W3920: Ignorance: How it Drives Science | S. Firestein

Biological Sciences
W 6:10-8PM
Undergraduate Seminar

Scientific knowledge increases at an exponential rate. Curiously ignorance does not similarly decrease. The basic activity of science is to engage ignorance. In this course, we will examine the scientific approach to ignorance, though readings, discussions, and visits from working scientists who will discuss the state of ignorance in their field and in their individual laboratories. We hope to gain an understanding of the scientific process by analyzing how it approaches what it doesn’t know. We will also include the scientific approach to uncertainty, doubt, and failure – all crucial ingredients in the activity of scientific investigation. 

Prerequisites: have completed the CORE science requirements.

Requirements will include weekly postings based on readings and visiting lectures, and a final paper. This class will meet only ten times between February 4 and April 15 (thus its value of 2 points). Because of this short, but intense, schedule absences will not be excused and will have a negative impact on the final grade. This course does not satisfy any science requirements. Admission to the course is limited and requires permission of the instructor. This can be gained by submitting a brief (max 350 words) statement outlining your interest in taking this course and what you hope to achieve in the course.