Key Concepts of the Nature Of Science
OR, Rules of Science


NGSS Themes

1. Science deals only with natural patterns and explanations, never supernatural.
Only natural phenomena can be studied, and only natural explanations can be used.


2. Scientific knowledge is different from other kinds of knowledge. This is because it does not come from authority or by votes. It is obtained through critical observation and subsequent critical testing of proposed explanations. Published reports are critically peer-reviewed to check validity and quality of work. It’s based on empirical evidence.



3. Good science is different from poor science, pseudoscience and non-science. Not recognizing those difference can lead to uncritical thinking and poor choices.


4. Critical testing means trying to disprove scientific ideas, not to prove them. If the knowledge survives repeated testing, then the knowledge is strengthened.


5. Scientific tests should be “Fair Tests” whenever possible. This means that results could go either way, depending on the validity of the explanation.


6. Scientific knowledge is stronger when it has multiple lines of evidence. Consilience of different, independent data-sets and analyses of those data, strengthens the knowledge. [Consilience = data and conclusions are consistent for different studies.]


7. Some scientific explanations are better than others. This is simply because they work better and explain more observations.


8. Scientific knowledge can be biased. All people have biases, but the rules of science are geared to minimize bias.


9. Collaboration leads to more reliable scientific knowledge. This includes the open sharing of data and interpretations in journals and conferences.


10. Scientific knowledge is always open to change with compelling new evidence. But, there are degrees of uncertainty. Some scientific knowledge is relatively new and untested, but other scientific knowledge is well established due to long term testing and successful application, and therefore unlikely to be overturned; we say it’s durable.



11. There is no one scientific method. Not all science is experimental. For ancient events (historical or pre-historical), we look for predictable clues. Some science is descriptive.


12. Ignorance is a key driving force of science.
Scientists are driven to understand the ever-increasing secrets of nature.


All the ENSI NOS lessons reflect one or more of the above concepts. Whenever you are assessing learning during this unit, be sure that you put primary focus on these concepts. It might be helpful for you to place a large poster on the wall with at least the boldfaced numbered Key Concepts displayed and easily visible throughout the room. From time to time, ask different students to indicate which (one or more) of the Key Concepts a particular lesson (or part of a lesson) illustrates. Or, at the end of the unit, take each concept, and ask which lesson (or lessons) illustrated that concept.