The Nature and Practice of Science (Bio 125)

Course Description. Readings and discussion will cover the topics listed below. Throughout, we will seek to compare and contrast the nature and practice of science across the range of contemporary biological disciplines. For example, how does the structure of knowledge in population ecology compare to that in developmental biology? What are the common elements of successful research in seemingly disparate biological disciplines? Are there some consistent differences across disciplines in normal research tactics? If so, are they a logical product of differences in the structure of knowledge, or an artifact of differences in scientific culture?

  • What is science?
  • What is the structure of scientific knowledge?
  • Philosophical, logical, and practical aspects of hypothesis testing
  • Strengths and limitations of hypothetico-deductive science
  • Intellectual strategies for creativity, innovation and discovery
  • Ethics in science

Course structure: Readings plus one two-hour discussion per week

Target audience: Graduate students in the natural sciences.

Schedule: Spring 2011.  Tuesdays 1:10-3:00 in Dana Library 311/312.

Instructors: Matt Ayres and Mike Dietrich, Department of Biological Sciences

Online syllabus

Ayres Home Page

Dietrich Home Page