You are talking to a coworker about Seattle’s dark winters, and he mentions that a scientific panel recently released a report saying that most Americans get plenty of Vitamin D without taking supplements, and revising the recommended daily allowance considerably downward. “It just proves,” he says, “that the vitamin manufacturers bought off the last batch of scientists.”
Part A (3 points)
Explain how your colleague’s statement violates the principle of symmetry associated with the Strong Programme in STS.
Answer: First, it violates the principle of symmetry associated with the strong program in STS by insisting that science and technology determine human actions while in essence; it is human activities that really govern science and technology.
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Secondly, since the principle of symmetry affirms that the same kind of interpretation should be given in all cases, be they of success or failure. In this case, claiming that due to scientific studies carried out with reference to Americans getting vitamin D, the RDA should be lowered.
Part B (5 points)
If you took a symmetrical approach, what kinds of factors you would have to consider if you wanted to explain why the old recommendations were accepted? What kinds of factors would you have to consider explaining the new recommendations?
Answer: using the symmetrical approach, the old recommendations were accepted based on scientific evidence. The requirements of vitamin D in individuals were categorically worked out under the prevailing circumstances and a recommendation was given. In explaining the new recommendations similarly the notion was arrived at by scientific evidence.
You and your housemate are watching an interview with a prominent STS scholar. “At the beginning of the 20th century,” the scholar declares, “there was no such thing as PMS. There were only hysterical women.” Your housemate’s eyes widen: “no mood swings and chocolate cravings? That must have been nice.”
Part A (4 points)
Is your housemate’s interpretation right? Is the scholar actually saying that 19th century women did not experience symptoms at certain points in their menstrual cycles? If not, what does she mean—and what STS principle is she invoking?
Answer: The house mate’s interpretation is obviously wrong. This is because the scholar definitely does not mean that the 19th century women did not experience symptoms during certain periods of their menstrual cycle. This is so because the nature of women has not changed even though times and circumstances are changing.
Part B (6 points)
As you think about the scholar’s statement, you decide that PMS can be considered a “black box,” in the sense that Bruno Latour uses the term. What kind of work had to be done in order to make it a black box? (You are encouraged to give examples—but be sure to describe the categories of activity that those examples belong to.)
Answer: I do agree with the sentiments of the scholar that PMS can actually be considered a ‘black box’ in terms of the life a woman. Women, just like any other living organisms (animals) are controlled by the hormones in their endocrine system. Emotional, psychological and physiological activities are dependant upon the hormones which regulate everything in the life of a woman. Throughout the month, the woman undergoes a full cycle called the menstrual cycle which is governed by these hormones.
You read a newspaper article about a rural Virginia community that is trying to shut down a nearby wind farm, claiming that low frequency vibrations from the giant wind turbines have given them headaches, made it hard to sleep, and increased the occurrence of nose bleeds among children. In the article, a state public health official is quoted as saying that there is no connection between these symptoms and the wind farm. “The science just doesn’t show it,” she says, “If people want the turbines taken down because they value the view or the birds over clean energy, then they can make that argument. But that decision has got to be informed by the facts.”
Part A (1 points)
In her statement, what fundamental assumption does the official make about the nature of science?
Answer: The official makes a fundamental assumption that science is infallible and that everything that is proven right or wrong by the scientific method is indeed so.
Part B (4 points)
Why is that assumption problematic, when viewed in light of STS research on how science is made? (Hint: this should be a two-part answer.)
Answer: This assumption since, when looked at through the lens of STS, it is human activity that determine s the course of science and technology, and not science controlling the activities of humans.
Secondly, science is made by assessing both the failures and success theories, models and even the scientific experiments themselves. In this case, this approach is largely missing.
Part C (3 points)
STS scholars would argue for including community members’ knowledge about local rates of headaches, insomnia, and nosebleeds in any decisions that get made about the wind farm. Extrapolating from his article, what reasons would Phil Brown give for doing so?
Answer: The contribution of the local community members’ knowledge concerning the rates of headaches, insomnia and nose bleeds, is very important since there is some sort of triangulation of data. This is so because, not just one person, but several people are complaining of the same conditions mentioned above. Evidence is corroborated here that there is a problem.
Part D (3 points)
What reasons would Donna Haraway give? How do they differ from Brown’s reasons?
Answer: Donna Haraway on the other hand reasons that even though the problems besting these local people are very real, more investigations should be done to ascertain what factor or group of factors are actually contributing to these problems.
STS contends that facts, artifacts, expertise, and even what counts as “science” are all socially constructed. But in BISSTS 307, we have learned that there are “stronger” and “weaker” forms of constructivism.
Part A (3 points)
What is the strongest version of constructivism? What does it imply about facts?
Answer: The strongest version of constructivism is based on objectivity. Facts must stand or caused to stand by objective reasons. These must therefore be verifiable both in success and failure of scientific and technological inventions.
Part B (2 points)
How does a more moderate form of constructivism differ from strong constructivism?
Answer: A more moderate form of constructivism is based on relativism or neutralism. Strong constructivism is based on unbalanced objective facts.
Part C (6 points)
Referring to at least two of our readings by Latour and Woolgar, Latour, Haraway, and/or Gieryn, give evidence that mainstream STS theories represent a moderate (as opposed to a strong) form of constructivism. (Please make clear which articles you are quoting or paraphrasing, and include page numbers of the places from which you draw your evidence.
Answer: Mainstream STS theories represent a moderate form of constructivism. This is clearly pointed out Latour in arguing that “The strong programme adopts a position of relativism or neutralism regarding the arguments that social actors put forward for the acceptance/rejection of any technology”
Donna Haraway says that “All arguments (social, cultural, political, economic, as well as technical) are to be treated equally”.
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