Introduction to SI 2015
When we study Scientific Inquiry, we are studying where scientific knowledge comes from. By examining some of the greatest questions, controversies, explorations, and discoveries, we will understand science not simply as a body of knowledge but as a mode of acquiring and testing knowledge.
As amazing as our current scientific knowledge is, there is far more that we don’t understand, far more to learn. To understand the scientific process, and participate in it in the future, you need to approach scientific questions with curiosity and skepticism.
You may or may not have a stockpile of “scientific facts” in your head – facts about electron orbitals or the solar system or mitochondria or axons and dendrites. You don’t need such a stockpile to succeed in this class. However, we do expect every student to come out of this class with a basic understanding of evolution and cosmology. These two theories are scientific contributions to the questions: who are we and where did we come from? We will read “Evolution: A very short introduction” (by Brian and Deborah Charlesworth) during the first half of the class, and we will read “Cosmology: A very short introduction” (by Peter Coles) during the second half.
As we explore these scientific theories in depth, we will discuss not only scientific questions, but questions about what science is. We will read the text “What is this thing called science?” (4th edition, by Alan Chalmers) over the course of the semester, and discuss observation, experiment, theory, models, predictions, falsification, paradigms, research programs, and more.
In this way, as we learn science, we will learn what science is.
If you don’t think you like science, we ask you to find your curiosities about the world and pursue them. If you think you like science, we ask you to challenge yourself and explore science in a different way.