Philosophical Approaches of Religious Jewish Science Teachers Toward the Teaching of ‘Controversial’ Topics in Science


Source: International Journal of Science Education, 2010

This research examines the problems that religious Jewish science teachers in Israeli high schools have in coping with science subjects (such as geological time) which conflict with their religious beliefs. This was done by characterizing the philosophical approaches within Judaism that such teachers have adopted for dealing with such controversy. Thus, the researchers surveyed 56 religious teachers using a Likert-type questionnaire developed for this research, as well as interviewed 11 teachers to more deeply probe their approaches. In addition, they surveyed 15 religious scientists, so that they could both contrast their views with the teacher samples as well as to better understand their coping strategies when confronted by scientific topics that challenge their beliefs.


Results indicated that no single philosophical approach earned overwhelming support from the teachers or scientists. Instead, most of the subjects relate separately to each source of possible conflict in accordance with the philosophical approach that appears to be the most fruitful for resolving such conflicts. Moreover, both the scientists and the teachers felt less conflicted toward the specific subject of geological time, in comparison to issues connected to creation of the earth and (especially) evolution. The teachers did differ from the scientists in their preference toward philosophical approaches which help them better integrate the domains of science and religion.


Based on their findings, the researchers suggest a set of strategies to help teachers overcome their difficulties in teaching 'controversial' science topics to a religiously oriented student population.

Updated: Mar. 21, 2010