Science, Technology and Society Program

The multidisciplinary program in Science, Technology, and Society is designed to enable students to pursue three objectives: a) to understand the central role of science and technology in contemporary society; b) to examine how science and technology reflect their social, political, philosophical, economic and cultural contexts; and c) to explore the human, ethical and policy implications of current and emerging technologies.

Students interested in the program are urged to plan for declaration as early as possible in their college careers. Freshmen and sophomores should talk with the director concerning courses to be taken in the freshman and sophomore years.

Course Requirements: 14 ½ units including: (1) Non-science disciplinary requirements: 3 units including Introductory Sociology (SOCI 151); Microeconomics (ECON 101); and at least one course selected from Cultural Anthropology (ANTH 140), Readings in Modern European History (HIST 121), Readings in U.S. History (HIST 160), Philosophy and Contemporary Issues (PHIL 106), or International Politics (POLI 160); (2) Natural science requirements: 4 units from at least 2 departments, 2 of which must include laboratory work from biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, psychology or statistics (e.g., PSYC 200, MATH 141, ECON 209); (3) STS 200 (Science and Technology Studies); (4) 5 additional units in STS, with only 1 at the 100-level. Ordinarily these are courses that originate or are cross-listed in STS. Additional courses may meet this requirement with the approval of the director, (5) STS 300 (thesis) and STS 301 (senior seminar).

After declaration of the major, all required courses must be taken for a letter grade.

Distribution Requirements: At least 3 units in a sequence of courses leading to the 300-level in one of the social sciences, or one of the natural sciences, or a discipline in one of the humanities by permission of the director; at least 5 units to be taken in any of the divisions other than the one in which the student has achieved the 300-level requirement; no more than 25 ½ units may be taken within any one division of the college.

I. Introductory

131b. Genetic Engineering: Basic Principles and Ethical Questions (1)

This course includes a consideration of: 1) basic biological knowledge about the nature of the gene, the genetic code, and the way in which the genetic code is translated into the phenotype of the organism; 2) how this basic, scientific knowledge has led to the development of a new technology known as "genetic engineering''; 3) principles and application of the technology itself; 4) the ethical, legal, and economic issues which have been raised by the advent of this technology. Among the issues discussed are ethical questions such as the nature of life itself, the right of scientists to pursue research at will, and the role of the academy to regulate the individual scientific enterprise. Ms. Kennell.

138a. Energy: Sources and Policies (1/2)

A multidisciplinary introduction to the principal sources of energy currently being used in the United States and the economic, political, and environmental choices they entail. The two largest energy sectors, electrical generating and transportation, are the main focus for the course, but emerging technologies such as wind power and hydrogen are also examined. There are no science prerequisites except a willingness to explore the interconnections of scientific principle, engineering practice and social context. Mr. Challey.

Six-week course.

146a. The Culture and Chemistry of Cuisine (1)

(Same as Chemistry 146b) A basic biological need of all organisms is the ability to acquire nutrients from the environment; humans accomplish this in many creative ways. Food is an important factor in societies that influences population growth, culture, migration, and conflict. Humans discovered the science and art of food preparation, topics that are explored in this course, not in a single step but rather as an evolving process that continues to this day. This course develops the basic chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology of food preparation; explores the biochemical basis of certain nutritional practices; covers social and political aspects of foods throughout world history. It covers controversies like genetically modified organisms, the production of high-fructose corn syrup, and the historic role of food commodities such as salt, rum, and cod in the world economy. Course topics are explored through lectures, student presentations, and readings from both popular and scientific literature. The course includes a few laboratories to explore the basic science behind food preparation. Ms. Rossi, Mr. Jemiolo.

172. Microbial Wars (1)

(Same as Biology 172) This course explores our relationship with microbes that cause disease. Topics including bioterrorism, vaccinology, smallpox eradication, influenza pandemics, antibiotic resistance, and emerging diseases are discussed to investigate how human populations are affected by disease, how and why we alter microorganisms intentionally or unintentionally, and how we study disease causing microbes of the past and present. The use of new technologies in microbiology that allow us to turn harmful pathogens into helpful medical or industrial tools are also discussed. Mr. Esteban.

Not offered in 2012/13.

184a. Germs, Angles, and Quarks: Topics in the Global History of Science (1)

This course posits that science and medicine are not universal truths but rather historical constructs that grew out of cultural exchange. From cities, schools, libraries, and temples to mines, museums, hospitals, and international research centers, diverse sites have helped shape science and medicine over the course of millennia. Primary readings form the bulk of this class, and they come from varied locales and time periods, including works by Hippocrates, Aristotle, Hypatia, al-Kindi, A.A. Barba, Nicholas Copernicus, Li Shi-zhen, Isaac Newton, Émilie du Châtelet, Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, and C.V. Raman. By studying discrete events and places in the history of science and medicine, students of this class will improve their skills of reading, writing, and talking about science, and they will additionally develop strategies for analyzing their own experiences and expectations in encountering science and medicine as students, laboratory workers, patients, and consumers. Mr. Fiss.

Open only to freshmen; satisfies college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

Two 75-minute periods.

II. Intermediate

200b. Science and Technology Studies (1)

An introduction to the multidisciplinary study of contemporary science and technology through selected case studies and key texts representing the major perspectives and methods of analysis, including work by Thomas Kuhn, Robert Merton, Bruno Latour, Sandra Harding, Helen Longino, and Naomi Oreskes. Some of the issues include the concept of scientific revolution, the nature of "big science" and "high technology," the sociology of scientific knowledge, the social

construction of science and technology, the ethics of funding/owning

science and technology, and feminist approaches to science and technology. Mr. Fiss.

Prerequisite: 1 unit of a natural or a social science.

Two 75-minute periods.

202. History of Modern Science and Technology (1)

A survey of major developments in Western science and technology from 1800 to the present. Major topics include; Laplace and the rise of mathematical physics; the development of thermodynamics; the work of Darwin and Pasteur; Edison and the rise of electrical technology; the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics; the Manhattan Project; plate tectonics and molecular biology; and the development of computers and cybernetics. Special emphasis is placed on the concepts of "big science. Mr. Challey.

Prerequisite: 1 unit of natural or a social science.

Two 75-minute periods.

Not offered in 2012/13.

220a. The Political Economy of Health Care (1)

(Same as Economics 220) Topics include the markets for physicians and nurses, hospital services, pharmaceuticals, and health insurance, both public and private; effects of changes in medical technology; and global health problems. A comparative study of several other countries' health care systems and reforms to the U.S. system focuses on problems of financing and providing access to health care in a climate of increasing demand and rising costs. Ms. Johnson-Lans.

Prerequisite: Economics 101. Students who have not taken Economics 101 but have strong quantitative backgrounds may enroll with instructor's permission.

222a. Bioethics and Human Reproduction (1)

Scientific and technological advances are revolutionizing the ways in which human beings can procreate. This has given rise to debates over the ethical use of these methods, and over whether and how law and public policy should regulate these procedures and recognize the family relationships created by their use. This course examines topics such as fertility treatments, the commodification of gametes and embryos, contraceptive development and use, genetic screening and genetic modification of embryos, genetic testing in establishing family rights and responsibilities, and human cloning. We examine issues surrounding the ethical use of these methods, and consider whether and how law and public policy should regulate these procedures and recognize the family relationships created by their use. Ms. Pokrywka.

226a. Philosophy of Science (1)

(Same as Philosophy 226) A study of the principles of scientific reasoning. Topics include explanation, justification, scientific rationality, realism versus instrumentalism, and laws. Mr. Winblad.

231. Topics in Archaeology (1)

An examination of topics of interest in current archaeological analysis. We examine the anthropological reasons for such analyses, how analysis proceeds, what has been discovered to date through such analyses, and what the future of the topic seems to be. Possible topics include tools and human behavior, lithic technology, the archaeology of death, prehistoric settlement systems, origins of material culture.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Prerequisite: previous coursework in Anthropology or permission of the instructor.

234b. Disability and Society (1)

(Same as Sociology 234) The vision of disability has changed radically over the past twenty years. Public policies have been legislated, language has been altered, opportunities have been rethought, a social movement has emerged, problems of discrimination, oppression, and prejudice have been highlighted, and social thinkers have addressed a wide range of issues relating to the representation and portrayal of people with disabilities. This course examines these issues, focusing on the emergence of the disability rights movement, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the various debates over American Sign Language, "deaf culture," and the student uprising at Gallaudet University and how writers and artists have portrayed people with disabilities. Ms. Miringoff.

Two 2-hour periods each week; one 2-hour period is devoted to lecture and discussion of reading materials, the second 2-hour period serves as a laboratory for films, speakers, and trips.

248. Gender and Science (1)

(Same as Women's Studies 248) This class introduces the subfield of STS and women's studies that has been variously labeled "gender and science," "women and science," "feminist critiques of science," and "feminist science studies." We consider the methodological perspectives of a wide range of authors, including Judith Butler, Evelyn Fox Keller, Joan Wallach Scott, Londa Schiebinger, Margaret Rossiter, Donna Haraway, Emily Martin, and Helen Longino. Topics include: histories of women in the development of the sciences; the place of feminisms in current scientific practice; debates about abortion; technologies of sex and sexuality; feminist epistemologies of science; and ways in which an awareness of gender can lead to novel approaches to science education. Mr. Fiss.

Not offered in 2012/13.

254. Bio-politics of Breast Cancer (1)

(Same as Women's Studies 254) We examine the basic scientific, clinical and epidemiological data relevant to our current understanding of the risks (including environmental, genetic, hormonal and lifestyle factors), detection, treatment (including both traditional and alternative approaches), and prevention of breast cancer. In trying to understand these data in the context of the culture of the disease, we explore the roles of the pharmaceutical companies, federal and private foundations, survivor and other activist groups, and the media in shaping research, treatment and policy strategies related to breast cancer. Ms. Gray.

Two 75-minute periods.

Not offered in 2012/13.

260a. Health, Medicine, and Public Policy (1)

(Same as Sociology 260) Health care represents one of the thorniest arenas of public policy today. Current issues include the rising numbers of uninsured, concerns over privacy, protection of the public from emerging infectious diseases, the debate between health care as a right vs. a privilege, and the ways in which we conceive the relationship between health, medicine, and society. This course begins with an analysis of the ‘social construction' of health, looking particularly at the issue of AIDS, national and international. We then examine policies arising from epidemic or infectious diseases, including the Black Death, the 1918 Influenza epidemic, and Typhoid Mary, as well as contemporary dilemmas over newly emergent diseases. Finally, we consider controversies over national health insurance, and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Canadian health care system, the Massachusetts experiment, and the history of Medicare and Medicaid. Ms. Miringoff.

267b. Environmental and Natural Resource Economics (1)

(Same as Economics 267) This course examines environmental and natural resource issues from an economic perspective. Environmental problems and controversies are introduced and detailed, and then various possible policies and solutions to the problems are analyzed. Economic analyses will determine the effectiveness of potential policies and also determine the people and entities which benefit from (and are hurt by) these policies. The goal is for students to develop a framework for understanding environmental problems and then to learn how to analyze policy actions within that framework. Topics include water pollution, air pollution, species protection, externalities, the energy situation, and natural resource extraction. Mr. Ruud.

Prerequisite: Economics 101 or permission of the instructor. Economics 209 recommended.

270b. Drugs, Culture, and Society (1)

(Same as Sociology 270) This course draws on a variety of Science Studies and Sociological frameworks to consider the implications of various substances that we conventionally refer to as “drugs.” Topics include medical, psychiatric, instrumental, or recreational use of licit and illicit substances. Relevant conceptional frameworks are used to explore and analyze the impact of new chemical technology, debates regarding the safety and efficacy of pharmaceuticals, the consequences of globalization on patterns of use, policy and enforcement, as well as the social construction of drugs as a social problem. Heroin, Cocaine, Marijuana, Methamphetamine, MDMA, Ayahuasca, ADHD drugs, SSRIs and hormonal Steroids are all of special interest in so far as they constitute strategic sites for the study of social or technological controversy. Mr. McAulay.

Two 75-minute periods.

273. Sociology of the New Economy (1)

(Same as Sociology 273) The new economy is, in one sense, a very old concern of sociology. Since the discipline's nineteenth century origins, sociologists have traditionally studied how changes in material production and economic relations impact the ways that people live, work, understand their lives, and relate to one another. However, current interests in the new economy center upon something new: a flexible, "just in time" mode of industry and consumerism made possible by information technologies and related organizational innovations. The logic of this new economy, as well as its consequences for society, are the subject of this course. Topics include the roles of technology in the workplace, labor markets, and globalization; the emerging "creative class"; the digital divides in technology access, education, and community; high-tech lifestyles and privacy; and the cutting edges of consumerism. Mr. Nevarez.

Not offered in 2012/13.

280. Albert Einstein (1)

This course explores the complex life and work of the iconic scientist of the 20th century. Using recent biographical studies and a wide range of original sources (in translation), Einstein’s revolutionary contributions to relativity and quantum mechanics, his role in Germany in the opposition to the rise of Nazi ideology and anti-Semitism, and his work as a political and social activist in the United States are examined. Students are encouraged to make use of Vassar’s Bergreen Collection of original Einstein manuscripts. Mr. Challey.

Not offered in 2012/13.

285a. Infrastructure (1)

Although large segments of key infrastructures in the United States are inadequate or in need of major upgrades, finding the economic means and the political will are often difficult. This course examines four of the most debated infrastructures: water, electrical power, transportation (bridges and highways) and communications (the Internet). In each case the current state of the technology and its future prospects is examined, together with the political, economic and environmental constraints and consequences. Mr. Challey.

Prerequisites: Science, Technology and Society 138 or 139 or 200, or permission of the instructor.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2 or 1)

298a or b. Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

III. Advanced

300a. Senior Thesis (1)

301b. Senior Seminar (1/2)

The seminar meets during the first six weeks of the second semester. Senior majors present and defend their senior theses before the student and faculty members of the program.

302. History of Science and Technology Since World War II (1)

An examination of major developments in science and technology since 1945, with particular emphasis on the social contexts and implications. The topics to receive special attention are: the origins and growth of systems theories (systems analysis, operations research, game theory, cybernetics), the development of molecular genetics from the double helix to sociobiology; and the evolution of telecommunications technologies. Mr. Challey.

Prerequisites: 1 unit of natural science and 1 unit of modern history, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2012/13.

331b. Seminar in Archaeological Method and Theory (1)

The theoretical underpinnings of anthropological archaeology and the use of theory in studying particular bodies of data. The focus ranges from examination of published data covering topics such as architecture and society, the origin of complex society, the relationship between technology and ecology to more laboratory-oriented examination of such topics as archaeometry, archaeozoology, or lithic technology.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Topic for 2012/13b: Technology, Ecology and Society. (Same as Anthropology and Environmental Studies 331) Examines the interactions between human beings and their environment as mediated by technology, focusing on the period from the earliest evidence of toolmaking approximately up to the Industrial Revolution. Student research projects often bring the course up to the present. Includes experimentation with ancient technologies and field trips to local markets and craft workshops. Ms. Johnson.

Prerequisite: previous coursework in Anthropology, Environmental Studies or Science, Technology and Society, or by permission of the instructor.

353. Bio-Social Controversy (1)

(Same as Sociology 353) Scientific controversies take place not only within scientific communities but may be joined and waged in public arenas as well. This course is about the "Darwin Wars" fought not only between advocates of Evolution and proponents of Intelligent Design but also about selected disagreements among Darwinians on occasions when they speak with more than one voice. Topics addressed in this course include the feasibility of Darwinian sociology (the sociobiology debate and disputes over evolutionary psychology), evolutionary accounts of sex/gender (mating, gender differences, homosexuality) and conflicting views regarding Darwinian analyses of violence, ethnic conflict and race. The range of conceptual resources deployed to interpret these controversies includes Popperian philosophy of science, the social construction of science, Foucauldian power/knowledge as well as studies of scientific rhetoric. Mr. McAulay.

Not offered in 2012/13.

360. Issues in Bioethics (1)

Not offered in 2012/13.

367b. Mind, Culture, and Biology (1)

(Same as Sociology 367) Increasingly in recent years Darwinian approaches to the analysis of human behavior have emerged at the center of modern science-based opposition to social constructionism and postmodernist thinking. Nowhere is this challenge more pointed than in the use of evolutionary perspectives to explain patterns of human culture. This course examines the deployment of Darwinian social science to account for morality and religion; art and literature; consumerism and consumer culture; sex/gender and standards of beauty. The goal is neither to celebrate nor to dismiss evolutionary psychology and its allies but rather to play Darwinian insights and potentially questionable claims off against those of feminist, Marxist and sociological critics. Mr. McAulay.

370. Feminism and Environmentalism (1)

(Same as Environmental Studies and Women's Studies 370) In this seminar we explore some basic concepts and approaches within feminist environmental analysis paying particular attention to feminist theory and its relevance to environmental issues. We examine a range of feminist research and analysis in 'environmental studies' that is connected by the recognition that gender subordination and environmental destruction are related phenomena. That is, they are the linked outcomes of forms of interactions with nature that are shaped by hierarchy and dominance, and they have global relevance. The course helps students discover the expansive contributions of feminist analysis and action to environmental research and advocacy; it provides the chance for students to apply the contributions of a feminist perspective to their own specific environmental interests. Ms. Schneiderman.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor; Women's Studies 130 recommended.

One 2-hour period.

Not offered in 2012/13.

375b. Gender, Race, and Science (1)

Topic for 2012/13b: Gender, Race, and Science. (Same as Women's Studies 375) This multidisciplinary course critically examines the intersections between science and the categories of gender, race, class, and sexuality. The course explores the ways that science and culture construct such categories and how the constructions play out in society. We will consider how these constructions and the practice of science matter in terms of health care, education, foods, the environment, safety, careers, and power in society. We will examine the historical and current relationships between ‘western’ science, multicultural sciences, imperialism, and economic globalization. Throughout the course, we will ask how the social institution and power of science itself is affected by gender, race, class, and sexualtiy. For instance, who does science and who decides which projects to pursue and what constitutes a ‘fact’? Finally, we will investigate people’s alternative approaches to constructing knowledge. Mr. Fiss, Ms.Schneiderman.

Prerequisite: Women’s Studies 130.

One 2-hour period.

382b. Renewable Energy (1)

This seminar is a careful examination of the renewable energy technologies currently available to replace fossil fuels. Primary attention goes to wind, solar power, hydroelectric power and biomass (including ethanol and biodiesel), with briefer consideration of other renewables such as geothermal and tidal energy. The seminar draws upon such methodologies as the social construction of technology and actor-network theory to understand the interaction of technological, economic, environmental and political factors currently shaping the field of renewable energy. Mr. Challey.

Prerequisites: Science, Technology and Society 139, 200, and two units of natural science; or permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period.

399a or b. Senior Independent Work (1/2 or 1)