Scientific Inquiry 1 and 2

Science is often thought of as a collection of “facts” about our world. In reality, our understanding of the world has progressed to an extent that is “asymptotically true”. These two courses examine how we arrive at our understanding of the world. They ask, “What do we know?” and “How do we know that?” Over this two-semester sequence, the goal is not to acquire specialised knowledge or expertise in a particular scientific field, but rather to develop an appreciation for how scientists address questions in the real world.

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Scientific Inquiry 1

Scientific Inquiry 1 considers how scientists try to answer questions by looking into a well-established topic: evolution. Students explore biological evolution using evidence ranging from fossils to the recent revolution in genetics. How scientists address the idea of evolution and the related idea of natural selection highlight fundamental differences between science and other ways of knowing. Although evolution is well-supported scientifically, it is still doubted by a large fraction of humanity. In this course, we approach the topic as a scientist would, identifying and interpreting the relevant evidence through a scientific lens.

Scientific Inquiry 2

Scientific Inquiry 2 aims to develop a deeper appreciation of scientific approaches by exploring a controversial field of science.  The current focus is on climate change and, specifically, how we know the causes and impacts of global climate change. We study this question not only because it is vitally important for humanity, but also because to answer it, scientists must draw on evidence and methods from many different fields. The topic also provides a clear example of how science can inform social practices and government policies.


Student Voices

Scientific Inquiry pushed me to think about the process of science - of asking questions and designing methods to find answers.

Student from the Class of 2017
Philosophy, Politics and Economics

Teaching Faculty