THE EVOLUTION OF SCIENCE AND SCIENCE EDUCATION This is the second part of two parts from t

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THE EVOLUTION OF SCIENCE AND SCIENCE EDUCATION This is the second part of two parts from the address given at the Science Teacher of Missouri Spring Conference 1992, Rolla, Missouri by Dr. Clifford McCullum I'll pick first the revolution in modern physics. To the physicist this means all of the ideas about the physical universe that have been generated since quantum theory was devised and used as a basis for studying that physical universe. It involves a plethora of concepts among which are relativity, atomic structure, nuclear structure, mass energy, nuclear energy, etc. The names of stellar investigators associated with these are even more numerous than the concepts. Any attempt at listing, even as examples, is to court rebukes for practicing personal favoritism, but here are a few: Planck, Einstein, Rutherford, Bohr, Fermi, Gell-Mann. Through all of this revolution has run the yearning for more fundamental universals. What is the universal unit of structure of the atom? What is the universal unit of energy? Of mass-energy? Shouldn't we be able to identify the common element of structure and operation in light, electricity, magnetism, and gravity? This was the center of Einstein's attention during the last years of his life. Perhaps some day! I'll list next the DNA Revolution in the language of life. This is based upon a mechanistic viewpoint as to the nature of life. It grew from the application of physics and chemistry to the study of life and life systems. From Darwinian evolution the path winds through genetics to molecular biology. It certainly meets the criterion that a revolution to be one should produce impacts in other fields. Bioethical issues develop daily as DNA science and technology grow and develop. Theology faces new challenges at the same time and old value systems struggle and new ones explode around us. Bioengineering is no longer an abstraction; life can be diagrammed and ordered at will, or so it seems. A very readable account of the DNA story is The Eighth Day of Creation by Horace Freeland Judson. Like modern physics, the personalities involved are numerous. Of course, James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins should be named. But there are many others; among them, Rosalind Franklin, George Gamow, Jacques Monod, Max Delbruck, and Linus Pauling. My last revolution is harder to limit. It has to do with the search for beginnings - the search for origins. First, we are searching for the origins of the universe. We have an increasing certainty as to the biography of stars - our sun included. The Hertsprung-Russell Diagram is an insightful guide to that history and extrapolations beyond the diagram are yielding more and more exciting gestations. We may not have final answers as to what the first few seconds in the life of the universe were like, but the overall age of the universe is growing and the space geometry of it is expanding. Recent discoveries using an NASA satellite it is believed will fill in gaps in the story of what happened after the Big Bang occurred as matter coalesced to form galaxies, stirs, planets, and other units we have recognized in our physical universe. Second, we are searching for the origins of life on this earth and in our entire universe. This is intimately connected with molecular biology. As this search continues, vitalism, as a point-of-view about life, is weakening. Oparin, the Russian biochemist, Harold Urey and his colleague and student, Stanley Miller, and Sidney W. Fox have all outlined convincing steps in this evolution. Many others are also working and asking questions. What kind of life are we looking for? Is our earth's life alone in the universe? Is our earth's life unique in the universe? Are other metabolic systems, other than an oxygen / carbon dioxide one, possible elsewhere in the universe? As our search for origins proceeds, the debate between mechanists and vitalists waxes, as does the dispute between the creationists and the evolutionists. Also, we are changing our conceptions of time in the history of the universe and our conceptions of space in the cosmography of the universe. As we think of the history of science I am suggesting we pin our thoughts for organizational purposes on revolutions in scientific thought. Copernican, Darwinian. and Freudian in pre-twentieth century. Modern Physics, DNA, and Search for Origins in the 1900's. But what does this have to do, if anything, with science teaching? Well, for me it tends to stimulate some random thoughts as to what I have done in the past as a science teacher, and what I might do if I'd ever have the chance again. First, I fear I was almost always dealing with outdated material in my classes. A lot of this is necessary, for science does evolve, and ideas at the frontiers are often too difficult for the novice. But those of us as teachers must always keep in mind that understanding grows and does not suddenly emerge in full blossom. Isaac Asimov was a great teacher for all of us and I was impressed by the parenthetical remarks he used in one of his last books, Atom. Listen: "This is no longer the situation, but let us suppose it is and answer the question on that basis. We can always qualify the answer later."


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