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How science ideas change over time

Levels: 7-8
NoS achievement aims: Understanding about science icon. Understanding about science
Contextual strands: Planet Earth and beyond icon. Planet Earth and beyond
Topic: Space


The accepted views of science knowledge can change over time. Changes can result from new science observations, but can also be affected by social, political or religious convictions. To develop a deeper understanding, students need to investigate the context of the time in which science ideas were developed.

What you need

  • Information, anecdotes and stories about scientists, astronomers or philosophers who faced opposition for their science theories or investigations.

Note: Supporting activity resources are provided below.


  • Do science explanations that are accepted as valid change over time?
  • Are science ideas influenced by the views held by society?
  • Why might new science ideas be opposed?
  • What do we need to know about the context of the era in which a scientific idea arises, in order to understand the opposition it might meet?


The students work, in groups or individually, to research the life and ideas of a person involved in the development of a scientific theory which faced opposition from the society in which it was developed.

  • What challenges or opposition did this person face in having their theories accepted?
  • Why?
  • Do you think those challenges/opposition are still there today?
  • What sort of challenges or opposition (for example, ethical or economic challenges) do you think present-day scientists face?

The students present their findings to the class in an oral, written or other format.


  • How did prevailing world views affect the acceptance of scientific ideas in the past?
  • How might the general world view and/or the variety of world views today influence the acceptance of science ideas now?
  • Do people recognise that they have a particular way of looking at the world?
  • Do you recognise that you have a particular way of looking at the world?
  • What questions do you need to ask to analyse your own world view?

Activity resources

  • The story of Galileo as a scientist who faced opposition for his science theories or investigations.

Word icon. Galileo’s story (Word 28 KB)