Lines of Research

Science Teaching

History and philosophy of sciences and science education have become closer and closer in the course of the last 15 years, after a long time of mutually exclusive development. Several analyzes of the causes for the so-called 'science literacy crisis' in western education have pointed to the insertion of history and philosophy of sciences into science teaching as one of the factors that could contribute to its overcoming. Thus science teaching could become closer to students' interests and reality, and science could be presented not as a listing of technical terms, concepts, formulas, truths, and definitions, but as an exciting, vibrant human activity as well – as it is the case for those who are involved in it. Many authors have expressed the belief that science education can be substantially improved at all levels of education if the historical and philosophical dimensions of science are incorporated into instructional initiatives. It has become practically a consensus in the field of science education that the learning of science needs to be followed up by  the learning about science. In several countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Italy and The Netherlands, the incorporation of historical and philosophical dimensions in science education has been advocated in both government and non-government documents. On the other hand, historical and philosophical studies may play an important role in research on teaching and learning, as desmonstrated by investigations on the model of conceptual change and meaningful learning. In this line of research, there are projects whose objects are the relationship between history, philosophy and science teaching; proposals for elementary, middle and higher education, as well as proposals for the scientific dissemination and continuing education for teachers. The line "Science Teaching” has five thematic fields:
  • Theoretical-conceptual investigations on the relationship between history, philosophy and science teaching;
  • Research on production of educational materials (books, experiment guides, experimental assembling, concept maps, exhibitions, etc.);
  • Research on the use of teaching approaches addressing the historical and philosophical dimensions of the sciences;
  • Investigations on nonconventional forms of evaluation (conceptual maps, interviews, etc.);
  • Empirical research on notions on the nature of science from students and teachers.
Permanent Faculty Members: Amanda Amantes Neiva Ribeiro, Andréia Maria Pereira de Oliveira, Bárbara Carine Soares Pinheiro, Charbel Niño El-Hani, Cláudia de Alencar Serra and Sepúlveda, Ecivaldo de Ssouza Matos, Edílson Fortuna de Moradillo, Elder Sales Teixeira, Fabiana Roberta Gonçalves e Silva Hussein, Fábio Pessoa Vieira, Geilsa Costa Santos Baptista, Hélio da Silva Messeder Neto, Indianara Lima Silva, Jonei Cerqueira Barbosa, José Luís de Paula Barros Silva, Juan Manuel Sánchez Artega, Luiz Márcio Santos Fariais, Katemari Diogo da Rosa, Lynn Rosalina Gama Alves, Marco Antônio Leandro Barzano, Rejane Maria Lira da Silva, and Rosiléia Oliveira de Almeida.
Associate Faculty Members: Ana Paula Miranda Guimarães, Maria Cristina Martins Penido, Nei de Freitas Nunes Neto, and Ileana María Rosa Greca.

Philosophy of Sciences

Studies are conducted on the different aspects related to the structure of scientific theories, from general studies on scientific rationality to concentrated analyzes in specific fields. From a more general point of view, related to the interface of this field with Philosophy, methodological aspects of scientific research are observed, such as the question of scientific explanation, confirmation and change, and the ontological aspects of the scientific worldview, such as causality, determinism and reductionism. Original reflection is stimulated, as well as the dialogue with the philosophical tradition, particularly the one that comes from the English empiricism, going through the Kantian criticism, pragmatism, leading to the logical positivism and analytical philosophy of the twentieth century. In this tradition, authors such as Duhem, Carnap, Popper, Quine, Feyerabend, van Fraassen, among others are analyzed, contrasting internalist and externalist perspectives of science. The contemporary philosophical criticism of science and rationality is also addressed. This approach interprets the scientific discourse from the point of view of its historical and cognitive determinants. One concern that cuts across this line of research is that the teaching, the learning of scientific notions and procedures do not happen through empirical verification, but through  the designing of conceptual schemas, semantic games, cognitive and operative structures, and power relations. Authors such as Wittgenstein, Putnam and Rorty guide this research topic. The field of Philosophy of Sciences also has a great interface with the research in History of Sciences. On the one hand, an epistemological research is developed on the work of important scientists of the past, such as Galileo and Darwin. On the other hand, the relationship between Philosophy of Science and History of Sciences is investigated, inspired by theoreticians such as Koyré, Bachelard and Holton, or following the tradition of research on scientific change that reached its climax in the 1970s, based on the works of Kuhn, Lakatos and Laudan, among others. One of the research projects related to this line is the detailed investigation, with the aid of computer science, of counterfactual histories (that is, possible histories that have not happened) of specific fields of modern science. In the studies developed on the structure of scientific theories of specific areas (Physics, Biology, Informatics, Geosciences, etc.), special attention is given to the concepts used (space-time, complementarity, life, gene, etc.), which is also relevant for Science Teaching. In Physics, the emphasis has been particularly on Quantum Mechanics. We have worked with complementarity (trying to make this somewhat vague concept more precise), including its ramifications in areas outside Physics, with the problem of measurement (or the collapse of the wave function), with the status of hidden variable theories (particularly the Broglie-Bohm theory) and Nonlocality (shown by Bell's theorem), and with Quantum Field Theory. In the field of Informatics, special attention has been given to the analogue vs. digital relationship, and to an analysis of the concept of information. In Biology, the focus has been on the question regarding the levels of explanation (simplistically referred to as the reductionism / holism debate), the emergent properties in biological systems (from the study of causal processes in such systems), and investigations on the concepts of life (its definition, the gaia hypothesis, the status of viruses and prions, etc.), and gene and the genetic trait (from biosemiotic). Finally, we highlight the interest of the line on the examination of concepts and methods from other fields of science, from Mathematics and Geosciences to Linguistics and Psychology.
Faculty Members: Charbel Niño El-Hani, Gustavo Rodrigues Rocha, João Carlos Salles Pires da Silva, Luca Tateo, and Waldomiro J. da S. Filho.
Associate Faculty Member: Nei de Freitas Nunes Neto, and Osvaldo Frota Pessoa Junior.

History of Sciences

Historical studies on concepts, theories, institutions and scientific activities are carried out. Although the approaches may vary according to the researcher and the object of study, from social historical approaches to approaches essentially connected to the history of ideas, works already carried out and those in progress have the common characteristic of not underestimating or diluting the cognitive dimension present in scientific theories; a common element that has facilitated the dialogue between the many researchers that work in this line of research, as well as with the researchers who work in the lines of philosophy of sciences and science teaching. For the history of sciences in Brazil, particularly in Bahia, a redefinition of the notion of science and the methodology of historical research has been adopted, which makes it possible, and feasible, historical research under the premise of the existence, since the Colonial period, of a scientific activity in Brazil. In order to carry out this line of research, the following aspects are considered: the professionals involved in the scientific practice, their performance and their forms of organization, as well as the production and dissemination in the various scientific fields. In choosing of themes and periods, the Program not only considers, but also values, the possible implications of these studies for the dissemination process, the teaching and learning of sciences and, in a general perspective, for the development of scientific culture in Brazil and for the inscription of science in the Brazilian culture. For this reason, the study of modern science has been favored, meaning the set of scientific theories elaborated as of the seventeenth century under the influence of the notions and methods elaborated by Galileo and Newton. The premise of valuing these implications is that:
  • A better understanding of the meaning and implications of the concepts of modern science can be achieved by taking into account the historical process of creation, development and formalization of these notions and theories;
  • The history of science offers a relevant contribution to investigations that seek to accomplish an education on sciences, going beyond the teaching of Science as a subject ; and
  • Inscribing science in the history of Brazil and Bahia can contribute to bring the scientific activity closer to the reality experienced by students. So far, in particular, the Copernican revolution, the Galilean physics, the electromagnetic theory, the creation of quantum physics, and the controversy over its interpretation and its foundations, the incidence of such controversy in Brazilian Physics, the case of the constitution of computer science and the information theory, as well as Darwinism have been studied. In addition, the diversity of forms of support for research developed by society and the State throughout history, and the evolution of scientific relationships throughout the twentieth century between the North and the South. Subjects of the history of sciences in Brazil that are studied include the works and activities of the engineer and writer Euclides da Cunha; of the engineer Teodoro Sampaio; of doctor Pirajá da Silva; mathematical activities in Bahia in the  twentieth century; science teaching in Brazil between 1960 and 1970; and activities of the Imperial Agronomy Institute.
Permanent Faculty Members: Alessandra Santana Soares e Barros, André Luis Mattedi Dias, Gustavo Rodrigues Rocha, Indianara Lima Silva, José Fernando Moura Rocha, Juan Manuel Sánchez Arteaga, and Olival Freire Jr.
Associate Faculty Member: Amilcar Baiardi, Moema de Rezende Vergara, and Luiz Carlos Soares.