Both undergraduate and graduate education in the basic sciences consist largely of a mastery of the “scientific facts” of a field. This is supposed to lead to an understanding of the dominant theoretical paradigms in an area. It is also designed to allow learning the linguistic particulars of specialized vocabulary. However, little formal attention is paid to the workings and process of science itself.
This has been a long-standing interest in humanity. For at least 2400 years, philosophers have been analyzing modes of reasoning, fallacies of thinking, and the legitimacy or truth claims made by different methods of scientific exploration. Moreover, it is a myth that there is, or ever has been, an agreed upon “scientific method” that constitutes the correct way to investigate. In recent centuries, fields dedicated to the analysis of science itself (philosophy of science, history of science, sociology of science) have emerged, each of which analyzes the process that scientists engage as a part of their everyday pursuit.
Most graduate students learn method and process through their individual research projects, interactions with mentors and peers, and by attending scientific seminars and meetings. Little attention has been traditionally paid, within the basic science curriculum, to codify the issues in an organized way. This course will provide an overview of the practice of science itself,
and introduce students to historical issues, matters of consensus, and cutting edge issues of ongoing controversy. Attention will be paid to both theoretical and practical application of scientific method, with a distinct focus on the practical application of the covered concepts to the practice of everyday scientific exploration. After completing the course, students should understand and interface differently with science they encounter, papers they read, and their own projects.
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