Monday, July 9, 2012

Re: Should the History of Science Be Rated X?

Some blog followers might be interested in a recent discussion-list post "Re: Should the History of Science Be Rated X?" [Hake (2012)]. The abstract reads:

PhysLnrR's Noah Podolefsky wrote (paraphrasing): "I might be more comfortable with the 'recapitulation view' that students' scientific thinking needs to go in the same order as the historical scientific development, if the latter were presented as it actually happens - that is, in fits and starts, with a great deal of controversy and confusion, and 'understanding' only clearly realized in hindsight, long after the foundational theories and experiments were done."

Nearly four decades ago science historian Stephen Brush (1974) addressed the issue of presenting fictionalized vs actual scientific history to students in his classic “Should the History of Science Be Rated X? The way scientists behave (according to historians) might not be a good model for students.”

Brush wrote: "I suggest that the teacher who wants to indoctrinate his students in the traditional role of the scientist as a neutral fact finder should not use historical materials of the kind now being prepared by historians of science: they will not serve his purposes."

Brush concluded: "In more recent times, hostility to science has been intensified by the image of the 'objective,' robot-like scientist lacking emotions and moral values. If the new approach to the history of science really does give a more realistic picture of the behavior of scientists, perhaps it has a 'redeeming social significance.' Then, rather than limiting the conception of science to the strict pattern allowed by traditional local standards, one might try to change those standards in such a way as to reflect the freedom that the boldest natural philosophers have always exercised."

To access the complete 14 kB post please click on

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
Links to Articles:
Links to SDI Labs:

"Such puzzling concepts as force, energy, etc., are man-made and were evolved in an understandable sequence in response to acutely felt and very real problems. They were not handed down by some celestial textbook writer to whom they were immediately self-evident."
- D.S.L. Cardwell

REFERENCES [URL shortened by and accessed on 09 July 2012.

Hake, R.R. 2012. "Re: Should the History of Science Be Rated X?" online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at Post of 9 Jul 2012 13:37:53-0700 to AERA-L and Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post were transmitted to several discussion lists.

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