History And Philosophy Of Science | Scientific Reasoning
X200 | 3008 | 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 American, including college students (and Faculty!) are also
firmly committed to claims that appear quite inplausible 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 astrolgoy 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 draw 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 either the history of science or examples of
scientific practice.  There will be frequent quizzes and homework,
necessitating regular class attendance.