PR 105: History and Philosophy of Science                                 Final Research Paper Guidelines


In the second half of the semester we looked at the role of the Scientific Revolution in producing the transition from the Aristotelian to the Newtonian Worldview.  We also have covered, or will cover, the emergence of modern biology from its origins in the natural history and natural philosophy of the sixteenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries, the role of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in modifying the Newtonian Worldview, will finish (hopefully) with the distinction between science and pseudoscience.


I would like each student in the class to write a research paper that expands upon some relevant theme for the second half of the semester.  The length should be from 4-7 pages excluding citations of source material and embellishments such as a title page.  A paper should have some type of operating thesis that the body of the work will address in some way.  Your research may support or reject a particular thesis in whole or in part.  Try to avoid too many theses or major topics in your paper; this can result in a cumbersome product.


Use MLA style for general formatting, citing source materials in the text, and for end of the paper citations.  The due date will be: Friday, April 20, 2018.  You may submit either a hard copy or electronic copy of your final paper.



Need an idea for your paper?  Ideas include:


The approach and methodologies of modern science seldom integrate any philosophical or theological components.  There is a point in the history of science where we might argue that science divergences markedly away from the theological and philosophical components which so long were integral to its development.  When does this occur?  Is it a gradual transition through the Scientific Revolution or is it a more recent (e.g., 20th century) change?  Conversely you might present evidence that this transition never occurred and that many modern scientists are simply not aware of the philosophies inherent in their sciences.



Select one of the major modern fields of science such as physics, chemistry, or biology.  All of these fields started as something else (e.g., the pre-cursor to chemistry was alchemy).  Discuss the emergence of a major field of modern science.  What did it start out as?  When did it change?  Was the transition abrupt or gradual?  Most importantly, what social, cultural, and scientific factors were involved in the transition?



Despite living in an era that benefits from centuries of accumulated and refined scientific knowledge, many people reject science-based findings in favor of pseudoscientific beliefs.  Some of these pseudosciences are presented in chapter 7 of The Scientific Endeavor by Jeffrey A. Lee and include creationism and intelligent design, homeopathy and other fad practices passed off as medicine, paranormal phenomena and parapsychology, and astrology.  Select a prevalently believed pseudoscience and discuss what it is, why it is not science, and why so many people believe it.

Notes on sources:


Sources should be from books, texts, or periodicals (primary literature or review articles).  Web-based material should be scrutinized for quality and validity.  For example the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy ( maintained by Stanford University is good material based on numerous scholarly sources (all cited).


Getting sources is easier than you might think!  If you go to the LEC Library website you can search for articles and books on your topic.  Some articles exist as downloadable pdf files.  If there is something you want that our library does not have you can request it through interlibrary loan.  However you have to give them enough notice in order to get things.  Articles can usually be obtained in 2-3 days (in my experience), but you might have to wait a week on a book.


There is no required number of sources, but don’t write a paper from only a single (or two sources) even if one particular work is the most relevant to your thesis.


General encyclopedic entries, whether on-line or in print should be used sparingly, if at all.  Do not cobble together a research paper from Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica.  A paper assembled from encyclopedic sources will read like an encyclopedic entry.  Websites such as A&E and History Channel are not good sources for a college research paper.

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