The implications of epistemic dependence on teaching the nature of science for intellectual independence

Griffiths, Dana (1993) The implications of epistemic dependence on teaching the nature of science for intellectual independence. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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    Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.
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Abstract

Teaching the nature of science is often justified as a means of increasing students' intellectual independence, critical thinking skills, and scientific literacy. This thesis examines the soundness of these justifications in light of arguments from Hardwig (1985, 1991), Polanyi (1946), and Code (1987) concerning the role of trust in science, the existence of scientific epistemic communities, and the epistemic dependence of laypeople and scientists alike on other scientists. -- Various methods for teaching the nature of science are examined in order to see what scientific epistemologies are espoused by them, and whether a means for attaining intellectual independence is provided by them. This analysis illustrates that approaches to teaching the nature of science espouse epistemologies that are based on experimentation and the analysis of evidence and reasons for scientific knowledge. I have concluded that, in many cases, students are not able to analyze the reasons and evidence that support scientific knowledge claims, and complete intellectual independence is often not attainable. The level of independence attainable is often limited to an independent judgement of the degree of certainty of a knowledge claim. That is, while being epistemically dependent on the experts for the reasons that support scientific knowledge claims, students can judge that these knowledge claims are tentative and subject to revision. In this way, a critical disposition towards scientific knowledge, but not an ability to think critically about the evidence for or against claims to knowledge, is encouraged. -- Finally, I address three implications for science education of the fact that laypeople and scientists are epistemically dependent. First, a more accurate scientific epistemology that reflects both knowledge generation and knowledge acquisition needs to be taught. Second, students should be taught to acknowledge their epistemic dependence, and be encouraged and given grounds to trust the products of science. Third, science education should stress scientific ethics, since trust plays such a large role in scientific knowledge generation and acquisition.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5193
Item ID: 5193
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 96-104.
Department(s): Education, Faculty of
Date: 1993
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Knowledge, Theory of; Science--Study and teaching; Science--Methodology--Study and teaching; Epistemics

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