Prof. Romer, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2018, is interested in exploring with students the interaction between scientific expertise and public opinion, particularly at a moment when science is seeing its legitimacy questioned in certain sectors. The seminar also aims to situate our current moment within the long-term history of science, with a key text being The Knowledge Machine: How Irrationality Created Modern Science by fellow NYU faculty member Prof. Michael Strevens.
Students enjoy the contemporary focus on current affairs as they play out in real-time, and the chance to apply new academic tools to interrogate their own, first-hand experiences. Romer also emphasizes the importance of imbuing new students with an analytical mindset, and of ensuring an appropriate critical distance as they incorporate information. For instance, Romer notes, in reading articles on the pandemic in the New Yorker, when does an author quote an expert verbatim, and when do they paraphrase? How does that shape our reading?
Although an economist, Romer vividly remembers taking a philosophy of science class as an undergraduate and how it impacted his thinking, particularly Kant’s "Answering the Question: What Is Enlightenment?". Enduring questions such as how we know what we know, and what information we can trust, are central to Romer’s academic work, and he is excited to explore them with a new generation of CAS students.