This course is aimed at non-science students. It will help students identify a scientific problem and then plan and execute a program of individualized learning aimed at the particular scientific knowledge required to understand and analyze the chosen problem. The main aims of the course are to develop self-education skills as applied to scientific understanding, to apply those skills to acquire some specific scientific knowledge, and to understand the process by which scientific knowledge and understanding is achieved.
The goals of this course are as follows:
- To learn the scientific issues which bear on topics of current social and political relevance.
- To develop sufficient specific scientific knowledge to be able to analyze the popular and scientific debates and discussions on the selected issues.
- To develop self-education skills and confidence in dealing with scientific ideas.
- To understand the process by which scientific knowledge and understanding is acquired.
Several main themes for the term will be selected for investigation by the participants. Themes might be topics such as biological consequences of nuclear energy, gene therapy, pesticide biology, or molecular evolution. Students will identify (with the instructor's guidance) the kinds of scientific knowledge that is needed to understand and analyze the topic selected. Each student will then plan and carry out an individual program of self-education in that field for most of the semester. This process will include study of introductory textbooks, review articles, and tutorials with the instructor. Thus, rather than being a survey, this course will allow each student to focus in some depth on a restricted area of science of particular interest to that student. Each week each student will organize and present to the seminar her or his ongoing analysis and findings related to the selected topics. This aspect of the course will emphasize the continuing role of discussion and feedback that is part of the scientific process. A final course paper will allow each student to individually formulate an analysis of the selected topic, using the knowledge and information acquired during the course.
In addition to the individualized programs for each student, such as introductory texts, review articles, and scientific research papers, all students will read and discuss selected articles on the nature of the scientific process.