Is Science Truth? - When Does Science Get It Wrong?

Is Science Truth? - When Does Science Get It Wrong?

Lesson 7 of 8 in this unit

  • Cool+
  • Secondary
  • Year 10
  • Science
  • Human Endeavour
  • Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures
  • Social
  • Indigenous Education
  • ...

Lesson summary

This lesson allows students to explore the relationship between Science and truth by analysing scientific misconceptions and theories that have been altered and updated as our understanding deepens and our technology improves. Students will examine past scientific theories and reflect on how these theories have been expanded as more information becomes available. 

Learning intentions:

Students will...

  • investigate the role of science and the scientific community in the justification of policies affecting First Nations Australians during the 19th and early 20th century
  • explore how the values and beliefs of a society may influence the direction of scientific research and how, in turn, scientific concepts may have an impact on the governance of that society.

Success criteria:

Students can...

  • give examples of past scientific theories and outline how theories are expanded and built upon as more information becomes available
  • critique the relationship between science and truth.

Lesson guides and printables

Student Worksheet
Lesson Plan
Teacher Content Info

Lesson details

Curriculum mapping

Australian Curriculum (v9.0) content descriptions:


Students learn to:

  • Examine how the values and needs of society influence the focus of scientific research (AC9S10H04)

    Elaboration: Research how the values of the 19th and early 20th-century Australian society, combined with scientific misconceptions about heredity and evolution, influenced policies and attitudes towards First Nations Australians.

General capabilities: Ethical Understanding, Personal and Social capability

Syllabus outcomes: SC5-3VA

Cross-curriculum priority: SustainabilityAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures

Relevant parts of Year 10 achievement standards:
Students can analyse key factors that influence interactions between science and society.


This lesson is designed to build students’ competencies in the following skills:

  • communication
  • social skills
  • curiosity
  • global citizenship
  • ethical understanding
  • empathy
  • intercultural understanding
  • reflection
  • critical thinking

UN Sustainable Development Goals

UN SDG 4: Quality Education

Target 4.7: By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development"

Resources required

  • Computer
  • Projector

Additional Info

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that these lessons may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.

The ‘Is Science Truth?’ lesson sequence allows students to explore the involvement of the scientific community in shaping policies that impacted First Nations Australians in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It encourages students to examine how prevailing beliefs at the time, which emphasized the supposed moral and intellectual superiority of the “white race,” influenced scientific research that focused on categorizing human populations based on physical, mental, and moral characteristics. By investigating this historical context, students can gain insights into the deep-rooted biases and skewed perspectives that influenced scientific justifications for discriminatory policies.

This lesson is designed to be taught in conjunction with Lesson 2 - Is Science Truth? – The Lasting Impacts of Scientific Discovery. This lesson, ‘When Does Science Get It Wrong?’, sets the stage for a deeper understanding of the relationship of science to truth in order to tackle some heavier and more nuanced, complex content in the next lesson. 

The next lesson in this sequence invites students to think critically about the relationship between scientific discovery and societal values and how the marriage of these things can sometimes lead to negative impacts. Mainly the negative impacts that scientific misconceptions about heredity and evolution at the time of colonisation had on Australia’s First Nations peoples.

Level of teacher scaffolding: High – Discussion of sensitive concepts and theories

This is an original Cool+ lesson.

Related professional learning

How to Teach Critical Thinking – Secondary  

Quick summary: This course will help you to view the world with a more critical eye by introspectively exploring your own biases of thinking.

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