GLS 592: Frontier Sciences

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Summer 1 (May 13-June 30, 2019): Online

Please watch the below video giving you a preview of the course.

This course is a cultural and historical examination of the emergence, successes, and problems of frontier sciences in gaining credibility in the greater scientific community. We will examine the importance of boundary-work in exploring the potentiality of science – from sciences and technologies that changed knowledge paradigms, such as quantum physics and organ transplants, to those that have struggled to gain credibility, like parapsychology.

What transforms a frontier science into a mainstream science? How is imagination and speculation central to the development of new sciences and technologies? Why have some sciences remained active, but only at the peripheries of accepted sciences? Historical analyses, cultural studies, and a practical collaborative final project that we build throughout the term will guide us through the values and dangers of frontier sciences in the modern world.

As part of the course, one week will be dedicated to a field trip scheduled in the term to the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina, the birthplace of parapsychology which studies psi (extrasensory perceptions and supernatural phenomena). In this field trip, which may be joined virtually by those students who are unable to attend in person, students will gather data that works toward our final team project, “How to Advance Psi Studies?”

The course is structured into seven units, in each of which we will think on parapsychology in relationship to the week’s themes:

  • Unit 1: An Introduction to Frontier Sciences
  • Unit 2: How Does a Science Remain Controversial? The Case of Parapsychology
  • Unit 3: Field Trip: The Rhine Research Center and the Parapsychology Archives
  • Unit 4: How Does Culture Affect Science? The Case of Organ Transplants
  • Unit 5: What Makes Frontier Sciences a Success? The Case of Quantum Physics
  • Unit 6: How to Advance Psi Studies?
  • Unit 7: Collaborative Project Completion

Collaborative Project: Students will participate in discussions, knowledge-building activities, and collaborative workshops to intellectually and creatively explore the controversy of parapsychology and how to advance psi studies. Each week, through discussions and writing, the students will build toward completing the final collaborative project. The resulting collaborative project – which will take a form and evaluative rubric decided by the class working together – will be presented by Dr. Laursen to the world’s major psi research bodies.

The goal of the final collaborative project is to recognize and propose ways to advance psi studies in the greater scientific and scholarly community. It will situate interdisciplinary studies, such as Graduate Liberal Studies, as central to advancing the study of psi phenomena.

Required Texts:

  • David Kaiser, How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival (New York: W.W. Norton, 2012). ISBN: 978-0-3933-4231-4 (pb and ebook).
  • Jeffrey Kripal, The Flip: Epiphanies of Mind and the Future of Knowledge (New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2019). ISBN: 978-1-9426-5852-8 (pb and ebook).

Reliable internet access is required for online courses.

Visit the website for Graduate Liberal Studies, University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Last updated: 10 April 2019