Introduction to Social Science for Critical Thinking
Our society is confronted by many crises: imperiled democracy, trade conflicts, civil war, climate change, and growing numbers of refugees. How can democracies tackle these crises when people across the globe and within countries are politically divided not only by the values they espouse but also by their beliefs about what is true about the world and how it works. In an age of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” how can citizens in democracies uncover the truths we need to comprehend the nature of the challenges that face us and make informed choices about how to surmount them? This course introduces students to social science as a way for us to employ reason to evaluate whether claims about the world are true or untrue. Through this course, we will address the following questions: What distinguishes science as a form of knowledge?; What kinds of questions 1 POLI 110: Winter 2019, TERM 2 can we answer using social science?; How can we measure the phenomena that interest us?; How can we find the effects of causes and causes of effects? We will explore these questions through the work of social scientists that examine key questions about immigration, the decline of democracy, ethnic conflict, and gun ownership and violence.
This course will use lectures, readings, and tutorial discussions to build students’ ability to critically
evaluate claims about society based on the evidence.
By the end of this course, students will be able to:
• Explain what makes scientific forms of thinking distinct and what kinds of questions are amenable to scientific inquiry.
• Identify problems (and their solutions) faced when making descriptive and causal claims about the world.
• Analyze and evaluate the validity of descriptive and causal evidence.
• Critically evaluate evidence used in real-world political arguments found in various forms of media.