Short-Distance Learning

From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century.

—J.G. Ballard

Science and society have shaped each other at least since the time of Aristotle, perhaps before. But never has the interaction been as complex and potentially explosive as it has in this century, which has seen scientific progress on every front used in the service of death and destruction as well as knowledge and growth. Think of nuclear power and space travel. Think of the struggle for gender equality. Think of smallpox—and anthrax.

These are the voyages of the philosophy department, which — assisted by some far-thinking guests — will probe the fascinating interface of science and society in a series of guided readings and discussions that runs through the academic year, under the rubric “The Social Impact of Science/Social Impacts on Science.”

The readings are dense, the topics rewarding. Here are the texts and discussion leaders:

• Martin Heidegger’s essay “Science and Reflection” (1955). Trish Glazebrook, author of Heidegger’s Philosophy of Science. November 20.

• Evelyne Berriot-Salvadore’s essay “The Discourse of Medicine and Science” from A History of Women in the West. James Skalnik, assistant dean for academic advising. December 4.

• Frank E. Manuel’s essay “God’s Word and God’s Works,” about Sir Isaac Newton and religion. Koffi Maglo, visiting assistant professor of philosophy from Togo. January 29.

• “Science Pure and Science Applied: Two Studies in the Social Origin of Scientific Research” from Charles Rosenberg’s No Other Gods: Science and American Social Thought (1976). Rosalind Remer, associate professor of history. February 19.

• “Transferring Biology to Society: The Rise and Fall of Social Darwinism and Eugenics.” Note the text: Edward M. East and Donald F. Jones’ Inbreeding and Outbreeding: Their Genetic and Sociological Significance, 1919. Frank Kuserk, professor of biology. March 12.

• Four prescient works of classic science fiction: Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s “EPICAC” (1950), Isaac Asimov’s “The Inevitable Conflict” from I, Robot (1950); Ray Bradbury’s “Then Will Come the Soft Rains” from The Martian Chronicles (1950); and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932). George Diamond, professor of English. March 26.

• Asimov’s essay “The Relativity of Wrong,” a historical chronicle of epistemology. Carl Salter, associate professor of chemistry. April 23.

To reserve a packet of readings: Mickey Ortiz, Ext. 1417. Information: Amy Baehr, Ext. 7882. All sessions are at 4 p.m. in the Amrhein Room of the HUB.

November 6, 2001

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