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Journal of Research in Science Teaching

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In a recent article in this journal, Brian Alters (1997) argued that, given the many ways in which the nature of science (NOS) is described and poor student responses to NOS instruments such as Nature of Scientific Knowledge Scale (NSKS), Nature of Science Scale (NOSS), Test on Understanding Science (TOUS), and others, it is time for science educators to reconsider the standard lists of tenets for the NOS. Alters suggested that philosophers of science are authorities on the NOS and that consequently, it would be wise to investigate their views of current NOS tenets. To that end, he conducted a survey of members of the Philosophy of Science Association, and, via various statistical techniques, made claims about the nature and extent of variation among philosophers of science regarding basic beliefs about the NOS.

As three philosophers of science, we laud Alters’ attempt to understand philosophers of science’ view on the NOS. We believe, however, that his techniques for investigating this question are inappropriate and that consequently, several of his conclusions are unwarranted. In this comment, we will substantiate these criticisms. In addition, we will address some of the important questions that motivate Alters’ research and attempt to unravel the “byzantine complexity” of philosophical views about the NOS. We begin with our concerns regarding Alters’ research. We then provide a taxonomy of philosophic issues; and finally, we suggest some roles for philosophy of science in science teaching and the education of science teachers.


This is the peer reviewed version of the following article:

Eflin, J.T., Glennan, S. & Reisch, G. (1999). The nature of science: A perspective from the philosophy of science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36 (1), pp. 107-116. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1098-2736(199901)36:1<107::AID-TEA7>3.0.CO;2-3.

which has been published in final form at Wiley Online Library. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.