I have taught a variety of courses at the University of Pittsburgh, Drake University, and Iowa State University. More details and syllabi available upon request.
MORAL THEORY AND PRACTICE
IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY (FALL 2018)
This course is an investigation of moral issues in the context of major ethical theories of value and obligation; e.g., punishment, abortion, economic justice, job discrimination, world hunger, and sexual morality. In the first (theoretical) part of the course, we will study major theories of normative ethics through foundational texts. In the second (practical) part of the course, we will apply those normative theories by formulating and critiquing arguments and positions on a variety of practical ethical questions. Students who successfully complete this course will be able to articulate and assess different positions and arguments on important issues in moral philosophy and critically examine their own ethical commitments.
PHYSICS AND PHILOSOPHY
DRAKE UNIVERSITY (SPRING 2018, FALL 2015)
Some of our current physical theories have quite radical and seemingly paradoxical things to say about reality. But what do they really mean? What are their philosophical consequences? Why should we take them seriously? This course offers an examination of these and other questions. We will study various conceptions of space and time across history and consider philosophical issues arising from classical and quantum mechanics. The course is divided into three thematic units: (1) Space and Time; (2) Classical Mechanics; and (3) Quantum Mechanics.
PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
DRAKE UNIVERSITY (SPRING 2018, SPRING 2016)
This course will examine the major topics and issues of contemporary philosophy of science, including: debates about the demarcation of science; questions of confirmation, evidence, and falsification; issues raised by historical and sociological analyses of science; the nature of scientific explanation; and the relative merits of various positions such as scientific realism, anti-realism, pragmatism, naturalism, and pluralism. As time and interest allow, we may discuss topics particular to philosophy of physics, philosophy of biology, and/or philosophy of cognitive science.
RELIGION AND SCIENCE
DRAKE UNIVERSITY (SPRING 2014, SPRING 2015, FALL 2016, FALL 2018)
What is Science? What is Religion? Why has there been so much conflict in western history between these cultural forces, and is such conflict inevitable? Do religious believers who speak about science or scientists who speak about religion overstep the legitimate boundaries of their respective disciplines? This course offers an examination of these and other questions. We will begin with an introduction to several perspectives and terms that will shape our discussion, and then we will proceed with a historical survey of the interaction of science and religion in western culture. Students who successfully complete this course will achieve a greater knowledge of the history of science and religion, sharpened skills for analyzing the nature of both the scientific enterprise and religious thought and practices, and a cultivated awareness of how science and religion continue to interact in contemporary American society to shape public policy and perceptions.
PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION
DRAKE UNIVERSITY (SPRING 2018)
The philosophy of religion, broadly defined, is the philosophical examination of religious reasoning. This class serves as an introduction to the contemporary practice of philosophy of religion as well as an exercise in the comparative explanation and evaluation of religious reason-giving. This class is designed to accompany Drake University’s public program in comparative religion, The Comparison Project.
DRAKE UNIVERSITY (FALL 2017)
This course serves as both an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of comparative religion and an exercise in the interdisciplinary practice of comparative religion. The introductory component of the class considers the strengths and weaknesses of several different models and methods of comparing religions, while the practical component takes up the actual comparison of a number of different religions with respect to the theme of miracles. The class is designed to accompany The Comparison Project, Drake University's public program in comparative religion.
HOW SCIENCE WORKS
UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH (FALL 2010, FALL 2011)
This course is intended to provide an introduction to science and scientific thinking for students who have not had much contact with science. Its goal is to explain what is distinctive about the scientific approach and its product, scientific theories. The emphasis will be on quantitative approaches and on showing how the use of number in science greatly extends the reach of our investigative tools. The course is divided into three parts: (1) A general inquiry into the problems scientists face in their investigations of nature and the techniques commonly used to overcome them; (2) An introduction to the science of thermodynamics as an example of how theories are constructed and can be applied to practical situations in real life; and (3) An introduction to statistical analysis and its uses in dealing with scientific data.
UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH (SPRING 2011, SPRING 2012)
Newspapers often report on "studies" addressing causal questions. Topics range from what causes global warming, to what causes heart disease, to whether the death penalty deters criminals, to whether playing violent video games causes aggression, to whether school vouchers improve achievement, etc. These studies not only make their way into your newspaper, they ultimately affect public policy. In order to make rational decisions about your own life, and about matters of social policy, you must be able to assess critically—even if informally—the causal and statistical reasoning used in these reports. This course aims to provide you with the knowledge and skill to do just that. The material in this course examines the nature of causal claims and the statistical sorts of evidence used to support them. It contains the concepts with which to understand the scientific reasoning that underlies the "studies" that shape our social policies.
DARWINISM AND ITS CRITICS
UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH (FALL 2007)
Charles Darwin's ideas not only revolutionized biology—they also have revolutionary implications for how we see ourselves and our place in nature. We will study the origins and development of Darwin's ideas, and the reactions of the scientific, religious and philosophic community to them from Darwin's time to our own. The course revolves around two central questions: (1) What is the scientific status of Darwinism? (2) What are the implications of Darwinism for our beliefs about human nature? We will spend the last few weeks of the term looking in detail at a variety of contemporary critics of Darwinism.
MAGIC, MEDICINE, AND SCIENCE
UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH (SPRING 2008)
This course investigates magic, medicine and science in early modern Europe. The course will be based on original sources. We will teach and learn magic, medicine and science as if we were professor and students in an early modern European setting.
I try to create unique assignments that engage my students with philosophical concepts and modes of reasoning. Below are some examples.
In my physics and philosophy course, I guided my students in the creation of a three-dimensional model of space-time that represented their personal world-lines over the course of a single day.
Moral theory Trading cards
In my Moral Theory and Practice course, my students worked in groups to create “trading cards” that represented major ethical theories.