Office: Tahoe Hall 3124

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Mark Brown, Ph.D

Department of Government

CSU, Sacramento

Spring 2016

Office: Tahoe Hall 3124

Office Hours: MW 1:30 – 3:00 p.m.,

and by appointment

Office Tel.: 916-278-6430

GOVT 169A: Science, Technology, and Politics: GE Area D

MW 3:00 p.m. – 4:15 p.m., Alpine Hall 212

Catalog Description

Social and political dimensions of science and technology. Examines how science and technology both shape politics and are shaped by politics. Considers the role of scientific advisors in government and society; dilemmas of expert authority and bias; relations between experts and non-experts; science and technology in popular culture; science and technology policy; implications of emerging technologies such as genetic engineering and the Internet for civil rights, moral values, and democracy.

Course Description

Students in this course will explore the social and political dimensions of science and technology. We will examine how science and technology both shape politics and are shaped by politics. Science and technology play important roles in political decision making, economic development, cultural change, and personal choices of all kinds. Conversely, science and technology are shaped by public policy, social movements, and cultural values. And conflicts over science and technology highlight tensions between experts and lay citizens, posing important challenges for democratic politics. This course is designed to move beyond the typical standoff between supporters and critics of science and technology. Science and technology are neither value-neutral tools of inevitable social progress nor inhuman forces of disenchantment and destruction. Rather, science and technology are intertwined with social values and political decisions. Understanding sociotechnical controversies, therefore, requires that we examine the values and decisions associated with the different positions on each controversy. People’s positions on such controversies often defy traditional categories of right and left, liberal and conservative. Students in this course will learn the arguments for each of the various viewpoints in any given controversy, develop their own views, and consider how societies can best mediate among competing positions. Course readings address the history of political efforts to shape science and technology; the relationships among experts, public officials, activists, and ordinary citizens; and questions of race, class, gender, religion, and sexual orientation in science policy and research. In addition, we will focus on four specific areas of sociotechnical controversy: information technology and social media; climate change; race, genetics, and reproductive technology; and teaching evolution in public schools. Students are not expected to have any prior technical or scientific knowledge.

GE Area D Learning Outcomes:

In this course, students will:

1. Describe and evaluate ethical and social values in their historical and cultural contexts.

2. Explain and apply the principles and methods of academic disciplines to the study of social and individual behavior.

3. Demonstrate an understanding of the role of human diversity in human society, for example, race, ethnicity, class, age, ability/disability, sexual identity, gender and gender expression.

4. Explain and critically examine social dynamics and issues in their historical and cultural contexts.

Course learning objectives

After successfully completing this course, students will have:

  • increased their historical understanding of selected sociotechnical controversies;

  • improved their ability to articulate the strengths and weaknesses of the various positions on sociotechnical controversies;

  • enhanced their ability to develop and articulate their own views on sociotechnical controversies;

  • improved their capacity to analyze and evaluate complex issues in writing and discussion.

Course Materials

The articles listed in the course schedule, as well as many additional recommended articles and websites, are posted on SacCT. Students will also need the following books:

  1. John S. Dryzek, Richard B. Norgaard, and David Schlosberg, Climate-Challenged Society. Oxford University Press, 2013.  ISBN: 978-0-19-966011-7

  2. Thomas Dixon, Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-19-929551-7

  3. Roger A. Pielke Jr, The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics. Cambridge University Press, 2007. ISBN-10: 0521694817

Requirements and Grading

Attendance, preparedness, participation (10%): This course requires engaged reading and discussion by all students, and I expect you to attend every class having read all of the assigned reading. Discussion facilitates both your own learning and that of your fellow students. Study questions for each week's reading are posted on SacCT (Blackboard). Use the study questions to guide your reading and prepare for class discussion. You should also prepare your own written questions about the reading and bring them to class. During each class, I will call on students selected at random to answer one of the study questions or read their own prepared question. Because we will often look up specific passages in the course texts during class, you must bring the appropriate text to each class. Students will occasionally meet in small groups for in-class exercises that will contribute to your grade. Participation grades will be based on the extent to which students: a) offer thoughtful questions or comments about assigned readings; b) thoughtfully listen and respond to the instructor and to other students; c) actively participate in group work and other exercises during class. Twice during the semester, I will post your participation grade on SacCT. You may miss two classes without penalty. Each additional absence, unless excused, will reduce your participation grade by one full grade. I will only excuse absences for serious reasons (e.g., doctor visit, family emergency, military duty, jury duty, religious holiday), and only with documentation. Please do not email me about your absence. If you want me to excuse an absence, then when you return to class, give me a written statement with the date(s) of your absence, the reason, and documentation. If you accumulate more than six unexcused absences, you will most likely fail the course. Repeated tardiness will affect your grade, but if you arrive late please enter quietly and take a seat.

Ten surprise quizzes (10%): On ten occasions during the semester, at the beginning of class, we will have a quiz that will ask you to respond to one or more questions about the main ideas from the reading assigned for that day. The quizzes will not ask you to recall minor details, and if you have completed the reading and given it some thought, they will be relatively easy. Missed quizzes cannot be made-up. I will drop your lowest score for the final quiz grade.

Group presentation (15%). Students will work in groups of 2-3 to prepare a 20 minute presentation about a particular sociotechnical issue. Presentations will be based on an assigned reading or video available on SacCT. An outline of the presentation will be due two days in advance. Following the presentation, each presenter will submit a reflective statement about the presentation. Presenters will receive both an individual grade on their reflective statement and a group grade on the presentation itself, which will then be averaged for each student’s final presentation grade. Additional guidelines will be posted on SacCT.

Two analytical essays (20% each). Students will analyze and evaluate key issues from the course in two 5-page essays (double-spaced, 1 inch margins, 12-point font). Your essays should show that you have thought deeply about the course texts and that you can use them to make an argument of your own. Completed essays should be submitted on the due dates indicated in the syllabus. For the first essay, a rough draft of at least four pages is due on the date indicated for in-class peer review. The peer review will include a checklist of essential elements. If the final essay that you submit does not satisfy the checklist, I will return it to you unread, and you will have one week to submit a revised version. Essays that require resubmission will be docked one letter grade. Rough drafts will be graded pass/fail, and they will be worth five percent of the final essay grade. The same procedure will apply to the second essay, but without the peer review. For each essay, after I grade it, you may submit a rewrite, in which case your final essay grade will be the average of the original and the rewrite. Rewrites must be submitted with the original, and they must include a detailed explanation of how you revised the essay. Rewrites must be submitted within two weeks of the essay due date. Late essays will be marked down one letter grade per day. However, even if your essay is extremely late, you should still submit it, because you cannot pass the class without completing all the assignments.

Final exam (25%). The exam will be in-class, closed-book. It will consist of both short-answer and essay questions. A study guide with key terms will be posted on SacCT.

Grades and late assignments: Final grades will be calculated according to the following scale: A > 93%, A- > 90%, B+ > 88%, B > 83%, etc. Students who have a serious and appropriately documented excuse to miss an assignment due date or exam must contact me as soon as possible to arrange a way to makeup the work. There will be no extra credit assignments.
Wireless Devices

Some students like to use a laptop, tablet, or smart phone to take notes during class or to read course material. But in a classroom, wireless devices can be extremely distracting, not only for the person using the device but also for other students and the instructor. Several studies have shown that wireless devices may reduce student learning. The general policy of this course is that wireless devices may be used to take notes, but the wireless receiver must be turned off. Cell phones must be turned off or set to mute. I will also ask students to close or put away wireless devices at specific times, such as during class discussions or when students are working in small groups. And of course students may not use wireless devices during exams, and not at any time for surfing, texting, checking email, or any other activities not directly related to the course. Violations of this policy will affect your grade. If you require special accommodation in this regard, please let me know.

Additional Matters

I expect students to arrive on time and stay for the entire class. If you need to leave early, please sit near the door and let me know before class starts. If you have a disability and require accommodations, please let me know. You will need to provide disability documentation to the CSUS Office of Services to Students with Disabilities (SSWD), Lassen Hall 1008, (916) 278-6955.

Your feedback on the course readings, classroom discussions, and any other aspect of the course is always welcome. If you are having trouble with any aspect of the course, or if you would just like to talk over the material, I strongly encourage you to either stop by during my office hours or make an appointment to see me. Don't wait until the end of the semester!

Finally, it should go without saying that plagiarism—that is, presenting someone else's work as your own—is a serious violation of academic integrity and university policy, not to mention basic honesty. Plagiarism will be punished in proportion to the severity of the case, but any plagiarism is likely to result in a failing grade for the course and may lead to additional administrative penalties, including expulsion from the University. If you are not sure what plagiarism is, please ask me or consult the library plagiarism information website at

Schedule of topics and reading assignments (subject to change). Except for the required books, all readings will be available on SacCT.


Jan. 25

Jan. 27



Stephen Bocking, “The Uncertain Authority of Science,” in Nature’s Experts. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers Press (2004), pp. 16-44.


Feb. 1

Feb. 3

Robert K. Merton, “The Normative Structure of Science,” in The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973), pp. 267-278.

Roy Macleod, "Science and Democracy: Historical Reflections on Present Discontents," Minerva 35 (1997): 369-384.

Steven Yearly, “The Changing Social Authority of Science,” Science and Technology Studies 10:1 (1997): 65-75.


Feb. 8

Feb. 10


Langdon Winner, "Technologies as Forms of Life” and "Do Artifacts Have Politics?” in The Whale and the Reactor

Bruno Latour, "Where Are the Missing Masses? The Sociology of a Few Mundane Artifacts.”

Brown, "The Civic Shaping of Technology: California’s Electric Vehicle Program,” Science, Technology, & Human Values 26:1 (2001): 56-81.

FILM: “Who Killed the Electric Car” (CSUS library or online rental)


Feb. 15

Feb. 17

Sherry Tukle, “Always-on/Always-on-you: The Tethered Self.” In Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies, James E. Katz (ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008.

FILM: Frontline: “Digital Nation,” June 19, 2012.

Debate: “Are Social Networks Just a Fad?” New York Times (7 articles):

FILM: Frontline: “Generation Like,” February 18, 2014.


How do social media affect our everyday lives?


Feb. 22
Feb. 24


Pielke, Honest Broker, chap. 1-4


Weingart, Peter. “Scientific Expertise and Political Accountability: Paradoxes of Science in Politics.” Science and Public Policy 26:3 (1999): 151–161.

FILM: Frontline: “The Vaccine War,” April 27, 2010

Should governments require that parents vaccinate their children?

Feb. 29
Mar. 2

Pielke, Honest Broker, chap. 5-9

Lecture: Roger Pielke, “The Climate Fix” (2012)

Edward Woodhouse and Daniel Sarewitz, “Science Policies for Reducing Societal Inequities,” Science and Public Policy 34:3 (2007): 139–150.

What is the proper role of experts in politics?


Mar. 7

Mar. 9

Sheila Jasanoff, “Technologies of Humility: Citizen Participation in Governing Science.” Minerva 41, no. 3 (2003): 223-244.

Martin Lengwiler, “Participatory Approaches in Science and Technology: Historical Origins and Current Practices in Critical Perspective.” Science, Technology, and Human Values 33:2 (2008): 186–200.

Sandra Harding. “Should Philosophies of Science Encode Democratic Ideals?” In Daniel Lee Kleinman (ed.). Science, Technology, and Democracy. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2000.

Shiv Visvanathan, "Knowledge, Justice, and Democracy," in Science and Citizens, ed. M. Leach, et al., 83-94 (London: Zed Books, 2007)


How can science promote democracy and social justice?


Mar. 14

Mar. 16


Dryzek et. al. Climate-Challenged Society, chap. 1-2.

Nisbet, “Communicating Climate Change: Why Frames Matter to Public Engagement. Environment 51 (2009): 1223.

D. M. Kahan, “Fixing the communications failure. Nature, 463 (January 21, 2010): 296-297.

FILM: Frontline, “Climate of Doubt,” October 23, 2012.

FILM: “Merchants of Doubt” (2014)

What should we do about people who reject basic climate science?


Mar. 28

Mar. 30

Dryzek et. al. Climate-Challenged Society, chap. 3-6.

Naomi Klein, “Capitalism vs. the Climate”

John Tierney, "E-Mail Fracas Shows Peril of Trying to Spin Science."

L. Hickman, " James Lovelock: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change"

D. Sarewitz, "Curing Climate Backlash"

Hulme, “The Science and Politics of Climate Change”

Sheila Jasanoff, “A New Climate for Society,” Theory, Culture & Society 27: 2-3 (2010): :233-253.

Lecture: Mike Hulme, “Why We Disagree about Climate Change” (2011)

What should be the government’s policy priorities on climate change?


Apr. 4

Apr. 6

Dryzek et. al. Climate-Challenged Society, chap. 7-8.

Keith et al., “Research on Global Sun Block Needed Now”

Carr et al. “Public Engagement on Solar Radiation Management”

TED Talk: David Keith, "A critical look at geoengineering against climate change" (2007)


Should we promote (or ban) geoengineering?


Apr. 11

Apr. 13


No class. ISGP-CSUS climate change conference.

Buchanan et. al, "Eugenics and Its Shadow"

FILM: “After Darwin: Genetics, Eugenics, and the Human Genome” (1999).

What lessons should we learn from the history of eugenics?


Apr. 18

Apr. 20

Sean Thomas, "Who is black?" The Telegraph, March 13, 2005.

Armand Marie Leroi, "A Family Tree in Every Gene," New York Times, March 14, 2005, A23.

Alan Goodman, "Two Questions About Race," SSRC website "Is Race Real," June 7, 2006. Available at:

Duster, "Race and Reification in Science," Science 307:5712 (February 18, 2005): 1050-1051

American Anthropological Association, Statement on Race, May 17, 1998.

Jonathan Marks, “Science and Race,” American Behavioral Scientist 40:2 (1996):123-133.

FILM: “Race: The Power of an Illusion: The Difference Between Us” (2003).

Jonathan Kahn, "Race in a Bottle," Scientific American, August 1, 2007.

Troy Duster, “Behavioral Genetics and Explanations of the Link Between Crime, Violence, and Race,” in E. Parens, A. Chapman, and N. Press, eds., Wrestling with Behavioral Genetics, Science, Ethics, and Public Conversation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.

Soo-Jin Lee, et al., "Open Letter: The Ethics of Characterizing Difference," Genome Biology 2008, 9: 404.

FILM: Frontline, “The Real CSI,” April 17, 2012.

What are the social implications of scientific research on race?


Apr. 25
Apr. 27

Nick Bostrom, “Human Genetic Enhancements: A Transhumanist Perspective,” The Journal of Value Inquiry (2003): 37: 493–506.

Nathanial Hawthorne, “The Birth-Mark”

Michael Sandel, "The Case Against Perfection"

FILM: “Who's Afraid of Designer Babies? The Ethics of Genetic Screening” (2004)

Tony Platt, “Curious Historical Bedfellows: Sac State and Its Racist Benefactor,” Sacramento Bee, February 29, 2004.

Stern, “Eugenics and Historical Memory in America,” History Compass 3 (2005).

TED Talk: Gregory Stock: “To Upgrade is Human” (2003).

TED Talk: Paul Root Wolpe: “It's time to question bio-engineering” (2010).

Are human genetic enhancements morally indefensible, acceptable, or required?


May 2

May 4

Science, Religion, and Public understanding

Dixon, Science and Religion, chap. 1-3.

FILM: PBS: “Monkey Trial” (2002). See also:

Dixon, Science and Religion, chap. 4-6.

Are science and religion compatible?


May 9

May 11

National Academy of Sciences, "Frequently Asked Questions about Evolution and the Nature of Science," in Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science (1998), 55-59.

L. Goodstein, "A Web of Faith, Law and Science in Evolution Suit," New York Times, September 26, 2005

L. Goodstein, "Issuing Rebuke, Judge Rejects Teaching of Intelligent Design," New York Times, December 21, 2005.

B. Burrt, "Deliberative Democracy and Intelligent Design: The Ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover"

FILM: PBS: “Intelligent Design on Trial” (2007)

Noah Feinstein, "Salvaging science literacy," Science Education 95:1 (2011): 168–185.

Course summary and review

Should public schools teach “alternatives” to evolutionary biology?

May 16

FINAL EXAM: 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

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