The beginning of the 21st century has witnessed a number of public controversies at the intersection of science, technology and society. Such discussions are characterized by divergent views on the role of science and technology in contemporary life. From one vantage, science promises to deliver improvements in collective wellbeing: better health, cleaner energy, improved knowledge of ourselves. But from another perspective, developments in science and technology provoke widespread anxiety and uncertainty. While public officials sought scientific advice in settling policy debates, they often seem skeptical of its findings – whether about climate change or about guidelines for breast cancer screening. In many cases, economic interests, scientific advice and ethical reflection pointed in seemingly incommensurable directions. Understanding these tensions requires an historical and a comparative perspective. Whether in Galileo’s 17th century encounter with the Church authorities, or in current debates over climate change among US lawmakers, we find specific cultural and political factors at play in societal response to new scientific developments. The minor in STS enables students to develop a critical lens on such debates. The stakes for solving our most pressing social, political and environmental problems are high. Over the next decades many of the most crucial challenges we face will require the integration of societal values with scientific and technological developments – whether in managing end-of-life care, preserving the environment, or continuing to nurture scientific innovation. This minor introduces students to a number of approaches to these questions, taking advantage of the diverse offerings in this area at USC.
SOCI 210g: Science, Technology and Social Conflict (4 units)
Four classes from the following list, selected from at least two of the following three categories:
1. Science as a Social Institution: Courses in this category explore the social and cultural dimensions of scientific knowledge production, addressing questions such as: What are the cultural conditions for the development of a scientific ethos? What social norms structure scientific communities? How do scientists produce certified knowledge and establish their credibility in the public sphere?
2. Technology and Modern Life: These courses address questions such as: how do we understand ourselves as members of a technologically mediated society? How does technology change who we are as humans? What ethical issues are posed by technologies for remaking life and death?
3. Health, Environment and Science Policy: Courses in this category ask: How does science inform policy in areas such as health and the environment? What challenges do new developments in science and technology pose for policymakers? What policies should be put in place to encourage innovation on the one hand, but to regulate potentially dangerous developments on the other?
c/o Prof. Andrew Lakoff
Department of Sociology
University of Southern California
3620 S. Vermont Ave. KAP 352
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2539
Phone: (213) 740-3533
Fax: (213) 740-3535