Beyond IQ

Scientific and Rational Thought and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

  • 10 Jul 2017
  • 16 Aug 2017
  • 12 sessions
  • 10 Jul 2017, 2:15 PM 3:15 PM (EDT)
  • 12 Jul 2017, 2:15 PM 3:15 PM (EDT)
  • 17 Jul 2017, 2:15 PM 3:15 PM (EDT)
  • 19 Jul 2017, 2:15 PM 3:15 PM (EDT)
  • 24 Jul 2017, 2:15 PM 3:15 PM (EDT)
  • 26 Jul 2017, 2:15 PM 3:15 PM (EDT)
  • 31 Jul 2017, 2:15 PM 3:15 PM (EDT)
  • 02 Aug 2017, 2:15 PM 3:15 PM (EDT)
  • 07 Aug 2017, 2:15 PM 3:15 PM (EDT)
  • 09 Aug 2017, 2:15 PM 3:15 PM (EDT)
  • 14 Aug 2017, 2:15 PM 3:15 PM (EDT)
  • 16 Aug 2017, 2:15 PM 3:15 PM (EDT)
  • On Line
  • 14


  • For a second student
  • This is only for other GCP faculty to join a course.

Registration is closed

Lisa Fontaine-Rainen, instructor

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is a fanfic that begins with the premise that Harry’s aunt Petunia marries an Oxford chemistry professor (rather than Vernon Dursley) and Harry is homeschooled – and has a particular talent for scientific thinkng.  Thus the 2000 page fanfiction re-envisions the Harry Potter story through the lens of a child who engages in scientific and rational thinking. 

And here’s a bit of honesty.  I don’t read fanfic.  I don’t begrudge it for those who love it – I think it’s a great way to get writing or to explore ideas, but I generally don’t read it myself.  I don’t want to see changes to stories I love.  I had to be dragged into reading this one. 

And I don’t regret it one bit.  Even if you’re like me and not into fanfic, this one’s worth it.  This one makes me think.  It lets me move through the world I love, examine it through a different lens, laugh at its quirks, love it all the more, and become a better scientist.  Not only do I hope to share it with you, I hope to bring you deeper into the thinking, exploring the story and the premise fully to help you also think rationally, like this version of Harry. 


In this course we will read the first  “book” of the work and explore the various scientific ideas introduced in the text.  We’ll talk about Harry’s approach to the world, and where it might get in his way.  Our course will weave literature and science, as they have been woven in this text.  We’ll also ask the question about the changes made from the original text – which were driven by an intent to steep the main character in scientific thought and which were not.  Thus, having at least some knowledge of the original Harry Potter texts, or at least the movies, is useful for this course. 

Some of the ideas presented in the text can be quite dark – much like the original books, but sometimes even moreso.  Parents are encouraged to read chapter 1 to get a flavor for the text, and chapter 7 (starting around page 85) as it contains some of the most troubling material that we will address in this class.   Alternatively, feel free to e-mail me directly for excerpts to review, and I’m happy to discuss the content as well. 

Participants will have the opportunity to engage in a number of assignments that explore the ideas in the course.  These will be flexible and tailored to participants’ interests and abilities.  Other work will be primarily reading the book and supplementary material and participating in discussions in and out of class.  The book is available online for e-readers or to print  and as podcasts, all at no cost. 

Science isn’t a set of facts, but instead a way of thinking.  Come explore the science and the magic of this world.

(Times are U.S. East Coast)

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