Spring 2016 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions
Description of Course:
Science plays an enormously influential role in our society. As a social institution, it commands enormous respect and social influence, as well as vast sums of funding. It produces results that are greatly sought after, for both good and ill. At the same time, science generates great controversy when it collides with various religious, economic, and educational agendas. The adjective "scientific" garners almost immediate respectability to whatever it is applied, and, in some circles, it is a prerequisite for being taken seriously. Yet to many it also bespeaks alienation, abstraction, and a void of meaning, useless in our attempt to understand values. Some even deride science as mere ideology and power-mongering, as sexist, racist, or elitist.
Science is open to interpretation and critique; as a result, it stands in need of explanation, elaboration, justification, limitation, or change. History and philosophy of science attempts to understand how and why science works, to explain its successes and occasionally uncover its failures, to interpret its results, and to discover, what, if any, are its limits. Historians and philosophers of science also try to situate science in the broader scheme of human activities and social institutions, and to understand the way in which our particular cognitive, social, political, and moral situation impacts its development.
In this course, we will focus on six key texts in the history and philosophy of science, some classics in the field, others more recent but nonetheless landmark work. Through these texts, we will try to better understand what counts as science and explore whether we can demarcate science from non-science or pseudo-science. We will ask what the aim of science is, what it is trying to produce. We will explore a variety of challenges to our common ways of understand how and why science works, as well as challenges to whether science works as we believe that it does. We will explore the too-often ignored connections between the scientific process and our ethical and political values, attempting to determine whether and to what extend such human values play a role in science, and to what extent such a role is legitimate and compatible with the objectivity or reliability of scientific knowledge.
For the purposes of this course, we will construe science broadly to include natural and social sciences, engineering, technological development, mathematics, and medicine.
Books will be available at Off Campus Books, not the UT Dallas Campus Bookstore. Please purchase the editions ordered there or linked below.
Please do not get an alternative edition or eBook version. It is essential that you have the same page numbers as everyone else in the class, so we can read and refer to the texts together. I will check periodically to ensure you have the text. (For the Chang book, you may download and print the PDF version.)
Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:
Group project, in-class participation, exams, attendance and participation.