NS304 Science, Technology, and Society

for F1T 2010

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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


F1T 2010 DLB


Ott, Lee W.


Adjunct Faculty


PhD, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Office Location


Office Hours

7:15 to 8:15pm Monday and Thursday

Daytime Phone




Class Days


Class Time


Credit Hours


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.

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.
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FAQ's for Online Students - You might find the answer to your questions here.

Course Description:
NS 304 Science, Technology, and Society (MLL) 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 teaching should emphasize understanding of concepts and the process of scientific inquiry.  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:


“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:

Grading is as per the Grading heading below.

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

In online assignments and discussion, 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), online discussion, online presentation and discussion of the position/ problem solution papers required for the course, etc. 

Participants are strongly encouraged to select or volunteer STS related issues and topics for online 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 embryonic stem cell 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 textbook author Dr. Carl Sagan puts it, "Valid criticism does you a favor."


Course Grading (in %'s):
Take-home Midterm examination 15%
Proctored* Final  examination 30%
Class online participation & assignments** 20%
Position paper 35%

The 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 online discussion and classroom.  This will maximize the benefit (and grade) to the individual student and the entire online class.

* Park Proctored Final Exam Requirement

Final examination - An examination will be taken in person during the 8th week of instruction at one of the Park University sites around the country or at an alternative location approved by your Instructor where Park University sites are not available.

It will be the responsibility of the student to arrange for a proctor, by the 6th week of the term, who will be accepted and approved by the instructor.  

Guidelines for selecting an acceptable proctor can be found at the Park University Website.  For proctored examinations, photo identification is required at the time of the test.  A proctor request form will be made available to you during the first week of class so that you can send your requested proctor to me for approval.  Failure to take a final proctored exam will result in an automatic "F" grade.

Proctored final examination - A computerized examination will be taken in a proctored testing environment during the 8th (or 16th) week at one of the Park University sites around the country or at an alternative location.  For proctored examinations, photo identification is required at the time of the test.  Guidelines for selecting an acceptable proctor can be found on the Park University Website.
Other Information on proctored exams:

• It will be the responsibility of the student to arrange for a proctor, by the 6th week of the term, who is accepted and approved by the course instructor.  
• Approval of proctors is the discretion of the Online instructor.  
• A proctor request form will be made available to you during the first week of class so that you can send your requested proctor to your instructor for approval.  
• Failure to take a final proctored exam (or submit your final project for some online graduate courses) will result in an automatic "F" grade.  
• Some Graduate Online courses may not require a proctored Final Examination

Late Submission of Course Materials:
Our course week runs from Monday to Sunday.  Assignments are due at Sunday midnight.  (Technically, the course runs on U.S. Mountain time, but you are welcome to submit your assignments by Sunday midnight according to your local time.)

It is very difficult to catch up when you fall behind in an accelerated online course. And our online interaction works best when we are all on the "same page".

However, I do recognize that many of you are actively serving in the U.S. military and may be assigned to TDY, be serving under hardship circumstances, 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 delay your submission of work, or your online participation, please notify me via email as soon as possible, and, if your circumstances warrant, I will try to work with you.  

IMPORTANT: Anytime you want to receive direct instructor feedback on anything that you post to our course conference area, please also submit a copy to the Dropbox for that week.  If there is no specific Dropbox that applies to your posting, please send a copy of your posting to your instructor via email.  When doing this, please include the following in the subject line for the email:  "NS 304 Feedback?"  

This includes any assignments that you are asked to post to the conference area, any questions that you post, or anything that you post for which you would like direct individual feedback.

Additional information on NS 304 course policies will be communicated in the course Welcome Message which will be emailed to everyone, and/ or posted in the online course.

Students are responsible for clicking on the link below and thoroughly reading each Online course policy.  If you have questions about any of these policies, please contact your instructor for clarification.

Classroom Rules of Conduct:

All posting to the online classroom should be done so in a professional and curteous manner.  All correspondences should be written using proper grammar and punctuation.  As you draft you work, keep the following in mind:
  • Avoid typing in all CAPS as this is equivalent to shouting in the online environment.
  • Avoid side conversations and keep your postings on target.
  • Do offer your ideas, but share them in a way that shows respect.
  • Do ask questions as that is the best way to learn.

Course Topic/Dates/Assignments:

Much more information will be provided on weekly assignments and activities within the online classroom. Students will have access to the online classroom after they enroll.
Week      Assignments and Activities
1  BEFORE Start of Week 1: Because this is an accelerated class lasting just eight weeks, you are asked to complete the following BEFORE the beginning of week 1, or very early in week 1: Please send an email to your instructor before the first week of 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: 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). Online 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)

2 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. Written and discussion assignments detailed within online class.
3 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. Written and discussion assignments detailed within online class.
4 Assignment for Week 5  Read: Chapter 14, "Antiscience" and Chapter 16, "When Scientists Know Sin" in text. "Takehome" Midterm Exam next week. Written and discussion assignments detailed within online class.
5 Written and discussion assignments detailed within online class. 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 within the online class.)
6 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  Written and discussion assignments detailed within online class.
7 Course issue position papers due. Online discussion of colleagues' course issue position papers begins. Written and discussion assignments detailed within online class.
8 Proctored Final Exam  Online discussion of course papers continues. Written and discussion assignments detailed within online class.

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 students and faculty members are encouraged to take advantage of the University resources available for learning about academic honesty (www.park.edu/current or http://www.park.edu/faculty/).from Park University 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog Page 92

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. from Park University 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog Page 92-93

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 "F".
  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.
ONLINE NOTE: An attendance report of "P" (present) will be recorded for students who have logged in to the Online classroom at least once during each week of the term. Recording of attendance is not equivalent to participation. Participation grades will be assigned by each instructor according to the criteria in the Grading Policy section of the syllabus.

Park University 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog Page 95-96

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:

Overview and 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)

Welcome to STS -- Science, Technology and Society (NS 304) online!

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.

Two Major Goals of STS:

·         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?

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. 

Mind Maps/ Concept Diagrams

Please click on the links below to open these same graphic MIND MAPS of important STS concepts, linkages and relationships in a new browser window.  Clicking on the links to open the mind maps in a new window will make it easier to read the text within the "bubbles".

Note that to view the Scientific Approach mind map, you must click on the link. The mind map is too large to display in this window. 

(All mind maps developed by Richard S. Michael, P.E., DEE)

Science, Technology & Society Interactions  

 The following image is too large to fit in this window. Please click on the Scientific Approach link below to open the graphic mind map in a new browser window.

Scientific Approach  



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

Last Updated:7/27/2010 10:30:42 PM