History and Philosophy Of Science | Scientific Reasoning
X200 | 2907 | Raef Byers


X200 -- Scientific Reasoning

Science is by and large a collection of methods we use to learn
about the world. An explosion of knowledge, wealth, and other
benefits to humanity over just the past several centuries attests to
the success of those methods; yet similar success eludes us in many
cultural arenas in which political and religious strife, economic
upheaval, and outright war remain commonplace. Why?

Consider that among the most important tools of science are methods
for effective reasoning, including standards of logic and
communication that are rarely used by untrained individuals. Indeed,
without special training, people routinely commit serious (and often
costly) errors of reasoning, over and over. It is no coincidence
that the tools of effective reasoning are indispensable in non-
scientific fields, from the law to journalism; from philosophy to
public affairs.

In this course we aim to provide a grounding in principles of
effective reasoning that can bring lifelong benefits. We will learn
to identify and use both deductive and inductive forms of reasoning,
to identify and correct common mistakes in reasoning (fallacies),
and to spot the strengths and weaknesses in important kinds of
scientific studies, political arguments, and everyday disagreements
over what's what. Along the way we'll cover the basics of
symbolizing arguments, truth-functional connectives, conditional and
causal arguments, probability and statistics in induction,
confirmation and disconfirmation of hypotheses, and categorical
syllogisms.