Darrin Durant SC/NATS 1760A Science, Technology & Society 2010-2011
NATS 1760A: SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY
Program in Science and Technology Studies
Faculty of Science and Engineering
Instructor: Prof. Darrin Durant
E-mail: [email protected]
My Office: Rm. 313, Bethune College
Main Office: Rm. 218, Bethune College
Office Hours: Wednesday, 3:00-4:00pm (or by appointment)
Lectures: Monday, 2:30 - 5:30pm, CLH D
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 some
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. Rather, the goal here is to provide you with
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 questions:
- What are the different roles that experts and the lay public play in controversies where public
policy claims involve appeals to factual matters? What roles should they play?
- What does it mean to say that political and social factors shape our community notions of what
is true and false, plausible or not, worthwhile or pointless?
- How are boundaries and distinctions drawn in and around what we consider natural and social,
technical and political, the inside and the outside of science & technology?
- What is the nature of scientific authority? Does it reside in scientists acting conservatively,
arriving at consensus and policing standards about what constitutes truth? Or does it reside in
scientists making bold predictions and challenging the norm?
- Should experts be left alone to make decisions, shielded from public scrutiny and directions
from political forces? Or, should expert decision-making be always subject to democratic and
broad public scrutiny?
The course pursues these questions via a series of case studies: sheep farming affected by the
Chernobyl radioactive fallout, public vaccination programs, the pros and cons of information
technology in your learning and for our democratic practices, ethical and political issues
associated with developing genetically modified organisms, the debates over global warming,
disputes over what causes heart disease and who to include in clinical trials, debates about the
differences between addictive and therapeutic drugs, and conflicting ideas about whether new
technologies change what human involvement in elite sport means.
1 Darrin Durant SC/NATS 1760A Science, Technology & Society 2010-2011
Grading Scheme: Attendance & Participation 10%
Pop Quizzes See note below
Essay 1, due Monday 22 November 20%
Mid-Term Exam (TBA) 20%
Essay 2, due Monday 21 March 25%
Final Exam (TBA) 25%
You will need to buy, share, or get regular access to the following Course Kit:
- SC/NATS 1760 A: Science, Technology & Society (2010-2011 or Summer 2010 editions)
- Available from York University Bookstore, plus a copy is on reserve in Steacie Library
- Lecture Attendance & Participation: Satisfactory attendance at the lectures is mandatory.
Below 70-75% in a term or overall is ‘unsatisfactory’. Unsatisfactory attendance may result in
permission to sit the final exam being withheld. Participation includes: satisfactory attendance,
completing the essays and exams in a manner consistent with the evaluation goals of the course,
and coming to class prepared and being prepared to engage in discussionrdhere possible
(measured by quizzes, plus answering/asking questions, plus using the 3 hour question/answer
period). We will make use of the full 3 hours allotted for lecture. In general, the first hour will be
lecture style, followed by a break and then an hour lecture/seminar. As much of the last hour - as
is feasible - will be set aside for a (voluntary) tutorial.
- Pop Quizzes: Can be considered a ‘bonus’. About 3 pop quizzes per term will be given (10
minutes at the beginning of lecture to answer the questions). Quizzes are graded on a pass/fail (1
or 0) basis (hence they are really testing that you read the assigned reading for that days lecture).
Your Quiz score is the number of 1’s you accrue, up to 5 (about 6 quizzes will be administered,
meaning you can miss one and not suffer). No ‘make-ups’. Technically, you do not ‘lose’ any
grades if you pick up no marks on the quizzes. But, on average, students tending to come to class
prepared will gain up to a letter grade (5%), which means better preparation in the course
(reading the assigned readings prior to lecture) is more likely to be reflected in your grade,
because you basically have a ‘boost’.
- Essays & Exams: Essays are a requirement, not an option. Failure to complete an essay means I
will lodge either a failing grade for you, or a grade of incomplete. The student must attend the
mid-term and final exam. There will be no make-up for the mid-term or final exam, normal
University exceptions notwithstanding (valid documentation provided explaining absence).
- Readings: Lectures expand on the readings and seek to connect various readings together.
Policy for Late Essays: late essays can be placed in a drop box outside BC 218.
Essays are due at the beginning of class on the due date specified. Late essays are subject to an
immediate 25% deduction if not ready by the beginning of class, followed by a 10% deduction
per day (including weekends). Essays CANNOT be accepted after fourteen (14) days. I do not
accept essays by e-mail, unless some exceptional circumstance has arisen and it is agreed to in
advance. The ‘guide’ for Essay 1 & 2 is handed out at the beginning of Term 1, so extensions are
extremely unlikely (notwithstanding prior arrangements, validly documented exceptional
circumstances, and medical, disability and/or counseling services notes). I only accept Attending
Physicians Statements (see my website) when considering requests for accommodation on
medical grounds, while I request that disability services or counselors notes be provided to me
directly and in advance of any request.
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No. Date Topic
1 Mon. 13 Sept Intro