NS304 Science, Technology, and Society

for U1J 2005

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NS 241


COURSE TITLE: NS 304 Science, Technology, and Society DN

TERM: U1J2005 (Summer 2005)

INSTRUCTOR: Richard S. Michael, P.E., DEE



FACULTY PARK EMAIL ADDRESS: Richard.Michael@Park.edu

FACULTY ADDITIONAL EMAIL ADDRESS: Richard_Michael@sbcglobal.net

TERM DATES: Summer 2005: June 6, 2005 to July 31, 2005



CLASS LOCATION: Park University – Downtown Kansas City





The mission of Park University, an entrepreneurial institution of learning, is to provide access to academic excellence, which will prepare learners to think critically, communicate effectively and engage in lifelong learning while serving a global community.



Park University will be a renowned international leader in providing innovative educational opportunities for learners within the global society.



Students learn best in a mutually supportive, student centered classroom environment.


Learning in science is best accomplished by:


·         Developing an understanding of key concepts and principles

·         Then challenging students to develop their understanding and their critical thinking skills by applying those concepts and principles to critically analyzing real life issues and problems relating to science and technology.

·         Minimizing rote memorization.


“Science is built up of facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.”

-Henri Poincare

"Tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I learn."

-Attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Also credited in a slightly different form as a Chinese proverb.


Course Description


NS 304 Science, Technology and Society


"This course is a comprehensive study of the relationships among science, technology, and society. Topics include: the two cultures, the relationship between basic science and technology, the effects of technology upon society, and possible future technologies." (From Park Catalog)


Course Goals


"All our science, measured against reality is primitive and childlike -- and yet it is the most precious thing we have ." Albert Einstein (1879--1955)


"The most remarkable discovery made by scientists is science itself." Jacob Bronowski in Magic, Science, and Civilization


"It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity."  Albert Einstein (1879-1955)


Two Major Goals of STS:

Students will:

  • Develop and demonstrate a fundamental understanding of the nature of science and technology (S&T) and their impacts -- the how, why and what of science and technology and a "scientific approach".
  • Develop and demonstrate the independent inquiry, analytical and critical thinking skills necessary for making informed choices and decisions and apply them to real world science and technology related problems, issues and choices that impact virtually every aspect of our lives and our society.

Why Study STS?

STS is an issue and inquiry focused science course for nonscientists.  STS emphasizes real life relevance and utility, active learning and independent critical thinking. Rote memorization and scientific jargon are minimized.

In this technology-driven age, we must make judgments, choices and decisions everyday that directly or indirectly involve science and technology (S&T).

To judge, choose and decide intelligently, we must develop at least a fundamental understanding of science and technology. Furthermore, we must become conscious of how S&T impact what we value and desire as individuals and as a society. Unfortunately, many or most of us lack the understanding to do this intelligently and effectively. Despite living in the most scientifically and technologically advanced society in the history of the planet, by any reasonable standard, most Americans are, in effect, scientifically illiterate -- uninformed and unequipped to deal with S&T.

Fortunately, developing a practical and useful working understanding of S&T does not require that we all become scientists or engineers.  Nor must we memorize books full of scientific facts and theories.  The facts discovered by science are products of science, not the essential components of science.

STS Emphasizes Fundamental Understanding and Real World Application

In NS 304 we will first work to develop and solidify our understanding of the nature of science and a scientific approach. We will then apply that knowledge and some of the very same critical thinking approaches that underlie all of science to analyzing real world problems, issues and case studies involving science and technology.

Memorizing the facts and theories discovered by science is de-emphasized.  That is, we will concentrate more on how science discovers, tests, analyzes, confirms and refutes, rather than on what science discovers.

Independent student analysis and student critical thinking are the main focus of STS.  By applying them to real world issues and case studies, we will test and practice the attitudes, approaches and critical thinking processes of science .

We will examine, discuss and debate online the issues and impacts relating to science and technology that directly (and indirectly) affect us, both individually and collectively.  By focusing on real life issues and topics that directly affect students, STS emphasizes personal relevance along with conceptual understanding, and independent critical thinking.

How will science and technology affect my life, my career, and my education?  How do I keep up with the technology-driven rapid pace of change in the workplace, my personal life and society?  What choices are best for me? For society? How can I best learn to recognize, anticipate and deal with the impacts of S&T?  How do I make informed choices? How do I maximize the benefits and minimize the negative impacts of S&T in my life and my career?  How do I evaluate claims supposedly based on science?  How can I tell real science from "junk science"? These are examples of the important questions and subjects areas covered.

On an individual, social and global level, the indirect and unintended consequences of S&T are examined, as well as direct and intended impacts. Multi-cultural and gender related considerations and issues are also investigated, especially as they relate to cultural and gender related inequalities in the impacts of technology and in access to technology - the "digital divide".

Importance of Objective, Critical Thinking

The core of the "scientific approach" is an attitude -- open-minded and objective, yet still critical -- toward testing propositions and claims and acquiring knowledge.  This scientific approach is based on weighing and evaluating facts, evidence and arguments for yourself and independently reaching your own conclusions, rather than relying on authority.

This same inquiring, objective, open-minded yet skeptical approach essential to science also helps us understand and manage science and technology in our lives.  This same approach is also a very powerful way of analyzing and addressing the multitude of problems and issues involving S&T that impact us.  It is also a powerful tool for informed citizens in a democratic society.

Negative Impacts and Unintended Consequences and the Limitations of S&T

None of this means, however, that science and technology are perfect tools for understanding and solving all of the problems that confront us. 

Indeed, science and the products of science have caused or contributed to many of our most serious individual and social problems.  Environmental pollution and weapons of mass destruction are two important examples.  So, we will also examine some limitations of science and technology and the unintended consequences of science and technology.


Learning Objectives


Achieving the following objectives will help develop the conceptual understanding, analytical tools and critical thinking skills essential for effectively managing science and technology in your life and your profession:


  • A fundamental understanding of how and why science works and the many ways that science and technology affect our lives.


  • An understanding of the nature of science and the fundamental processes of science, scientific inquiry and a "scientific approach".



  • An awareness and improved understanding of the enormous and pervasive impacts of science and technology on our individual lives, our professions, our society and the world we live in.


  • An understanding that technologies almost always have multiple impacts, that there are unintended consequences, or "side effects", to virtually every technology.


  • An improved understanding of the strengths and limitations of science - what science can and can not do.


  • Develop the independent analytical and critical thinking skills essential to making informed judgments and informed choices regarding:


  • The countless S&T related issues and problems that confront us individually and as a society.


  • The multitude of conflicting and competing claims, often claiming to be based on science, that confront us.

These learning objectives reinforce Park's Goals for Science Literacy in the Curriculum:


  • "Understanding of the nature and role of scientific evidence in the pursuit of knowledge."
  • "Recognition of the importance of the scientific method of argument and modeling process."
  • "Appreciation of the origins of scientific inquiry and method and seeing their continuing presence in the mutual interaction between human society and its physical environment."
  • "Acquisition of tools for successful involvement in scientific pursuits of the scientific community."


Course Arrangements


The course emphasizes student active, inquiry centered learning. Lectures, when used, will include opportunity for discussion and questions. This is not a spectator course. “Minds-on” problem solving, issue investigations and analyses, group discussions, student presentations, instructional videos, and use of the Park computer labs (as available) for web-based inquiry will be involved. Guest speakers and/or a field trip or trips may also be involved. Rote memorization is minimized. Because of the issue-centered nature of much of the course content, for many or most questions analyzed there will not be a single “right” answer.


Course Requirements


Successful completion of this course will require that the student:


1.       Attend class regularly, arrive on time and stay for the entire class period.

2.       Demonstrate conduct conducive to positive academic environment.

3.       Read all assignments, handouts, etc. and view all videos attentively.

4.       Participate actively and thoughtfully in classroom activities, discussion and debate with reasonable frequency and competency.

5.       Complete all examinations. Exams are administered only on the date and at the time indicated in the course schedule or as announced in class. Missing an exam will result in a grade of zero unless prior arrangements have been made with the instructor. Anything related to the course may appear on the exams.

6.       Complete all written assignments, projects, etc. as instructed and submit these on time. In-class projects, quizzes, and exercises may not be made up. Oral presentations need to be presented on the date scheduled.


Course TEXTBOOK  Required:  

The Demon Haunted World -- Science as a Candle in the Dark  by Dr. Carl Sagan.  Published by Ballantine Books, New York, 1996.  ISBN: 0-345-40946-9.


Dr. Sagan's book is a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science and Technology.  Jargon is avoided, and no scientific background or prior scientific education is required for readers of this book.

In addition to being available from the MBS Bookstore ,

the Demon Haunted World is available in many libraries as well as larger bookstores.  The soft cover edition is priced at about $14.

Additional Resources:

Science for All Americans Online from the American Association for the Advancement of Science



Class Meeting & Examination Schedule


(To preserve maximum flexibility for student interaction and class discussion of STS issues of special relevance and interest to students, the following schedule is subject to change. Additional details and information on our schedule and assignments will be shared at our class meetings.)










Because this is an accelerated class having just eight class meetings, you are asked to complete the following BEFORE class 1:

Please send an email to Richard.Michael@pirate.park.edu before the first class with the following information – Your Name, Contact Phone Numbers, Preferred email address, Major, Class Standing (Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior), What you want to gain from this class.

Week 1 Reading Assignment: (please read before first class)

Read all of: Chapter 1, "The Most Precious Thing" and Chapter 2, "Science and Hope" and Chapter 21, "The Path to Freedom" in text (Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World -- Science as a Candle in the Dark).

Class: Introductory exercises. Science, technology and society - introduction to basic concepts. Course overview. Accessing and evaluating information. Class discussion.
Assignment for Week 2
Week 2 Reading Assignment:
Chapter 19, "No Such Thing as a Dumb Question" and Chapter 17, "The Marriage of Skepticism and Wonder." Skim read Chapter 23, "Maxwell and the Nerds" from text (Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World -- Science as a Candle in the Dark)



Assignment for Week 3

Read: Skim read Chapter 3, "The Man in the Moon and the Face on Mars" and skim read Chapter 13, "Obsessed with Reality" in Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World -- Science as a Candle in the Dark.




Assignment for Week 4

Read: Chapter 12 carefully, "The Fine Art of Baloney Detection". Chapter 12 is an especially important chapter in Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World -- Science as a Candle in the Dark.



Assignment for Week 5

Read: Chapter 14, "Antiscience" and Chapter 16, "When Scientists Know Sin" in text

Midterm Exam next week



Midterm Exam
Assignment for Week 6

Read: Chapter 5, "Spoofing and Secrecy" in text.


Written assignment -- analyze impacts of science and technology on a career or profession of your choice. (More info on this in class.)



Technology and the nature of jobs and work. “How will science and technology affect “MY” (your) chosen career and how can I best prepare?” Discussion
Assignment for Week 7

Read: Skim Chapter 23, "Maxwell and the Nerds" and Chapter 25, "Real Patriots Ask Questions" in text



Course issue position papers due.
Oral presentations and group discussion of course issue position papers.



Carryover oral presentations.

Final Exam

Concluding Discussions



Class Policies


The information below in italics and enclosed in quotation marks is quoted directly from the Park Undergraduate Catalog, available online at:




(Requires free Adobe Acrobat reader to open.)


“Academic Honesty


Academic honesty is required of all members of a learning community. Hence, Park University will not tolerate cheating or plagiarism on tests, examinations, papers, or other course assignments. Students who engage in such dishonesty may be given failing grades or expelled from Park. (emphasis added)


Plagiarism -- the appropriation or imitation of the language or ideas of another person and presenting them as one’s original work -- sometimes occurs through carelessness or ignorance. Students who are uncertain about proper documentation of sources should consult their instructors.”






Instructors are required to keep attendance records and report absences.


1.       Absences for cogent reasons may be excused by the instructor, but missed work must be made up within the term of enrollment.

2.       Work missed through unexcused absences must also be made up within the term of enrollment, but unexcused absences may carry further penalties.

3.       In the event of two consecutive weeks of unexcused absences in a term of enrollment, the student will be administratively withdrawn, resulting a grade of “F”. (emphasis added)

4.       An Incomplete will not be issued to a student who has unexcused or excessive absences recorded for the course.

5.       Students receiving Military Tuition Assistance or Veteran’s Administration educational benefits must not exceed three unexcused absences in the term of enrollment. Excessive absences will be reported to the appropriate agency and may result in monetary penalty to the student.

6.       Reports of F grades (attendance or academic) resulting from excessive unexcused absences for students receiving financial assistance from agencies not mentioned in item 5 above will be reported to the appropriate agency and may result in monetary penalty to the student.



Important Instructor’s Note: It is essential that you notify me directly by telephone or email in advance of a class when you will be unable to attend a class. Otherwise your absence may be counted as unexcused.


“Student Conduct


Faculty members are expected to dismiss from their classrooms students whose behavior is detrimental to good order in the classroom. Such behavior includes, but is not limited to, the use of abusive or obscene language, attending the class under influence of drugs or alcohol, etc. Students who are dismissed from class may be given failing grades, suspension, or expulsion from Park University. Students whose behavior, either verbal or written, is detrimental to the good order of Park University may be subject to disciplinary action ranging from suspension to expulsion from Park University. Students who exhibit abusive or obscene language or behavior toward administrative or personnel or support staff are also subject to suspension or expulsion from Park University.


(end of direct Park Undergraduate Catalog quotations)


Late Work


It is expected that all work will be done conscientiously and submitted on time. The instructor recognizes that emergencies do occur, so if circumstances beyond your control prevent timely submission of work, please confer with the instructor.


Several policies have been previously mentioned. Active class participation by each and every student is particularly important, for individual and group learning and for individual grades. Discussion of class topics, issues, and expressing various points of view is encouraged both inside and outside the classroom. However, all submitted work must be your own, unless group effort is specifically authorized by the instructor.


Writing papers together (unless specifically authorized by the instructor), copying papers or sections thereof, and other forms of plagiarism are unacceptable and may result in an “F” for the course.


Whenever information from an outside source is used in a submitted paper or assignment, that information MUST be properly documented as to source. This applies whether the information is quoted, paraphrased or simply used.


Unless specifically authorized by the instructor, assignments are to be typed or printed and checked for grammatical and typographical errors. If a student is unclear about the guidelines or requirements for an assignment, please see the instructor.


Additional information on attendance, or lack thereof, is covered under the section on grading participation.


Reference sources which are from the Internet need to be cited directly in the text of the document and on the reference list. A hard copy of the article, information should also be submitted with the paper for all assignments.


Cell Phone and Pager Policy


Out of simple courtesy, please turn off cellular phones and beepers during class time. If you absolutely must have these on because of family or work related responsibilities, please switch to silent, vibrating mode, and leave the classroom to answer essential calls.



Grading Policy


Course Grading Scale (in %'s):

Takehome Midterm examination


Proctored* Final  examination 


Class participation & assignments**


Position paper




The course grading scale is as follows:

A = 90-100
B = 80-89
C = 70-79
D = 60-69
F = 0-59

**Important Note:     Because of the issue oriented, active learning approach of this course, every participant must actively and regularly participate in the classroom discussion.  This will maximize the benefit (and grade) to the individual student and the entire online class.




This syllabus is subject to change at the discretion of the instructor. Material included is intended to provide an outline of the course and the rules and guidelines which the instructor will use in evaluating the student's progress. However, this syllabus is not intended to be a legal contract. Questions regarding the syllabus are welcome any time.


The instructor is committed to a classroom atmosphere based on mutual respect for individuals, mutual appreciation and mutual support. This includes an appreciation of diversity and respect for the differences among the diverse individuals and groups comprising our students. This positive, supportive classroom environment will help to foster a multi-cultural education that increases our mutual understanding and appreciation of our commonalities, and our differences.

Copyright Notification:


This material is copyrighted and can not be reused without express written permission of the author.