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ENVS 5110
Science and Society: An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies

Course Overview

Basic Course Description

A critical introduction to science, technology, and society relationships and their scholarly analysis.

Elaborating Introductory Note

The rise of modern science and technology has presented a series of challenges to society. In the 1500s and 1600s (with the Scientific Revolution being led by such figures as Galileo Galilei, Francis Bacon, René Descartes, and Isaac Newton) and again in the 1800s (with Charles Darwin) conflicts arose between science and religion; these conflicts have continued into the present. In the late 1700s and 1800s (with the Industrial Revolution, typified by inventors such as James Watt and theorized by economists such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo) Watt) special problems arose for economics and politics; these problems have been resolved by neither capitalism, socialism, nor democracy. During the 1900s the advent of nuclear weapons, electronic computers, and biotechnologies — followed in the 2000s by globalization, nanotechnology, and emergent-convergent technosciences — have only intensified multiple challenges that range across issues of personal belief and social justice to technological risk, environmental pollution, cultural integrity, and self-identify. Issues of professional ethics and responsibility among scientists and engineers, as well as science and technology policy, are further dimensions of STS studies. The present seminar will constitute a broad but critical general introduction to the scholarship related to such issues.

As STS studies have developed from the mid-1900s until the present, there have emerged as least six different (but often overlapping) strands:

  1. pre-STS, including work by John Dewey, Robert Merton, Lewis Mumford, and others;
  2. classic STS, as found in the work of Rachel Carson, Thomas Kuhn, Jacques Ellul, Ivan Illich, E.F. Schumacher, and others;
  3. applied professional STS, as represented by fields such as biomedical ethics, engineering ethics, computer ethics, etc.;
  4. pro-science STS, science and technology as supreme achievements of human culture and STS as an effective science pedagogy for non-scientists;
  5. academic (social constructivist) STS, from Wiebe Bijker to Bruno Latour and beyond; and
  6. policy STS, from Vannevar Bush and Harvey Brooks to David Guston, Daniel Sarewitz, Roger Pielke, Daniel Kleinman, and others.

The class will touch base with each of these strands but not in strict chronological order.