HPSC3022 - Science and Society

Semester 1
Coordinator:

Prerequisites: HPSC2100/2900 and HPSC2101/2901. Compulsory unit of study for History and Philosophy of Science Major.
6 credit points
2 x 1-hour lectures, plus 2 x 1-hour tutorials per week
(see timetable)
Assessment: essays, presentation, tutorial participation


Science is a fundamental component of Western society. It is impossible to imagine our lives today without taking the achievements of science and technology into account. In our culture, science occupies a special position, a position of authority: somehow, it is felt, scientific knowledge transcends political and social conditions and provides us with insight into ‘the way things really are’. In this course, we will use tools from the history, sociology, and philosophy of science to investigate these cherished ideas and examine many of the ways in which science, technology and society are interrelated. The key idea in this course is that science is a social activity that can be studied like other forms of social phenomena and behaviour. We will base our investigations on real-life examples, new and old, including: atomic energy, rDNA, cold fusion, the human genome project, genetically modified food, and health scares.

In This Course We Will Discuss:

  • Background on philosophy, sociology, and history of science
  • the idea of a 'scientific community'
  • Robert K Merton's account of the 'norms of scientific activity'
  • Controversies in science
  • Science in the Media
  • Numbers, tables, graphs and the rhetoric of science
  • Moral responsibility of scientists