Monday, June 18, 2018


This course is my attempt to explore some fundamental questions about science-based public policy issues, such as:
  • How does scientific knowledge differ from other types of knowledge?  
  • In cases where the scientific basis of a public policy issue is ambiguous, when is it appropriate to take political action?  
  • What constitutes sufficient evidence that political action should be taken?  
  • When is it justified to spend money for additional research to investigate the scientific basis of a public policy decision?

In order to understand the relationship between science and public policy, it is necessary to understand the relevant scientific concepts. In this course, our approach is to immerse ourselves in four specific science and policy issues:

  •  Galileo and the Church: Science, Religion, and Public Policy
  •  Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth
  •  Global Warming and Climate Change
  •  Earthquakes and the Environment

These are issues that contain a rich amount of material related to the fundamental questions that we address in the course. Also, these topics involve a wide range of core scientific concepts as well as some excellent examples of how scientists and public policy makers interact when they need to make decisions about scientific issues. Thus, the organizing principle behind this course is that by delving into these specific issues in detail we will shed light on the general picture of how science and public policy are, in many realms, deeply intertwined with each other.