“I loved bonding with a group of people I probably would not have met otherwise,” says one student. “‘Sci Con’ is also one of the most intellectually stimulating classes I’ve taken. Its emphasis on studying science — something I’d never questioned before — and its interdisciplinary nature make it an extraordinary and valuable experience.”
Why the Science Conversation?
The rise of modern science, and its tremendous success describing the cosmos as matter and mechanism, issued a significant challenge to traditional systems of value, meaning, and belief. Notions about God, creation, and human agency have remained centrally important in human life, but their relationship to scientific knowledge is uncertain or even problematic. One result has been an undesirable fragmentation of world views that is increasingly risky and counter-productive as the challenges facing humanity become ever more technical in character and global in reach.
Today, many students of the liberal arts seek to integrate their knowledge, experience, and beliefs within a coherent worldview that does not shy away from questions of ultimate meaning. Exploring big ideas, such as the origins of life, the significance of knowledge, and the nature of free will, requires an interdisciplinary approach. As the students of today develop into the citizens, scientists, and policy makers of tomorrow, they will face a wide array of contested issues and dramatic challenges, including the mitigation of climate change, management of population growth, development of sustainable energy, and the progress of genetic science and engineering. The Science Conversation is design to inspire students intellectually and prepare them to constructively engage with these important issues.
What are the classes like?
The courses are team taught and draw from many disciplines. Together they form an integrated year-long sequence. The format is a “conversation,” with a stable cohort of 24 students from course to course and a focus on primary sources and discussion. During the January Interim, a course in scientific experimentation provides rich, hands-on encounters with scientific inquiry while revealing a wider perspective on science than is possible when considering just one discipline.
The teaching pair for each course will typically have one member from the sciences and one from the humanities, although other combinations are possible. In all cases, the teams will be drawn from different faculties at the college. In this way, team teaching fosters a conversation among different perspectives — an essential feature of the Science Conversation.
View a sample syllabus.