C.P.Snow © by Robert Lang
- LBS 133H -

Intro. to
History, Philosophy & Sociology of Science

Michigan State University
Spring 2018
Dr. Robert T. Pennock

Course Info | Grading | Professor Contact Info | Textbooks | Class Schedule
Study, Paper & Exam Tips | Academic Integrity | Discussion Guidelines
Additional Info | Useful Links

- Announcements -
Check here periodically for late-breaking news


Course Info

Room: C-101 Holmes Hall

Time: MW 12:40 am to 2:30 p.m

Course Description:
This course provides a global introduction to the history, philosophy and sociology of science. In an interdisciplinary fashion, using evolutionary biology as prime exemplar, we will examine the nature of science and its place in society, to begin to think about fundamental questions about the methods and mindset of science, such as: What is a scientific theory? What is the relationship between theory and observation? What is the nature of scientific evidence? What can science explain? What are the limits of scientific methods? What are the values that underlie scientific methodology and practice? What traits are most important in the scientific character?  How is science related to ethics?  What characterizes responsible conduct of research? How should scientists respond to attacks from religious or political ideology upon scientific findings? What broader responsibilities do scientists have to society?

The course also emphasizes instruction and practice in expository writing skills, fulfilling the level 1 writing requirement. We will work on strategies of pre-writing, writing and re-writing and will also work to develop skills such as note taking, library research, outlining, and so on. Clear writing is a function of clear thinking, so will focus upon clarity of expression, careful analysis and definition of concepts, and logical argument in support of conclusions.



- Two short essays (3 - 4 pages each) - 10% each
- Research proposal (4 - 5 pages) - 10%
- Researched essay or artificial life project report (10 – 12 pages) - 25%
- Lightning talk – 5%
- Pomodoro Blog - 10%
- HW, writing & library exercises, quizzes, etc. – 10%
- Class participation - 20%

• Grade scale: For your final course average, the 100 pt scale will be translated to grades as follows:
- 90 or above – 4.0; 85 to 90 – 3.5; 80 to 85 – 3.0; 75 to 80 – 2.5;
- 70 to 75 – 2.0; 65 to 70 – 1.5; 60 to 65 – 1.0; Below 60 – 0.0

• I do not round up averages that fall below a cut-off, but resolve borderline grades entirely on the basis of optional extra-credit assignments completed before the last class period. You may earn up to two (2) percentage points by such options, which I will announce periodically during the semester. A common extra-credit option is to attend some relevant university guest speaker talk and turn in a reflective paper about it.

Academic Dishonesty: Your work should always be your own.  The penalty for cheating or plagiarism will be a failing grade of 0.0 for the course.  You are expected to have read MSU’s policies on academic integrity <> and the Briggs honor code.

Class participation means not only attendance (10%, see below) but regular and active participation in class discussions, exercises, workshops, simulations, etc. (10%).  Be prepared to ask and answer questions about the reading and assignments, and to engage in thoughtful, productive reflection upon them together with your classmates.  We will regularly break into small discussion groups, and it is important that you have read the material or completed an assigned exercise in advance, and that you contribute your ideas in both small group and whole-class discussions.  For full participation credit: student is attentive and engaged in class, actively listening to other speakers (not only the instructor, but also other students without begin distracted by email, messages, internet, etc.), helping keep the group on topic, and often contributing to discussion with insightful comments or questions that demonstrate a careful reading of the assigned texts.

Attendance is required.  Everyone is allowed two unexcused absences (for sickness, interviews, family obligations, car trouble, etc.).  Days missed because of a university team commitment or a religious holiday will be excused, but let me know in advance.  Two percentage points are deducted for each unexcused absence.  If for any reason you do miss a class, you are responsible for getting notes and assignments from a fellow student. Class will start promptly. Please be on time.  Arriving late or leaving early counts as a half absence, or more if it causes disruption or inconvenience to your colleagues in class.

Late Work: Late assignments will be accepted, but will be docked half a grade per day (e.g, from an equivalent of 4.0 to 3.5). If you cannot attend class when an assignment is due, you may submit your work via email before the class’ starting time.  (If you have to submit something via email, do not send an attachment, but copy and paste the assignment into the body of the email to me and CC yourself to document timely completion. Turn in a regular copy the next class.

• Writing Studio: Starting in week four, everyone will meet weekly in one of four Writing Studios run by Elijah Simmons ( in Holmes Hall 2 West.

  1. Monday, 7:00 to 8:00pm
  2. Monday, 8:00 to 9:00pm
  3. Tuesday, 7:00 to 8:00pm
  4. Tuesday, 8:00 to 9:00pm

I will assign you to one of the fours studios in the first week of class.  Writing mentors will not teach course content nor do they grade your work.  What they do is help you ac­quire the competencies necessary to master content and to improve your writing communication skills. In addition to providing you with expert guidance in all aspects of writing, will introduce you to the art of effective peer review.
The Writing Studio is integral to this class—it is not an optional extra. You are required to show up to each weekly meeting (on time) and to participate actively, just as you do for our regular meetings. The policies for attendance, participa­tion and the use of electronic devices in class apply to the studios without modification.
In addition to your weekly studio, I encourage you to seek additional help at one of the many Writing Centers on campus. (The nearest ones to Holmes are located at 182b Hub­bard Hall and c105 and c106 McDonel Hall). Consultants can provide individualized one-on-one help or work with small groups on all aspects of a writing project, from brainstorming to final editing. For more information, or to make an appointment, visit:

Getting addional help: If you are having problems with any aspect of the class, don't wait until the end of the course to do something about it.  See me right away.  Helping you learn how to learn is what I'm here for.

Welcome to the course!


Professor Contact Info

Please don't hesitate to contact me to talk about anything substantive related to class. Face-to-face discussions are always the most effective and enjoyable, so the best options are to drop by my office hours or talk to me after class. Send me an e-mail message to set up an appointment if you can't see me another time. (Whenever you send me e-mail or leave a phone message, be sure to give not just your name, but also indicate what course you are in.) I'm always happy to talk philosophy or to discuss your thoughts about your learning. However, if you were absent from class and need to get assignments, notes or other material you missed, you should get that from someone in your base group.

Office: Holmes Hall W-34.
Office hours: Mon. 9 am - 10 am, or by appointment or by open door.
Phone: 432-7701.

To prevent spread of viruses, NEVER send me any attachment to an e-mail unless we have specifically arranged it in advance.



Watson - The Double Helix cover


Frederick Crews, The Random House Handbook (6th ed.) [RHH]

James Watson, The Double Helix. [WDH]

Robert T. Pennock, An Instinct for Truth: Curiosity and the Moral Structure of Science. [selected chapter preprints]

Various online and other readings.



Class Schedule

NOTE: This is a tentative reading list. Any changes will be announced in advance. Read the assigned selections before the class period.

Week 1  
Jan 8 Introductory Business – No readings
Jan 10

Peter Dizikes “Our Two Cultures” [online]
Blog #1 due

Week 2  
Jan 15 MLK Holiday (No class)
Jan 17

RHH 1-6; CP Snow “The Two Cultures” [online]
Blog #2 due on assigned sections of Snow

Week 3  
Jan 22

RHH 16-21; Ken Silverstein "The Radioactive Boy Scout" [online]
Blog #3 due on Silverstein

Jan 24

RHH 21-32; Losch “Stereotypes about scientists over time among US Adults: 1983 – 2001” [online]; Steinbeck “What do I want in a doctor?” [online]
Guest presentation: Anthony Gendreau - LBC alum, MMS science teacher
Blog #4 due on Losch

Week 4  
Jan 29

RHH 33-50; Bush “Science: The Endless Frontier” [online]
Blog #5 due on Bush
Essay #1 assigned

First day of Writing Studio (w Elijah Simmons – Holmes 2 West at assigned times)
Jan 31

Peer Editing (RHH 115-135); RT Pennock “An Instinct for Truth, Knowledge, and Discovery" [handout]
Blog #6 due on Pennock

Week 5  
Feb 5 A standard essay (RHH 136-149). Richard Feynman “Cargo Cult Science” [online]
Blog #7 due on Feynman
Feb 7

Avoiding Plagiarism (180-184); RT Pennock “A Kind of Utter Honesty” [handout]
Blog #8 due on Pennock

Week 6  
Feb 12

Paragraph Unity (RHH 234-239); Zimmer “Testing Darwin” [online]
Blog #9 due on Zimmer

Introduction to Avida-ED: Bring laptop computers

Feb 14

Paragraph Continuity (RHH 240-251); Wolcott “FRIB-powered MSU” [online]
Blog #10 due on Basic vs Applied Research
Essay #1 Due
Field Trip
: Meet at National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory

Week 7  
Feb 19

Paragraph Development (RHH 252-264); Pennock “Organized Curiosity” [handout]
Blog #11 due on Pennock
Guest presentation: Scientific Virtues Project

Feb 21

Opening & Closing Paragraphs (RHH 265-282); Merton “Science and the Social Order” [online]
Blog #12 due on Merton
Essay #2 assigned

Avida-ED exercises: Bring laptop computers
Week 8  
Feb 26

Writing distinct sentences (RHH 284-292); Woodward and Goodstein “Conduct, Misconduct and the Structure of Science” [online]

Blog #13 due on Woodward & Goodstein
Feb 28

Writing distinct sentences pt 2 (RHH 292-296); WDH Ch. 1 – 5
Blog #14

Avida-ED exercises: Bring laptop computers
Mar 8 Spring Break
Mar 10 Spring Break
Week 9  
Mar 12

Subordination (RHH297-304); WDH Ch 6 – 15
Blog #15 due on Watson

Essay #2 draft due for peer review in Writing Studio.
Mar 14

Subordination pt 2 (RHH 304-308); Finding Sources (RHH 162-172); WDH Ch 16 – 25
Blog #16 due on Watson

Essay #2 due
Week 10  
Mar 19

Documenting Sources (RHH 184-215); WDH Ch 26 – Epilogue
Blog #17 due on Watson

Mar 21

Pennock “Scientific Vices” [handout]
Blog #18 due on Pennock

Week 11  
Mar 26 “The Belmont Report” [online]
Blog #19 due on Belmont Report
Mar 28

Library instruction w Robin Ford - (Meet @ Main Library Information Desk)

Week 12  
Apr 2

Rothstein "The Thrill of Museums Tamed by Agendas" & Pennock "Scientific Integrity and Science Museums"
Blog #20 due on Rothstein

Apr 4

Field Trip: Meet at MSU Museum
Research proposal due

Week 13  
Apr 9

Pennock “Creative Conflict” [handout]
Blog #21 due on Pennock

Apr 11

Jones: The Kitzmiller Decision [online]
Blog #22 due on Kitzmiller Decision

Week 14  
Apr 16

Sokal “Transgressing the Boundaries” [online] “A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies” [online]
Blog #22 due on Sokal

Apr 18

Sample Research Essay (RHH 216-232); Sokal “Transgressing the Boundaries: An Afterword” [online]
Blog #23 due on Sokal

Week 15  
Apr 23

Pennock “We are Scientists Second” [handout]
Blog #24 due on Pennock

Apr 28

Einstein-Russell Manifesto “A Statement on Nuclear Weapons” [online]; Wiener “From the Archives: A Scientist Rebel” [online]
Blog #25 due on social responsibility

Final Exam Week  
Apr 30, 12:45 – 2:45 pm Term paper due through by Noon.  Hard copy due at beginning of class.  Give prepared lightning talks about your thesis.


Electronic Devices Policy

• Electronic devices often distract from rather than contribute to active discussions.  They should be turned off and stowed, except for times when we need to refer to assigned on-line materials, or for specific occasions when I ask you to use them for particular exercises or clicker surveys. You may use devices during the class break.

Study, Paper & Exam Tips Philosophy courses can sometimes be intimidating for students who are used to standard courses where the task is to learn a bunch of facts. In philosophy, the key task is to learn how to improve one's thinking, so the focus is not so much on the conclusions themselves but rather on the arguments on which conclusions are based. This requires that you study in quite a different way than you might be used to. To help, I have written a short guide that you may find useful. Click here.  

Academic Integrity This is sufficiently important that it is worth repeating: Your work should always be your own. I expect that all students understand how to properly document sources; this is not something for which one may plead ignorance. If you are not sure what counts as plagiarism, find out before you turn in an assignment. The penalty for cheating or plagiarism will be a failing grade of 0.0 for the course. I expect you to have read MSU’s policies on academic integrity and the Briggs honor code.  

Discussion Guidelines

Here I will include the guidelines that you generated and we agree to govern ourselves by for class discussion.

  • Be respectful
  • Actively participate
  • Indicate desire to speak
  • Be open to ideas
  • Have a growth mindset
  • Come prepared with ideas to share
  • Have fun

Additional Info


Useful Links

I'll put links here that are relevant to what we are discussing. If you come across items that you think would be worth sharing, send me the URL.

• Multitasking & Cognitive Efficiency: Wang, Z. "The 'Myth' of Media Multitasking: Reciprocal Dynamics of Media Multitasking, Personal Needs, and Gratifications." [online]; Ophir, E., Nass, C. & Wagner, A. "Cognitive Control in Media Multitaskers" [online]; Nass short video.


Page created: 1/7/18. Last updated: 2/4

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