Course Purpose

Physical Science 100 is the most common course taken to fulfill BYU's Physical Science requirement in the General Education program. The foundations document describes the purpose and desired outcomes for this course as follows:

Requirement Purpose

“Discovery,” as the biochemist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi said, “consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” Courses fulfilling the Scientific Principles and Reasoning GE requirement—biological, physical, and social sciences—encourage students to sense the excitement of discovery. As expressed in the Aims of a BYU Education, students should be educated in “the basis concepts of the physical, biological, and social sciences” and in “the power and limitations of the scientific method.” These classes prepare the students to make informed decisions about science-related issues encountered in our increasingly technological world. They lay the foundation for lifelong learning about the sciences.

Learning Outcomes

Having completed this requirement, students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of the basic scientific principles which undergird the scientific process, including the strengths and weaknesses of this process.
  2. appreciate the excitement of discovery that has accompanied important scientific developments.
  3. demonstrate how scientific methodology can be used to analyze real-world science-related problems.
  4. evaluate scientific data and claims in order to make rational decisions on public-policy science issues that affect their community.
  5. express their thoughts (in oral, graphical, and written formats) on scientific topics clearly, including appropriate use of basic scientific vocabulary and effective interpretation of quantitative data.
  6. reflect rationally upon the interface between science and religion.

Course Characteristics

The courses adopt a conceptual framework that focuses on scientific thinking and reasoning as illustrated in a particular discipline. Vocabulary and principles of the discipline are included to provide a meaningful framework for discussion. However, the focus of the course should be on developing the student’s ability to reason using the tools of science rather than mastering large amounts of current scientific knowledge in a particular discipline. For this reason, courses should avoid content-driven presentations that are encyclopedic in nature. Conversely, the class must be more than a sterile presentation of the scientific method. A balance between disciplinary detail and scientific reasoning is ideal. This balance may vary, however, depending upon certain GE course sequences designated as “Options for Specific Majors” which satisfy both departmental and general education objectives.

Physical Science.

We live in a physical universe. Our modern way of life requires that we understand and be able to productively use the physical laws that govern the world in which we live. Courses approved to meet the physical science requirement will:

  1. develop a heightened interest in the physical universe;
  2. improve the students’ ability to understand, explain and predict natural phenomena;
  3. explain the process of scientific discovery, how others have used it, its strengths and limitations;
  4. explore the “whys” and “hows” (the questions of physical science) as well as the “whats” (the facts of physical science) so that science is seen as a legitimate avenue of seeking truth;
  5. understand and experience the power of physical science in addressing important contemporary issues with a technical component.