Seminar in Critical Thinking: Science in Society
CCT611 Spring 1999
Professor: Peter Taylor, Critical and Creative Thinking Program
Email:; Phone: 617-287-7636
Office: Wheatley 2nd flr Room 143.09 (near Counseling & School Psychology)
Class Time: M 6.45-9.15; Office/Phone Conference Hours: M 2.30-3.30, Tu 4.15-6.15
Course Website:
General email: Emails sent to PT with "for CCT611" in the subject line will be forwarded to all in the course.

Course description
Critical thinking about the diverse influences shaping the life sciences. Topics include evolution and natural selection; heredity, development and genetic determinism; biotechnology and reproductive interventions. We interpret episodes in science, past and present, in light of scientists' historical location, economic and political interests, use of language, and ideas about causality and responsibility. You address the course material on a number of levels: as an opportunity to learn the science and interpretive approaches; as models for your own teaching; and as a basis for discussions about practices and philosophies of education, construed broadly as a project of stimulating greater citizen involvement in scientific debates.

Sections to follow
Additional Notes on Teaching/Learning Interactions:

Assessment and Requirements
Your grade will be based on the components below, which are described in more detail in the course packet and weekly handouts. For each of the two parts of the grade, completion of "basic work" (= 80% of assignments) gives you an automatic B+. To have a chance--but not a guarantee--of getting a higher grade, "additional work" is taken into account (see course packet for details and rationale).

Written assignments and presentations, 2/3
A. Project: This should concern critical thinking about the influences shaping some aspect of the life sciences, past or current. A sequence of 5 assignments (initial description, annotated bibliography, narrative outline, class presentation, complete draft, and 2000-3000 word final report) is required.
B. Journal excerpts (see E. below) (submitted 5 times during weeks 2-12 = 5 assignments).
C. Clippings packet: A compilation of items from current magazines, newspapers, and websites (= 1 assignment).
Participation and contribution to the class process, 1/3.
D. Prepared participation and attendance at class meetings.
E. Journal with weekly responses/notes on readings, class discussions, clippings, websites, and study questions. Collected for perusal mid-semester & end.
F. Minimum of two in-office or phone conferences on your project and other written work.
G. Optional* End-of-semester Portfolio demonstrating the development of your work (*for "additional work" grade only).

Texts and Materials
Course reader (xerox packet) in installments from PT. Get a three ring binder to hold the packet and other xeroxed handouts.
On reserve in Healey library:
Folders of additional readings
Binder of newspaper clippings
Binder of previous students' assignments
Additional information about classes, assignments, and other tasks will be provided in regular handouts (which will also be posted on the course website).
You need a workbook/journal to carry with you at all times and an organized system to store loose research materials (e.g., a 3 ring workbinder with dividers and pockets, an accordion file, or file folders).
Additional cases and lesson plans (part of a text in development) will be linked to the course website.
Recommended texts:
- as a guide to writing and revising: Elbow, P. (1981). Writing with Power. New York: Oxford Univ. Press (also on reserve).
- as a guide on technical matters of scholarly writing: Turabian, K. L. (1996). A Manual For Writers of Term papers, Theses, and Disertations. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press (also in library's reference section).

Schedule Of Classes

Class 1 (2/1)
Introduction to key terms, Angles of Illumination (a.k.a. Critical Heuristic) and Intersecting Processes, and to the tension between them.
Activities: Cause(s) of flu; Autobiographical Intersecting Processes; Critical Incident Questionnaire

Additional readings (after class): Taylor, "Building on construction."

Class 2 (2/8)
A. The course as a teaching/learning community
Activities: Establishing base support group processes/procedures; Freewriting & sharing on possible individual projects
Additional readings (after class): Elbow, Writing with Power, chapters 2, 3, 13

B. Language I: Biological stories and their structure
Case: How did we get here?--Origin stories
Martin, "The egg and the sperm: How science has constructed a romance."
Lewin, "The storytellers."
Activity: Plot the structure of Genesis, chapter 1, or Hrdy, "An Initial Inequality."

Additional readings (on reserve): Landau, "Human Evolution as Narrative."
Beldecos, et al. "The importance of feminist critique for contemporary cell biology."
Fausto-Sterling, "Society writes biology"

2/15 No class (Presidents' Day)

Class 3 (2/22)
Language II: Categories destabilized by scientific developments
Case: What is a mother?
Pollitt, Katha. "When is a mother not a mother?"
Activities: Reports on gender bias in biology texts; Unstable language in newspaper clippings

Additional reading (on reserve): Yoxen, E. "Unnatural selection/Gene Therapy."
Class 4 (3/1)
Language III: Changes in meanings of key words in relation to changes in society
Case: What is nature/natural?--Changes in meanings of "nature" in relation to changes in society.
Williams, R. (1976). "Nature."
Activities: interpretation of biological similies for society in newspaper clippings; interpretation of slides of images of society and nature in the West since the middle ages; interpretation of Gary Larson "far side" cartoons
Additional reading (on reserve): Williams, "Ideas of Nature."
Worster, D., Nature's Economy, chapters 1 & 2.
Berger, "Why Look at Animals?"

Class 5 (3/8)
Multiple layers of a scientific theory (argument, analogy, metaphor, and defences)
Case: How did Darwin try to convince people of Natural selection as the mechanism of evolution? --
Darwin, On the Origin of Species, Introduction & Chaps. 1, 3, part of 4.
Activity: Close reading and reconstruction of Darwin's exposition of his theory of natural selection.

Additional reading (on reserve): Lakoff and Johnson. "Concepts We Live By."
*A* Asmt due: Thesis question and paragraph description of proposed project

3/15 No class (Spring break)

Class 6 (3/22)
Styles of causal explanation & their relation to ideas about social action
Case: What causes a disease?--the consequences of hereditarianism in the case of pellagra
Chase, "False Correlations = Real Deaths."
Activities: Interpreting parent-offspring height patterns.

Additional reading (after class; on reserve): Harkness, "Vivisectors and vivshooters."

Class 7 (3/29)
Causes & social action II: Metaphors of control and co-ordination
Case: How are characters produced (Transmission vs. development) and development organized?
Activities: Game of development.
Gilbert, "Cellular Politics."

Additional readings (on reserve): Sapp, "The Struggle for Authority in the Field of Heredity."
Fausto-Sterling, "Life in the XY Corral", 319-326.
To fill in your biology re: development & embryology -- Gilbert, "An introduction to animal development."
To fill in your biology re: Mendelian genetics -- Luria, et al. "The Rules of Heredity."
After class reading: Goodwin, How the Leopard Changed Its Spots, vii-xiii,18-41,77-114,169-181, 238-243.

Class 8 (4/5)
Causes & social action III: Determinist vs. constructionist explanations of intelligence
Case: To whom is this plausible that genes could determine characters like intelligence?
Lewontin, R. "Mental Traits."
Activities: Construction exercise

Additional readings (on reserve): Winn, "New views of human intelligence."
Lewontin, "Race and Intelligence."
Horgan, "Eugenics revisited."

*A* Asmt due: Annotated bibliography of reading completed or planned for your project.
Class 9 (4/12)
Causes & social action IV: selectionist vs. constructionist explanations of evolutionary/ historical processes
Case: Social messages using natural selection
Taylor, "Natural Selection: A heavy hand."
Activities: Analysis of textbook natural selection; Interpretation of video clip(s).

Additional reading (on reserve): Moore, "Socializing Darwinism."

4/19 No class (Patriots' Day)
*A* Asmt due by mail to 41 Cornell St, Arlington, MA 02474: Narrative Outline of Project Report

Class 10 (4/26)
Work-in-progress Presentations on Student Projects

Class 11 (5/3)
Scientists working within a field of economics, politics & moral responsibility
Case: The breeding of hybrid corn
Lewontin, "Agricultural Research & the Penetration of Capital."
Activity: Publicly funded research and private gains

Additional readings (on reserve): Paul and Kimmelman, "Mendel In America."
Lappe and Collins. "The Green Revolution Is the Answer."

*A* Asmt due: Complete Draft of Project Report

Class 12 (5/10)
The "directed autonomy" of science with respect to social influences
Case: The rise of biotechnology
Activity: Diagramming intersecting processes
Yoxen, "The Life Industry."

Additional reading (on reserve): Rowling, "Introduction."

Class 13 (5/17)
Taking Stock of Course: Where have we come and where do we go from here?
(Historical Scan and other activities)
*A* Asmt due: Final version of Design Project
*A* Optional asmt due: Portfolio

Beldecos, A., et al. (1989). "The importance of feminist critique for contemporary cell biology." Feminism and science. ed. N. Tuana. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 172-187.
Berger, J. (1980). "Why Look at Animals?," in About Looking. New York: Pantheon Books, 1-26.
Chase, A. (1977). "False Correlations = Real Deaths," in The Legacy of Malthus. NY: Knopf, 201-225.
Darwin, C. 1859 [1964]). Introduction & Chapters 1, 3, part of 4. In On the Origin of Species. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1-43,60-96.
Elbow, P. (1981). Writing with Power. New York: Oxford University Press, chapters 2, 3, 13
Fausto-Sterling, A. (1987). "Society writes biology/ biology constructs gender." Daedalus 116(4): 61-76.
Fausto-Sterling, A. (1989). "Life in the XY Corral." Women's Studies Int. Forum 12: 319-326 only.
Gilbert, S. F. (1988). "Cellular Politics." In The American Development of Biology, ed. R. Rainger, K. Benson, and J. Maienschein. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 311-345.
Gilbert, S. F. (1995) "An introduction to animal development." in Developmental Biology. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 1-34
Goodwin, B. (1994). How the Leopard Changed Its Spots. New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, vii-xiii,18-41,77-114,169-181,238-243.
Harkness, J. M. (1994). "Vivisectors and vivshooters: Experimentation on American prisoners in the early decades of the twentieth century," ms.
Horgan, J. (1993). "Eugenics revisited," Scientific American (June): 122-128, 130-131.
Hrdy, S. B. (1981). "An Initial Inequality," in The Woman That Never Evolved. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 20-23.
Lakoff, G. and M. Johnson. (1980). "Concepts We Live By." In Metaphors we live by. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 3-6, 87-105, & 156-158.
Landau, Misia. (1984). "Human Evolution as Narrative." American Scientist 72 (May-June): 262-268.
Lappe, F. M. and J. Collins. (1986). "The Green Revolution Is the Answer." In World Hunger Twelve Myths. New York, NY: Grove Press, Inc., 48-66 .
Lewin, R. (1987). "The storytellers," in Bones of contention: Controversies in the search for human origins. New York, Simon & Schuster, 30-46
Lewontin, R. (1976). "Race and Intelligence (and Jensen's reply, and Lewontin's reply to that)." In The IQ Controversy: Critical Readings, ed. N. J. Block and A. Dworkin. NY: Pantheon, 78-112.
Lewontin, R. (1982)."Mental Traits." In Human Diversity. New York: Freeman Press, 88-103.
Lewontin, R. (1982). "Agricultural Research & the Penetration of Capital." Science for the People (January/February): 12-17.
Luria, S, S. Gould, and S. Singer. (1981). "The Rules of Heredity." In A View of Life. Menlo Park, CA: Benjamin Cummings, 219-245.
Martin, E. (1991). "The egg and the sperm: How science has constructed a romance based on stereotypical male-female roles," Signs 16(3): 485-501.
Moore, J. (1986). "Socializing Darwinism: Historiography and the Fortunes of a Phrase," in L. Levidow (Ed.), Science as Politics. London, Free Association Books, 39-80.
Paul, D. B. and B. A. Kimmelman (1988). "Mendel In America: Theory & Practice, 1900-1919," in R. Rainger, K. Benson and J. Maienschein (Eds.), The American Development of Biology. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 281-310.
Pollitt, Katha. (1990). "When is a mother not a mother?" The Nation, 31 Dec., 840-6.
Rowling, N. (1987). "Introduction," in Commodities: How the world was taken to market. London: Free Association Books, 7-21.
Sapp, J. (1983). "The Struggle for Authority in the Field of Heredity." Journal of the History of Biology 16 (3): 311-318, 327-342.
Taylor, P. J. (1995). "Building on construction: An exploration of heterogeneous constructionism, using an analogy from psychology and a sketch from socio-economic modeling." Perspectives on Science 3(1): 66-98.
Taylor, P. J. (1998). "Natural Selection: A heavy hand in biological and social thought." Science as Culture 7(1): 5-32.
Williams, R. (1976). "Nature," in Keywords. NY: Oxford University Press, 184-189.
Williams, R. (1980). "Ideas of Nature." In Problems of Materialism and Culture. London: Verso, 67-85.
Winn, M. (1990). New views of human intelligence. New York Times Magazine, Part 2. 16-17, 28-29.
Worster, D. (1985). Nature's Economy, Cambridge U. P., chapters 1 & 2.
Yoxen, E. (1984, c. 1983). "The Life Industry," in The Gene Business, Who should control biotechnology? New York : Harper & Row, 1-56.
Yoxen, E. (1986). "Unnatural selection/Gene Therapy." In Unnatural Selection? London: Heinemann, 1-17.
Updated 3 Feb. '99