What is the greatest scientific idea of all? Because science has so dramatically altered how we live and how we think about ourselves, the answer may well be the very idea of science itself, because - just like science's most important achievements - it, too, needed to be thought about, perfected, and invented. This 36-lecture series explores the ideas that have helped form the foundation of modern life - when society has been willing to pursue them. The lectures interpret the term "scientific idea" broadly, to include the ideas that made science possible at all, as well as the ideas that make it so immensely powerful. The result will be new insights into how science shapes society, as well as the way in which society, in turn, affects the directions taken by science.
You'll learn that there is no sharp distinction between ideas that are classified as scientific and those that are classified as philosophical or mathematical, or even between scientific ideas and political, religious, or aesthetic ideas. And how for 200 years, it has been the interaction of science and technology with society that has been the primary driver of social and cultural change, first in the West, then globally, and at an accelerating rate, affecting social and personal values and relationships; social, political, and economic institutions; and cultural values and activities in ways beyond anything our great-grandparents (or sometimes even parents) would recognize.