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ESF 20A: Science as Culture

When have you been made aware of how comfortable you are in your cultural views about the world? It often takes traveling abroad, being forced to speak and think in a new language, or encountering beliefs quite different from our own, to shake up our passive acceptance about "how things work." In this course we will not actually travel to any distant lands. Instead, we will venture into the worlds of scientists to explore how cultural norms shape scientific understandings. We will see how the historical conditions and political climates where discoveries happen can influence how scientific facts come to cohere. Why, for example, was sickle cell anemia posited as a 'black' disease that was seen as genetic proof of African ancestry in the 20th century United States, but not in India where it is also prevalent? In another context, how did the cultural revolution in China and its purge of certain types of scientists create the conditions for cybernetic experts and aerospace engineers (rath more »
When have you been made aware of how comfortable you are in your cultural views about the world? It often takes traveling abroad, being forced to speak and think in a new language, or encountering beliefs quite different from our own, to shake up our passive acceptance about "how things work." In this course we will not actually travel to any distant lands. Instead, we will venture into the worlds of scientists to explore how cultural norms shape scientific understandings. We will see how the historical conditions and political climates where discoveries happen can influence how scientific facts come to cohere. Why, for example, was sickle cell anemia posited as a 'black' disease that was seen as genetic proof of African ancestry in the 20th century United States, but not in India where it is also prevalent? In another context, how did the cultural revolution in China and its purge of certain types of scientists create the conditions for cybernetic experts and aerospace engineers (rather than demographers) to largely shape the country's one-child policy? And more recently, how have instances of recorded climate change and environmental degradation drawn on human-centric scientific interventions? And when have more species inclusive methods been offered by global indigenous groups who might help us rethink planetary sustainability?
Terms: Aut | Units: 7 | UG Reqs: WAY-ED, WAY-SI
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