Syllabus 125 Normed

Catalog description

    Study of the philosophical problems that arise in the sciences: how claims are justified, the limits and styles of explanation, identifying pseudo science, values in science, unity and diversity of the sciences, and science's impact on our world     view. 3 units. 

General education 

    This course satisfies GE area B-5. The definition and general learning objectives of area B-5 may be reviewed here. The specific learning objectives of Area B-5 covered in this class are: 

        A. Cite critical observations, underlying assumptions and limitations to explain and apply  important ideas and models in one or more of the following: physical science, life science, mathematics, or computer science. 

        B. Recognize evidence-based conclusions and form reasoned opinions about science-related matters of personal, public and ethical concern.

Learning objectives

    The philosophy of science is the examination of the most basic concepts and principles at work in scientific inquiry. What principles do all of the sciences have in common? How are the theories of different sciences (like physics, biology, and     psychology) related? How are the scientific theories of today related to the scientific theories of yesterday and tomorrow? Traditionally, answers to these sorts of questions have been formulated on the basis of two fundamental assumptions        about the nature of scientific inquiry: (1) scientific thinking is inherently rational; (2) scientific knowledge is inherently objective.

    It's easy to appreciate the practical significance of these questions. Because our society values rationality and objectivity so highly, the difference between science and non science is the difference between what will be taken seriously and        what will not. Although most philosophers agree that scientific rationality consists in testing theories against certain rules of evidence and explanation, exactly what those rules are remains an open question. Similarly, while most philosophers     agree that the objectivity of a scientific theory consists in its giving an accurate picture or model of reality, there is little agreement as to what this actually means.

    The current state of science fuels much of the debate in the philosophy of science. Science can not now be plausibly characterized as either a unified body of knowledge or even a unified method of inquiry. Rather it seems to be a collection of     different disciplines and methods, all possessing somewhat different standards of rationality and objectivity. Because the philosophical approach aims at understanding how everything is related, this fragmentation is at the same time both            frustrating and fascinating.

    While there are too many significant issues in the philosophy of science to be covered adequately in one semester, we will do our best to understand the general nature of scientific inquiry, and the manner in which the scientific worldview has     developed throughout history.

    By the end of the course you will  be able to understand:

        (1)  basic concepts in the philosophy of science such as: theory, evidence, explanation, confirmation, disconfirmation, induction, falsification and empirical vs. conceptual truths.
        (2) the nature of scientific rationality and the epistemic status of accepted scientific theories.
        (3) the nature of scientific objectivity and the difference between realism and anti-realism with respect to scientific theories.
        (4) the basic problems and paradoxes of inductive reasoning.
        (5) the historical progression and difference between distinct scientific worldviews, including the Aristotelian, Newtonian and contemporary worldviews associated with quantum and relativistic physics and evolutionary and neurobiology.
        (6) some of the implications of science and changing worldviews for religion, morality and ethics.

Course type

    This is a fully online course. The instructor will hold  same day (typically) virtual office hours by e-mall request during the week.  


    Your grade in this course will be based on quizzes, tests, an an online journal. The quizzes and tests will be taken within the Blackboard environment.  The journal will be written on an online document using Google utilities.

  • Tests (200 points)
    • This course is organized into ten learning modules, with a multiple choice test after each module. Tests typically contain 40 questions and the tests are worth 20 pts each. The tests are timed. You will normally be given 30 minutes to take each test.  The tests cover the textbook and online lectures.  Each test may be taken only once, with the exception that at the end of the semester everyone will be permitted to retake one test of their choosing. Test questions are drawn from a pool of questions and the order in which they occur will be random.  Individual students' tests will be comparable in difficulty, but there will be significant variation with respect to the specific questions asked. 
  • Quizzes (0 points)
    • Each learning module is accompanied by between 2 and 4 multiple choice quizzes, which are designed to prepare you for the test. The quizzes exist to help you study for the tests.  There is no limit to the number of times you may take a quiz.  You should not attempt to take any module test until you have passed all the quizzes with a grade of at least 80%.  Most students find that they do about 5% -10% worse on the tests than they do on their average for the quizzes.  Although you may take the tests without taking the quizzes, students who do typically fail them.
  • Journal (20 points)
    • Every module will be associated with questions which you will answer in your online journal.  Typically these questions will cover the supplementary material in the schedule page.  It is very important that your answers demonstrate a thorough acquaintance with the relevant material.  Answers in which it is clear that you have not done so will receive no credit.  Beyond that, your answers will be primarily assessed for the care you take in producing them.  (A rubric for journal grades is supplied below.)  Each journal entry is worth 2 points, for a total of 20 possible points.  To receive full credit journal questions must be finished by the due date.  Due dates for journals are the same as for the corresponding module tests unless otherwise stated.
Discussion page

    A Google discussion will be created for the purpose of student discussion. as well as for the professor to answer student questions. If you have a question for the professor about the content or structure of the course you should        write the question as a post to the discussion page. The professor will receive the question as an e-mail.  By answering it on the discussion page he is able to help you and others at the same time. (If you have a private matter to discuss you     should, of course, just e-mail the professor directly.) Beyond that, this page exists mainly to mitigate the isolation of online learning.  You may use it any way you like, for group note taking, exchanging ideas or chatting.  Nobody is required to     participate. The only thing you must not do is use the page to copy each other's work. 

    There are 220 points  possible in this course (200 for tests, 20 from the journal).  However, your grade will be calculated on the basis of 200 points.  So, for example, if you receive 173 total points, your grade will be 173/200 = 86.5% = B.  This     means that there are effectively 20 points of extra credit available, but 20 points worth of this extra credit is not tied to any particular assignment.  This structure is likely to tempt some students not to do the online journal.  This is permissible,     but I strongly advise people to do the journal.  The tests are not easy, and almost everyone will need the points fro the journal to make up for poor performance on some tests.  In the end, however, this decision is up to you. Your grade is            strictly a function of the number of points accumulated during the semester.  

 QuantityValue Total 
Tests 10  20200
Journal  entries 10  220
Total possible
Total basis  200

    Final letter grades are assigned on a standard scale. 92% and above = A, 90-91% = A-, 88-89% = B+, 82- 87% = B, 80-81% = B-, etc. Fractional point totals are rounded up from .5. You and only you are responsible for monitoring your                performance in this course. Be sure to pay close attention to the drop deadline. 

Basic advice for succeeding in this course

    By far the most important strategy for doing well in this course is to work steadily.  Students who wait until the day a test is due in order to study the material, pass the associated quizzes and take the test are in for a particularly stressful and     unproductive experience.  Since quizzes may be taken as many times as needed to pass, it may be tempting to try passing the quizzes before you have carefully engaged all of the material. This, too, is a poor strategy, as you will often get        multiple choice questions right just by chance.  Moreover, passing the quizzes is not a guarantee of total preparedness for the test, as there will often be test questions that you did not encounter in any form on a quiz.  Study questions for the     lecture are supplied at the end of every lecture and study questions for the book and supplemental material are supplied on a webpage at the top of the schedule page.  You are not required to submit written answers to any of these questions,     but you should know their answers before engaging any of the assessments.

    Summary of advice:
  • Work at a steady pace.  Do not plan to be able to be able to do more than one chapter's worth of work and pass the associated quiz in a day.
  • Engage all of the material.  The lectures contains material not in the book and you are accountable for all of it.
  • Do your very best to stick to the advised quizzing and testing schedule on the schedule page.

Basic procedure for taking tests 

    1. Be sure that you have a stable internet connection before taking any test.  Although all quizzes and tests are open book and notes, the time limit will  tend to prohibit their use for tests.  Use the book and your notes to help you with quizzes.        But be sure you no longer require them before taking a test. 

    2. At the beginning of your test always take a screenshot.

    3. Absolutely never take your module tests on a mobile device.  Students who experience technical difficulties during a test will be required to submit their screen shot to show that they were not using a mobile device while taking the test.


    As noted above, all students will be permitted to retake one test of their choosing at the end of the term.

Your online journal

    Instructions for receiving your online journal will be provided in the What's Up section of the course website at the beginning of the semester.  Your journal will be monitored by the instructor and  his teaching assistant.  Your journal will not        receive a numerical grade until the end of the semester, but you will be prompted regarding the basic quality of your entries. As noted above, your entries will be assessed for the degree of care, thoughtfulness and effort you put into                     understanding the text.  Some important facts about the journal.

        1.  It is imperative that you engage the readings and finish your journal entries prior to the due date.  The Google utility contains a revision history that permits us to determine whether entries have been done on time. The due time for any             entry is 11:59 PM on the corresponding due date.  If you are ever finishing an entry after that time, you must change the part that has been finished late to a blue color.  Blue colored late entries will be accepted up to 24 hours late, and                 downgraded 1 pt. Students who misrepresent entries (whether intentionally or not) as being on time by failing to change them to a blue color will lose all of the points on their journal.

        2. Journal entries must be done neatly and in college level English with complete sentences and correct grammar, punctuation and spelling.  You will be supplied with a sample journal entry for comparison.

        3.  Journal entries must always be done in your own words.   Absolutely do not quote the text or the instructor unless specifically directed to do so or unless the precise wording of an author is important.  Note that this restriction is                    not about plagiarism.

        4.  If a journal contains plagiarism of any kind the student will fail the course.  Journals will not be reviewed in their entirety for plagiarism until the end of the course. This means that a student who plagiarizes anytime during the semester            may go on to complete all of the course requirements and still receive a final grade of F.  The names of students who plagiarize will also be given to Student Affairs for disciplinary action.  Plagiarism includes all of the standard forms                    identified here as well as copying from other student journals (including those of previous semester).  

        6.  Absolutely do not share your Google Doc journal with any other students and do not share your answers with any other students.   This will be treated as aiding and abetting plagiarism and will be treated in the same manner as plagiarism,         as defined above.

        7. It is ok to respond to comments on your journal page made by the professor but do no resolve or delete them.

        8.  At the end of the term you will submit your journal to  If you are not already familiar with or do not have an account, please go to  this link. The information you will require is:

    • Class ID:  10046959    
    • Enrollment password: mayes125
Grading rubric for journals

Although you will not receive a score for individual answers, the basic grading rubric for individual answers is as follows.

2  =  Answer is thoughtful, complete and contains few or no writing errors.  Answer is neatly formatted, on time , with only minor corrections or revisions being made after the due date. 

1.5 =  Answer is fairly thoughtful and  complete and contains few writing errors.  Answer is neatly formatted, on time, with only minor, infrequent corrections or revisions being made after the due date.  

1 = Answer is perfunctory or significantly incomplete and/or contains some writing or formatting errors.  Or answer meets criteria for higher grade, but is substantially revised after the due date.

.5 =  Answer is very perfunctory or incomplete and/or poorly formatted and/or contains unacceptable 

0 = Not done or utterly incomplete, perfunctory or otherwise poorly executed.

Academic honesty and plagiarism

    You are both free and encouraged to study together.  However, all work done in this course is subject to the  CSUS academic honesty policy, which you may read at: Academic Honesty Policy & Procedures.   

    Pay particular attention to entry 4. in the instructions for online journals above.

Course materials

  • Worldviews, by Richard De Witt, 2nd edition. (e-book available)
  • Supplementary material provided online.
  • Instructional material provided online.

Reading and assignment schedule

    The reading and assignment schedule is at the schedule link on the home page.


    All general information will be supplied by the instructor at the What's Up link. Check it at least once a day.

    The instructor will be available by e-mail and will normally respond to all questions asked during the weekdays within a few hours.  Students who do not receive timely responses should re-send their e-mail in case I overlooked it.  The instructor     will also be available for virtual office hours on Google Chat.  

    When communicating with the instructor,  always be courteous and clear.  Here  is a link explaining the proper way of sending an inquiry to the instructor.  Students who are insufficiently courteous or clear in an email to the instructor will            receive this link as a reply.

    Please check your email soon after asking me a time-sensitive question.  As noted, I typically respond quickly and you are responsible for the information soon after I send it.

How to get help with the quizzes or tests

When you are struggling with the answer to the question on a quiz or do not understand why you got a question wrong on a test,  you should feel free to ask the instructor for help or advice.  Please heed the following:

  • Please try to  provide a screen shot or the exact text of the question you are having trouble with.  
  • Always provide some kind of reasoning for why you think a particular answer you are giving is correct.
  • The questions that most people struggle with are multiple answer questions. These are questions in which there may be (and usually are) more than one right answer. 

Dropping the class

    To drop this class, students must contact the College of Continuing Education.  Permission to drop is discretionary and the professor will not authorize any drops after the end of the 2nd week of classes.

Students with special needs

     Students with disabilities that require accommodation must provide disability documentation to SSWD, Lassen Hall 1008, (916) 278-9655.  Please discuss your needs with the instructor during the first few days of the term.


     Minor changes to this syllabus may be made at the instructor's discretion.