History And Philosophy Of Science | Scientific Reasoning
X200 | 3007 | Associate Instructor


Every aspect of contemporary life is permeated by the technoproducts
of modern science: even affairs of the heart are shaped by
word-processed love letters; assignations are arranged by email and
accompanied by music from a compact disc.  We are fascinated by books
and television programs on purely theoretical topics such as
cosmology, chaos theory or cognitive science.  Yet an astonishing
number of Americans, including college students (and faculty!) are
also firmly committed to claims that appear quite implausible in the
light of modern science.  Many believe that a "personalized" number is
more apt to win the lottery, that telepathy works and premonitions
should be taken seriously, that there is "something" to astrology and
flying saucers, alien abductions and aura adjustments, and sighting of
Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat.  In this course, we will examine various
aspects of scientific reasoning and draq comparison with both common
sense reasoning and the kinds of thinking which figure in mythology
and ideology.  Topics will include nitty-gritty issues, such as cause
vs. correlations, and the role of aesthetics and metaphysics in
science, as well as discussions of the role of intuition and how to
read science news releases critically.  Each topic will be illustrated
by a case-study drawn from eith the history of science or examples of
scientific practice.  There will be frequent quizzes and homework,
necessitating regular class attendance.