Informing Science (IS) and Science and Technology Studies (STS): The University as Decision Center (DC) for Teaching Interdisciplinary Research

Teresa Castelao-Lawless
Grand Valley State University, USA

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William F. Lawless
Paine College, USA

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Abstract

Students of history and philosophy of science courses at my University are either na´ve robust realists or na´ve relativists in relation to science and technology. The first group absorbs from culture stereotypical conceptions, such as the value-free character of the scientific method, that science and technology are impervious to history or ideology, and that science and religion are always at odds. The second believes science and technology were selected arbitrarily by ideologues to have privileged world views of reality to the detriment of other interpretations. These deterministic outlooks must be challenged to make students aware of the social importance of their future roles, be they as scientists and engineers or as science and technology policy decision makers. The University as Decision Center (DC) not only reproduces the social by teaching standard solutions to well-defined problems but also provides information regarding conflict resolution and the epistemological, individual, historical, social, and political mechanisms that help create new science and technology. Interdisciplinary research prepares students for roles that require science and technology literacy, but raises methodological issues in the context of the classroom as it increases uncertainty with respect to apparently self-evident beliefs about scientific and technological practices.

Keywords: STS, science, technology, practice, uncertainty, University, policy making