Electronic Journal of Science Education Vol. 5 No. 2 - December 2000 - Cobern/Loving

Scientific Worldviews: A Case Study of Four High School Science Teachers


William W. Cobern, Ph.D.
Western Michigan University


Cathleen C. Loving, Ph.D.
Texas A&M University, College Station


Science education researchers have been interested in a number of factors regarding science teachers. They want to know about gender and race factors, preservice education experiences, achievement in a science major, or teacher views on the nature of science. In the past, these researchers have tended not to think of teachers as cultural beings though this is certainly changing in the way that it has become common to think of students as cultural beings and hence to inquire into the influence of student culture on the learning of science. As humans, science teachers are of course cultural beings; and just like their students, they bring a worldview to the classroom. But surely science teachers bring the scientific worldview to the science classroom? Rather than assuming that science teachers bring the scientific worldview to class, the purpose of this research is first to illuminate the enacted scientific worldviews of four typical high school science teachers. Second, we will argue that science teachers ought to show their enacted scientific worldviews in the science classroom as part of an ongoing classroom discourse promoting student understanding that science can be interpreted and made meaningful in various ways by various individuals, including the science teachers.

Theoretical Background

If a chemist (or high school chemistry teacher) were asked to draw a concept map representing the concept of "salt," one could expect the map to be reasonably complex. The map might first show that "salt" both represents common table salt, which is a white crystalline solid (usually sodium chloride) and a class of chemical compounds formed by replacing all or part of the hydrogen ions of an acid with metal ions or electropositive radicals. The chemist would likely go on to draw the relations of salt to other aspects of chemistry and other sciences. This concept map with its inter-connected parts lends itself to the metaphoric description of an "ecology", that is, a conceptual ecology (Toulmin, 1972) that represents the person's understanding of the concept "salt." Moreover, an ecology in nature can be defined narrowly (e.g., a coral ecology) or broadly (e.g., an ocean ecology) and so with a conceptual ecology. The salt example could be broadened to include the physics of electron motion that contributes to the nature of each element, and to the physiology of salts in biological systems. Science educators such as Hewson and Thorley (1989), Novak (1991) and Thorley and Stofflett (1996) argue that effective learning of science results in a broad, complex conceptual ecology. Hauslein, Good and Cummins (1992) show that science teachers restructure their knowledge with experience and that "both experienced teachers and scientists were found to have well-constructed and ordered cognitive structures" (p. 939) as compared with novice science teachers (also see Fisher, 1986).

If one asks our chemist to continue with his or her concept map, eventually at the broad level of "science" one would glimpse this person's scientific worldview. In the literature, the idea of a scientific worldview dates to at least 1929 and the publication of The Vienna Circle's manifesto, A scientific world-view. Written by Gödel, Hahn, Neurath, and Carnap, the manifesto took the concept of a scientific worldview to be synonymous with logical positivism. In other words, the only meaningful sources of knowledge are logical reasoning and empirical experience (also see Salmon, 1998). More recently, the concept of a scientific worldview has appeared in education documents such as Project 2061.

    A scientific world view is not something that working scientists spend a lot of time discussing. They just do science. But underlying their work are several beliefs that are not always held by nonscientists. One is that by working together over time, people can in fact figure out how the world works. Another is that the universe is a unified system and knowledge gained from studying one part of it can often be applied to other parts. Still another is that knowledge is both stable and subject to change. (AAAS, 1990, n. p.)

The concept of worldview, however, comes not from the sciences but from anthropology and philosophy, which inclines one to think that our chemist could make his concept map even broader, much broader than what would typically be considered a conceptual ecology. From a cultural perspective, all of a person's thoughts form a vast conceptual ecology, that is, a worldview (Cobern, 1991; Kearny, 1984). Thus, our chemist could continue and note that "salt" has cultural and metaphoric uses. For example, a sailor is an "old salt." To swear is to use "salty" language. The chemist might recall that Jesus of Nazareth told his followers, "You are the salt of the world."

Thus, what our chemist knows about salt begins at the level of specific conceptual schema that focus on salt as a concept in science, and extends outward in a vast network of interrelated concepts reaching beyond science. That network metaphorically can be thought of as a cognitive ecological system. This system can be viewed narrowly in terms of a concept ecology (nicely represented by concept maps) or viewed broadly to include all cognition. The inclusive system has salient attributes grounded in culture, which as a composite are called a worldview. Given that no person can live his or her life totally within science, the notion of a scientific worldview is more accurately expressed as a scientifically compatible worldview. The point being, different scientists and different scientifically educated people who are known to think scientifically still can have very different worldviews, and often do (see Cobern, 1991, Ch. 5).

Hence, one suspects that the ideas about science that constitute a scientific worldview must get interpreted and articulated under the influence of other aspects of a worldview. Thus, inquiring about an abstract notion of a scientific worldview in reference to an actual person is probably less helpful than inquiring about how that person has enacted a scientific worldview.

The importance of such inquiry is suggested by Bodycott (1997), Goodson (1992), Helms (1998), and Romanowski (1998) who argue that teachers are more than their practice as teachers and science teachers are more than science.

    The manner in which teachers experience and understand the world plays a significant role in defining, selecting, and organizing information in their classroom. This, in turn, constructs the version of U. S. history that students have the opportunity to learn. (Romanowski, 1998, p. 4)

Romanoski (1998) gives the example of a student teacher who "informed the class that her views were unimportant and her goal was simply to discuss how the individual political parties platforms differed" (p. 4) but in actuality her:

    students learned that abortion was acceptable in certain circumstances; government control of weapons was a good thing; affirmative action was not working; and other political issues such as taxes, state of the economy, funding for the arts and homosexual rights were not important enough to merit class discussion. (p. 4)

Romanoski's point is that what the student teacher taught was strongly influenced by what she believed. Proper, Wideen and Ivany (1988), Tobin and LaMaster (1995), Tobin and Tippins (1996) make a similar case in science education.

Our research interest, thus, was not to assume that any teacher ever brings to class an abstract, official concept of a scientific worldview, but to assume that every teacher enacts an individual version of science and of the domain in which science operates. We do believe that if science teachers have some formal study in the nature of science they are more likely to examine their perspectives in light of nature of science scholarly work. The teachers in this study were not selected with those criteria in mind. Hence, we have conducted a case study with four high school science teachers as a way to see what a largely unexamined, but enacted scientific worldview might look like.

The case study with four high school science teachers was part of a larger study that investigated the various conceptualizations of Nature that ninth graders have and the way in which they invoke scientific ideas. The same issue was addressed with the students' science teachers. In the larger study teachers and students were compared and, as expected, science teachers showed that they know more about science than do their ninth grade students. They speak more about science and they speak in more depth about science (Cobern, 2000). The larger study, however, did not attempt to draw inferences about the teachers' scientific worldviews. Hence, it is important to recognize the serendipitous nature of the research reported in this paper. The larger study with students led to the serendipitous discovery of fascinating differences amongst the four science teachers, what we came to call their enacted scientific worldviews, and the student awareness of these differences. We were impressed by the relevance of such teacher differences to notions of a "scientific culture" that science teachers might be thought to inhabit by virtue of their specialized education in science. Our research is limited, however, because the serendipitous nature of the discovery came after it was possible to gain further background information from the teachers that would help us understand how they came to their individual views of Nature and science. Thus, the more limited focus of our report is the illumination of the existence among science teachers of idiosyncratic views on Nature and science. Such idiosyncrasies are telltale indicators of the influence of culture on teachers.


The research methods of the case study are the same as reported previously in this journal and elsewhere (Cobern, Gibson, & Underwood, 1999; Cobern, 2000). In summary form, however, the research method did not ask direct questions about "scientific worldview." Our attempt was to be indirect given that direct questioning, whether in an interview or through a survey, invites people to give what they consider to be the correct or orthodox answers about science. Our interest was to see how science was understood and used when such information was provided in a more voluntary format. Hence, the research series has focused on open-ended discussions about Nature. The guiding (implicit) research question was, to what extent do teachers enjoin scientific knowledge vis-à-vis other domains of knowledge in a discussion about Nature, given that science is unarguably relevant to the topic of Nature, and yet, Nature is a topic that most people do not explicitly associate with science? Responses to direct questions about science are one thing; it is quite another to voluntarily employ scientific knowledge in the absence of any kind of science prompt or cue. Our approach then was to use the interview transcripts as our primary source of data for drawing inferences about the teachers' use of science and understanding of Nature. The teachers' full responses in condensed narrative form may be viewed online.

The Teachers

The four teachers who participated in the interviews were from an upper middle class, semi-rural community in central Arizona. The community itself includes many vocal, active people that consider preservation of the desert ecosystem an important issue. There is frequent talk within the community as well as frequent articles in the local paper about the rapid destruction of the surrounding desert due to an explosion of urban development. People in the community are "outdoors" people. They hunt, ride horses, hike, camp, golf, and ride bicycles. The teachers live in or near the community and are members of the science department in the community high school.

We consider these teachers to be typical high school science teachers. The concept of "typical", however, does not mean strict objective representation, based on random sampling and a calculated N-value, used as a basis for specific generalizations as is common to quantitative research. The use of "typical" in this research is a common-sense use. These four teachers are not noticeably different from other accomplished science teachers. Are there American science teachers not represented by this group? Obviously there are, in fact, many, but that only means that this group does not represent all American science teachers. It does not make this group atypical. This group is typical in that any of the four science teachers of this study could be found in almost any high school in America today. Our view of generalizing from results follows that of Cronbach (1975) who argued that:

    Instead of making generalization the ruling consideration in our research, I suggest that we reverse our priorities. An observer collecting data in one parti-cular situation is in a position to appraise a practice or proposition in that setting, observing effects in context. In trying to describe and account for what happened he will give equally careful attention to uncontrolled conditions, to personal characteristics, and to events that occurred during the treatment and measurement. As he goes from situation to situation, his first task is to describe and interpret the effect anew in each locale As results accumulate, a person who seeks understanding will do his best to trace how the uncontrolled factors could have caused local departures from the modal effect. That is, generalization comes late, and the exception is taken as seriously as the rule (Cronbach, 1975, p. 124-125)

We take the narratives of the present study to be a form of thick description (Geertz, 1973) with the subsequent intent to develop sets of narratives over a series of different locales. Thus, this type of research is like "core sampling" in geology rather than like social science field surveys that canvass broad populations.

Four Science Teachers Talk About Science and Nature

In the teacher narratives, we are looking for how teachers understand science and the domain, Nature, in which science operates, thus providing glimpses of the teachers' scientific worldviews. Below we report each teacher narrative in annotated fashion.

To aid the reader we offer Figure 1, our post-results categorization, of each teacher now. We hope it enhances understanding of the rather extensive commentary and highlights the essence of each perspective. These categories are justified in the Discussion.

Figure 1. Four Enacted Scientific Worldviews

Mr. Bradford Mr. Hess
Nature is more powerful than the minds of people who are trying to conquer it Nature is really not knowable No one will ever know everything there is to know about Nature and that is part of its appeal; because [Nature] is so mysterious. Not only will nobody ever know everything there is to know about Nature, hopefully no one ever will. To me, the mysterious Nature of Nature is one of its better qualities. Things that are completely discovered are no longer interesting I think that everything has patterns. We haven't necessarily discovered those patterns, yet I feel that with enough scientific knowledge all things are understandable. I think that the more we understand about matter itself, and the more we know about how to make things, the more predictable Nature will be. Scientific or reductionistic thinking is very powerful. I feel that once we know enough about the minutia of the world, breaking it down by using the scientific method, scientists tearing it apart and analyzing the parts of Nature and seeing how they interact, that we will be able to predict just about anything about Nature Eventually all Nature will be explainable.
The Lover of Scientific Mysteries The Optimistic Reductionist

Mr. David Ms Jackson
Nature is orderly and chaotic, predictable and unpredictable - these pairs are sort of needed in order to define each other. Things wouldn't be predictable if you didn't know what unpredictable was. Things wouldn't be orderly if you didn't know what chaotic was. It is sort of a Ying-yang relationship between the two - I would call this just the dualistic Nature of reality Living, mysterious, and exciting. These are terms I most closely associate with in the natural world and how it appears. It's alive. It's mysterious and we don't understand it, and it's exciting... there is a lot that we don't know about it. I think that Nature is predictable. I think that it is logical. I think that it is explainable. As scientists, we come up with laws of Nature or theories of Nature to be able to predict behaviors and [because of] the experiments that we have done. And we can predict those things because they are orderly, there are certain patterns that we can find, and yet at times they can be very complex. But I think Nature, you can understand it, you can know it, and you can predict it. I feel like we know and awful lot. I feel like, that, even though we don't have all the answers, we have so much, ways of finding out answers. I feel that we know an awful lot. I think we would definitely be up towards the 80 percentile of knowledge.
The Scientific Buddhist The Logical Scientific Pollyanna

Mr. Bradford

Mr. Bradford is Anglo-American from a middle-class family. He is a second-year biology teacher with a college major in biology. Upon completion of his undergraduate degree, he entered a secondary science teacher education program. He is known among his colleagues as a serious person who speaks quite philosophically. As one would expect of a good science teacher, he readily spoke about science. He offered the following remarks as part of his explanation that, yes, one can have knowledge about Nature.

    We know some things about Nature. We know, for example, that in Nature you will find examples where the progression of an organism is a direct result of the purpose of that organism - where the purpose of organisms is just to survive or to carry on their genetic traits through generations. Certain laws of physics can be applied to just about any part of Nature so there is some predictability in Nature. Water will evaporate. It will rain. You can predict certain population outcomes based on certain criteria like the amount of rainfall. We know these things from science.

Clearly, science is the knowledge Mr. Bradford has in mind. His view of science includes the importance of observations, data, and experiments. It is also a very personal view of science as expressed in the last sentence of the following excerpt.

    A scientist makes observations and collects data. He experiments with controlled experiments. He makes observations without experiments. He experiences Nature. He lives in it.

But the power of a scientist to investigate Nature is severely limited by the complexity of Nature.

    Nature is very complex. All of the various components of Nature are working together, and in some cases working apart. It leads toward the complexity of Nature. It makes it very hard to figure out. It makes Nature mysterious. Nature is mysterious because it is so complex, the diversity of it makes it mysterious. There is a lot that is not known about Nature.

Mr. Bradford further explains the complexity of Nature by tying together the concept of change and diversity. He also makes clear that the complexity and diversity of Nature is the way Nature ought to be.

    Nature is ever-changing. If man weren't there [in Nature], beavers, for example, would still change Nature! Plants invading the land have changed Nature. There are many different aspects to Nature. The more diverse Nature is the more it is the way it should be. For example, in the ideal forest, in my mind, there is a wide variety of plants and animals, all different kinds of trees. Whenever that ideal forest is altered by man, there seems to be less and less diversity among those types of organisms in Nature.

Another important aspect of Nature is power and, in the long run, the lack of power people have in the face of Nature.

    Nature is more powerful than the minds of people who are trying to conquer it. Eventually, Nature will win out and so far it has won out, because man has yet to conquer all of Nature and I think that because of its complexity, because of its mysteries, because of its unsolvable Nature, it remains to be powerful, more powerful than man. Glenn Canyon Dam is an example. The dam has permanently altered an aspect of Nature. Man conquered that section of that river, but he has not conquered the entire river. Eventually the water will flow over that dam and destroy it, so Nature will be more powerful than man, in the long run.

Hence, Mr. Bradford sees Nature more in terms of what is not known and cannot be known.

    Nature is really not knowable. If Nature were knowable, it would mean that you would be able to predict anything about Nature. You would know all the components of Nature, what effects it has on other components. Well, you can predict a certain amount of Natures' outcome, but overall, Nature is unpredictable. If we destroy this insect, for example, because it is hurting some tree or some plant that we care about, I don't think that we will ever be able to predict how we have affected Nature as a whole. You can't predict what effect one aspect of Nature will have on all of the other components of Nature. So, it is unpredictable in that regard.

Moreover, according to Mr. Bradford, the fact that no one will ever know everything about Nature is a good thing. Note again the personal involvement with Nature.

    No one will ever know everything there is to know about Nature and that is part of its appeal; because [Nature] is so mysterious. Not only will nobody ever know everything there is to know about Nature, hopefully no one ever will. To me, the mysterious Nature of Nature is one of its better qualities. Things that are completely discovered are no longer interesting If things don't have questions associated with them, there is no mystery. If there is nothing to ask about it anymore, it loses its intrigue, its interest. The mysteries of Nature are hopefully unsolvable. I don't want to solve all the mysteries of Nature. I hope nobody ever does. The appeal is like being lost out in the forest, so to speak. You want to be out there away from anything that is solved, you want to be in an environment where everything is still interesting to you.

For Mr. Bradford, the importance of science and the understanding of Nature are tied to environmental views. According to him, everyone should study science for the sake of Nature. The destruction we see in Nature is due in part to the fact that this is not happening.

    It is important to understand how things work in Nature because we are affecting Nature all the time. For example, we affect one thing and it affects several other things that will have an effect on me or other parts of Nature It is important to me to have people understand how Nature works so that they can prevent affecting it more than they do. Nature is difficult to understand - remember, it is very diverse. People think that they understand Nature and so they go ahead and affect it the way that they want to. They predict that they won't affect anything else, but in fact, they do. So, I think that it is important to understand how Nature works, as best we can, so as not to destroy it. I think everybody should study Nature, I am not sure that everybody does do it. Scientists probably do more of it than anybody else.

In addition to the attractiveness of mystery, Mr. Bradford finds great beauty in Nature. Again, one sees Mr. Bradford's environmental thinking.

    Nature is beautiful That is what draws me to Nature in the first place, how beautiful it is. The simple beauty of being pure, the kind of plants and animals that are out there, the landscape in its natural state, all kinds of simple beauty to it. Purity and diversity have an internalized beauty to me. When it is pure and when there is great diversity out there, then it is more beautiful to me. So, those things have to be in place first, possibly before I consider it to be beautiful. Nature is living. Nature is composed of living things organisms, and the living part of Nature is probably what attracts me to Nature in the first place. So the living part of Nature is what appeals to me - plants and animals, any kind of plants or animals. Even though I would consider rocks and volcano's a part of Nature, the living part of it appeals to me more. There are some beautiful rock formations and so on, but the living parts of the landscape is what is most beautiful. The appeal for me is an internal sense of peacefulness when I am around Nature.

It was not clear what Mr. Bradford's religious inclinations might be since he is reluctant to talk about religion. There are, however, indications that he has religious-like views toward Nature. Clouser (1991) argues that across the variety of religious beliefs, the one common inclusion is a designation for what is eternal. According to Mr. Bradford,

    Nature has been here forever and it will always be here whether man is here or not

The non-theistic implications of this remark are also apparent in Mr. Bradford's response to people who see the work of God in Nature.

    In my mind the work of God is pure. It is perfect and it can't be improved by man in any way. It can be improved by the works of Nature itself. God-like things are perfect. They can't be improved by works of man, but can be improved by the works of Nature itself.

Finally, for Mr. Bradford, environmentalism is of great importance

    Because man has shown that he can change certain components of Nature, I am concerned about pollution and the damage that it does to Nature. Right now there is overwhelming damage being done to Nature - the effects of man on Nature in our lifetime are pollution, destruction of rainforest, the damming of rivers, the dredging of the oceans, and the pollution of our oceans, the killing of species, and so on.

Mr. Hess

Mr. Hess is Anglo-American from a middle-class family. He majored in physics and completed a post baccalaureate, secondary science teacher education program. He has had several years of experience as a physics teacher and he is quite emphatic about Nature.

    Nature is orderly and understandable. The tides and the rotation of the earth, the seasons and so forth are examples of order in Nature. That the planets and the stars are governed by physical forces and any deviations are simply because we have not yet discovered the other part of Nature's orderliness. According to chaos theory, even things that appear to happen randomly have patterns. I think that everything has patterns.

He is equally emphatic about science and the efficacy of science as the process of discovery.

    We haven't necessarily discovered those patterns, yet. As a science teacher, I feel that with enough scientific knowledge all things are understandable. I think it is very important to know how matter interacts with matter, and therefore how that influences everything else around, for example, how living things work, how it rains, how the stars are made, and how they are formed, the whole thing. I think that the more we understand about matter itself, and the more we know about how to make things, the more predictable Nature will be.

Mr. Hess has a reductionist view of science.

    Scientific or reductionistic thinking is very powerful. I feel that once we know enough about the minutia of the world, breaking it down by using the scientific method, scientists tearing it apart and analyzing the parts of Nature and seeing how they interact, that we will be able to predict just about anything about Nature.

And, he is an optimist.

    Eventually all Nature will be explainable.

In the meantime, however, there are challenges, and at first, Mr. Hess appears to acknowledge some limits to science.

    I think there is probably a limit to predictability in Nature. I think Nature has unpredictability because it is so changeable. Weather is a prime example of that. We can't predict the weather more accurately more than, at the most, two days ahead of time. That is because there are so many things that change within this thing that we call weather, that affect local weather patterns - when a hurricane will strike or when a tornado will strike.

But then Mr. Hess begins to hedge on any notion of limitations to science by suggesting that our inability to predict natural phenomena has to do with our lack of knowledge. Lack of knowledge leads to emotional stress.

    I think unpredictability, however, comes because we don't know enough about Nature to predict everything about it right now. This has emotional consequences. We have emotions of fear and peace and I think that fear stems mainly out of the unknown. Man is frightened when he perceives what is going on around him and he doesn't understand it. If events are predicted then there is a very peaceful type of feeling. I don't think that Nature is inherently dangerous or confusing either, because that is man's definition of what is maybe the unknown part of it. What's dangerous about Nature or about the natural world is that we can't predict when things are going to happen, when we are going to die, for example.

It is the above passage that Mr. Hess concludes with the statement, "Eventually, however, all Nature will be explainable." It has not happened yet because of, "the extreme, complex, and diverse type of systems that are involved with [Nature]"; but it will happen.

    But I am an optimist as far as its understandability, as far as that is concerned. Our current state of being is that there are unpredictable events in Nature. Our ultimate state, the end point, is basically knowing very much. Weight wise, we are probably more tilted toward unpredictableness because I think that we are in the infancy of understanding the world around us. I am optimistic that we will eventually know much more. As knowledge grows, we will change the changeability and the unpredictability of Nature

Mr. Hess gives three reasons why this pursuit of scientific knowledge is important. To begin with, knowledge of Nature is intrinsically valuable.

    the mere fact of knowing things about Nature is worthwhile itself. Nature is an everyday part of life and I think about it a lot and how things work and how things interact with each other. Nature is beautiful. I see it most in the way things work so well together. I think that I see beauty in Nature more with living things than with anything else. It is the vastness of things that could go wrong in a living organism, and yet it lives.

Second, knowledge of Nature is extrinsically valuable, that is, knowledge of Nature is useful.

    Nature is made of matter. That matter gives us the resources we need whether it is living resources or material resources. Material resources are the raw materials that we can use to build things or to develop technology. Thus, the second reason to study Nature is that the more we know about Nature, the more we can control it and use it or exploit it.

The third reason for Mr. Hess is the crown of human achievement represented by the development of our practical knowledge.

    The third thing is the more that we can do that, the better our lives are going to be - and, this is sort of a tribute to Man's intellect. You know, how to use what's here.

Mr. Hess is aware that the practical use of Nature places stress upon Nature. However, when asked if Nature is endangered or if it is possible to restore damage already done to Nature, he offered a rather non-environmentalist perspective.

    I don't think that the natural world will ever be any of these things, endangered, restorable, or doomed. It will never be endangered. It will never be restorable because there is nothing to restore. It can't be doomed because, whatever doomed means, the natural world will exist. Whether man continues to exist or not, it really doesn't matter too much. I think that the natural world will always be there, whatever form it is in. No, Nature doesn't, as an entity, and there is no such thing as Nature as an entity, need protection. It doesn't need protection.

"Protection" according to Mr. Hess,

    is man's need in life. We need to protect Nature so that Nature can provide us with the materials we need. So, if you put man into the equation, like if the equation says that man needs to be on this planet, then this is what we need to do. If we are not concerned with that, then we shouldn't really worry about what we do with Nature.

Mr. Hess finds beauty in Nature, but above all else, Nature is a natural resource.

    I think that it needs to be protected, however, simply because I think that there is enough enjoyment in Nature itself, or different parts of Nature, that the beauty of Nature needs to be protected. I think there is a bigger story, though, about why we need to protect and know about Nature. This is such a bigoted statement, but we need to protect the human race.

Clearly, Mr. Hess has an anthropocentric view of Nature. The whole of Nature is weighed in the balance of human importance.

    We need to know enough about the ecosystems, so that we can say, "yes, these animals can become extinct because they are not really important." So, those two sides of myself battle each other because I think that there is a lot of beauty in Nature and I think that it is very enjoyable to have these diverse animals. But, I also think that we also need to be realistic and know that we are not going to be able to protect all of the animals. We need to know what animals are necessary for us to enjoy the same quality of life that we now know.

But all of life is not science, scientific knowledge of Nature, and natural resources.

    I also have some other thoughts about Nature that are really completely separate from what I have said so far. These thoughts are extremely important because I think that there is a need in man's life for a purpose the natural world is not everything that exists. I think God exists and He is part of the natural world, but at the same time, not part of it. I think that the natural world is a subset of God, and not the other way around. I think that Nature can remind us of the spirituality, our own spirituality.... It is a necessary wrench because the rest does not work without that.

Mr. Hess pulls together his ideas about science, Nature, and the spiritual by saying,

    I definitely think that there are parts of everything that are separate from, not Nature, or the natural world, but definitely from what I perceive as what science can uncover, and maybe part of that has to do with man's need and wanting for, and maybe personal discovery of, things that are holy and sacred, or mysterious. That is sort of an unknown variable that sort of sits out there. These aren't products of man's interaction with that part of the natural world.

So, there is a part of life in the natural world that is not subject to the scientific method. As a clarification, Mr. Hess says,

    I am talking about this unknown variable called Man and all his ideas. Divorced from pure science and pure fact there is also something called faith which is what defines sacred and holy and mysterious. Although I think we will eventually understand a great deal about Nature, I also don't think that we can ever discount the idea that there will always be a need in human lives, where things are sacred and holy, with holy perceived as mysterious, as well.

In the end, one sees that the things that are sacred and holy are the things that are mysterious, but it is science that removes mystery from Nature. There seems to be a clash here of ideas that Mr. Hess apparently feels obliged to resolve.

    Even if things aren't mysterious any more, I think that man will invent new things to have as mysterious.

Mr. David

Mr. David is an Anglo-American, first year teacher. He completed a biology degree followed by a secondary science teacher education program. From the very start, Mr. David spoke of Nature in terms of the environment that includes humans but not the results of human actions.

    The natural world is the environment and world around us that is here naturally, without being affected or changed by man. The natural world is what is here that hasn't been changed or influenced by man. I think it is sort of the raw material that we've come upon in our activities So when I think of the natural world, I think it includes everything that was here, that we come in contact with, or that we are in contact with. It's all just part of everything that is there the physical part that we see, and whatever it is that may be behind it, that is created or is driving it - all the parts of it, the parts we understand and the parts that we don't understand.

Mr. David becomes quite anthropomorphic in his description of Nature. He recognizes this and makes the point that he is speaking figuratively. Nevertheless, he comments that what it means to be "alive" is not that obvious at the molecular level.

    Nature is alive and it is always changing. It has a mind of it's own and in some ways things happen because it is alive. Just the way that the earth moves and shakes, the way that the oceans tend to move and the whole relationship between the earth and the universe. The way that living things have come out of all that, or part of it, to interact with the earth and universe. I think that the fact that it's alive really is a big part of what makes it the natural world, or at least my concept of it. I am not using "alive" in the technical living things sense, but I think in terms of how matter - Nature is material as well - interacts. I think that it is alive in the sense that, even though it may not technically be alive, I think that when there is heat and there is energy, things are moving and flying, that in a way is a kind of life. Nature is dynamic... movement and change and all life, when you look down to the molecular level, it really is just non-living, material molecules that are organized in complex ways. So, it is hard to draw the line, when you get to that level, as far as what is alive and what isn't. So, that's partly what makes it mysterious. Nature is alive and it is material.

Mr. David says that Nature is mysterious; indeed, he goes on to use the Eastern concept of Ying-yang to describe Nature.

    Nature is orderly and chaotic, predictable and unpredictable these pairs are sort of needed in order to define each other. Things wouldn't be predictable if you didn't know what unpredictable was. Things wouldn't be orderly if you didn't know what chaotic was. It is sort of a Ying-yang relationship between the two - I would call this just the dualistic Nature of reality. A storm in the ocean might be considered chaotic, but then as you watch the ripples of the waves that are flowing away from it, there is a sort of orderliness to that. Weather is unpredictable. You can't predict what's going to happen, but you can predict the consequences of it. The resources that Nature contains are kind of unpredictable, because we don't really know what resources are there. The fact that you use the resources of Nature means it is more predictable. But, it is so powerful that we can't really always predict what Nature will do or control it. You can predict that you are going to have certain consequences, however. It is also powerful. In relation to man, Nature is powerful because it controls whether life can exist on this planet or not, or any particular place. And we are real limited in our environments that we are able to occupy, and so in that sense, Nature has a lot of power over us.

Another dualism in Nature for Mr. David is the dualism of diversity and complexity that makes Nature so interesting but causes comprehension of Nature to ever recede before us.

    There is a lot of diversity and complexity in Nature, and there is also the fact that it is just there. It's all just part of everything that is there. You can look at it all as being part of one thing, or you can look at it all as being different and complex in different aspects of it. It is incredibly complicated. The closer you look the more complicated it is and in order for it to function as simply as it appears to us, there must be a lot more to it than we know. I think that it is important to understand that there is more to Nature than meets the eye. It is interesting to see how Nature works and just how complicated it really is. By observation and by looking at things and watching them over a period of time, you begin to notice patterns that allow you to make predictions. But it seems like a lot of predictions, once you make them you find that they... well, the rules tend to get broken, or you get more information at a higher, finer, more detailed level and you realize that there are other things going on that you weren't predicting.

Nature is a place of great interest for Mr. David.

    I do think about Nature quite a bit. Just wondering about how things work. When I see a bird fly around, I wonder how its eyes are so quick, how it's wings can move that fast, how quickly it perceives the world as it moves around. I wonder where crickets come from or cockroaches... something that I am in contact with constantly, everyday, and I tend to think about it because of that.

But Mr. David is aware that this place of natural wonder we call Nature has been altered by humans. Hence, it is important to know as much as possible about Nature so that human behavior toward Nature is "more enlightened."

    I think that the more we know about [Nature], the more enlightened we will be about ourselves and the world we live in, and the better chance we will have that we will be able to be more reasonable about our decisions that we make, and I think that kind of knowledge is hopeful and peaceful. And just from the basic scientific reasons, you never know what you're going to find when you go to study something.

Mr. David is optimistic about the scientific study of Nature. Such study is intrinsically worthwhile and by itself no threat to Nature.

    So, you can study [Nature] in many ways, and it is so amazing and interesting, to see and to experiment, that any curiosity that we have about it is a good enough reason to go and study it. There are aesthetic reasons. It is just pleasing to see how Nature works. I think that scientists are most involved in the study of Nature, as far as observing and trying to measure what is going on in the world, in turn to predict how things will change and what will happen. I think that is one of the functions that science really fulfills as far as a human enterprise. The studies themselves, I am optimistic about.

About how the results of scientific studies are used, Mr. David is less sanguine.

    How the studies are used, they are subject to all the human shortcomings and problems, but as far as doing the studies I am optimistic. I think that we have always got more to learn and that we can learn a lot from Nature.

The scientific study of Nature is also important for practical reasons because we are materially dependent upon Nature.

    Because of our dependence on Nature, just our existence, we need to study Nature, to learn more about it. We need to understand how things work in Nature because it is an important resource for us, to get our water, energy, food, and materials for making things from Nature. The resources that Nature contains is kind of unpredictable, because we don't really know what resources are there, that we can use.

But, self-interest adversely affects Nature. Nature must be protected, therefore, because of our dependence upon the resources of Nature.

    we need to understand it as much as we can, so that we can protect [Nature]. It needs to be protected... and keep it so that it can maintain us and maintain civilization. Man has an impact on the natural world. Although I think everybody has a sort of innate appreciation for life and for the natural world, when people have self-interest at stake, they tend to meet their own needs.

There is more to Nature than this, however.

    I like the word beautiful. I think that there is a lot of beauty in Nature, even though it is not always beautiful to man. The whole aspect of Nature, and I guess that I have an instinctual connection to that, that it is sacred, and just deals with something very special, you have to respect it. I think that beauty is the more aesthetic reason to appreciate Nature and I think that aesthetics can provide reasons for studying Nature, too. Well, I enjoy Nature.

What is Mr. David describing here? Is he expressing vague personal feelings? Is he talking about an important experiential aesthetic aspect of Nature? Are these essentially religious ideas? Mr. David says that he is talking about all these things.

    Some people might say they see the work of God in Nature, that is to say that you see something beyond the work of man, that's even at a higher level, and to appreciate that is one of the aesthetic things that we like about Nature. I have an instinctual connection to sacredness of Nature. It just deals with something very special about Nature, and you have to respect Nature. These ideas are religious and philosophical and emotional, all three!

But Mr. David hedges on any commitment to a traditional theistic view of religion and Nature. He places his personal emphasis on scientific ways of knowing.

    I look at the natural world as something that is physical, more physical, and it is happening around us, but if there is a God behind it, that is creating it, then that might be something that is at a different level, that I don't understand in my own reach. From what we know about energy and physics and everything, I think that there is potentially other realities or perceptions, or things that are happening, that are beyond this natural world that we are perceiving.

But there could be something more. Mr. David seems concerned that there must be some purpose in all of Nature - he is not an absolute Darwinian.

    I think that there could be things that I just don't know about. I do think Nature is more than material. I think that there is something driving Nature and causing it to evolve the way it has changed, and to say that Nature is only the stuff that you are looking at, is... may be missing part of it. I think that there must be some purpose for things to become what they become, in terms of living organisms, and what is driving it, I don't know.

However, he wishes not to make too much of a point about purpose.

    To say that everything is driven by a purpose is, I think, sort of a human perspective. I think that it is an assumption to say that everything results because of a purpose. I think that is possible that things happen because of chance, too. Purpose sort of denies the whole role of fate and chance, that things can happen just because they happen to work out that way!

Mr. David thinks that most everyone shares his aesthetic, quasi-religious view of Nature.

    I think that people have real strong emotional ties to Nature, in a lot of ways. There is a lot of variations on how people consider it to be sacred or holy, but I think everybody does, in some sense. Just about everybody has some connection to that, although I think that when people have self-interest at stake, they tend to ignore those aspects of the natural world, to meet their own needs.

In the end, Nature for Mr. David is,

    Living, mysterious, and exciting. These are terms I most closely associate with in the natural world and how it appears. It's alive. It's mysterious and we don't understand it, and it's exciting. I tend to look at the natural world as being mysterious - that there is a lot that we don't know about it. It is exciting. I guess just because it is interesting to see how Nature works, and just how complicated it really is.

Ms. Jackson

Ms. Jackson is Anglo-American. She majored in physical science education and she teaches physical science courses at the high school. She has had several years of teaching experience. Ms Jackson was quite clear about how she viewed Nature.

    I think that Nature is predictable. I think that it is logical. I think that it is explainable.

She also adds that Nature is orderly, even though at times it seems complex, and this orderliness of Nature allows science to predict events and behaviors. Scientists express the orderliness of Nature through "laws of Nature."

    As scientists, we come up with laws of Nature or theories of Nature to be able to predict behaviors and [because of] the experiments that we have done, we can now, either change or know that we can't change an event, but that maybe we can predict that the event is going to happen. And we can predict those things because they are orderly, there are certain patterns that we can find, and yet at times they can be very complex. But I think Nature, you can understand it, you can know it, and you can predict it.

The orderliness of Nature means that you can approach Nature with logic and in fact "that Nature is not difficult to understand."

    I think that if we study Nature is not difficult to understand. For instance, I am not a real biology type person, but I like watching those shows and they show patterns of things having these five sides, so if you are to get a new plant, then you could categorize it because of those sides if you are going to... gravity is, and you throw a ball, then you can predict what is going to happen because it is logical... I think that is what I'm thinking of when I think orderly... I think logical.

Even when Ms Jackson talked about the beauty of Nature, she continued to speak of science and the order and logic of Nature.

    I think Nature is beautiful. I think about Nature everyday in one way or another. If it's not the laws of Nature, driving with my kids and I am pointing out the moon to them in Arizona the sunsets here are the most beautiful sunsets, and I know why we see those sunsets, but it is just nice to enjoy them. I also think that science is beautiful in the fact that you can repeat patterns and that you can find these things that are logical and I just like that. That appeals to me. Because of the physics and the refraction of light you can understand a beautiful sunset.

She admits that some people do find Nature confusing and even frightening. She attributes these emotions not to any complexity in Nature, but to the frustration people feel over why it is that some suffer at the hands of Nature.

    Nature is not always peaceful things like earthquakes are things that we can maybe predict but not control, maybe minimize damage. Things like, maybe something falling out of the universe, the sky, like a meteor. Things that are frightening and they're dangerous because they could hurt people. They are powerful enough to have that kind of effect, and I think that the confusion comes from the fact of why, especially when someone that you like is hurt. If it is a devastating thing, you just wonder why that happened. So, an earthquake is not confusing in the sense that it happened, because you could be able to predict that, but just... Oh gee....you have this disaster and that is sad.

Predictions about Nature, finding out about Nature and studying Nature are "what scientists do. Lots of scientists are doing that." But it is not just scientists.

    I think little kids do it, and I don't know if they really add to our understanding [of Nature], but I think that it is a natural thing for kids to do to just start looking at the world around you, and then taking things apart at your house, and finding out how they work. So, I think that it starts with kids... and everybody has a little bit of it, but then some people make it their formal career like scientists.

Ms Jackson at one point mentioned that a scientist uses experiments to study Nature and in the above excerpt, she expresses the idea that one learns by "taking things apart." Science as she understands it must be powerful since Ms Jackson also says,

    I feel like we know an awful lot. I feel like, that, even though we don't have all the answers, we have so much, ways of finding out answers. I think we have that base of knowledge, so I think, I feel that we know an awful lot. I think we would definitely be up towards the 80 percentile of knowledge.

There are, however, some limitations to our scientific knowledge according to Ms Jackson.

    There are limits to knowledge We don't know a lot about genetics How can we find out if you are going to have a disease or even if you are alive, are you going to be predisposed to having cancer or to having diseases... so, we don't know everything The future is an interesting question. I am a fan of Star Trek. It would be nice to know that we could have space travel and that we could actually achieve that

These are not limitations to the power of science but that our domain of knowledge is as yet still limited. In completing the above thought, Ms Jackson shows her optimism for science.

    but we have enough information to keep trying. And I think that we have the space shuttles that go out, we have the satellites that go out and we try to learn more about space, but there is still a lot that we don't know, but based on what we do know, we have a direction that we can go in.

And why do we study Nature? What is the purpose of our investigations of Nature? Ms Jackson has clear answers. For one thing she is personally enthusiastic about science, twice referring to herself as a scientist.

    I think that it is exciting to study Nature. It is very diverse in terms of, if you look at the chemistry of it or the physics of it or the biology of it or the enjoyment of it, just how those things tie together.

For another reason, science and the study of Nature support the human use of natural resources.

    We use the resources of Nature. We use trees. We use coal. We use oil. We eat plants. This is why we study Nature, because... that we do use it for so many things... resources each day. It's the things that we use. It's the things that we interact with I think that a lot of things that we make... come from... we have leather, we have wool, so I think that because we know and understand the laws of Nature, we can now build all of this electronic equipment that we use. This is more for the laws of Nature, like radio waves, TV waves. That is why it is important to understand how things work in Nature... so that if you want to grow something, that you understand how to grow that better.

For Ms Jackson, Nature seems to be the domain of resources for human beings and science is the method by which those resources are discovered, extracted, processed and utilized. But, she is not unaware of the pressure these types of activities place on Nature.

    We're exploiting [Nature]. We're not either using what we have properly. We're over-using other things and obviously pollution is a problem. Resources are exploited. Nature is polluted and endangered because of those reasons.

Ms Jackson makes the important note that scientists are not to blame for the exploitation of Nature. Indeed, it is the scientists along with people in business and government who find ways to protect Nature.

    This knowledge [needed for the protection of Nature], I think, has come from a variety of sources. I think that there have always been scientists studying things like how to reuse energy, or how to get restorable energy, I think that's coming from scientists, but it is also coming from business, because they need to find a way. So, they're a source [for ways to protect and conserve Nature]. They are using scientists, they are using people that are engineers, along those lines, but they're the ones that are promoting as well as the government. So, I think that the sources are coming from, and I think that people may be in their own houses, if they can come up with something that works a little better. So, I think that it is kind of a variety, but I think that science has a lot to do with that.

Science is the tool according to Ms Jackson for insuring the availability of resources for human use. Nevertheless, citizens need to be prepared for making wise decisions especially given the power of science and the wealth of our resources.

    We need to be aware of what is around us and how we fit into the whole thing. I am a scientist, for one thing, and with so much new knowledge, with so much resources, with genetic engineering that is going on, I think that we need to be better equipped citizens to be better to make decisions

She is optimistic both about Nature's capacity and that people will do the right thing; and so she is not particularly concerned for the future.

    I think that Nature is reliable. I think that you can count on having what we have, at least for in the short term. That sounds like and I do, I have hope... and I guess that I have hope that there is I think that there is a large awareness of what is happening with Nature. So, I don't have this fatalistic kind of attitude about Nature being doomed. I don't know if it is human Nature, or not, or optimism, or... I don't think that I am a necessarily optimistic person. I try to be realistic I think that people... I can't help but feel that people will try and preserve Nature

Yet she admits to a certain ignorance of environmental issues though again she seems not to be overly disturbed.

    I also think that I don't know enough as a citizen, exactly what is going on. I know that there is a concern about ground water, for example, and whether it is being regenerated enough for us. I don't really know what the studies there are about our increasing population and what we are using of water, and how exactly we are restoring it. Nobody is really yelling real loud about it, so that gives me hope. We would be in trouble if our water was polluted. We would have severe problems. If we were running a plant that, not necessarily a nuclear plant, but something that had highly explosive chemicals, and it blew up, it would hurt people.

And she has somewhat of a subjective and religious understanding of Nature that supports what sense of environmentalism she does seem to have.

    There is a cycle that [Nature] goes through. I think that it can be very peaceful, on one side, and of course, like a volcano erupting, it can be not so peaceful. But, I think that it is sacred and holy, just because [of that] we should take care of it, and we should respect it. Nature brings out emotions and I think that because of that we should respect it, definitely from a religious side as well. And I think that that goes for our own bodies... everything. That's because that's more of a religious side, that we should take care of everything. I think that we should protect Nature... you know there is that saying that we are just borrowing the earth from our children, they're not giving it to us

Her religious sense about Nature contains a teleological twist.

    I think things happen in Nature because of purpose... this I think is a religious view... not necessarily a fatalistic view, that you have no control, but that there is a destiny, that there is... as an individual, I'm contributing to it, but I'm not the biggest part of it, of human kind that there is. I think there are purposes.

But what she has in mind by purpose is more about natural function than any kind of transcendent purpose. The "destiny" she refers to above seems to be survival of a species.

    Animals have instincts... Humans are different than animals in that we seem to be able to reason and really take control, and again I don't have a real biology background, but I observe those things, or watch shows on them, and so they have these cycles of their life which must have some purpose and it has a purpose for the food chain and how they are all, the whole huge, inter-related processes, so I think that when one... I think that I read this, that when one animal gets killed, it's usually the weakest one, and so that they are promoting the stronger one, so that would be a purpose, and that is one of those things that happens in Nature, because of purpose.

The idea of survival as destiny is applied to humans as well.

    Now, when man seems to get involved, I don't know that their purpose is to only... we help all our sick people, and then we... through other things... maybe through Nature, but maybe through our own design, then we harm them as well. It's not everywhere that we see that, but I think that it is the way it is meant to be. I think that the whole inter-relatedness of us and our world, is that... like okay we do have a purpose, some bigger picture, and I think that we are playing that part, but I don't know what it is going to lead to. There is no "lead-to" where we are all taking care of each other and we are somehow living in a balance, or are not. I don't know how it will end up. I do know that... I know that all things want to continue living, so that they all reproduce and that seems to be real important in Nature, for plants, people, and animals.

And as if to tie together main currents of her thought, Ms Jackson finishes with:

    I know that we need to use our resources wisely, that is real important.

That is, important to our human destiny to survive.


What can be said about these science teachers and their scientific worldviews? What can be said about Mr. Bradford? He talks like a scientist when he talks about the concepts of science such as the laws of physics and the rain cycle, or about observation, data collection and the importance of controlled experiment. He is personally committed to involvement with science and Nature, neither are abstract entities for him. He refers to scientists as people who "live" in Nature. Mr. Bradford talks about scientific knowledge but then goes on to say how complex Nature really is and that we will never "know everything there is to know about Nature. Nature is mysterious, and that is one of the principal things Mr. Bradford likes about Nature. Students commonly hear him talk about the mysteries of Nature and how science attempts to solve those mysteries. Mr. Bradford is a lover of scientific mysteries. Solutions to Nature's mysteries are important because knowing more about Nature will help us do less damage to Nature. Mr. Bradford makes no mention of traditional religious themes but his views of Nature have a semi-religious, earth cult quality to them. Nature "will always be here"; all organisms including humans share the same purpose, survival. He is an aesthetic person drawn to Nature by its beauty, and his values draw strongly from environmentalism.

What can be said about Mr. Hess? Like Mr. Bradford, most people would say that Mr. Hess talks like a scientist - probably more so since Mr. Hess is so strongly positive about the virtues of science. His comments about nature are focused and have an explicitly scientific emphasis. The method of science is analytical reductionism. It is not uncommon for students to hear Mr. Hess say that science proceeds by "taking things apart." Mr. Hess is a realist, and according to him, the patterns and order observed by scientists in Nature are actual attributes of Nature. Science is powerful and Mr. Hess expects that science will eventually triumph over Nature. Nature is understandable; humans will understand all. Mr. Hess is an optimistic reductionist. Not surprisingly, Mr. Hess values scientific understanding for its own sake; but he also has a distinctly utilitarian bent. Science is valuable because it extends human control over Nature; and, human need trumps aesthetics and environmentalism. Although Mr. Hess recognizes a role for religion along with science in understanding Nature, he keeps his religious views separate from his scientific views. One has the impression that he would be sympathetic to Stephen Jay Gould's (1999) "non overlapping magisteria," or NOMA. Science and religion are important but separate.

What can be said about Mr. David? Like his colleagues, he too appears to have a scientific worldview. Mr. David talks about the material make up of Nature, about heat and energy, dynamics. About living organisms he says, "when you look down to the molecular level, it really is just non-living, material molecules that are organized in complex ways." Mr. David has scientific curiosity; he wonders how things in Nature work. He is optimistic about scientific knowledge; it is "hopeful and peaceful"; it has the power to "enlighten." With scientific knowledge we can make better decisions and protect the environment. Nature, however, is complex, and Mr. David resorts to an anthropomorphism to make this point: "Nature is alive." Nature is composed of dualities that Mr. David describes using the Buddhist concept of Ying-yang. It is not uncommon for students to hear Mr. David talk about the complexities of Nature in terms of dualities. Even his description of scientific work involves a cycling between complexity and order: One studies the complexities of Nature to find patterns (complexity reduced); the patterns allow predictions; the predictions fail because Nature is more complex than previously thought (complexity increased). Scientific knowledge is powerful, yet there is mystery. And, Mr. David has an "instinctual connection to the sacredness of Nature." There is something about Nature that transcends the physical. He says his ideas are religious, emotional, and philosophical, "all three!" Mr. David is a scientific Buddhist.

And, what can be said about Ms Jackson? She clearly identifies herself as a scientist: "I am a scientist," she says; and later, "as scientists, we come up with laws of Nature or theories of Nature." Scientists do experiments that lead to knowledge about Nature and the ability to make accurate predictions about natural phenomenon. Why? Because events in Nature are orderly; they have patterns that can be learned. Nature can seem to be complex, but it is actually "not difficult to understand." I think that [Nature] is logical. I think that it is explainable." In her science classroom, she likes to emphasize her view that Nature is just not that difficult to understand. Ms Jackson finds beauty in Nature for its own sake, but she also finds science beautiful. Indeed, her concept of beauty in Nature is interwoven with her attraction to science: "Because of the physics and the refraction of light, you can understand a beautiful sunset." And while Ms Jackson supposes that there are limits to scientific knowledge, she readily suggests that we are already at the "80 percentile of knowledge." She is aware, however, that scientific knowledge has led to the exploitation of Nature, though not by scientists: "scientists come up with stuff and then later on somebody [else] finds a use for it that could be harmful, but that is why you need to protect it." Ms Jackson is a very logical, scientific Pollyanna.

Here we have four science teachers who by ordinary accounts are good science teachers with good science credentials. They customarily talk and act like science teachers; surely, they each have a scientific worldview. Yet, they can be so different: The lover of scientific mysteries, the optimistic reductionist, the scientific Buddhist, and the logical scientific Pollyanna. Of course, what they all have are elements of what the American Association for the Advancement of Science, among others, say is constituent of a scientific worldview. Those elements, however, are embedded in some quite different cultural frameworks. Do the differences matter? We think so. Alsop and Watts (1997, p. 648) argue that, "a person's engagement with scientific knowledge must fit with his or her self-image and lifestyle, to enable them to act with confidence and self-direction." These are four teachers who do "act with confidence and self-direction", and as Alsop and Watts suggest, we think this is due to their obvious personalizations of science. What they have enacted is not the scientific worldview, but a personalized scientific worldview. Moreover, teachers' personalized scientific worldviews are going to be evident in their classrooms at a level beyond that of their ideas about the nature of science (NOS). NOS research has clearly established that simply having NOS knowledge does not mean that teachers will make NOS part of their science teaching (Benson, 1989; Lederman, 1999; Lederman, Schwartz, Abd-El-Khalick, & Bell, in press). In contrast, a teacher's personalized scientific worldview is the actual cognitive milieu in which the teacher holds scientific ideas, providing the medium for the expression of those ideas.

We further suggest that the teacher's communication of science in the classroom, under the influence of a personalized scientific worldview, can have subtle and serious repercussions with the students. Ann was a ninth grade student in a science course taught by Mr. Hess, the optimistic reductionist. She and Mr. Hess provide a case in point. In an interview, Ann used significant aesthetic and religious elements to describe the natural world:

    To me, Nature is beautiful and pure because it is God's creation. Nature provides both aesthetic and emotional pleasure and I need it for self-renewal. I like to go where you can't see any influence by man. When I'm out in nature, I feel calm and peaceful. It is a spiritual feeling and it helps me understand myself... This leads me to ask questions that I'd like to find answers to. The pleasure I get from nature is enhanced by the mysteries I see in it. (Cobern et al., 1995, p. 24)

When Ann was asked about her science class with Mr. Hess, she made it quite clear that the class was not about the natural world, as she understood Nature. Nature in her view is something friendly that you can joyously be part of. What impressed her about the science class were incidents such as Mr. Hess's warning that they would be handling dangerous chemicals during the course. It is no surprise then to find that Ann was not particularly fond of the class and would have preferred to be taking something else. One might be tempted to dismiss this young lady's aversion to dangerous chemicals as temporary and solely a result of insufficient conceptual understanding. She does not yet understand that there is danger in Nature, but with proper understanding and technique, this danger need not be viewed as a threat. From a cultural perspective, however, Ann's aversion can be seen as rooted in an aesthetic sense of Nature that contrasts with Mr. Hess's matter-of-fact, reductionist ("tearing it apart") approach to science and Nature. The result is that Ann's engagement with science (as per Alsop & Watts, 1997) in Mr. Hess's classroom amounted to a poor personal fit; and Ann's worldview showed little change for having been in Mr. Hess's classroom, though in fact she got a good grade. Since all four of the science teachers took turns teaching sections of the ninth grade physical science course, one has to suspect that Ann would have had a more meaningful encounter with science had she taken the course with the Lover of Scientific Mysteries or the Scientific Buddhist.

Of course, it is not reasonable to think that schools could match students and science teachers in this way. What science teachers can do, however, is be more reflective about how they personally understand science (what is my personalized scientific worldview?) and more explicit with their students about the various ways that people understand science - that there are in fact multiple enacted scientific worldviews amongst the scientifically educated. It is reasonable for science teachers to recognize that learning science often involves students in acts of cultural border crossing (Aikenhead, 1996; Cobern and Aikenhead, 1998; Aikenhead and Jegede, 1999), borders derived from the ternary interaction of student culture, teacher culture, and the culture of science.

It may be that one of the most powerful determiners of views on nature come from the language of the textbooks teachers choose. Ostman (1998) noted that in examining various science texts there was a preponderance of what he calls "mechanistic" or "classical" use of important terms. He became convinced there were several "nature" languages. Thus students' conceptions of science, nature and their relationship can be influenced by the way concepts are described in texts. Water is an object and it is explained in relation to its basic components. On the other hand Killbourn (1998) introduces us to an "organicist" root metaphor--language that might "argue for the kind of talk in the curriculum that would enable students to have a better metacognitive purchase on how they are being socialized to construct reality" (p. 2). Here phenomena and events are described as part of a larger whole. It does make sense that if all the major concepts one learns in science class are presented largely in isolation of the "big picture" at what point during the year does the word "nature" even enter the vocabulary of the teachers or the students--maybe never.

It is interesting to examine the origin of the "Western" view of nature. For example, what happened to the 19th century American movement known as transcen-dentalism? Literary giant Ralph Waldo Emerson saw nature as both spiritual and material with man included; Poet Walt Whitman extended transcendentalism so that not only the soul of man was an integral part of nature "but the body " even some of its private parts. "I celebrate myself" Both transcendentalism and an unabashed mixing of religion and science with nature are expressed in an early 20th Century children's book, Fairyland of Science by Arabella B. Buckley (1919). She writes "We are all groping dimly for the Unseen Power, but no one who loves nature and studies it can ever feel alone or unloved in the world." but even the little child who lives with nature and gazes on her with open eye, must rise in some sense or other through nature to nature's God".

The notion that we must have a view of nature separate from ourselves may be a false dichotomy. Yet often the separation of both nature and science from the self is all part of the stereotypical Western view of nature. This modern emphasis succeeded in affecting views of nature coming out of Taoist or Buddhist countries like China when they first began sending their young people to study in the West around 1912 (Slay, 1999). There may have been elements of transcendentalism and other holistic notions of the relationship between nature and science existing in the West, but clearly science education did not suggest that, nor did the public promotions of scientific advancements. In a blurb on the back cover of Natural Acts: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature (Quammen, 1985), David Rains Wallace credits the book with handling well the" tricky and ambiguous territory where nature, science and humanity overlap."


The Nobel Laureate in physics, Leon Lederman, has become much involved with school science education. He argues that,

    To preserve our four-hundred-year commitment to a scientific worldview, we need our educated people to incorporate scientific thinking 'the blend of curiosity and skepticism, the habit of critical questioning' into their very nature. (Lederman, 1996, p. 23)

An important implication of this popular view is that science teachers have a scientific worldview. Our research, however, provides evidence in support of an alternative: Although one can verbally describe an abstraction called the scientific worldview, amongst human beings there is no single scientific worldview. There are only enacted interpretations. Moreover, enacting the abstract notion of a scientific worldview is subject to a myriad of cognitive forces within each individual person. Hence, one can almost say that there are as many scientific worldviews as there are people who both know something about science and who consider science important. Recognizing that science teachers are cultural beings, just as is any human, will allow for a more open classroom discourse on the many legitimate ways that people come to think about science. Rather than contributing to a false sense that "one ideology fits all" who are scientifically literate, students will thus be afforded a more valid opportunity for a personal, culturally relevant experience with science.


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About the Authors...

Bill Cobern has an undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry from the University of California, San Diego, and a doctoral degree in science education from the University of Colorado, Boulder. His area of research is the cultural and philosophical study of science and science education. He has published in the NARST monograph series, the Journal for Research in Science Teaching, Science Education, Science & Education, the International Journal of Science Education, International Science Education, The Science Teacher, the Journal of Science Teacher Education, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, West Africa, and the Benin Journal of Education. He is the section editor for Culture and Comparative Studies for the journal Science Education, and the book series editor for the Science and Technology Education Library, Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Cathleen C. Loving is an assistant professor in curriculum and instruction at Texas A&M University. She received a B.S. degree in biology at Pennsylvania State University and an M.A.T. degree in biology from Duke University. She taught high school biology for a number of years before returning to the University of Texas at Austin for a Ph.D in science education. She has particular research interests in the relationship between conceptions of the nature of science and science teaching, as well as elements of scientific inquiry such as conceptual change and model-based reasoning.

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