Science is a beautiful, if oft misunderstood, process; one that has allowed us to gain immense knowledge about the world around us, and to make unimagined technological leaps. The highly detailed nature of scientific knowledge is such that it is often opaque to non‐scientists, resulting in science being both unfairly maligned (as seen in movements such as the “anti‐vaxxers” or people who think eating GMO food is dangerous), and unrealistically praised (as seen in many responses to the afore‐mentioned science‐maligners). The aim of this course is to teach students what science actually is – the exquisite, careful, awe‐inspiring process by which we understand the world around us.
Instead of focusing on the results of science, we will focus on how scientists think, how they develop models and theories, break down research questions into testable hypotheses, evaluate controls, and assess data: in short, how they do science. As part of this course,
students will engage with both the philosophy of science and classical scientific literature. The articles assigned will be chosen for their accessibility and how well they illustrate what scientists actually do; non‐science majors should be able to understand them after a simple in‐ class explanation. The course will also feature practicing scientists from the UMD community giving guest lectures on the daily functions of their labs. Finally we will relate all of this to science as popularly conceived, using the current discourse on climate change as a case study.