Quarks, Quasars and Dinosaurs: The Philosophy of Science

15 points



This course examines a number of ground breaking discoveries, breakthroughs and conceptual revolutions in the history of science, with an eye to the lessons they hold about what Science is and how it works. Fundamental questions the course considers are: How do scientists develop theories, test them, and adjudicate between rival explanations of natural phenomena? What is the scientific method? Why does this method yield such uncannily accurate predictions about future events? By what criteria can genuine sciences, like Physics, Chemistry and Biology, be distinguished from pseudosciences like Astrology and Homeopathy? Is Science progressing slowly but steadily towards a grand, unified Theory of Everything, or is the idea of scientific progress just a myth? Do the unobservable entities that scientists postulate - quarks, gluons, and their ilk - really exist, or are they merely predictively useful fictions? Should scientists try to verify their theories, or falsify them? What is scientific objectivity, and is it attainable? The course will be of interest to anyone fascinated by Science, its history, its aims, and its methods. It is intended to be especially valuable to scientists-in-training, in providing a broad perspective of the philosophical issues that hover over all scientific inquiry.


Any 30 points at 200 level in PHIL, or
any 60 points at 200 level from the Schedule V of the BA or BSc.