Unit 9: Science of Play: From Sports to the MoviesThe word scientist is such a strong word. It represents those who have made a contribution to our lives through research. Scientists are highly dedicated, spending most of their time exploring the outside universe or finding cures to diseases attacking the human body. Without scientists, we would be living in a dark world filled with millions of questions but no answers. Scientists do not wake up one morning and decide to work this field. A scientist is born over time, mostly during a young age with children who take an interest in the world around us. That is why it is so important to influence these young children who really are our future. Stephen Hawking has an IQ of 160. Shocking right? Most people believe that a high IQ isthe only thing needed for science and research. Although IQ is important, it’s not all that is required for success. When I envision a scientist, I see three important characteristics. The first being curiosity. The average person sitting under a tree and witnessing an apple fall off a branch will not question it. A scientist will see this same thing and wonder how it fell to the ground, at what speed and how gravity was at work. Curiosity might have killed the cat, but it gave birth to some of the most famous scientists today. The second attribute of a scientist in my own eyes is the “winner” mentality. Let me explain. In research, a scientist will hit many roadblocks. Sometimes finding the answer to life’s greatest questions are almost impossible. In order to persevere failure after failure, you must have a winner mentality. Scientists do not give up, even when they are faced with adversity. We must remember that science and research requires a lot of time, and a quitter will not pick themselves up after many fails. Lastly, patience. Have you ever wondered just how much time it takes to research a deadly disease and find a cure? It can take years of day to day research to see results. Scientists are highly patient people. That is because they truly find joy in the process, not just the result.
Science and philosophy are intertwined. Indeed, for most of history, scientists and philosophers have been the same people. When philosophers debated the nature of knowledge and truth, they were not lost in abstractions, but reflecting on developments in the sciences and mathematics of their day. For instance, in astronomy, how could one justify shifting the Earth from the center of the universe? Did it really matter anyway? Is the purpose of astronomy to get at the truth, or is it just to provide useful models of celestial phenomena for the purpose of making calendars and navigational charts? In physics, do we need to know the nature of light as long as we can describe the geometry of how it is propagated, reflected, refracted, and diffracted? In general, should science try to uncover hidden truths about the world or stick to seeking the laws governing observable phenomena?
In this course, we will study the history of the debates about such questions among scientists and philosophers from the time of the ancient Greeks to the twentieth century. Our focus will be on the natural sciences, including astronomy, physics, chemistry, and biology. One of the goals of this course is that students should come away with a deeper appreciation of the roles that argument and persuasion as well as observation and experiment play in the development of science. The very skills that we try to teach in humanities courses are integral to the scientific process and the distinction between the humanities and the sciences is completely artificial. In addition, students will learn that that there is no such thing as certainty in science, and that what counts as good reasons for accepting or rejecting a theory depends on historical context and is thus subject to change over time.
A Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, 4th ed., by John Losee (JL)
Science Rules, ed. by Peter Achinstein (PA)
The Scientific Background to Modern Philosophy, ed. by Michael Matthews (MM)
Worldviews, 2nd ed., by Richard DeWitt (RD)
Required Readings on the Web:
Retrograde motion explained
Darwin, Charles, Onthe Origin of Species, ch. 14 (html)
3 500-word essays, 10 points each, due 9/14, 10/3, 10/26
8 surprise quizzes
Class Participation and Attendance
Proposal: Title, one-paragraph description, 3 sources
4 - page progress report or outline, with bibliography
11/16 - 11/30
8 - 10 page final paper
Total for Research Project
The three 500-word essays will be based on material covered in class. For each assignment, you will choose and write about one of the three or four questions I will ask.
I will be providing notes on the web for all of the classes, which should help you with the short essays as well as the quizzes. Take your web browser to the web site named above (not to Blackboard). There you will find this syllabus with highlighted links to lecture outlines (in parentheses), paper topic assignments, and a guide to paper writing.
All written work, including the essays, the research proposal, the progress report, and the final paper, are to be double-spaced and in a readable 11 or 12-point font, and turned in as hard copy. Plagiarized work receives a failing grade and cannot be made up. Students whose written work is not up to college level will be requested to seek assistance at the Writing Center in Siegel Hall rooms 232 and 233.
Quizzes and Class Participation:
In addition, there will be approximately 8 quizzes, which typically consist of 7 true-and-false questions and one 3-point question that requires a written answer. Your average quiz grade will count for 10 % of your final grade.
Students may make up missed quizzes only if they have an excused absence. Valid excuses concern things that are outside a student’s control, such as an out-of-town trip by a sports team or ROTC unit, an illness, or other medical problem. It is the student’s responsibility to inform the professor ahead of time when the student knows he or she will be absent from class.
Class participation and attendance will count towards another 10 % of your grade.
Every student will be responsible for a library research paper of about 8 - 10 pages and a 10 -15 minute class presentation based on that paper. The paper should focus on some scientist’s or philosopher’s views on the goals and methods of science. Choose one either from the list distributed in class and linked to this syllabus, from any of the four texts for this course, or through consultation with the professor. There will be a class visit to Galvin Library on September 26 to introduce you to some of the research tools available to you. The librarian you will meet, Nichole Novak, has prepared an on-line research guide for philosophy papers: http://guides.library.iit.edu/philosophy.
This project will proceed through a series of guided stages, each of which shall contribute towards your grade for the course.
First each student will turn in a project proposal, including a tentative title, a one-paragraph description of the topic to be investigated, and a tentative bibliography of at least three reputable sources. This will be returned with comments by the professor.
The next stage will be a progress report of about 1000 words. This may be in either prose or outline form. It should also include the current bibliography on a separate page. You may think of this progress report as serving as the basis of the class presentation.
The third stage is a class presentation of about 10 to 15 minutes. No particular audiovisuals are required for the class presentation; anything from chalk to power point is acceptable. Grades will be based on the content of your presentation and not on the technology employed.
Comments on the progress report and class discussion generated by your class presentation will then provide you with feedback for writing your final paper. The final research paper is due during exam week and serves in place of the final exam.
Reasonable accommodations will be made for students with documented disabilities. In order to receive accommodations, students must obtain a letter of accommodation from the Center for Disability Resources and speak with me about it as soon as possible. The Center for Disability Resources is located in 218 Life Sciences. You can also call them at 312-567-5744 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Readings and Assignments:
Topics, Readings, and Written Assignments
Introduction to course. Ptolemy’s arguments about the shape, position, and motion of the Earth. RD 87-98 (Ptolemy).
Ancient astronomy. RD 32-37, 71-77, 99-122; JL 17-19 (ancient)
Aristotle’s philosophy of science and physics. RD 51-54; JL 4-13, 20-25; MM 5-26 (Aristotle). FIRST ESSAY WILL BE ASSIGNED. DUE: 9/14.
Copernicus’s Revolution in Astronomy. RD 123-33; JL 39-40; MM 33-44; Retrograde motion explained. (Copernicus).
The Revolution in Astronomy, cont’d. RD 134-69; JL 41-44, 46-53; MM 53-55 (astronomy).
Galileo’s defense of the new science. JL 46-54; MM 56-77; PA 364-71 (section Matthews left out on p. 77); MM 81-86 (Galileo).
Bacon’s philosophy of science. JL 54-63, MM 45-52 (Bacon).
Descartes on Scientific Method. JL 63-64; MM 87-94, PA 9-11, 17-34, 48-54 (Descartes1). FIRST ESSAY DUE. SECOND ESSAY WILL BE ASSIGNED. DUE: 10/3.
Descartes’s mechanics. JL 64-71; MM 94-99, 105-8; PA 11-16, 40-47, 54-66 (Descartes2).
Visit to Galvin Library. Report to Library Learning Center on ground floor.
The Mechanical Philosophy: Boyle and Huygens. MM. 109-32 (mechanical).
Newton on method, space, and time. JL 72-85; RD 175-78; MM 133-46 (Newton1). SECOND ESSAY DUE.
Newton's celestial mechanics. PA 69-94, 99-104; MM 146-48 (Newton2). THIRD ESSAY WILL BE ASSIGNED: DUE 10/26.
Philosophical aspects of Newton's mechanics. RD 180-81; MM 148-58; PA 104-11 (Newton3).
Young’s wave theory of light. PA 127-30, 137-49. Recommended: 234-47 (Young). RESEARCH PAPER PROPOSALS DUE.
Herschel on induction and hypotheses in science. JL 103-8; handout (Herschel).
Whewell’s philosophy of science JL 108-15; PA 130-32, 150-67 (Whewell1).
Whewell’s critique of Newton. PA 112-23 (Whewell2).
Mill versus Whewell on induction. JL 132-41; PA 133-36, 173-207 (Mill1). THIRD ESSAY DUE.
Thursday’s assignment, cont’d.
Mill on hypotheses in science. PA 207-33 (Mill2).
Darwin’s views on scientific method. Origin ch. 14; handout. Recommended: RD 287-309 (Darwin). PROGRESS REPORTS DUE.
Positivism and the debates over the existence of atoms. JL 118-21, 143-44, 146-52; PA 252-55, 258-80 (positivism).
Perrin's realism about molecules. PA 255-57, 298-311 (Perrin).
THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY: NO CLASS.
M 12/4 – F 12/8
EXAM WEEK. FINAL PAPERS DUE FRIDAY, DEC. 8, AT 12:30 P.M.