Musings on the life academic

One of the things which I think I'm going to do here which I didn't do at my old blog is write a little about academic life. As a scientist, I am in the relatively unusual position of not actually teaching "real" science classes - by that I mean the courses, while dealing with science, are more humanistic, historical and philosophical than scientific. Given that, however, I try and teach my students - particularly those who are science-phobic - some basic scientific ideas and ways of thinking.

This semester I'm teaching two courses. The first is an Origins, Evolution and Creation course that I have been teaching since 1998. Every year I get 40 or so students from varying religious and educational backgrounds and we examine the evidence for creationist claims (after spending some time thinking about the nature of science and religion). Over the years it has morphed from a course largely examining "scientific creationism" to one examining intelligent design. I'm not afraid to let the students read creationist materials or view creationist videos, largely because they are college students and have a certain amount of knowledge under their belt. In addition, I can spend time teaching them how to think critically and analyze scientific arguments. Of the forty students, many are graduating seniors, most are non-science majors. It counts as a non-lab science course, so many seniors take it thinking it's going to to be an easy ride ... reality hits when we get to the ins-and-outs of radiometric dating! It is a fun class though and I'm sure I will be posting more on it over the coming weeks.

The second course is our Honors "great books" seminar; two classes of nineteen students engaged in a Socratic discussion-based seminar based on reading original texts. We're overhauling the course and putting a scientific spin on some sections, so this time round I'm exposing the students to original writings by Galileo, Descartes, Bacon, Newton, Hume, Paley, Kant, Darwin, Huxley, sundry eugenicists & sociobiologists, and Einstein. I have taught many of these before so I'm not expecting any surprises, though I will be teaching portions of the Principia for the first time ... the non-scientists are going to love that!

In short, I hope to ramble about teaching occasionally.

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