Science and anti-science in America: belief and knowing

America is perhaps the most science and technology dependent of all countries.  Yet its citizens are arguably among the least scientifically literate of all western countries.  Various polls have reported that roughly half of Americans do not think that evolution accounts for the existence of human beings, 67% have had psychic experiences, 52% think that the position of the stars and planets can predict things about their lives, and so on.  In this course we will examine how and why people believe things that are demonstrably false and do not believe things that are demonstrably true.  We will investigate how the human brain can be the substrate for our ability to understand the material world as well as our inclination to embrace the irrational. We will confront the assaults on free inquiry from both the left (e.g. genetic determinism, post-modernism) and the right (e.g. creationism, faith-based politics).    Central to this course will be an examination of the impact of American anti-intellectualism on our ability to govern ourselves democratically and on our capacity to use science to lessen human suffering.        
        “All our science, measured against reality, is primitive
         and childlike-and yet it is the most precious thing
         we have.”   Albert Einstein