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15 Myths of Science, by Dr. William McComas

15 Myths of Science, by Dr. William McComas

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Rethinking Science Education — Stamping out “creeping fox terriers”

As Steven Jay Gould pointed out in “The Case of the Creeping Fox Terrier Clone” (1988), science textbook writers are among the most egregious purveyors of myth and inaccuracy in science. The classic textbook comparison used to express the size of Eohippus, tiny precursor to the modern horse was the “fox terrier” — an unfortunate comparison not only because Eohippus was much bigger than a fox terrier, but because the fox terrier breed of dog is virtually unknown to today’s American students. Through time, one author after another simply repeated the inept comparison without bothering to check its validity or utility.

In this lecture Dr. McComas explains this and other myths of science including:

  • Hypotheses become theories which in turn become laws.
  • A hypothesis is an educated guess.
  • How a list adopted by textbook writers became a description of how science is done.
  • Why many of the methods used to teach science are actually the antithesis of the way in which science actually operates.
  • Scientists are particularly objective.

Dr. William F. McComas received a Ph.D. in science education from the University of Iowa in 1991. Currently he is a science education professor and director of the Project to Advance Science Education (PASE) at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, AK, where he holds the Parks Family endowed Professorship in Science education. He teaches courses in the philosophy of science, issues in science education, advanced science teaching methods and educational research. His research interests include informal science learning, the relationship of the nature of science to science instruction, the problems associated with evolution education, and the role of the laboratory in science instruction. His first book, The Nature of Science in Science Education: Rationales and Strategies.

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