PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Opening the Black Box Exercise

In 2014, Hardcastle and Slater shared “A Novel Exercise for Teaching the Philosophy of Science” in Philosophy of Science (81:5, 1184-1196). I am hopeful it signals a growing movement to take teaching seriously within our field. My colleagues and I have adapted their “box" exercise — which we now call the "Black Box" — to a set of introductory HPS classes for STEM majors. In this poster, I share lessons gleaned from half a dozen or so courses, with particular attention on how to structure course activities to resonate with and reflect various aspects of scientific practice drawn from history, philosophy, and sociology of science. While Hardcastle and Slater note the advantage hands-on experience with the box confers to non-science majors, I emphasize the strengths of the box for teaching STEM majors. Rather than science on training wheels, the Black Box becomes an occasion for radical reflection and self-discovery. Hardcastle and Slater discuss a few applications of the box, including realism and antirealism, Kuhnian puzzle-solving, and science funding. Here, I focus on the social and ethical structure of science. In particular, I suggest some ways to modify the structure of the project to align activities and evaluation to explore and trouble particular models and values for science, such as communalism, diversity, objectivity, and openness. I hope that my examples and experiences inspire conversation among the attendees and I expect to learn a few new variations along the way.

Author Information:

Isaac Record    
Lyman Briggs College
Michigan State University


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