CORVALLIS - The question of how to distinguish knowledge from belief and opinion - especially in science - is the focus of the 1996-97 Horning Lecture and Colloquium Series at Oregon State University.

The series will begin this Friday, Oct. 18, with a lecture by California Institute of Technology's Diana K. Barkan, a specialist in the history of science. Her talk, "Instruments of Evidence: The Changing Nature of Experimental Proof and the Sources of Reliable Knowledge," will begin at 3:30 p.m. in OSU's Gilbert Hall Room 324. It is free and open to the public.

Barkan's lecture will focus on the role of scientific instruments in the history of modern science. She has a Ph.D. in the history of science from Harvard University, as well as degrees from Tel Aviv University and the Technion Institute in Haifa, Israel.

The lecture series will examine ways in which scientific evidence supports argument in fields from ranging from chemistry to philosophy, said Mary Jo Nye, the Horning Professor of History and Humanities at OSU.

A public colloquium is scheduled Feb. 7 as part of the series. "Historical Perspectives on Evidence and the Law" will feature a variety of experts from the Pacific Northwest.

The Horning series also will include a public seminar and course offered next spring. Called "What Counts as Evidence," it will feature Larry Laudan, president of the American Philosophical Association.

For more information on the series, call 541-737-3421.

The schedule follows:

Oct. 18 Lecture: "Instruments of Evidence: The Changing Nature of Experimental Proof and the Sources of Reliable Knowledge," by Diana K. Barkan, California Institute of Technology, 3:30 p.m., Gilbert Hall Room 324.

Nov. 13 Lecture: "Fictional Evidence? Walter Scott's Notes for the Waverly Novels," by Robert Mayer, Oklahoma State University, Memorial Union 206, 4 p.m.

Dec. 3 Lecture: "Positivist Philosophy and the Evidence of Things," by Theodore Porter, UCLA, Memorial Union 206, 4 p.m.

Jan. 9 Lecture: "On the Strange Tension Between Evidence and Subjectivity: The Memory Craze in Contemporary Culture," by Allen Megill, University of Virginia, Memorial Union 206, 4 p.m.

Jan. 13 Lecture: "Stress in the Book of Nature: The Supplemental Logic of Galileo's Mathematical Realism," by Mario Biagioli, Harvard University, Weniger Hall Room 149, 4 p.m.

Feb. 7 Public Colloquium: "Historical Perspectives on Evidence and the Law," featuring Randall McGowen, University of Oregon; James Mohr, University of Oregon; and Angus McClaren, University of Victoria. Commentators include Kathleen Moore and Irving Horowitz, OSU.

Feb. 27 Lecture: "Persuasion: Places for Logic and Evidence in Victorian England," by Joan Richards, Brown University, Memorial Union 206, 4 p.m.

May 1 Lecture: "Evidence for What? When Values and Rigor Clash," by Larry Laudan, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, LaSells Stewart Center, 7 p.m.

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Mary Jo Nye, 541-737-1308