Guest Lecture by Prof. Jonathan Osborne
Date: March 7th, 2016 at 6.15pm
Location: Center for Advanced Studies (CAS), Seestraße 13, 80802 München
This talk will begin by examining what passes for any education in the sciences across most of the globe, and the justifications that are offered for its place at the curriculum high table. The dominant argument for science education is economic seeing it as essential to providing an educated workforce to meet the technological and scientific needs of contemporary society. An additional but distinct case is the argument that there is a need to develop the scientific and technical knowledge that students will need to deal with the political and moral dilemmas posed by the 5 major challenges facing humanity – the supply of energy, growing sufficient food, providing clean water, sustaining health and dealing with climate change.
In this talk, it will be argued that both arguments are flawed. The first, for instance, does not justify teaching the sciences to all students, and the second would demand a very different practice and curriculum than that which is commonly offered. Rather, the case will be developed that the only valid argument for teaching the sciences to all students is one based on their cultural significance – essentially a body of knowledge and understanding that represents one of the major intellectual achievement of humanity and part of the best that is worth knowing. Moreover, this achievement has led to the development of 6 distinct styles of reasoning which are a defining feature of the sciences. Each of these styles of reasoning or argument has required the invention of a set of domain-specific, ontological entities to think with, a body of procedural knowledge to use for the practice of the sciences, and a set of epistemic values and commitments that justify the products of scientific reasoning. It will be shown how styles of reasoning provide a sound basis of an argument for the cultural contribution that the sciences have made and one which would justify the value of an education in the sciences for all students.