Science

One of the central goals of any great university must be to provide all of its students with a complete and well-rounded education, including at least a basic understanding of science and technology. Science plays a central role in the attempt to answer many of the deepest questions pondered by scholars throughout history. Technology plays a central role through engineering applications of scientific knowledge to develop useful products and processes. Together, science and technology are essential in the positive advancement and evolution of the human condition.

The teaching of science and technology is a critical component in the preparation of our students for their lives after Notre Dame. We expect that many of our graduates will become leaders of tomorrow’s society. They must be prepared to intelligently discuss the impact of existing science and technology, as well as the potential ramifications (positive and negative) of future scientific and technological advances. Our graduates will be consumers of scientific information and the fruits of technology throughout their lives. They will be bombarded with studies, statistics, health warnings and fantastic claims (some true, some not) and it will be their responsibility to sort these out. This requires information and training of the kind offered by a science and technology curriculum.

In addition to enabling our students to develop a sense of scientific literacy, courses in science and technology must also teach the distinctive thought process that has characterized science throughout history. All areas of science share the common goal of building a body of knowledge based on observation, experiment, and evidence. It is inherent to science that current explanations are open to scrutiny, and scientific knowledge is continually refined and changed as new evidence comes to light. Similarly, technology involves application of scientific knowledge with the goal of increasing the standard of living of all of humanity. Further, technology provides the new instruments which allow ever increasing precision, thus allowing further advancement of science. Courses in science and technology must emphasize not only our current understanding, but how our understanding itself has evolved over time. These courses should teach our students how to look at evidence with a critical eye, and how to use this evidence to compare and contrast different theories and conclusions.

Because of the self-critical nature of scientific investigation, the fields of science and technology are open to new ideas in a way unique among the academic disciplines. Not only is the source of the ideas important, but also how the ideas were tested, how they increased our understanding, and how they served as a base for the next conceptual advancement. Courses in the science and technology curriculum should encourage all of our students to become questioning, critical thinkers by teaching them the inquisitive and analytical thought process with which scientists view the world.

It is expected that, by taking any course that fulfills the university science requirement, Notre Dame students will:

  • Gain knowledge of the fundamental concepts and laws in the field of study.
  • Develop a basic understanding of the scientific method, including an appreciation for the interplay between theory and experiment, and how an advance in each drives the other.
  • Learn to analyze and interpret simple sets of quantitative data, and to use simple formulas and equations to solve problems.
  • Attain an appreciation for how mathematical structures help to describe the natural world and to model the behavior of engineering systems.
  • Acquire a sense of historical and societal context. Where do our current scientific understanding and technologies fit in with past developments and future aspirations? What is the relationship of science and technology to society?

Approved April 20, 2005, by Academic Council