Durant, Elwick SC/NATS 1760(A) Science, Technology & Society 2013
NATS 1760(A): SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY
Division of Natural Science
Faculty of Science and Engineering
Instructor: Prof. Darrin Durant
Dr. James Elwick
E-mail: [email protected]
Main Office: Rm. 218, Bethune College
Our Offices: Prof. Durant is in Rm. 313, Bethune College
Dr. Elwick is in Rm. 311, Bethune College
NATS 1760(A) (Science, Technology & Society) fulfills your general science, general
education, credit. This particular course does NOT attempt to fill your head with facts and
figures, in a vain attempt to train you up into some technical competence; as if general
education in science and technology is about being able to mimic the expert. Instead its goal
is to give you some analytic tools and theoretical insights into the nature of science and
technology as social practices. You will be taught about science and technology, about expert
claims, and about the way in which technical claims to knowing facts intersect with political
and social arguments about such claims to knowledge. The course is structured around
several inter-locking themes and questions:
- The theme of the tension between expertise and democracy.
- What roles can and should experts and lay publics play in controversies where
political and ethical claims intersect with appeals to factual matters?
- Why is ‘knowing the facts’ not enough to truly understand debates involving factual
claims? But also, why is ‘understanding the big picture’ also not enough?
- The theme of risk.
- What is risk? Why, in a time of seeming abundance, are people so worried about
different "risks" - a worry we will refer to as "risk consciousness"? How do we
respond to and manage the rise in this risk consciousness?
- The theme of doubt and certainty.
- Should we be wary of "merchants of doubt", who attack science wherever they
perceive a lack of certainty? Or should we be wary of those wh