STS300.1 Scientific Controversies: From Research Lab to Public Arena (Fall, Spring)

Knowledge disputes are at the heart of many decisions affecting our daily lives. Many of these public debates and controversies have a scientific component, whether it be a disputed area of research (for example, stem cells, gene editing, animal/human hybrids) or the risks associated with technological innovations (e.g., new drugs, pesticides, geo-engineering, electronic surveillance). Institutions in Strasbourg, namely the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, are directly involved in defining and legislating upon such controversies. In this course, we will consider how existing knowledge is maintained and extended in scientific research. How doubts and errors can enter the research literature, why public communication of science can oversimplify claims to new findings, and where innocent mistakes in journalism, or on social media, can be actively promoted to support private interests. In particular, we will look at how scientific controversies can be skewed by personal conflicts of interest (moral, religious, financial, political) and/or by the agendas of corporations, NGOs, and governments.

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

Department: Science, Technology, and Society

Location: Strasbourg

Semester: Spring

Credits: 3