Scientific Inquiry 1 and 2

Science is often thought of as a collection of “facts” about our world. In reality, our knowledge of the world is rarely definitively correct, but our understanding has progressed to an extent that is “asymptotically true”. This course examines the process of how we have arrived at our understanding of the world today. It asks the questions “What do we know?” and “How do we know that?” Over this two-semester course, the goal is not to acquire specialised knowledge or expertise in a particular scientific field, but rather, to develop an appreciation for the epistemology and philosophy of science.

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Curriculum

Scientific Inquiry 1

Scientific Inquiry 1 considers how scientists think by looking into a well-established topic: evolution. Students explore the evidence for biological evolution from fossils to the recent revolution in genetics. 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 thinking by tackling a question that is still under debate. This year, as last, the focus is on climate change and, specifically, how we know that the global climate is changing. We study this question not only because it is vitally important for humanity, but also because to answer it scientists must draw on evidence 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