Philosopy 103


Week 3: Scientific Reasoning

Science is one of the most successful endeavors of mankind. Through the power of reason and careful observation, humans have found out how to get to the moon, cure diseases, and conquer most of the discomforts of nature. This discussion prompt gives students practice identifying and evaluating specific types of scientific inference.

Prepare: To prepare for this discussion read Chapters 5 and 6 in our textbook, in addition to the required resources for this week. Do some research into some scientific discovery that is interesting to you. It could be recent or old. Learn about how that discovery came about, and the type of reasoning that was used.

ReflectEvaluate the reasoning that was used on the basis on this week’s readings. You will need to do enough background reading to have a general idea of the basis for the discovery. Remember that the goal of this discussion is not to simply report what was discovered, but to examine the logic that led to establishing the outcome. 

Write: Within the course of your posts this week, make sure to do all of the following with reference to specific concepts from this week’s assigned readings:

  • Include a link or bibliographical information for the source in your discussion post.  
  • Briefly summarize the discovery and the process that led to it. 
  • Explain the sense in which the discovery involved inductive inference.  (It is extremely likely that it did.)
  • If it did, present a portion of the process as an instance of one of the types of inductive argument covered in this week’s readings.  Be sure to clearly demonstrate how the argument is of the type you claim. Hint: if you can’t find a more specific type, almost all scientific discoveries can be presented as Inference to the Best Explanation.
  • Evaluate the argument using criteria appropriate to its type.  State whether the argument is strong or weak.
  • Identify any ways in which the argument might be strengthened or weakened.


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