Conclusion: Understanding the Elusive Nature of Objectivity

  • Mansoor NiazEmail author
Part of the Contemporary Trends and Issues in Science Education book series (CTISE, volume 46)


An evaluation of research reported in this book shows the problematic nature of understanding some of the universal values associated with objectivity such as certainty, value neutral observations, facts, infallibility, and truth of scientific theories and laws. These results provide a detailed account (over a period of almost 25 years) of how the science education research community conceptualizes the difficulties involved in accepting objectivity as an unquestioned epistemic virtue of the scientific enterprise. Analyses of general chemistry textbooks are used to introduce the idea of “transgression of objectivity” and that scientific progress (nanotechnology) is at a crossroads. Given the importance of objectivity/subjectivity dichotomy in science education, it is plausible to suggest that objectivity has become an opiate of the academic. Although, achievement of objectivity in actual scientific practice is a myth, it still remains a powerful and useful idea. It seems that more work needs to be done in order to facilitate a transition toward a more nuanced understanding of objectivity and eventually the dynamics of scientific progress.


  1. Aikenhead, G. (2008). Objectivity: the opiate of the academic? Cultural Studies of Science Education, 3(3), 581–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aikenhead, G., & Michell, H. (2011). Bridging cultures: indigenous and scientific ways of knowing nature. Toronto: Pearson Education Canada.Google Scholar
  3. American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS. (1993). Benchmarks for science literacy: project 2061. Washington: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Blake, D. D. (1994). Revolution, revision or reversal: genetics-ethics curriculum. Science & Education, 3(4), 373–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cushing, J. T. (1995). Hermeneutics, underdetermination and quantum mechanics. Science & Education, 4(2), 137–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Daston, L., & Galison, P.L. (1992). The image of objectivity. Representations, 40 (special issue: seeing science), 81–128.Google Scholar
  7. Daston, L., & Galison, P. (2007). Objectivity. New York: Zone Books.Google Scholar
  8. Duhem, P. (1914). The aim and structure of physical theory (2nd ed., trans: Wiener, P. P.). New York: Atheneum.Google Scholar
  9. Gergen, K. J. (1994). The mechanical self and the rhetoric of objectivity. In A. Megill (Ed.), Rethinking objectivity. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Giere, R. N. (2006a). Perspectival pluralism. In S. H. Kellert, H. E. Longino & C. K. Waters (Eds.), Scientific pluralism (pp. 26–41). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  11. Giere, R. N. (2006b). Scientific perspectivism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1989). Fourth generation evaluation. Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  13. Harding, S. (2015). Objectivity and diversity: another logic of scientific research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hoffmann, R. (2012). J. Kovac & M. Weisberg (Eds.), Roald Hoffmann on the philosophy, art, and science of chemistry. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hoffmann, R. (2014). The tensions of scientific storytelling: science depends on compelling narratives. American Scientist, 102, 250–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Holton, G. (1978a). Subelectrons, presuppositions, and the Millikan-Ehrenhaft dispute. Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences, 9, 161–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Holton, G. (1978b). The scientific imagination: case studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Holton, G. (2014). The neglected mandate: teaching science as part of our culture. Science & Education, 23, 1875–1877.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Irzik, G. (2015). Values and Western science knowledge. In R. Gunstone (Ed.), Encyclopedia of science education (pp. 1093–1096). Heidelberg: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Longino, H. E. (1990). Science as social knowledge: values and objectivity in scientific inquiry. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Longino, H. E. (2002). The fate of knowledge. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Machamer, P., & Wolters, G. (2004). Introduction: science, values and objectivity. In P. Machamer & G. Wolters (Eds.), Science, values and objectivity (pp. 1–13). Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.Google Scholar
  23. McCarthy, C.L. (2014). Cultural studies in science education: philosophical considerations. In M.R. Matthews (Ed.), International handbook of research in history, philosophy and science teaching (Vol. III, pp. 1927–1964).Google Scholar
  24. Medawar, P. B. (1967). The art of the soluble. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  25. Merton, R.K. (1942). Science and technology in a democratic order. Journal of Legal and Political Sociology, 1. Reprinted as ‘Science and Democratic Social Structure’, in his Social theory and social structure. New York: Free Press (1957).Google Scholar
  26. Niaz, M. (2016). Chemistry education and contributions from history and philosophy of science. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Phillips, D. C., & Burbules, N. C. (2000). Postpositivism and educational research. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  28. Piaget, J. (1971). Biology and knowledge: an essay on the relations between organic regulations and cognitive processes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  29. Polanyi, M. (1964). Personal knowledge: towards a post-critical philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (first published 1958).Google Scholar
  30. Polanyi, M. (1966). The tacit dimension. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  31. Reiss, M. J. (2014). What significance does Christianity have for science education? In M. R. Matthews (Ed.), International handbook of research in history, philosophy and science teaching (pp. 1637–1662). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  32. Rowlands, S., Graham, T., & Berry, J. (2011). Problems with fallibilism as a philosophy of mathematics education. Science & Education, 20(7–8), 625–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Slezak, P. (1994). Sociology of scientific knowledge and scientific education, Part I. Science & Education, 3(3), 265–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Smith, M. U., & Siegel, H. (2016). On the relationship between belief and acceptance of evolution as goals of evolution education. Science & Education, 25(5–6), 473–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Vermeir, K. (2013). Scientific research: commodities or commons? Science & Education, 22(10), 2485–2510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wong, S. L., Kwan, J., Hodson, D., & Jung, B. H. W. (2009). Turning crisis into opportunity: nature of science and scientific inquiry as illustrated in the scientific research on severe acute respiratory syndrome. Science & Education, 18(1), 95–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Epistemology of Science Group, Department of ChemistryUniversidad de OrienteCumanáVenezuela

Personalised recommendations