reviewed in Anelli (2011), Hobson (2008) and Trefil (2008, Chapter
11 See, among others: DeBoer (2000), Laugksch (2000), Roberts (2007) and Shamos
12 On this, see: Chapman (1993), Feinstein (2011) and Wynne (2007).
13 The most sustained recent discussions of paranormal and pseudoscience belief are by
Carl Sagan (1997) and Michael Shermer (1997). See also Mario Bunge (2011) and
contributions to Science & Education 2011, 20(5–6), a thematic issue on Pseudoscience.
A classic historical study of the subject was published 100 years ago by W.E.H. Lecky
(Lecky 1914).
14 In 2014, folk were charged US$200 per hour to so sit, and it cost much the same for
most other astro/psychic/out-of-world services in Sedona.
15 Oliver Lodge was just one of hundreds of prominent ‘men of science’ who embraced
spiritualism and various other psychic movements in the late-nineteenth and earlytwentieth centuries. The Society for Psychical Research has 2,710 letters written to
Lodge by a credulous public. The former Catholic priest and professor of philosophy
Joseph McCabe (1867–1955) wrote a convincing critique of Lodge’s spiritualist–
theological–philosophical edifice (McCabe 1914). Unfortunately, McCabe’s voluminous
publications in theology, philosophy, church history and popular science are now
largely unknown, but see Cooke (2001).
16 A good account of ‘Science and Its Critics’ can be found in Passmore (1978), and in
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17 A lecture delivered at the Oxford University Centre for Islamic Studies in June 2010.
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