Welcome to "Science & Human Values"
This course examines the relationship between science and values. According to a common view, science is supposed to be value-free. If we want to keep science objective, the reasoning goes, values need to be out of the scientific picture. We will discuss this ideal of value-free science and scrutinize its problems. Throughout examples and historical cases, we will be able to spot different stages in scientific research where values might play a role. We will identify ways in which moral and social values can help science, and ways in which such values might spoil science.
These are some of the issues we will cover:
- the (only) apparent conflict between (good) science and values
- when morally problematic social values (e.g. sexist, racist, heteronormative, ableist) shape the direction of scientific investigation and its results
- the responsibility of scientists, science writers, policy makers, and the public
- the problems of having a simplistic view of science.
- science and the meaning of life
- science, technology and the future of humanity.
The main goal of this course is to invite students to develop a more nuanced and accurate idea of what science is and how it relates to society . Units: 3.0.
GE Area and Prerequisites:
This course satisfies GE area D (see the outcomes below). It is a writing intensive class, which requires students to write a minimum of 5,000 words of structured prose.
You must have GWAR certification before Fall 2009; or WPJ score of 80 or above; or 3-unit placement in ENGL 109M/W; or 4-unit placement in ENGL 109M/W + co-enrollment in ENGL 109X; or WPJ score 70/71 + co-enrollment in ENGL 109X.
By the end of the course, you will be able to
1. Express the complexity of the relationship between science and values.
2. Identify cases in which values are guiding (for good or for bad) scientific research.
3. Contrast your own view of science with the view of different philosophers of science.
4. Develop a critical attitude towards science. Critical does not mean negative or necessarily skeptical. It means having a complex understanding of how science works, so that one has good reasons to accept or reject particular scientific results, and is capable of offering arguments to support an opinion on what the advantages and disadvantages of certain scientific projects are.
As per the GE area D and writing intensive requirements, students will be able to:
1. Describe and evaluate ethical and social values in their historical and cultural contexts.
2. Explain and apply the principles and methods of academic disciplines to the study of social and individual behavior.
3. Demonstrate an understanding of the role of human diversity in human society, for example, race, ethnicity, class, age, ability/disability, sexual identity, gender and gender expression.
4. Explain and critically examine social dynamics and issues in their historical and cultural contexts.
5. Structure logical arguments, write well-formed sentences, and write prose that clearly demonstrates a sustained logical argument.
Here is a link to the GE area D learning outcomes: http://www.csus.edu/acaf/ge/ge%20assessment/area%20d%20learning%20outcomes.pdf
Douglas, Heather E. 2009. Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal. University of Pittsburg Press. (DG)
Fine, Cordelia. 2017. Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society. Norton.
Both are available at the bookstore.
Other required materials (e.g. texts, videos) will be made available on the course website.
You can access Douglas’ ebook online. Here is the permalink via OneSearch:
And here is a direct link to the systemwide platform via proxy server for remote access
(you should be prompted for your SacLink credentials).