Skip to main content
Unit of study_

What is this Thing Called Science? - HPSC1001

What distinguishes creationism from evolutionary theory, or astrology from astronomy? Can we have good reason to believe that our current scientific theories represent the world "as it really is"? This course critically examines the most important attempts to describe the scientific method, to draw a line dividing science from non-science, and to justify the high status generally accorded to scientific knowledge. Views studied include Karl Popper's idea that scientific theories are falsifiable in principle, Thomas Kuhn's proposal that science consists of a series of paradigms separated by abrupt scientific revolutions, and claims by Feyerabend and others that there are no objective criteria by which science can be distinguished from pseudo-science. This unit of study also explores contemporary theories of evidence and explanation, the role of social values in science, sociological approaches to understanding science, and the nature of scientific change.

2x1-hr lectures; 1x1-hr online study; and 1x1-hr tutorial per week

essays and online tasks

Godfrey-Smith, P (2003). Theory and Reality. The University of Chicago Press. USA/ Curd, Cover and Pincock (2013). Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues (2nd edition). W. W. Norton and Company.


HPSC2101 or HPSC2901 or HPSC1901


Faculty: Science

Semester 2

05 Aug 2019

Department/School: History and Philosophy of Science Academic Operations
Study Mode: Normal (lecture/lab/tutorial) day
Census Date: 31 Aug 2019
Unit of study level: Junior
Credit points: 6.0
EFTSL: 0.125
Available for study abroad and exchange: Yes
Faculty/department permission required? No
More details
Unit of Study coordinator: Prof Peter Godfrey-Smith
HECS Band: 1
Courses that offer this unit

Non-award/non-degree study If you wish to undertake one or more units of study (subjects) for your own interest but not towards a degree, you may enrol in single units as a non-award student. Cross-institutional study If you are from another Australian tertiary institution you may be permitted to undertake cross-institutional study in one or more units of study at the University of Sydney.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.