Leaders in science and policy need to know how to discuss science and its implications thoughtfully.
- What is good science, and what gives us confidence that science gets the world right?
- How do we recognize that bogus, unscientific ideas are bogus when they look like science?
- What does it mean to explain something, and are there any limits to what we can explain or understand scientifically?
- How is science connected to our broader culture, politics, values, and non-scientific beliefs?
- What implications does science have for how we understand the world and our lives?
Addressing questions like these, Hofstra University’s interdisciplinary Minor in Philosophy of Science is designed for science majors (and anyone else) wanting to study the foundations, methods, context, and implications of science. It enables students to develop broader views of their major fields, to appreciate the historical developments in science, and to develop skills for critically evaluating scientific knowledge and scientific methods of inquiry.
Philosophy of science is a field with a history extending back to the origins of science, when science was called “natural philosophy” and “philosophy” referred to nearly every area of intellectual activity. As science developed, scientists and philosophers began to examine how science itself works and science’s implications, thereby developing a new area of philosophy. Much of the early work was directed towards physics and cosmology, or theories about the universe, as those fields experienced revolutions in understanding. Theories of physics served as the primary models for theories about how scientific theories are justified and how they explain the world.
During the late twentieth century, philosophy of science as an academic field grew tremendously, paralleling the exponential growth of science and science’s capacity to change our world through technology. Beyond producing technologies, science has changed how we understand the universe and ourselves, even just in the last century. Accordingly recent philosophy of science has increasingly analyzed the theories and concepts of a wide range of particular scientific disciplines, including evolutionary biology, genetics, developmental biology, ecology, psychology, mathematics, chemistry, and medicine.
Building on centuries of interaction between science and the humanities and social sciences, Hofstra’s Minor examines what those fields can say to each other. With a grounding in philosophy of science courses, students can explore how fields like history, psychology, and sociology have analyzed scientific knowledge and inquiry. This course of study offers an excellent foundation for thinking about and discussing science and its implications thoughtfully—in interviews, as a professional, in the media, and in one’s own life and work.