STS300.1 Scientific Controversies: Historical Perspectives and Social Implications (Fall)

During the last two centuries, radical changes in the material condition of mankind have been associated with the rise of professional sciences and the industrialization of science-based technology. These changes have affected nearly all aspects of our daily lives from the food we eat to the houses we live in; from the ways we communicate to the environment we are dependent on; from our modes of communication to our sense of personal safety and privacy.

Underlying this dynamic is a constant assessment of knowledge claims, testing their validity and predictive scope. By undertaking historical studies of scientific controversies we can better understand the mechanisms and conflicts within these decisive processes.

In this course, we will consider

  • The history of science and technology since 1900 and its social impact;
  • How existing knowledge is maintained and extended in scientific research;
  • How doubts and errors can enter the research literature;
  • Why public communication of science often ends up oversimplifying claims to new findings;
  • How reports of scientific controversies can be deliberately manipulated using tactics from lobbying and public relations.

Meets with HST 300.1.

Matriculated SU Students: fulfills A&S Natural Sciences divisional requirement.

Department: Science, Technology, and Society

Location: Strasbourg

Semester: Fall

Credits: 3