- CC 300 FX - The Scientific Endeavor
- 3 Credits
MWF 12:55-1:45 pm - Professor Zygmunt
Cross-listed with PHYS 490AX and CHEM 490 AX
This course's primary objective is to help you better understand the character, scope, and limitations of the scientific endeavor, particularly in your own discipline. Readings, class discussions, and writing assignments will help you move beyond simplistic notions of the so-called "scientific method" which often bear little resemblance to the way science actually works in the real world.
The course will contain presentations of various philosophical schools of thought along with specific historical examples. By examining a series of case histories of scientific work, we will better be able to understand how scientific choices are made, and what factors influence such choices. We will try to better understand how competing ideas, models, and theories are formulated and rise to acceptance in the scientific community. We will also examine the factors that lead to their demise. These studies will illustrate that science is a very human endeavor and is strongly influenced both by human abilities and limitations.
A fundamental assumption is that science is basically an honest endeavor seeking to discover the truth about the natural world. Yet in view of our role as human observers and participants and the competition for research funding and results, how do we maintain our objectivity and integrity? And how does the scientific community deal with cases of carelessness, mistakes, and outright misconduct? These and other ethical issues will be considered in our discussions.
It is natural to explore the connections between the scientific endeavor and our own personal lives. What are our motives and desires for learning more about the natural world? How does science influence and interact with our various faith commitments? What moral issues arise due to our involvement in and benefit from scientific developments? We will discuss these issues in an attempt to develop as whole persons whose lives have increasing coherence and unity.
Texts for this course may include:
- The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn
- Science and Its Limits by Del Ratzsch
- The Double Helix by James Watson
- One World by John Polkinghorne
Students will take one in-class exam and a final exam. They will also be expected to submit frequent one-page written responses to assigned readings. Students will write a 10-15 page paper analyzing an episode in the history of science of their own choosing, and will also write a 5-8 page personal essay reflecting on their motivations for pursuing a scientific career and possible tensions and conflicts between their professional and personal lives.