History and Philosophy Of Science | Scientific Reasoning
X200 | 7161 | Melinda Fagan


HPSC X200  Scientific Reasoning

Science, in general, is a collection of methods we use to learn
about the world.  An explosion of knowledge and technology over the
past few centuries attests to the success of these methods.  Yet the
question remains: why do these methods work so well?  What makes
science so successful?

Among the most important tools of science are methods of effective
reasoning, including logical standards that are rarely used by
untrained individuals.  In fact, without special training, people
routinely commit (often costly) errors of reasoning, over and over.
It is no coincidence that the tools of effective reasoning are
indispensable in non-scientific fields as well as in science: from
law to journalism, philosophy to public affairs.

This course is in two parts.  In the first, we aim to provide a
grounding in principles of effective reasoning that can be useful in
many areas of life.  We will learn to identify and use both
inductive and deductive forms of reasoning, to identify and correct
common mistakes in reasoning (fallacies), and to recognize the
strengths and weaknesses in both political arguments and everyday
disagreements.  In the second part of the course, we look at the
application of these methods of logical reasoning in natural
science, focusing on causal reasoning, controlled experiments, and
hypothesis testing.