Web Resources on Natural Sciences
You can use any or all of the resources linked below with attribution when appropriate
Quotes on Sciences
“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.” Richard Feynman
“I conclude that, while it is true that science cannot decide questions of values, that is because they cannot be intellectually decided at all, and lie outside the realm of truth and falsehood. Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.” -Bertrand Russell
“In a way science is a key to the gates of heaven, and the same key opens the gates of hell, and we do not have any instructions as to which is which gate. Shall we throw away the key and never have a way to enter the gates of heaven? Or shall we struggle with the problem of which is the best way to use the key?” -Richard Feynman
“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” -Stephen Hawking
Introducing Natural Sciences: What is science?
These are some good websites to have students explore some of the fundamental aspects of natural sciences or even to review some basic concepts as a teacher.
Here is a great video to help introduce students to some basic ideas about terminology in the natural sciences.
Here are a few more readings that explore the nature, definitions, and scope of science.
Article about the nature of scientific proof along with a response from other scientists about scientific proof and certainty.
Paradigms Natural Sciences and Scientific Progress
This video does a nice job introducing the concept of paradigms in the natural sciences. This concept, forwarded by Thomas Kuhn, tried to explain how scientific progress happens.
I have students read this brief article after watching the video to help complete the story about paradigms.
Another follow up activity I have them consider is to evaluate this image about information and knowledge. It is a good representation of the definitions of the terms but how the lines connect could also represent the concept of a paradigm.
I have my students watch the video about scientific theories that turned out wrong and ask them to speculate why they may have been wrong. I then have them read the article about Galileo and the theories about Mercury’s orbit to help them understand the nature of scientific progress through technological development but also through paradigm shifts.
After establishing how the scientific method is a wonderful way of producing knowledge, I want kids to reflect on why scientists can sometimes be wrong. The ideas discussed above about incorrect paradigms helps explain part of it. We can also identify poor scientific processes and a lack of scientific consensus. The video below helps summarize many important issues.
The Inquiry: Is the knowledge factory broken?
Here is a podcast that delves into many of the same issues.
This there have been many medical reversals on advice about human diet (salt, fat, sugar…). These cases raise a lot of good questions about the nature of scientific knowledge and its production. It also raises good questions about how scientific process can lead to conclusions that ultimately prove to be false.
Here is one article about dietary fat. This connects well to the concept of paradigms and the consequences of building simplified models that don’t match reality.
How should you think about new medical studies?
I start with this video and worksheet to have kids consider how to interpret a variety of scientific results about the impacts of certain foods on causing cancer.
And the accompanying article. There’s a lot here and worth taking two days with.
Medical Knowledge Quiz
This is adapted from a longer quiz evaluating whether people can make informed health choices. It is a good starter for introducing ideas related to health science.
Evolution and Creationism
This reading also overlaps with Religious Knowledge Systems This was adapted from a larger reading discussing the nature of scientific knowledge and how it contrasts with a religious approach to knowledge. Though it doesn’t necessarily cast creationism in a positive light, it does a good job laying out some fundamentally different approaches to knowledge.
Here you can read about the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham about Evolution
I also like to have kids watch this video after reading the article about creationism above to ask them how they would respond to the arguments presented.
Karl Popper, Science vs. Pseudoscience
Evaluating the effectiveness of acupuncture helps students understand the nature of proving efficacy in the natural sciences. It also demonstrates some philosophical differences in how acupuncturists view the human body.
This helps explain some of the central ideas of acupuncture
Here are some more web resources tagged “Pseudoscience”
Here is a compelling article about the scientific study that gave birth to the modern anti vaccination movement.
Science and Ethics: Genetic Engineering
Another topic that gets a lot of interest from students is the intersection of science and ethics. Here are a bunch of web resources I have tagged for genetic engineering.
Other Useful Resources
This video is really great and gets at the core values of science and undermines some misconceptions of the orderliness and tidiness of science.
Sabine Hossenfelder’s Youtube channel covers a lot of interesting questions about science.
This video discusses some of the limitations of science as well but in a different way.
Books on the Natural Sciences
How can we make intelligent decisions about our increasingly technology-driven lives if we don’t understand the difference between the myths of pseudoscience and the testable hypotheses of science? Pulitzer Prize-winning author and distinguished astronomer Carl Sagan argues that scientific thinking is critical not only to the pursuit of truth but to the very well-being of our democratic institutions.
Casting a wide net through history and culture, Sagan examines and authoritatively debunks such celebrated fallacies of the past as witchcraft, faith healing, demons, and UFOs. And yet, disturbingly, in today’s so-called information age, pseudoscience is burgeoning with stories of alien abduction, channeling past lives, and communal hallucinations commanding growing attention and respect. As Sagan demonstrates with lucid eloquence, the siren song of unreason is not just a cultural wrong turn but a dangerous plunge into darkness that threatens our most basic freedoms.
Does an excellent job deploying scientific reasoning and explanation to make his case.
With great care, attention to the scientific evidence and a wonderfully accessible style, Coyne, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Chicago, presents an overwhelming case for evolution. Ranging from biogeography to geology, from anatomy to genetics, and from molecular biology to physiology, he demonstrates that evolutionary theory makes predictions that are consistently borne out by the data—basic requirements for a scientific theory to be valid. Additionally, although fully respectful of those who promote intelligent design and creationism, he uses the data at his disposal to demolish any thought that creationism is supported by the evidence while also explaining why those ideas fall outside the bounds of science. Coyne directly addresses the concept often advanced by religious fundamentalists that an acceptance of evolution must lead to immorality, concluding that evolution tells us where we came from, not where we can go. Readers looking to understand the case for evolution and searching for a response to many of the most common creationist claims should find everything they need in this powerful book, which is clearer and more comprehensive than the many others on the subject.