Some example final exam questions:

The final exam will consist of 15 - 18 questions similar to the ones below.

  1. Why does the Greek notion of Air, Earth, Fire and Water constitute a "new" way of understanding the world/universe?

  2. Two Greek philosophers, Democritus and Epicurus postulated a much different view of the Universe than that of Plato/Aristotle. What was the basic idea suggested by these philosophers?

  3. Compare and contrast what Aristotle and Galileo thought the cause of motion was for falling bodies.

  4. Explain how the role of geometry might have influenced Aristotle's crystalline sphere Universe and how such a Universe was consistent with the cultural values of the time

  5. Explain why the observed retrograde motion of Mars is a problem in the Aristotelian cosmology and what did Ptolemy construct to resolve this problem.

  6. Suggest a reason why the Ptolemaic model of the Solar System was apparently accepted, without question, for 1500 years

  7. How does Descartes' mechanical philosophy require that concept of the Clockwork Universe must exist?

  8. What techniques did Galileo employ to better measure the effect of gravity on the motions of object?

  9. Describe Descartes basic procedure or process for uncovering the Absolute Truth

  10. Summarize Descartes ideas about the concept of "doubt"

  11. What is the role of God in the philosophy of Descartes, in all its manifestations? Defend the merits or weaknesses of the role God is intended to play.

  12. What facets of our modern day cosmological model were first described and documented by Nicholas of Cusa?

  13. Provide a possible explanation for why Galileo was unable to discover Kepler's laws from his observations of the orbital motion of the moons around Jupiter.

  14. Explain how Newton's laws can be used to measure the mass of the Sun.

  15. Explain how Kepler's third law verifies Newton's Universal Gravitational Force Law

  16. What observations did Galileo perform that helped him adopt the Copernicun Model for the Solar System?

  17. Explain how the ideas/mechanisms of Immanuel Kant can lead to the programming of the individual or of society at large

  18. Imagine that you are in a bar and that you are Newton. After a couple of cold ones you notice that Galileo and Aristotle walk in. How would you describe motion in terms that each would understand?

  19. What is the essential difference between rationalism and empiricism as a means of acquiring knowledge and which one likely leads to arrogance?

  20. Darwin and Lemarck account for the formation and evolution of species in different ways. Explain the difference between these two viewpoints and how each of these two theories have been used to defend a political order

  21. Explain how social darwinism arose as a means of mapping scientific fact onto cultural behavior.

  22. Give an example of how technology can suddenly empower the Superior races to invade the land of the inferior races

  23. Explain how catastrophism, uniformitarianism and gradualism all combine to suggest the Earth must be at least tens of millions of years old?

  24. Using E=mc2 Give an explanation of why light bends in a strong gravitational field

  25. What set of tracers or observations did Harlow Shapely use to argue that we were not located at the Center of our Galaxy

  26. How was the planet Neptune discovered?

  27. Every living thing on the Earth contains the same genetic code, DNA. That is, there are not other genetic codes still active. Explain why this provides direct confirmation of Darwin's basic idea

  28. Give an argument, in terms of probability, about the manner that you might expect species evolution to occur

  29. What is Newton's explanation for why the Moon has not fallen into the Earth

  30. Which people and disciplines tried to portray that the Earth is a Machine designed to sustain life and nothing more.

  31. James Hutton walks into a bar in which Rene Descartes is pondering his own existence. Hutton strolls in and says "You dude, did you know that the surface of the earth continually regenerates itself" - "Preposterous, completely Preposterous" replies Descartes. Why did he reply that way?

  32. How did Lyell's idea of gradualism influence the thinking of Charles Darwin?

  33. Explain how the role of asteroid impacts on the evolution of biological systems on the Earth essentially shows that Darwinian evolution can't work on long timescales

  34. Explain the basic premise of Thomas Malthus as applied to biological populations. Is that premise consistent or inconsistent with the Darwinian model?

  35. What observation did William Herschel make to demonstrate the concept of "universaility".

  36. Can a scientific theory be a true explanation of the world or is it merely an instrument for making predictions?

  37. One of your best friends, you know the one that always relies on you to help her write good essays, is struggling with her latest essay as assigned by Dr. Evil, on the philosophical implications of the Uncertainty Principle. While she believes she can bullshit her way to a good grade on the philosophical part, she has absolutely no understanding of the Uncertainty Principle. How would you, in laymen terms, best explain the Uncertainty Principle to your desperate friend?

  38. In the 1890's Henry Rowland complained that Americans tended to confuse science with engineering, pure science with applications. First, do you think his viewpoint was correct in his day (turn of the century America). Second, is this assessment still valid today?

  39. Explain how the photoelectric effect experiment shows that light behaves like a particle

  40. Explain how post WW II America's behavior ultimately lead to the 2008 bubble bursting economic collapse.

  41. Explain how a hierarchical world view naturally leads to treating nature as a consumable

  42. To explain all nature is too difficult of task for anyone man. Tis much better to do a little with certainty and leave the rest for others that comer after you, to explain all things -- Who said this and why is it relevant to the scientific method.

  43. Explain why one of the basic tenets of science is that our knowledge is always incomplete. How does that contrast with religion?