Scientific Pluralism is a philosophical view stating that science is most progressive when it maintains and works with various, sometimes even conflicting models and methods. This may appear counterintuitive at first: How can we pursue and identify good science if anything goes? How do we avoid relativism in the objective study of scientific phenomena? This course will discuss the benefits and limits of such a pluralistic idea of science and how it translates into practice.
The course is run as a seminar in historical and philosophical studies of science for students of biology and neuroscience. We will look at examples from neuroscience (e.g., the search for a topographic organization of the brain), general biology (e.g., examples from evolutionary theory and genetics), and other areas from the history of science (e.g., the development of temperature measurement, the abandonment of phlogiston in favor of oxygen).
The course aim is to discuss and develop pluralism as a methodological, policy and educational tool by looking at the fruitful interaction of alternative explanations in historical cases and the heuristics of developing counterfactual histories for modern research. But we also consider the potential dangers of unselective pluralism in cases of the popularization of scientific pseudo-controversies.