ASTR 4490: Senior Seminar: Critical Thinking
none -- open to all students
Critical thinking in scientific and nonscientific contexts with selections from the history of astronomy. Topics include elements of classical logic, including standards of evidence. Case studies include examples of competing hypotheses in the history of science, as well as examples from borderline sciences. Stress will be put on creative generation of alternative hypotheses and their winnowing by critical scrutiny. Topics include the nature and history of the universe, the nature of time, the nature of reality, the possibilities of life on other planets and artificial intelligence. Fallacies, illusions and paradoxes will also be discussed. The course includes debates by the students on controversial topics such as: Can machines think? Is science and technology to be blamed for Hiroshima and 9/11? Should the genome be improved? Is the future determined?