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Unit of study_

HPSC3107: Science, Ethics and Society

(This unit will not be available from 2021) Science and technology are powerful modern institutions, and they are social endeavours, undertaken and often contested by different groups of people in different historical, cultural, political, and geographical contexts. These social underpinnings are the subject of this course. What does it mean to say scientific knowledge is socially constructed? How does science relate to social and political values? Can scientific facts simply be independent of these values? Should they be independent? Scientific knowledge is often difficult to understand without years of training, and yet this knowledge is crucial to social welfare and to political and environmental futures. So how should publics relate to scientific knowledge? We investigate sociological and ethical issues related to modern science, technology, and medicine, and we develop different approaches to thinking critically about what it means to live in a society so profoundly bound up with the methods and results of the long historical process of scientific knowledge-making. Topics include scientific expertise in public policy and law; fact/value distinctions; industrial science; human/non-human animals and recent biomedical challenges to human self-understandings; scientific and legal constructions of human difference; and recent global challenges that are both social and scientific in nature, in particular environmental change.

Code HPSC3107
Academic unit History and Philosophy of Science Academic Operations
Credit points 6
(HPSC2100 or HPSC2900) and (HPSC2101 or HPSC2901)
HPSC3022 or HPSC3024 or HPSC2011

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

Unit outlines

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