DAS 450 - Honors Colloquium -Science and Society
Science is a potent force, even a dominant force, in modern life, not just in giving rise to technologies (broadly conceived to include medical advances) but in shaping our view of the world and of ourselves. This course, to be delivered online, is designed to let students ask how science is received -- and sometimes rejected -- by society. It is not a science course per se, but a course in which we explore the interactions of science and society, in which we see science embedded in culture, interacting with other ways of viewing ourselves and the world (and the universe). Students from any college and any discipline are encouraged to enroll.
There is no agenda built into the course, only exploration. The two first topics will be fixed (in the first offering of the course they were fluoridation of water and the use of vitamin supplements in the US, but these could well change for the spring semester); the third will be selected by individual students in coordination with me. In every topic, the analysis and the conclusions are yours to make. Topics for independent investigation could include such things as: genetically modified crop plants; global warming and alternative fuels; evolution and creationism; "race" in science and society; use of information from the Human Genome Project in medicine; pre-embryo screening to avoid genes that predispose to disease; the role of parents in shaping their children's personalities and behavior. But, the key thing is to explore something that interests you, as an individual student, whether on this list or not.
The course requirements are three papers (for the last paper, two successive versions are required). The first two papers, relatively short, will be on topics to be tackled by everyone in the course. The third, representing the culmination of the course, is longer and will be on your individually selected research topic.
We might get together once or twice as a class, on campus, but for the most part, the course will be conducted online. I will use a message board as a forum for discussions that should a sense of cohesiveness within the class.