The Vocabulary of Science: First Steps to Science Literacy
- No previous knowledge or training is required. Only a sincere interest in learning more about the nature of science and scientific reasoning.
WHAT IS THIS COURSE ABOUT?
Is evolution a theory, a fact, or both? This question has been debated by critics and defenders of evolution for many years.
Some claim that evolution is a theory, not a fact. Others claim that evolution is a fact, not a theory. And still others say that evolution is both a theory and a fact.
What exactly is going on here?
One reason why the debate persists is that people disagree not only on the strength of the evidence for evolution, but also on the meanings of the key terms, “theory” and “fact”.
This course is designed to help you understand and think critically about debates like these, debates about the nature of science that turn on the meanings of scientific terms like “theory”, “fact”, “law”, “hypothesis” and “model”.
ABOUT YOUR INSTRUCTOR
I have 20 years of experience teaching the history and philosophy of science at the university level, but now I work as independent online educator. I have given lectures on the topic of science literacy to national and international audiences.
I have over 30,000 students on Udemy, where I also offer courses on critical thinking and argumentative essay writing.
WHO IS THIS COURSE FOR, AND WHAT WILL YOU LEARN?
This course is for anyone interested in learning more about how a philosopher of science thinks about science and scientific reasoning.
It will be of special interest to science students, science educators of all kinds, and people interested in debates about the nature of science.
In this course you’ll learn the various meanings of the key terms, “theory”, “fact”, “law”, “hypothesis” and “model”, as they're used both within and outside science.
You'll learn the most common confusions made by people who write about science.
And you'll have an opportunity to test your understanding through quizzes and a video critique assignment.
- Science science educators and science enthusiasts of all types
- Anyone interested in learning how to better communicate with others about scientific issues, and engage constructively in scientific debates
- Anyone interested in understanding how science really works
- Anyone interested in the history and philosophy of science
- Question: Is Evolution a Theory, a Fact, or Both?04:50
- Why Am I Qualified to Teach This Course?02:42
- Overview of the Course02:31
- Update: Additional Videos on Science Literacy and Science Education00:46
- Section 13 questions
- An Important Distinction: Epistemically Loaded versus Neutral Language06:59
- Section 23 questions
- "It's Just a Theory": "Theory" as Down-Player02:56
- "Theories are the Pinnacles of Science": "Theory" as Up-Player05:11
- Why We Need a Neutral Definition of "Theory"03:56
- A Neutral Definition of "Theory": A Classical (But Incomplete) Story06:39
- A Neutral Definition of "Theory": A More Sophisticated Story06:13
- Section 34 questions
- "You Can't Deny the Facts": A Loaded Definition of "Fact"07:20
- "I Had the Facts Wrong": A Neutral Definition of "Fact"04:34
- Can There Be Theoretical Facts?04:48
- Section 44 questions
- Loaded Definitions of "Law"04:51
- Examples of Laws in Biology and Psychology10:15
- Examples of Laws in Astronomy and Physics07:49
- Unpacking the Neutral Concept of "Law"10:01
- But Are There Any Laws?03:15
- A Quick Word: Are Laws Explanatory?00:31
- Section 53 questions
- "That's Just a Hypothesis": A Loaded Definition of "Hypothesis"01:38
- A Neutral Definition of "Hypothesis"08:24
- Section 63 questions
- Introduction: What is a Model?02:19
- Maps and Models07:28
- Models as Tools for Reasoning About the World06:04
- How Equations Can Be Models07:06
- Is There a Difference Between a Model and a Theory?05:09
- Section 74 questions
- Introduction: Theories, Models, Truth and Reality01:26
- The Challenge of Interpreting Scientific Theories07:45
- Prediction and Truth: Lessons from Ptolemy10:37
- Prediction and Truth: Lessons from the Kinetic Theory of Gases10:20
- Section 84 questions
- Assignment: Critique a 7 Minute Video on the Vocabulary of Science01:54
- Part 1: The Motivation for the Video03:35
- Part 2: "Scales of Truthiness"00:57
- Part 3: The Fundamental Error01:25
- Part 4: Problems With Defining Facts in Terms of Observations01:26
- Part 5: Problems With Defining Hypotheses as Starting Points for Inquiry01:51
- Part 6: Problems With Defining Theories as Well-Supported02:03
- Part 7: Problems with Defining Evolution as an Observable Fact02:51
- Part 8: Problems with Defining Laws in Terms of Observations02:59
- Part 9: Can Laws Explain, or Do They Just Describe? Kepler, Newton and Einstein05:19
- Part 10: Analyzing the Last Slide02:02
- Part 11: Who is to Blame?01:35
- Section 96 questions
- Introduction to the Videos in This Section00:44
- Should We Expect Our Politicians To Be Science Literate?09:32
- Why Most People (Even Science Phds) are Scientifically Illiterate16:00
- A Curriculum For Teaching Genuine Science Literacy: Overview01:50
- The Logic of Science03:15
- The Methods of Science09:31
- The Landscape of Science08:22
- The Ethics of Science10:17
I'm a philosopher of science by training, and I've taught philosophy and critical thinking at the university level for twenty years.
From 2009-2013 I was Chair of the Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Iowa State University.
In 2015 I left my tenured academic job to pursue a career as an independent online educator. I produce video tutorial courses on topics in science, philosophy, critical thinking and communication skills.
I also do consulting and coaching, and run a membership community dedicated to improving our "Argument Ninja" skills!