Re: Should History of Science be Rated X?

From: Chris Barden <>
Date: Thu Nov 10 2005 - 11:24:31 EST

I also find HPS fascinating, though like others have said,
email-writing time is often shorter than my interest would allow.
Speaking only for myself, I add the excuse that I don't understand HPS
well enough to say anything substantive about it.

But the political overtones of the whole thing are intriguing as well.
 I tend to agree with you, Ted, that HPS should be an important part
of science education even at the secondary level. And I think this is
what sticks in my craw about NCSE, NAS, and the professional science
societies: in my opinion, they all give lip service to the idea of HPS
but they do so only to shunt creationism and ID into a corner
politically. To them it seems that HPS is a ghetto for outmoded
thinking that might be appropriate subject matter for a philosophy
class, or a comparative religion class, or some other class
universally elective and by extension ignored and underfunded. Using
the societies to defend mainstream science (efforts I support)
shouldn't require a blindly naive demarcation between science and
non-science that ignores the facts of scientific history.


On 11/10/05, Ted Davis <> wrote:
> How much attention should university scientists and high school teachers pay
> to HPS in their own teaching? This is the fundemental question we are
> talking about--my own comments about ID are really subordinate to this
> larger question, and my views on ID and high school science teaching assume
> that a teacher has already decided that some attention to HPS is warranted,
> even at the expense of removing some actual science content from the course.
> I will not try to defend that approach since I do not have time now to get
> into a lengthy debate; rather I'll point toward a highly controversial,
> provocative article that has become a classic:
> "Should the History of Science be rated X?" Science, 183: 1165-62 (1974).
> Steven G. Brush, Univ of Maryland. Dr. Brush has a PhD in physics and is
> one of the leading historians of physics of his generation.
> Abstract: The way scientists behave (according to historians) might not be
> a good model for students. Comments on the alleged experimental character of
> science and the "scientific method" (especially in teaching non-science
> majors); revival of interest in using history in science teaching;
> subversive aspects of the history of science; examples showing that some
> famous scientists did not follow the "scientific method"; the science
> teacher as "Whig historian."
> ***
> A discussion of this article's conclusions (that's the most important part
> of the article) would be fascinating. You already know where I stand on
> this one. Brush's overall point is, that science teachers who want their
> students to be indoctrinated into the positivisitic view of science as
> absolute truth, will *not* allow them to be exposed to HPS, indeed that
> exposure to HPS is actually subversive. As I say, this is quite a
> provocative piece.
> Ted
Received on Thu Nov 10 11:26:11 2005

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