Science In Context

T-TH 1:30-3:20, Mary Gates 248

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Climate 1
Climate 2
Evolution 1
Evolution 2

David Battisti
Professor of Atmospheric Sciences
Email: battisti@uw.edu
Stevan Harrell
Professor of Anthropology
Professor of Environmental and Forest Sciences
Faculty Associate, Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology
Email: stevehar@uw.edu

This class deals with the broad topic of how the findings of scientific research are received, accepted, rejected, or modified both among scientists and among the general public. We address three basic questions:

  • How do scientific ideas become consensus among scientists?
  • How do broader publics accept, reject or debate scientific ideas?>/li>
  • How does science interact with politics and religion to produce consensus or contention?
To address these questions, we first take a general look at the scientific method and at non-scientific influences on science, and then we dig deeply into two case studies:
  • The predicted warming of the earth's climate, something now accepted generally as scientific consensus, and accepted by the public in many countries, but still hotly debated, primarily for political and economic reasons, in the United States
  • The origin of species by means of natural selection, again accepted for over a hundred and fifty years by science and by the public in most countries, but still hotly debated, mainly for religious reasons, in the United States and a few other very religious countries
You have two kinds of assignments:

Posts: You are required to post a comment or analysis on the class discussion board, usually around 200 words, based on the day's readings, by 7 a.m. on each class day. These will be evaluated as follows:
  • 0 points=didn't do it,
  • 1 point=did it, but left out something major or otherwise messed up
  • 2 points=did an adequate job
  • 3 points=did a more than adequate job
If you get two points on every answer, that will be equivalent to the mean grade for HONORS 220, 221 and 222 for the last few years. These posts will count for two-thirds of your course grade.

Term paper: You are required to write term paper, around 4000-5000 words, due at 5 p.m. on Monday, December 9, in which you will analyze a scientific topic over which there was or is public controversy, other than the topics covered in this course. We will give you the detailed assignment around the third or fourth week of the quarter. This paper will count one-third of your course grade.