Chem 197: Understanding Science

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The consideration of science within the public sphere often fails to distinguish science as means for understanding the world from science as a means for informing public policy. Consider, for example, climate change. The science of climate change is clear: we know the earth is warming and we know human activity is a significant factor in this warming. Whether climate change is a societal problem demanding our attention, however, is a question of public policy. Although science can inform the public’s discussion of policies addressing climate change, so, too, must considerations of economics, international politics, and social justice, to name a few.

During the semester we will explore science as a process for understanding the world. Among the topics we will explore are the scientific method, including observing natural phenomena, proposing explanations for these observations, and testing these explanations. We will discuss the need for the careful design of experiments and the limits of science. We will explore the scientist as citizen, considering, for example, ethics and science, and science as community. Our goal is to understand better how science helps us to answer questions about the physical world in which we live, to appreciate the limits of science, and to make sense of the boundary between science as means for understanding our world and as a means for shaping our world.

Our first-year seminar course also serves as your introduction to college writing. We will spend a significant portion of the course developing your skills as a writer. You will gain ex-perience in drafting, revising, and polishing your writing through a variety of assignments, ranging from response papers to research papers and from lab reports to personal essays. Writing is hard, but rewarding work, and it arguably is one of the most important skills you will develop during your four years at DePauw. We will work together to ensure that you continue to develop as a writer.

The links at the top of this page provide access to useful resources that will help you throughout the semester:

page maintained by David Harvey (harvey@depauw.edu)