Teaching and Learning about Science and Society by John M. Ziman

By John M. Ziman

'Science, know-how, and Society' - STS - has turn into a big academic subject. there are various classes in faculties, universities and different associations, facing every kind of issues resembling the background of technological know-how, strength coverage, business innovation, know-how review, 3rd global improvement, clinical technique, etc. yet what's this topic relatively approximately? Why should still it's taught? Who may still learn it? What should still they examine? How should still the topic be approached? Who should still educate it? those questions are being requested by means of either academics and scholars in lots of fields of technological know-how, engineering, drugs, social reviews, and the arts. This casual account of the reason of STS schooling indicates what percentage varied components are concerned - the philosophy and sociology of technology and schooling, social and cultural goals, political ideologies, vocational wishes, scholarly criteria, institutional services, etc., let alone the sensible realities of educating and studying in any respect degrees.

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Those aspects of nature that fit easily into simple schemes - physical quantities such as the dead weight of an elephant - are given too much attention, whilst other, more qualitative features - like the skill with which an elephant can balance on a plank - are conveniently neglected. Indeed, as a matter of principle, all such extraneous factors must be excluded from a 'hard' science such as physics, in the name of rigour and 'validity'. The student of a 'pure' science is being taught to see the world in terms of the theoretical map favoured by his discipline and to interpret what he observes within that single frame of reference.

The power of science-based techniques is emphasized; their limitations in research and in practice are scarcely mentioned. Some of these deficiencies derive simply from human pride. Others are more specific failings of academia, and are also to be found in such humane disciplines as history, philosophy, sociology and economics. But there is one characteristic of science education, above all others, to which we must now address ourselves: it is carried on as if the historical, philosophical, sociological and economic aspects of life were quite non-existent, and unworthy of the slightest attention by a serious teacher or his dutiful pupils.

These methods, in turn, might seem quite inapplicable to sociology or psychology. That is to say, the question whether science has, in principle, a unique 'method' would be seen to be far more subtle than most scientists realize. Without such correctives to naive philosophical scientism, it is easy to fall into the fallacy of positivism, where science is regarded as the primary source of truth. In its most extreme form, 'logical positivism' even rejects all other sources of knowledge, whether of the material world or of human affairs.

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