Curriculum Overview 

This interdisciplinary program deals with the nature of science and technology, the history and philosophy of science and the interaction of science, technology and human society. The program is designed to make it possible for students to link related work in several disciplines, including a methodology course in at least one of those disciplines. The program has its own courses and it draws on courses given in several departments.

The program offers three distinct minors: History and Philosophy of Science; Science and Society; and Medicine in Society (including study of public health). Each minor is designed to enable students to conceive and pursue individualized programs of interdisciplinary study in these three broad areas, within the field of Science, Technology and Society.

Each minor will consist of six courses, including: a core course that is introductory to the proposed minor; an appropriate mid-level methodology course; three electives; and a capstone course involving substantial work on an individual project, either as independent study or in an advanced seminar. Each student’s proposed minor program must be approved by the chairperson of the STS Program, acting in consultation with the STS Committee.

The following lists include courses that are appropriate for each minor. These course lists and designations are not exhaustive; other courses may be appropriate. Some courses listed have prerequisites. Students who do not plan to take those prerequisites in fulfilment of other degree requirements, apart from the STS program, may have to take more than six courses to complete one of the STS minors.

History and Philosophy of Science. Core: FND 134; STS 136; PHI 213; or an introductory course in any of the natural sciences. Methods: PHI 337; HIS 360; or a second course in a natural science sequence. Electives: STS 311; STS 312; STS 376; STS 383; STS 385; STS 386; STS 387; STS/PSY 489.

Science and Society. Core: STS 136; STS 117; GOV 215. Methods: ECO 210; GOV 250; SOC 302; ANT/WGS 355; ANT 410. Electives: STS 220; STS 223; STS 234; STS 312; STS 313; STS 352; STS 376; STS 383; STS 385.

Medicine in Society. Core: BIO 110, PBH 251. Methods: BIO 210; PSY 230; STS 234; BIO 305. Electives: STS 223; ANT 225; ANT/WGS 355; SOC 330; STS 311; BIO 322; BIO 338; STS 352; STS 383; STS 388; HIS 400; PBH 410; GOV 410; STS/PSY 489.

A major in Science, Technology and Society may be arranged through the Special Studies Program. Students interested in this program are urged to discuss their special interests with the chairperson of STS.

To be considered for honors in STS, graduating seniors, in addition to meeting the College’s general requirements for honors, must complete a senior thesis (490).

Minors in the Science, Technology and Society program have studied abroad in the following programs in recent years: School for International Training, Chile; Northwestern University: Public Health in Europe, Paris; Danish Institute for Study Abroad, Copenhagen. See the International Programs section of the Catalog for further information.

Courses Offered 

A list of regularly offered courses follows. Please note the key for the following abbreviations: (A) Arts; (H) Humanities; (S) Social Sciences; (N) Natural Sciences with Laboratory; (LS) Language Studies requirement; (NSP) Natural Science in Perspective; (NW) Non-Western Cultures requirement; (W) Writing requirement.


117. The Environment and Human Values. (S)                                                                               

Study of historical and modern attitudes toward nature; human use of nature’s resources; effects of the growth of science and technology on human uses of and attitudes toward the environment; and the ability of modern humans to substantially alter the environment (e.g., by altering global temperature). Key concepts: human population growth; the notion of “limits to growth”; and the difficulty of managing the use of common pool resources. Same as ENV 117.

Strick, DeSanto, Merritts, Bratman

136. Science Revolutions. (NSP)                                                                                                     

This course surveys the question of what constitutes a scientific revolution. Beginning with Thomas Kuhn's famous theory in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970), we survey numerous episodes in the development of the sciences, from the seventeenth century to the present. Using case studies from chemistry, physics, life sciences, and the interdisciplinary field of origin of life studies, we try to determine what it would mean for a scientific revolution to occur, would happen, and how to assess whether such a thing might be underway currently. The course in many ways serves as a broad introduction to history and sociology of science.  


223. Biomedical Ethics. (H)                                                                                                            

Ethical issues related to developments in biology and medicine, including population control, genetic engineering and the allocation of medical resources. Same as PHI 223.                                                             Merli

234. Population, Policy, and Social Change

 This course will address basics of population studies, including how fertility, mortality, and migration contribute to population change, and the implications of age structure for population health and policy. The course will emphasize a historical perspective on theories of the causes and consequences of population change, including fears of over-population and under-population, and the relationship between population and development.  Same as SOC/PBH 234.

E. Marshall

277. Science Writing: Fact & Fiction. (H)                                                                                      

In this course, we will examine texts ranging from popular science to science fiction, by scientists and nonscientists alike. As readers, we will be interested in the ways people write about science, and, as writers, we will try to put some of these principles into practice. We will be equally interested in the ethical, social, and philosophical questions that contemporary science raises, and in how to probe these questions in writing. Same as ENG/ENV 258.


311. History of Medicine. (S) (NSP)                                                                                               

The history of medicine with particular attention to American medicine. The relationship between medicine and society is studied in its historical context. We look in detail at some trends in modern medicine and the current debate over national health care policy in light of the history of medicine. Same as HIS 311.  


312. Environmental History. (S)                                                                                                     

Examination of various approaches to environmental and ecological history. Focuses on ways in which the physical and biological world have affected human history and on ways in which human social and political organization, economic activities, cultural values and scientific theories have shaped our alteration and conservation of nature. Selected case studies from environmental and ecological history, with emphasis on the 17th through the 20th centuries. Same as ENV 312.  


313. Nuclear Weapons, Power and Waste Disposal. (S) (NSP)                                                         

Development of nuclear technology, beginning with the atomic bomb efforts of WW II. The course deals first with the technology itself, as well as with the ways in which it was embedded in and drove American and international politics, including the arms race and the Cold War. Includes postwar development of civilian nuclear power reactors, creation of the Atomic Energy Commission and the national debate over nuclear power and waste disposal methods. Same as ENV 313. 


315. Health Risks in the Environment.

Known and emerging environmental hazards represent significant public health risks to vulnerable populations. Case studies include lead, tobacco, asthma, nutrition, and endocrine-disrupting compounds as well as common airborne and waterborne chemical and biological pollutants. The course develops an understanding of acute, chronic and cumulative health risks that result from short-term and long-term environmental exposures. Important epidemiological, demographic and environmental justice parameters are incorporated into students’ projects that focus on at-risk groups, such as children, the elderly and immuno-compromised individuals. Same as ENV 315.


337. Philosophy of Natural Science. (H) (NSP)                                                                               

The goals, methods, assumptions and limitations of natural science. Special attention will be paid to the philosophy of psychology, cognitive science and evolutionary biology. Prerequisite: one prior course in philosophy, or permission of the instructor. Same as PHI/SPM 337. 


352. Lead Poisoning and Asthma in Urban Lancaster. (S)                                                              

Students learn about the epidemiology of asthma and lead poisoning, the pathways of exposure, and methods for community outreach and education. As it is a Community-Based Learning (CBL) course, students will work in service to the local community by collaborating with local school teachers and students in lessons that apply environmental research relating to lead poisoning and asthma in their homes and neighborhoods. They also take soil samples from locations in Lancaster and test their lead levels. Same as ENV/PBH 352.


355. The End of Nature: Literature of the Anthropocene (H)

Mass extinction, vast islands of floating garbage, melting polar ice caps, ocean dead zones, rising atmospheric carbon levels, super storms: have we entered the anthropocene—the “age of man”? The experience of an Earth nowhere untouched by humans finds expression in all genres of literature. Possible readings include science fiction (Paolo Baccigalupi, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood); realist fiction (Jesmyn Ward, Helon Habila); poetry (Katie Ford, Jorie Graham, William Wright); non-fiction (Elizabeth Kolbert, Bill McKibben); theory (Tim Morton, Stacie Alaimo); film. Same as ENG 355.


383. Sex, Lies and Book Burning: Life and Work of Wilhelm Reich. (S)                                         

Upper level seminar: A survey of the life and work of famous psychoanalyst, controversial laboratory scientist Wilhelm Reich. The course reviews a wide range of Reich’s writings from psychology, political science, to biology and physics (95% primary source readings). We also survey the historical context of Austria and Germany 1918-1939 and the U.S. 1939-1957. Finally we look in depth at Reich’s clash with the U.S. government over whether scientific work can be judged in a court of law and the government-ordered burning of his books in 1956 and 1960. Same as HIS/WGS 383.


385. The Darwinian Revolution. (S) (NSP)                                                                                     

This seminar course draws on historical and scientific work to analyze the roots of Darwinian thinking in economics, social policy toward the poor, religious thought, politics and the sciences in which Darwin was trained. In individual research projects, students assess the ways in which “Darwinism” was applied for social, political, economic and theological purposes, as well as scientific ones. This course provides the historical background necessary for understanding Darwinian biology and the present-day Creation/evolution conflict. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor required for first-year students to enroll. Same as HIS 385.                                                                                                                             Strick

386. Changing Concepts of the Universe. (NSP)                                                                             

Historical examination of primitive and early cosmologies to present-day theories of the organization, extent and nature of the universe. Early Greek astronomy to present-day “big bang” theory. Use of simple astronomical instruments to reproduce observations of early astronomers. (Not a laboratory course.) Same as AST 386. 

K.A. Miller

387. Archaeoastronomy. (NSP)                                                                                                      

Fundamental astronomy of ancient cultures; Stonehenge and other stone rings in England and Europe; circles and temples in the Americas, Asia and Africa; time-keeping and calendars; predictions of seasons and eclipses. Methods of analysis; motions of celestial bodies; use of planetarium, celestial globes and grids; surveying of sites. (Not a laboratory course.) Same as AST 387. 

E. Praton

388. Public Health Research: Pregnancy Outcomes in American Women. (S)

In this interdisciplinary seminar, students explore women’s health and reproductive outcomes while learning how to conduct meaningful research on public health topics. Students will consider complex issues related to conducting research, then explore known and/or hypothesized relationships between behavioral, biological, sociopolitical, psychological, and environmental variables and pregnancy outcomes. Students will ultimately design research centered on pregnancy outcomes in American women. Prerequisite: Any course that includes methods of data analysis and permission. Same as PBH/PUB/GOV/WGS 388.  


390. Topics in Science, Technology and Society.

Study of a topic or topics in the relationship between science, technology and society. Topics vary by semester and are offered by the faculty of several academic departments. May be taken more than once if the topic changes. A recent topic has been Social History of Tuberculosis.


489. History and Philosophy of Psychology. (N)                                                                             

The historical origins of contemporary psychology in European philosophy, physiology and biology and subsequent development of the schools of structuralism, functionalism, Gestalt behaviorism and psychoanalysis. Emphasis on identifying the goals, implicit assumptions and potential contributions of scientific psychology. Prerequisite: Senior psychology major status or permission of instructor. Same as PSY/SPM 489.


Topics courses expected to be offered in 2016 – 2017 

  • The History of Occult Knowledge and Pseudoscience.
  • Public Health Research: You are what you eat?