Science & Education

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 219–246

The Nature of Science and the Role of Knowledge and Belief

  • William W. Cobern


In everyday language we tend to think of ‘knowledge’ as reasoned belief that a proposition is true and the natural sciences provide the archetypal example of what it means to know. Religious and ideological propositions are the typical examples of believed propositions. Moreover, the radical empiricist worldview so often associated with modern science has eroded society's meaningful sense of life. Western history, however, shows that knowledge and belief have not always been constructed separately. In addition, modern developments in the philosophy and history of science have seriously undermined the radical empiricist's excessive confidence in scientific methods. Acknowledging in the science classroom the parallel structure of knowledge and belief, and recognizing that science requires a presuppositional foundation that is itself not empirically verifiable would re introduce a valuable discussion on the meaning of science and its impact on life. Science would less likely be taught as a `rhetoric of conclusions'. The discussion would also help students to gain a firmer integration of science with other important knowledge and beliefs that they hold.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • William W. Cobern
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Teaching, Learning & LeadershipWestern Michigan UniversityKalamazooUSA

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