PHIL 280: Introduction to Philosophy of Science

Winter 2013

Instructor: Dr. Jeffrey Koperski

Phone: 964-7251


Office: Brown 315



Description: This course introduces students to the philosophy of the natural sciences. The course material is structured around some of the great revolutions in the history of science: the Copernican Revolution in astronomy, Newton's discovery of the laws of mechanics, the development of quantum mechanics, the theory of relativity, and neo-Darwinism. These events will be used to develop a general philosophical understanding of science. Along the way, we will discuss some of the key issues examined by philosophers of science: the confirmation of scientific hypotheses by empirical evidence, theory revision, and whether scientific claims should be interpreted as giving a true picture of physical reality. No particular background in physics or biology is required. In general, our emphasis will be on historical and conceptual issues.

Texts: All readings are either online or on Vspace.


15% Test 1

15% Test 2

15% Test 3

25% Paper

15% Final Exam

15% In-Class Assignments



Paper topics will be given later in the semester. See for instructions on the paper. Exams will contain objective (e.g., multiple choice), short answer, and essay questions. The final is not comprehensive. In-class assignments are mainly pop quizzes on the assigned reading material for the day, but may include short discussion questions as well. There are no make-ups for in-class assignments


Grades will be assigned on the following scale:


92-100 A

78-79 C+


90-91 A-

70-77 C


88-89 B+

61-69 D


82-87 B

60 F


80-81 B-



Final grades will never be lower than those prescribed above as long as all work has been submitted. There is no curve for individual assignments, but a curve on cumulative course grades is possible.


Course Schedule

1. Data, Theories, and Metaphysics [V:Ratzsch]

2. Copernican Astronomy

A. Ancient Physics and Metaphysics [V:Plato]

B. The Geocentric Theory [V:Hawking, pages 15-29]

C. The Heliocentric Theory

3. Confirming Scientific Hypotheses [V: Okasha]

A. The Problem of Induction

B. Falsificationism

C. Hypothedico-Induction [V:Hempel]


4. From Metaphysics to Classical Mechanics

A. Aristotelian Physics


B. Newtonian Mechanics and the Mechanistic Worldview [V:Cohen, section 1.1]

5. Laws of Nature [V: Rosenberg]

Reductionism [V:Bishop]


6. Relativity [V:Sing, STR]

7. Realism, Anti-Realism, and Kuhn [Kuhn]


8. Quantum Theory [V:Greene]

9. Basic Evolutionary Biology [V:Kitcher]

10. Intelligent Design [Behe] & [Koperski-ACPQ pages 567-571]

11. Self-Organization, Epigenetics, and Hopeful Monsters: Friendly Critics of Orthodox Darwinism

Stephen J. Gould, Darwinian Fundamentalism

Phillip Johnson, The Gorbachev of Darwinism,8816,1951968,00.html



Slides available in Vspace