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Unit of study_

HPSC2011: Science, Ethics and Society

What is the role of science in society? What should it be? Scientific knowledge is often difficult to understand without years of training, and yet this knowledge is crucial to social welfare, and to our political and environmental futures. In this Unit of Study, we look at the practical realities of living in a society of which science is an integral part. Our examples come from across the sciences, with an emphasis on the health sciences, and on biodiversity, climate change, and environmental challenges. Major themes are: 1. Science in Society: how can publics relate to scientific knowledge? What is the importance of trust in science? What is the role of experts? What does it mean to say that science and society are co-constructed? 2. The West and the Rest: what are the relations between so-called "Western science" and other knowledge systems? What role has science played in colonial legacies? Our focus is on relations with Aboriginal Australian knowledges and cultures. 3. Facts and Norms: how does science relate to social and political values? Can scientific facts be independent of these values? We look at the historical origins of important concepts of science and ethics in response to the Second World War, and at present-day examples e.g. in biomedical research.

Code HPSC2011
Academic unit History and Philosophy of Science Academic Operations
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge:
Students should be familiar with introductory material in Philosophy of Science, Ethics or Sociology

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. Recognise, and reflect critically on problems that are both social and scientific in nature
  • LO2. Discuss basic approaches and ideas with regard to the place of science in society, relations between science and the public, and the role of experts
  • LO3. Understand some of the social and political implications of the concept of 'modern Western science,' and reflect on the relations, similarities and differences between different knowledge traditions
  • LO4. Recognise the lasting importance of the history of science for research ethics, and discuss examples of normative judgments embedded in research practices
  • LO5. Present coherent arguments about the relationship of science to society, the relation between 'Western' science and Indigenous knowledges, and ethical issues related to developments in modern science and its applications