Week 1. Overview:
Science, knowledge & society
We will discuss the basic assumptions of
the scientific method, and how science differs from other forms of "knowledge". The PowerPoint notes I use in the first few lectures are here.
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.
The correlation between lecture attendance and other grades = .74 (huge).
During each lecture I will announce specific topics that will show up on the exam.
Suggested background reading: "Introduction" or "What is Science" in whatever text you are using, typically chapter 1.
You have three focus modules for this week that go into more detail than the lectures (use these like reading a text). Each should take 20 minutes or so:
Critical Thinking and Science, Part 1
Critical Thinking and Science, Part 2
Beliefs, Facts and the Irrational
For lecture& Discussion Group:
- Read the "Introduction" and 'What is Science" posts on the Understanding Science web site from Museum of Paleontology of the University of California at Berkeley.
- Watch a Ted talk on the history of science
- Read two short articles from the New York Times: Science v. Pseudo-science, and the effects of political polarization on science. Both these pages have links to related articles.
- Glance at two Gallup polls addressing evolution and para-normal beliefs.
Discussion group Assignment
Read / Watch the articles & media for this week and write two short discussions, taking no more than one typed page.
- You will hand this in for discussion group credit.
- We use these written assignments as a prompt to help you talk in group, so do not be shy and speak up!
A. The Ted talk speaker outlined four 'agreements' from the Philosopher's Breakfasts about science:
- It is based on inductive rather than deductive evidence;
- Science should function for the public good;
- It should have its own specified institutions;
- Science requires external funding.
Write a sentence or two about what you think each of these mean, and why you think they may be important to science or society at large. Use what you learned from the Ted talk, as well as your own experience & thoughts.
B. Drawing from the readings for this week and our discussion in class, write a paragraph or two:
- Why are people so prey to irrational or paranormal beliefs;
- what do they do for us?
- Why are they so powerful?
- How do you see irrational or non-empirical beliefs affecting your world (for better or for worse...)?
- Why do you think Americans in particular are so resistant to scientific perspectives on evolution?
Note: you will have an assignment each discussion group. These are due in group during the week they are assigned; late assignments do not get credit.