Pursuit of a liberal arts degree entails a close examination of human society - the forces that unite and divide us; our political, cultural, and philosophical legacies; the trajectory of the path we’re on now. At an alternative liberal arts college like Shimer, students explore these issues through animated conversation and a fearless questioning of established theories. We encourage curiosity and critical open-mindedness. We don’t just take the historian’s word for it.
Understanding Scientific Thought
One important way of better investigating our world, both present and past, is by seeking out a richer understanding of how we make meaning of the universe. What have been our dominant frameworks for making sense of the natural world, of defining and explaining reality as we know it? Historically, what have we sought to explain and how have we pinned down knowledge? Studying the natural sciences at Shimer means learning to understand and appreciate the evolution of scientific thought. It means learning more about humans by looking at how we define ourselves in relation to our natural environment - how we grapple with big questions and map out the unknown.
Investigating How the World Works
As a natural science student at Shimer, you’ll begin by peering into the minds of the first recorded “scientists” - philosophers of the 6th century BC. Your investigation of how the world works will take you down to the atomic level, on a tour from ancient Greece to the periodic table of elements. You’ll look at the material make-up of the world, focusing upon several key concepts, such as weight, structure, and complexity. We also develop insights into how we function as a society by examining the theory of evolution, genetics, and animal aggression. Finally, students explore modern scientific revolutions, and venture into the realm of quantum physics and molecular biology.
Learning the Art of Inquiry and Debate
At Shimer, we learn by consulting primary sources - not their secondary interpretation by scholars. Therefore, the way we interpret and discuss works by Aristotle, Einstein, and Schrödinger (just to name a few) is central to our understanding and to our learning of key concepts in the natural sciences. In our natural science classes, as in any of our liberal arts courses, the emphasis is on dialog. Students develop effective inquiry strategies, focusing on forming authentic questions. They also work on expressing a complete appreciation for another’s point of view, and are not afraid to ask for clarification when needed. Our natural science classes are lively and discussion-based, helping students build and share their own understandings of the material while perfecting the art of debate. And there’s never a dull moment.
What draws you most to the study of our natural world?