What do we know and what don’t we know about the universe and our place in it? HOW do we know? Have we made all of the great discoveries in science yet? What is next? What are the limits to our knowledge, and the physical and technological constraints on knowing all there is to know about the universe? In this course the key word is ‘objectivity’ and we will, throughout the course, examine whether we can ever be truly objective in our quest to understand the world around us. We start with a ‘quick tour of the Universe’, looking at how our knowledge of ‘big and small’ (the solar system and the atom) has developed through history — and what we (think we?) know now.
We will summarise what we think we know in several key fields: physics and astronomy; biology, evolution, genetics and disease; and the climate system. Throughout, we will be looking at these key topics in relation to objectivity, uncertainty versus realism, and the philosophy of science. The course also examines how our world view is shaped by values and religion, and how myth and science interact and affect our understanding of the Universe.