IDST 89.001 – FYS: ‘Says Who?’ Climate Research and the Pursuit of Truth*
*This course is scheduled and controlled by The Office of Undergraduate Curricula (OUC). Please direct all registration questions to the OUC’s First-Year Curriculum Specialist, Ben Haven. All instructors belong to the Royster Society of Fellows.
From battles in the courtroom to disputes in the comments section, scientific authority and its role in policy and practice are under increasing scrutiny. In 2021, more than 20% of adults in the United States were estimated to have little or no confidence in scientists and medical doctors. While distrust of research and academic institutions may seem like a uniquely modern issue, it is rooted in a broader history of anti-intellectualism, the “generalized suspicion and mistrust of intellectuals and experts”. In fact, debates over the nature of truth and whose “truth” is considered fact have persisted since antiquity. This course will introduce students to different theories of knowledge (e.g., positivism, constructivism, critical theory) and examine how each impacts what types of questions are asked, how data are gathered and analyzed, and the ways by which evidence is appraised. We will apply these systems of knowledge production to ongoing debates about climate change and its impacts on health and well-being. Teachings will focus on the validity of the scientific process while critically reviewing its shortcomings, from embedded power imbalances to the proclamation of value-free research. Students will also engage in discussions and exercises focused on ways to improve upon the status quo, including identification of innovative scientific research methods that promote equity, sustainability, and inclusivity.