Science, knowledge & society
We will discuss the basic assumptions of the scientific method, and how science differs from other forms of "knowledge". Click here for Introductory Lecture notes (in PowerPoint).
Lecture notes are given for the week they will be used. Print them and bring them to class to annotate during the lecture. See the home page for the best way to print the lecture notes.Attend lectures!
Much of the course content is given in lectures. Students who skip lectures reliably do a lot worse!
During each lecture I will announce specific topics that will show up on the exam.
For lecture: read two short articles from the New York Times. One on Science v. Pseudo-science, and one on the the effects of political polarization on science, plus chapter 1 of the Ray text (or, the equivalent of "What is Science" in whatever text you are using.
For discussion group (and lecture): Controversy over the importance or existence of evolution as a basic biological principle is an example of our cultural tendency to infuse science with religion. Click the "Dover" image below to watch an excellent Nova documentary on the conflict between Conservative Christians and local parents & teachers over the inclusion of "intelligent design" in Dover Pa. High School biology classes.
Discussion group Assignment
Politics and Science
Click the image to watch the Nova video, then answer the following, taking one typed page or so. This is a thought exercise: do not worry about writing the "correct" answer. Be thoughtful & creative. Hand this in during your week 1 discussion group on Friday.
Why does it seem difficult to reconcile scientific and religious views on a question such as the origin or evolution of life? Are these fields addressing the same topic(s)? Should they be?
What does it mean for there to be "evidence" for (or against...) a theory? How was evidence used in the Dover evolution trial?
Can you think of other areas or issues where science conflicts with politics or religion? Write down your issue and note:
- What are non-scientific ways that topic has been addressed, that is, how have people relied on intuition, authority, political thought, or religious belief in decision making?
- What would be a more scientific research approach to the question or issue?
During discussion group we will discuss the advantages or disadvantages of different ways of addressing or understanding human behavior. We will also discuss how a scientific approach can (or, sometimes, cannot) be useful for addressing social issues.
There may be a problem on the NOVA site with this video. If you cannot get it by clicking the image, a YouTube version is at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2xyrel-2vI
Note: you will have an assignment each discussion group. These are due in group – late assignments do not get credit.