Many students have misconceptions about what science is and how it works. This section explains and corrects some of the most common misconceptions that students are likely have trouble with. If you are interested in common misconceptions about teaching the nature and process of science, visit our page on that topic.
MISCONCEPTION: Experiments are a necessary part of the scientific process. Without an experiment, a study is not rigorous or scientific.!--content-->
MISCONCEPTION: Scientists' observations directly tell them how things work (i.e., knowledge is "read off" nature, not built).!--content-->
MISCONCEPTION: If evidence supports a hypothesis, it is upgraded to a theory. If the theory then garners even more support, it may be upgraded to a law.!--content-->
MISCONCEPTION: Scientists are judged on the basis of how many correct hypotheses they propose (i.e., good scientists are the ones who are "right" most often).!--content-->
MISCONCEPTION: Scientists are completely objective in their evaluation of scientific ideas and evidence.!--content-->
MISCONCEPTION: Science contradicts the existence of God.!--content-->
MISCONCEPTION: Science and technology can solve all our problems.!--content-->
MISCONCEPTION: Science is a solitary pursuit.!--content-->
MISCONCEPTION: Science is done by "old, white men."!--content-->
MISCONCEPTION: Scientists are atheists.!--content-->
Some misconceptions occur simply because scientific language and everyday language use some of the same words differently.
In school, many students get the wrong impression of science. While not technically misconceptions, these overgeneralizations are almost always inaccurate — and can make it more difficult for the students who hold them to learn science.
MISCONCEPTION: Science is boring.!--content-->
MISCONCEPTION: Science isn't important in my life.!--content-->
MISCONCEPTION: I am not good at science.!--content-->
1Ecklund, E.H., and C.P. Scheitle. 2007. Religion among academic scientists: Distinctions, disciplines, and demographics. Social Problems 54(2):289-307.
- Unfortunately, many textbooks promulgate misconceptions about the nature and process of science. Use this list to review your textbook, and then discuss any misrepresentations with students.
- You can highlight misconceptions about science that are promulgated in the media by starting a bulletin board that highlights examples of misconceptions found in the popular press — for example, misuses of the word theory, implications that scientists always use “the scientific method,” or that experimental science is more rigorous than non-experimental science.
- Use word lists to combat misconceptions about science that stem from vocabulary mix-ups. Find out how in this article distributed with permission from Science Scope.