Course Description

This course explores the various ways science, culture and technology interact. It is organized loosely around three interrelated topics:

Spinning the Past:  How does scientific understanding move forward when it experiences friction with cultural traditions?  What issues are involved when it attempts to rewrite our understanding of the past (the Earth moves around the Sun, life has evolved, etc)?  Is there a culture of science, and if so what effect does it have on this process?  Science usually feels as though it has access (or can have access) to real truths about the past and the world around us (as opposed to the unscientific, cultural "truths" and stories we tell ourselves).  How accurate is this?  Is science's monopoly on the truth jeopardized by the fact that scientists are cultural beings also?

Spinning the Present:  How is emergent science popularized by journalists, and digested by the culture that receives it?  If a scientific discovery is an apolitical truth in the laboratory, it certainly doesn't stay that way once it is spun out by the media.  How can we understand the mediation of current science into culture?  Also, how does new science and technology fundamentally change the present that we live in?

Spinning the Future: Predictions about the future (especially the future of science and technology) are also rarely free from political/cultural agendas.  How is the future spun in science fiction to have an impact on the culture it was written out of?