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Science Project Knowing Nature

A Final Project – Knowing Nature

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The final project is a chance to apply ideas from the class in greater detail. This is primarily a writing assignment, but it is not quite “a paper.” There are three distinct options you may pick to fulfill the assignment based on what you want to do: (1) use something you have learned about science to take action in the world on an issue that matters to you, (2) research another controversy that involves science in some way and apply concepts from class to analyze that controversy, or (3) dig more deeply into the philosophy of science.

No matter what type of project you choose to do, you will be responsible for the following:

  1. An annotated bibliography summarizing and commenting critically on at least three serious, credible research sources relevant to your topic. Each individual annotations should be between 70 and 125 words. What is an annotated bibliography? Please read this: https://sites.umuc.edu/library/libhow/bibliography_tutorial.cfm
  2. A 400-500 word Analysis applying concepts and ideas from this class to the topic that you picked. A list of some of these ideas is at the end of this handout. You should not try to address all of them, but you should seek and draw out connections between themes and vocabulary from class and ideas in your research and thinking (no quoted text).
  3. A ~250-300 one-paragraph Summary of what you did and what you learned, which will be put in a shared google document visible to the whole class, which we will go through in the final class session as a group.

FIRST OPTION: Act in the world, on some science-related issue that we have touched on in this class.

Use the things you have learned about in this class to decide on, frame, and discuss an action in the world that you perform to address one of the controversial topics we have discussed, or a topic that is closely related. Examples could be: write a letter to a representative or to a newspaper, call or visit a policymaker, attend a protest, or make a lifestyle change. (NOTE: by choosing this option, you are agreeing that you have sole responsibility both for the action and for any ensuing consequences.)

Your summary for class would need to explain why you picked this particular action, what research you undertook and how it informed your opinion, and what science has to do with it — for example, where you see pseudoscience, science denialism, randomness and uncertainty, confirmation bias, or similar themes from class relating to the issue.

SECOND OPTION: Critically analyze a science-related debate we did not discuss directly in class, using the concepts from class.

Analyze a contemporary science-related controversy or pseudoscience topic that we did not study in class. Unless you have another compelling topic (which you can discuss in consultation with me) please choose from this following list:

  • “Creation science” in public school science textbooks
  • Invasive species
  • Genetically modified foods
  • Genetic engineering of “designer babies”
  • Contemporary “Flat-Earthers”
  • The Homeopathy debate
  • Alternative medicine
  • Lawsuits against the Large Hadron Collider (e.g. about creation of microscopic black holes)

THIRD OPTION: Dive deeper into the philosophy of science.

Dig more deeply into the philosophy of science! Below are some thinkers we suggest investigating, but there may be others that you have encountered or that you find out about in your research – check with your instructor to see if a particular thinker’s ideas would be a good topic for this project. Your task is to do research to understand some of the core ideas a selected thinker has put forward about science and how it works.

  • Chris Anderson (We no longer need hypotheses and testablilty, “big data” is enough)
  • Thomas Nagel (Is it possible to know the experience
  • Karen Barad (rethinking objectivity/subjectivity and human/nature based on ideas from

quantum physics)

  • Chapter from the Oops book that deals directly with the definition of “Nature”?

If you choose this option, you should do some background research on the author or scholar involved and the context surrounding their work.

Grading Rubric:

Use these grading criteria as a guide for what we seek from your project. 100 points total.

  1. Your one-paragraph summary conveys your key questions and conclusions clearly and completely. [20 points]
  2. Your annotated bibliography includes good quality research sources, demonstrates your comprehension of those sources, and includes thoughtful contextual analysis and/or commentary on the content. [20 points]
  3. Your writing is clear and well-edited, and includes formal citations to your research sources where appropriate. [20 points]
  4. Your writing successfully draws from core themes of in-class discussion as they relate to your topic, and successfully addresses the prompts for the topic you chose. [40 points]

List of ideas from the class that you draw from in your final project:

  • nuanced distinctions between the practice, products, and application of science;
  • problems with the definition of the concept “nature” and how we relate to “nature” as humans
  • uniformitarianism (in the generalized sense that we discussed)
  • all observation is mediated by instruments and all data requires interpretation
  • the three types of uncertainty
  • randomness and the conceptual mistakes we often make interpreting it

n- percentages and managing large numbers;

  • “spurious correlations” and the difference between correlation and causation
  • the “blade of grass” paradox
  • falsifiability as a key criterion for defining what counts as science
  • Popper’s ideas about the differences between the value of confirmatory and conflicting evidence
  • “essentialism” in biology
  • the naturalistic fallacy
  • the key tactics used in science denial
  • the nature of a scientific theory
  • bias in the scientific process.

Grading Rubric:

Use these grading criteria as a guide for what we seek from your project. 100 points total.

  1. Your one-paragraph summary conveys your key questions and conclusions clearly and completely. [15 points]
  2. Your annotated bibliography includes good quality research sources, demonstrates your comprehension of those sources, and includes thoughtful contextual analysis and/or commentary on the content. [20 points]
  3. The write-up is structured well. An introductory paragraph advances the key claim or question behind your project, and successive paragraphs address supporting points in a manner that flows logically from one idea to the next. [15 points]
  4. Your writing is clear and well-edited, and includes formal citations to your research sources where appropriate. [15 points]
  5. Your writing successfully addresses the criteria supplied in this handout for the option you have picked. [15 points]
  6. Your writing successfully draw from core themes of in-class discussion as they relate to your topic. [20 points]

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