Numbers and Reasons

This course mirrors the content taught in Statistics 100, digging into quantitative reasoning (reasoning based on numbers) in the natural sciences and the social sciences. Our basic concern is "the passage from arithmetic to understanding,"  the ways that numbers can sometimes (but not always) validly persuade you of something.

The course will begin with introductory chapters of Measuring and Reasoning, but most class sessions begin with an hour of improvised group discussions stimulated by numbers from the web editions of the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Seattle Times that day  -- a pedagogy relying on the great science journalism now published nearly every morning as these media experiment with explanatory rhetoric or statistical graphics. The continually breaking science news of this decade--the Covid pandemic, climate change and its responsibility for weather-related catastrophes-- aligns perfectly with the course's main themes.

One of the course's enduring lessons is how competent media coverage of science appears always to rely on the three main themes of our first week --- machines, surprise, numerical agreement: the relevance of numbers and their graphical display to the deepest themes of philosophy of science here in the 21st century.  This rhythm will persist in 2024, balancing the textbook's classic logic and classic examples against current events or discoveries, including but not limited to Covid and climate matters.

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5 credits of Natural Science coursework towards the Areas of Inquiry requirement.