Welcome to "Science & Human Values"! Tuesday & Thursday 9-10:15am, Mendocino Hall 3009 Spring 2018
Course Description: 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. We will also examine notions like observation, correlation, causation, categorization and inductive risk, which will give us a better sense of some of the complexities in the scientific process that keep philosophers of science busy. Equipped with these notions, we will be able to spot different stages in scientific research where values might play a role. We will apply these considerations to different branches of science (e.g. Evolutionary Biology, Psychology, Sociology) and to debates on technology (especially developments in Artificial Intelligence), sports and medicine. Both the conceptual analyses and the practical applications will reveal that values often operate in covert ways in scientific research, and that there are different kinds of values that are relevant (e.g. epistemic, moral). We will pay special attention to cases in which morally problematic social values (e.g. sexist, racist, heteronormative, ableist) shape the direction of scientific investigation and its results. We will also discuss the responsibility of both scientists and the public. 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.
Course objectives 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.
These are some of the questions we will discuss in class: Does science consist of passive observation and statement of facts? Should science aim for giving a description of reality that is value-free, or do moral and political considerations play an important role that should be openly acknowledged? How has sexist, racist, heteronormative and ableist ideology shaped the direction of scientific research? Should we be concerned about future AI? Do we have a duty to enhance humans, if we know how? Can technology be racist, sexist, heteronormative and ableist? Can we generalize science done in Western countries to other parts of the world? What values guide medical science in determining what sex is, and how a sexed human body should be? What is to be healthy and function normally? How do we define “normal”? Is the scientific community diverse and inclusive? Why is that important? Is the search for knowledge always justified? How do we determine its limits? Why is pseudoscience so successful? How can the public engage with science in a responsible way? Does science take away the meaning of life?
Course outcomes: 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.