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Conflicting Ideas, Conflicting Interests: Science and Society

Update: The course is now also listed in ecampus: https://campus.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/campus/all/module.asp?gguid=0x30A0848D20DF5744941E649EA5D6E386&fieldgguid=&findmodule=conflicting

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Conflicting Ideas, Conflicting Interests: Science and Society is a course in the Optionalbereich (optional areas of study) at the Ruhr-University Bochum. It is organised by Dunja Šešelja1. The course has two parts:

  1. Conflicting ideas, conflicting interests: science and society (Seminar), WS 2015/16, Wednesday 16-18 h, room to be announced.
  2. Debating and argumentative reasoning (Practical skills) WS 2015/16, Wednesday 18-20 h, room to be announced.
Title of the Module Conflicting Ideas, Conflicting Interests: Science and Society
Start Winter Semester 2015/16
End Winter Semester 2015/16
ECTS Credits 5 CP
Tumus every Winter Semester2

General Description and Motivation

Disagreements and conflicts are prevalent constituents of our culture and play an important role in various domains. Understanding their role in different contexts contributes to a broader understanding of human culture and society. While disagreements are usually analysed with respect to sociopolitical contexts, they are comparatively less mentioned within the curricula in natural sciences. Nevertheless, scientific disagreements are not only frequent in scientific practice, but are also considered vital for scientific progress. Understanding their role contributes to a deeper understanding of scientific practice and scientific objectivity.

The fact that disagreements are present in a variety of contexts makes this topic an excellent entry point for students to get familiar with an interdisciplinary approach to an examination of scientific and cultural phenomena. The topic is also an excellent way to introduce students to the practice of debating and argumentative reasoning.

Part 1: Conflicting ideas, conflicting interests: science and society (Seminar/Ringvorlesung)

The seminar aims at introducing students to a variety of topics surrounding conflicts and disagreements in various social contexts, including science, politics and religion. Students are supposed to write a protocol of one seminar class of their choice, and a wiki or a poster related to a topic discussed within the seminar. The seminar will include lectures by researchers working in different scientific domains, including epistemology, philosophy of science, logic, medical ethics, developmental biology, bio-psychology, climatology and religious studies.

Here is a preliminary schedule:

  • Oct 28, 16:00-18:00, Dr. Jan Schildmann: Conflict of interests and conflict of obligations in modern medicine
  • Nov 4, 16:00-18:00, Prof. Dr. Volkhard Krech: Religion contested. How religious topics are dealt with in society and academia
  • Nov 25, 16:00-18:00, Prof. Dr. Jan Cermak: Climate change: The scientific consensus and the media
  • Dec 16, 16:00-18:00, Prof. Dr. Onur Güntürkün on biopsychology (the exact title to be announced)
  • ?, Andrea Kruse on The epistemology of disagreements

Part 2: Debating and argumentative reasoning (Practical skills)

The practical sessions aim at introducing students to the practice of debating, which should help them to develop the skills of critical and argumentative reasoning. Students will learn about standard debating formats, how to formulate and use arguments, and how to protocol and evaluate debates. This part will end with a debate tournament. Students are to write an essay with a list of arguments for and against one of the debatable topics (a list of possible topics will be offered during this part of the module).

Aims of the Course

  1. To introduce students to a variety of contexts in which disagreements occur.
  2. To help students understand the similarities and differences between various types of disagreements, as well as between different approaches to their sustaining, managing or resolving.
  3. To introduce students to the practice of debating and help them acquire skills of argumentative and critical reasoning. In particular, students will learn the following skills:
    • preparation and structuring of the source material used in discussions
    • distinguishing between valid arguments and fallacies
    • negotiating
    • presentation skills
    • skills of critical analysis and assessment (identifying presumptions in arguments, posing critical questions, finding answers to objections, etc.).

Requirements for Students

Bachelor students of all faculties (beside a good command of English, no other background knowledge is required). Bachelor students of all semesters can take part in the module. Given the interdisciplinary character of the module, no restrictions should be posed on the main study domain of the students.

Some relevant Literature

  • Machamer, Peter K., Marcello Pera, and Aristeidēs Baltas. Scientific controversies: philosophical and historical perspectives, 2000.
  • Douglas, Heather. Science, policy, and the value-free ideal. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009.
  • Straßer, Christian, Dunja Šešelja, and Jan Willem Wieland. “Withstanding Tensions: Scientific Disagreement and Epistemic Tolerance.” Heuristic Reasoning. Springer International Publishing, 2015. 113-146.
  • Huber, Robert B., and Alfred C. Snider. Influencing through argument. IDEA, 2006.
  • The editors of IDEA, The debatabase book: a must-have guide for successful debate. International Debate Education Association, 2004.

Particularities

The first session will be on Wednesday, 21st October 2015 at 16h (the room will be announced).

The mark is calculated as follows:

  • Part 1:
    • protocol of one seminar class (10%)
    • a wiki or a poster related to a topic discussed within the seminar (40%)
  • Part 2:
    • participation in the final debate tournament (25%)
    • an essay with a list of arguments for and against one of the debatable topics (a list of possible topics will be offered during this part of the module) (25%)

The estimated time to be spent on the course is:

  • attendance of the sessions: 50h
  • other working time: 100h

Registration

Footnotes:

1

Dr. Dunja Šešelja (Dozent/in), Philosophisches Institut II, GA 3/155, Fon: +49(0)234-32-28714, email: dunja.seselja@rub.de

2

Since this is a pilot program, the exact planning will be adjusted at the end of the initial semester.

Author: Dunja Seselja and Christian Straßer

Created: 2015-10-23 Fri 00:05

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