Stowe-Gullen Courses

All Stowe-Gullen students will be enrolled in the below year-courses:

VIC170Y1 Introduction to Probability, Persuasion and the Rhetoric of Science
Prof. Andrew Baines 
Science is more than facts. Fire burns, but this fact doesn't explain the nature of fire. Scientists work with probable observations and premises. When the correct answer is never certain we must use rhetoric to persuade ourselves and others that today's interpretation is most probable. Dealing with probabilities makes statistical analysis an essential rhetorical tool along with metaphors and appeals to authority. Life is full of risks - some that science can help reduce and others that science creates. We will explore polices that deal with risk, human error and associated ethical issues. Science and the arts give complementary ways to comprehend human experience. Some narratives we call scientific others artistic; both depend on imagination. Effective story telling requires understanding your audience. You, as student, will address several audiences by persuading: the general public to accept vaccination through advertising; a literate audience to accept your interpretation of Frankenstein; an educated lay-audience to become enthusiastic about your research topic; a skeptical audience to accept your a risk-analysis; specialist scientists to support your original research proposal. The last assignment challenges you to attain the level expected of a graduate student. You will be helped with the grant by a scientist-mentor doing research in the area of science you have chosen.

[2014-15] VIC170Y1Y Syllabus [PDF]

Corequisite: VIC171Y1 and 1.0 FCE selected from first-year course offerings in the sciences (0.5 FCE must be a BIO course)

VIC171Y1 Methodology, Theory and Practice in the Natural Sciences
Prof. B. Baigrie
Prof. R. de Sousa

(First semester, taught by Ronnie de Sousa). We will sample issues in Philosophy of Biology and Cognitive Science, with the aim of illustrating the nature of rational belief and scientific method. The material for the first semester will fall into four modules:

1. Information, meaning, communication and belief: What is the relation between information and meaning? What is communication? How do we acquire beliefs on the basis of communication, as opposed to evidence or reasoning? Why are irrational beliefs sometimes so persistent?
2. Science and Pseudo-Science: How can we demarcate science from pseudo-science? Why, for example, is "creation science" not science? What light is thrown on this question by The Dual Processing or Two-Track Mind Hypothesis, which distinguishes intuitive from analytical thinking?
3. A Sample controversy in biology: What is natural selection? How does it account for the appearance of design (teleology or function) in biological organisms? What scientific and socio-political issues might account for the intensity of the debate that have raged over these questions?
4. A Sample Controversy in Cognitive Science: What is machine intelligence? How does it relate to human intelligence? Is "Artificial Intelligence" like artificial light (real, but artificially produced), or is it like artificial flowers (superficially resembling the real thing, but wholly different in nature)?

(Second semester, taught by Brian Baigrie). We will explore select issues concerning scientific practice from the perspective of classical models of the scientific method. Discussions and readings will focus on four topics:

(1) the aim of science, esp. scientific explanation;
(2) the role of experiment and experimental design in scientific practice, esp. issues concerning the evidentiary relationship between experimental results and scientific claims;
(3) debates concerning the status of theoretical entities and laws of nature;
(4) causation (esp. the search for mechanisms in the life sciences). 

Corequisite: VIC170Y1 and 1.0 FCE selected from first-year course offerings in the sciences (0.5 FCE must be a BIO course)

Please note: 

"The two courses of the Stowe-Gullen stream explore what it means to do science, how this meaning has changed throughout history, and the methods of effectively communicating - and critically evaluating - a scientific idea, from hypothesis to publication. The Stowe-Gullen stream approaches the subject of science in an open and discussion-oriented format, drawing influences from a broad range of fields including history, fine arts, literature, and media, as well as current scientific research. VIC170 and VIC171 are not traditional science courses, they are an introduction to the critical thinking and questioning skills at the foundation good science."

~ Solomon Grant, 2010-2011 

"Vic one provides something that no other first year course can: a look into what it’s like to do science. Through the combination of statistics, rhetoric, and history and philosophy of science, students gain insight into what the study of science really is and how its done. The full year grant proposal project gives students a chance to try their own hand at scientific writing."

~Jasmina Uzunovic, 2012-2013

"One portion of VIC170-the Grant Proposal- far exceeds the level of first-year and approaches that of graduate students. Students will survey scientific literature and propose a researching experiment at a very critical level. As a result, students will be able to have specific and meaningful conversations with world experiences in their fields."

~Sunny Yin, 2008-2009


Future Students