Science Technology & Society
Chapter 1 Notes
Monday September 9, 2013
Chapter 1: Why is Thinking About Science and Technology So Hard?
The idea that there is a natural divide between facts and values.
Can be seen in Plato‘s claim:
• Thoughts and actions should be separated to protect 17th century
European natural Philosophers work from attacks by the church
and state in 20th century debates in Germany over values in
Facts are superior to values and are distinct from one another. (creditability)
Society accepts that science and scientists are the best judges of controversy
and therefore, clear politics and public opinions to reveal the unbiased truth.
Social impacts and moral concerns are usually based on value-judgments,
therefore making them less credible/believable. However, health and safety
issues are viewed in more scientific terms (facts).
• Technological Progressivism:
Roots from the Enlightenment. Progress = good. Technology = A tool in
Technology is almost self propelling and moving forward without human
Technology has only one path, so there is no point in blocking the road on which
it will proceed (it is always for the good).
ex. Between 1914 - 1945, engineers replaced wooden parts with metal parts
because metal "symbolized progress and science" and wood was old-fashioned.
"Technological Utopianism" is based on the belief that scientific and technological
advances will bring harmony/utopia to our society.
Luddite: An opponent/opposes new technology. Thus, making it harder for careful
and deliberate questioning of new technological developments. (ex.
Democracy and Expertise: Citizenship In A High-Tech Age
• Industrialization in the 19th century = social complexity and expansion of a division of
• Society must rely on others expert knowledge and skills (ex. doctor)
• Society = complex, science and technology = more essential
• Society trusts experts because professionals usually provide us with protection.
• All knowledge reflects a perspective. (ex. experts perspective reflects their social
position on a particular issue)
• When people are affected by technical decisions they are entitled to input.
• Sometimes, people who are not experts can improve understandings on some technical
The Limits to Expert Knowledge Connie Gaglia
• "God Trick" Donna Haraway's term. (1988)
The ability to see everything from nowhere.
God = neutral, unbiased, value free.
The ability (for scientists) to see a fact/phenomenon from every
perspective at once. (like God may)
Experts, however, only see from a partial perspective because they are
only human beings. Therefore, their perspectives are not neutral, unbiased, or
• ex. Epidemiologists analyze disease agent exposure measurement based on
"convenience and availability of data" rather than biological models of disease process.
Early 1970's residents noticed foul tasting and smelling water. Same year there
was also a rise in leukemia cases.
1980 = 12 childhood cases of leukemia
1980 = The government finally investigates and denies a link between
water based toxins and disease because they couldn't find a difference between
patients with and without the disease. (No samples prior to 1979)
Scientists lacked data on water pollution and could not rule out water.
• ex. 1986 nuclear accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Soviet Union and
experts knowledge of radioactive contamination on farms in England. (livestock)
• ex. 2, 4, 5-T (an agricultural chemical) used to control weedsé
• Everyone has a partial persp