Posted on

By Arthur O’Sullivan

With our multiple millions of dollars dedicated to research, Binghamton University is renowned for being an elite research institution. We employ Nobel Prize-winning professors, thousands of graduate students, and several expansive research facilities, all to advance the scientific enterprise. These things are all praiseworthy. In fact, I contend that scientific research is my favorite aspect of Binghamton University. (My experience as an undergraduate researcher made me apply for a Master’s here, after all.) This doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t room for expansion. 

The idea for this article was crystallized by an off-hand comment made in my “Mechanisms of Evolution” class (BIOL 351), taught by Professor Thomas Powell. In our first lecture, Dr. Powell mentioned that he’s been trying to establish a “Philosophy of Science” course for the past several years. His attempts have been rebuffed, however, due to an apparent lack of interest among the students. This was disappointing to me, since I had been looking for such a course for the past three years, and could never find one. To that end, I decided to pen this article. If nothing else, this will state unequivocally that there is at least one student who wants to see a “Philosophy of Science” course. While I hardly think that this alone will manifest a quality class on Bacon, Kuhn, Quine, etc., I hope that this may start a “movement”—however small and obscure—that may be noticed by sympathetic Binghamton higher-ups. 

My Experience with Philosophy and Science

In my four years and one-hundred-seventy-seven credits accumulated at Binghamton University, I have only ever taken one philosophy course—Dr. Anthony Preus’ “Metaphysics and Epistemology after Aristotle”—in completion of my Classics degree. The rest of my philosophical “education” came from the YouTube school of oversimplifying cartoons, right-wing Catholics, snarky atheists still stuck in 2007, and unemployed leftist PhDs making hours-long logorrhea on Hegel. Needless to say, the formal course at this university was refreshingly lucid, and I wish that I had taken a few more classes in that vein. 

I learned a lot in that course and ended up writing no less than 54 pages of mumbling about Classical philosophy. We even touched on certain aspects of the philosophy of science (e.g. Epicurus, Lucretius, Sextus Empiricus, etc.), even if we didn’t exactly cover modern ideas about the subject. 

My experience in science itself is a little more expansive. I’ve been a Biology major since sophomore year, and despite getting a D on my Intro to Cell Biology (BIOL 113) final exam, I still ended up becoming an undergrad researcher in a biofilms lab. My work in said lab combined both of my majors in an “interdisciplinary” (expect to see this buzzword often) project. Being in both worlds has been quite the experience, and I believe more STEM and humanities majors would benefit from crossing paths this way. Thus, a “Philosophy of Science” course would be a perfect entrée into this interdisciplinary world. 

Why We Would Benefit from a Philosophy of Science Course

“Interdisciplinarity” has been a buzzword among academics for as long as I can remember. I’m far from the first to suggest that the relegation of academics into ultra-specialized silos of obscure knowledge is counterproductive. To that end, most universities maintain general education requirements for all undergraduates, regardless of school or major. It’s a good system in theory, but it’s invariably subverted by the rule of least resistance; a brief glance at r/BinghamtonUniversity search results for “easy gen ed”  encapsulates this. While the “gen ed” system partially succeeds in exposing students to a “diverse” (another favorite buzzword of the academy) range of disciplines, it fails to capture the full potential of combining said disciplines and their students.

This isn’t all theoretical. The great event which has dominated the lives of every Binghamton student was the COVID-19 pandemic. The sudden onset of an unstudied disease, the sudden lionization of scientific authorities on one side—and their demonization on the other—sowed confusion in the American psyche. “Trust the science” was a common credo among the former, but it still left open the question of what science is—what are its capabilities and limits, and how can we tell? Numerous think pieces, left and right contended with this question. Yet each side, whether liberal or conservative, scientist or layman, would just talk across one another. In other words, there was a torrent of thought produced on the subject, but very little synthesis of perspectives. 

This is the core opportunity for a “Philosophy of Science” class. Binghamton students, both in STEM and the Humanities, can be combined together in a class that synthesizes both their disciplines and perspectives. The applicability to the real world is palpable, and students exiting the class will have an insight into the underpinnings of the natural world that few others have.

If this article was at all persuasive to you, please write an email to me at As a senior, I’ll be long gone before this class could ever become reality, but I hope that those coming into Binghamton may benefit from the establishment of this course. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *