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Abstract

A model called the Scientific Theory Profile was developed for use with preservice and inservice science teachers or with graduate students interested in the various ways scientific theories are perceived. Early indications—from a survey of institutions with science education programs and a survey of current science methods texts—are that too little emphasis is placed on what contemporary writings reveal about the nature and importance of scientific theories. This prompted the development of the Profile. The Profile consists of a grid, with the x-axis representing methods for judging theories (rational vs. natural), and the y-axis representing views on reigning scientific theories as being the Truth versus models of what works best (realism vs. anti-realism). Three well-known philosophers of science who were selected for detailed analysis and who form the “keystone” positions on the Profile are Thomas Kuhn, Carl Hempel, and Sir Karl Popper. The hypothesis was that an analysis of the writings of respected individuals in philosophy and history of science who have different perspectives on theories (as well as overarching areas of agreement) could be translated into relative coordinates on a graph; and that this visual model might be helpful to science teachers in developing a balanced philosophy of science and a deeper understanding of the power of reigning theories. Nine other contemporary philosophers, all influenced by the three originals, are included in brief analyses, with their positions on the grid being relative to the keystones. The Scientific Theory Profile then forms the basis for a course, now in the planning stages, in perspectives on the nature of science, primarily for science teachers, with some objectives and activities suggested.