Natural Sciences 4 - Scientific Explanation of Life.
The problem of the course is a contemporary one: the relation that exists between the biological and physical sciences. The implications of enzyme theory, quantum theory, and gene theory for this relationship are considered. The authors read include Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Dobzhansky, Crick, and others. As far as present expert opinion is concerned, there are competing conceptions of this relationship and the problem is unresolved. Hence, criticism is invited and becomes one of the central aims of the course. The judgments of success or failure for each of the authors involve the critical examination of almost all the kinds of arguments a scientist advances to secure support for a position. The philosophical assumptions that underlie these varied scientific arguments are discussed in depth. (Prerequisite: Natural Sciences 2 and 3)
Natural Sciences 4 - Quantum Physics and Molecular Biology
Natural Sciences 4 focuses on the question: What is life? In searching for an answer, students come to an understanding of modern quantum physics. They examine the complexity of DNA and RNA and the causal relationship of those substances to the laws of genetics studied in Natural Sciences 2. The concept of evolution is widened to include not only the microscopic (molecular evolution) but also the macroscopic (the universe as a whole). The course culminates in an extension of biological inquiry to the levels of knowledge and human interaction. (Prerequisite: Natural Sciences 2 and 3)
Erwin Schrödinger, What is Life?
Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy
George Gamow, Thirty Years That Shook Physics
Richard Feynmann, QED
Freeman Dyson, Origins of Life
Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, Origins of Sex: Three Billion Years of Genetic Recombination
Authors read in Natural Sciences 4 at Shimer College, as of 2012