NS304 Science, Technology, and Society

for U1J 2007

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Mission Statement: 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.

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


NS 304 Science, Technology, and Society


U1J 2007 DN


Richard S. Michael, P.E., DEE


Senior Instructor


B.S. Mechanical Engineering
M.S. Environmental Health Engineering
Diplomate American Academy of Environmental Engineers (Board Certified Environmental Engineer)

Daytime Phone

(To avoid posting on the Internet, the instructor's telephone contact information will be provided directly to enrolled students.)




Semester Dates

4 June  to 29 July 2007

Class Days


Class Time

5:30 - 9:50 PM

Credit Hours


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.

Textbooks can be purchased through the MBS bookstore

Textbooks can be purchased through the Parkville Bookstore

Additional Resources:

Science for All Americans Online from the American Association for the Advancement of Science available in its entirety online at:




McAfee Memorial Library - Online information, links, electronic databases and the Online catalog. Contact the library for further assistance via email or at 800-270-4347.
Career Counseling - The Career Development Center (CDC) provides services for all stages of career development.  The mission of the CDC is to provide the career planning tools to ensure a lifetime of career success.
Park Helpdesk - If you have forgotten your OPEN ID or Password, or need assistance with your PirateMail account, please email helpdesk@park.edu or call 800-927-3024
Resources for Current Students - A great place to look for all kinds of information http://www.park.edu/Current/.


Course Description:
Relationship between 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.  3:0:3

Educational Philosophy:

"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.

Science as Inquiry

Science, technology and society teaching should emphasize understanding of concepts and the process of scientific inquiry, rather than rote memorization.  

Student conceptual understanding is best attained by applying the concepts and the process of inquiry to real world concerns and issues relating to science and technology that directly impact, interest or concern students.

“Understanding science is more than knowing facts.” Quoted from How Students Learn Science in Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning published by the National Academy of Sciences.  Available online in its entirety at: http://books.nap.edu/html/inquiry_addendum/

“Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of facts.” Dr. Carl Sagan – noted astronomer and author of the NS 304 textbook.

Learning Outcomes:
  Core Learning Outcomes

  1. Explain concepts of how and why science works and the many ways that science and technology affect our lives.
  2. Define and explain the processes of science and scientific inquiry.
  3. Discuss and illustrate relevant impacts of science and technology on individual lives, professions, and the global society.
  4. Demonstrate the analytical and critical thinking skills essential to making informed judgments and informed choices regarding science and technology.
  5. Analyze and determine statements that are based on science versus those that are not.

Core Assessment:

Class Assessment:

NS 304 will also incorporate some aspects of a "blended" course.  Resources and materials relating to NS 304 and its subject matter will also be provided in Park's online eCompanion system.


Grading is as per the Grading Plan below.


The midterm exam, course issue position paper, and proctored final exam are the major graded individual items.  In addition, homework assignments and in class participation/ discussion also cumulatively account for 25% of the course grade.


In assignments and/ or in class, research, analysis, study, discussion and debate of specific issues and cases relating to STS are emphasized.


Concepts are also developed through the text, online reference resources (provided by the instructor or discovered and shared by the participants), in class discussion, in class presentation of the position/ problem solution paper, required for the course, etc.  


Participants are strongly encouraged to select or volunteer STS related issues and topics for in class analysis and discussion.  Because the impacts of science and technology are so widespread and powerful, this gives participants substantial latitude for selecting and analyzing issues that are genuinely meaningful and personally relevant.

Because NS 304 emphasizes conceptual understanding and independent critical thinking, rote memorization of facts is kept to an absolute minimum. Furthermore, participants are encouraged to constructively disagree with the instructor, and with their NS 304 colleagues,  regarding S&T related issues that are examined and analyzed.

As long as participants first seek out, examine, and weigh evidence and arguments for conflicting positions on STS related issues, they are free to reach any position that their independent analysis and personal value system leads them to.  Even if it disagrees with the instructor's position.  (For example, participants are quite likely to arrive at conflicting positions on the desirability of fetal tissue research or human cloning, whether global warming is a real and very serious problem, etc.)  Constructive disagreement in an atmosphere of mutual respect -- "disagreeing without being disagreeable" -- is encouraged.  As Dr. Carl Sagan puts it, "Valid criticism does you a favor."


Course Grading Scale (in %'s):

Takehome Midterm examination         15%

Final  examination                                 30%

Class participation & assignments**     25%

Position paper                                     30%                        

Total                                                    100%

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.

Late Submission of Course Materials:
Work is expected to be submitted on time. It is very difficult to catch up when you fall behind in an accelerated course. However, I do recognize that some of you may be actively serving in the U.S. military, or may have nonmilitary professional obligations, family emergencies, or the like that occasionally force you to delay your participation. If you ever have circumstances which may unavoidably delay your submission of work, or your attendance, please notify me via email as soon as possible, and, if your circumstances warrant, I will try to work with you.  

Course Topic/Dates/Assignments:
(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.)



Assignments/ Activities




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

Academic Honesty:
Academic integrity is the foundation of the academic community. Because each student has the primary responsibility for being academically honest, students are advised to read and understand all sections of this policy relating to standards of conduct and academic life.   Park University 2006-2007 Undergraduate Catalog Page 87-89

Plagiarism involves the use of quotations without quotation marks, the use of quotations without indication of the source, the use of another's idea without acknowledging the source, the submission of a paper, laboratory report, project, or class assignment (any portion of such) prepared by another person, or incorrect paraphrasing. Park University 2006-2007 Undergraduate Catalog Page 87

Attendance Policy:
Instructors are required to maintain attendance records and to report absences via the online attendance reporting system.

  1. The instructor may excuse absences for valid reasons, but missed work must be made up within the semester/term of enrollment.
  2. Work missed through unexcused absences must also be made up within the semester/term of enrollment, but unexcused absences may carry further penalties.
  3. In the event of two consecutive weeks of unexcused absences in a semester/term of enrollment, the student will be administratively withdrawn, resulting in a grade of "W".
  4. A "Contract for Incomplete" will not be issued to a student who has unexcused or excessive absences recorded for a course.
  5. Students receiving Military Tuition Assistance or Veterans Administration educational benefits must not exceed three unexcused absences in the semester/term of enrollment. Excessive absences will be reported to the appropriate agency and may result in a monetary penalty to the student.
  6. Report of a "F" grade (attendance or academic) resulting from excessive absence for those students who are receiving financial assistance from agencies not mentioned in item 5 above will be reported to the appropriate agency.

Park University 2006-2007 Undergraduate Catalog Page 89-90

Disability Guidelines:
Park University is committed to meeting the needs of all students that meet the criteria for special assistance. These guidelines are designed to supply directions to students concerning the information necessary to accomplish this goal. It is Park University's policy to comply fully with federal and state law, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, regarding students with disabilities. In the case of any inconsistency between these guidelines and federal and/or state law, the provisions of the law will apply. Additional information concerning Park University's policies and procedures related to disability can be found on the Park University web page: http://www.park.edu/disability .

Additional Information:

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)


"Science is a way to teach how something gets to be known, what is not known, to what extent things are known (for nothing is known absolutely), how to handle doubt and uncertainty, what the rules of evidence are, how to think about things so that judgments can be made, how to distinguish truth from fraud, and from show."   Nobel Prize Physicist  Richard Feynman (1918-1988)



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.

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.


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

Last Updated:4/25/2007 11:57:18 AM