HUMN 3991
Issues in Science and Society

3.0 Credits


This course examines the effect of science on society through the use of sample readings and websites, and by encouraging students to discover their own collection of resources on science in modern society.

The course begins with a summary of the historical development of scientific ideas; then examines the advances, functions, and implications of science in society. The discussion includes social forces that can lead to misuse of science and/or science fraud and focuses on current and future controversies in life sciences and technological innovation as examples of the influence of science on daily life. The powerful presence of science in society raises a number of questions that the course explores: What is science? Is science truly objective and autonomous? How does-and how should-society use science?

This upper-level course requires a significant amount of reading, Web research, independent work, and conference-based discussion. This course is suitable for students completing degrees in disciplines such as science, engineering, humanities, fine arts, social science, education, business, and general studies.

Delivery Method



60 credits. It is recommended that you have previous university-level courses in history, science, or social science to enroll in this course.


Students with credit for HUMN 300 may not take this course for further credit.


Learning Objectives

  • Define key concepts about science.
  • Explain the importance of scientific literacy.
  • Describe significant developments in the history of science.
  • Provide examples of the effect of science on the natural world and human society, and the effect of human society on science.
  • Demonstrate reading comprehension and fact analysis.
  • Utilize the Internet to research information about science
  • Identify the effect of societal influences on science.
  • Identify forces affecting the public perception of science.
  • Analyze and discuss factors influencing scientific objectivity.
  • Locate online sources about how society influences science.
  • Locate basic information about controversies in life science on the Internet and in the library.
  • Evaluate opposing opinions and identify biases about current topics in life science.
  • Analyze and discuss contentious issues in the life sciences.
  • Locate basic information about controversies in technology on the Internet and in the library.
  • Evaluate opposing opinions about current sections in technology.
  • Analyze and discuss contentious issues regarding technology.
  • Balance the potential benefits and risks of new technology.

Course Outline

The course consists of four units, each of which contains a number of sections devoted to particular topics:

Unit 1: Science: an Overview

  • Section 1.1: What is Science and Why Should We Care?
  • Section 1.2: Basic vs. Applied Science
  • Section 1.3: The Historical Development of Science
  • Section 1.4: The Influence of Science on Society

Unit 2: Societal Influences

  • Section 2.1: The Influence of Religion
  • Section 2.2: The Influence of Politics
  • Section 2.3: The Influence of Racial Bias
  • Section 2.4: The Influence of Gender
  • Section 2.5: Fraud, Pseudoscience, or Science Before Its Time?
  • Section 2.6: The Influence of Other Scientists
  • Section 2.7: Communicating Scientific Ideas to the Public

Unit 3: Life Science Issues

  • Section 3.1: Agricultural Biotechnology
  • Section 3.2: Reproductive Issues
  • Section 3.3: Genome Sequencing Projects
  • Section 3.4: Human Health Issues

Unit 4: Issues in Technology

  • Section 4.1: Exploring Outer Space
  • Section 4.2: Atomic Power
  • Section 4.3: Communication Tools
  • Section 4.4: Energy, Pollution, and the Environment

Maximum Completion

30 weeks.

Required Text and Materials

You will be consulting a variety of resources throughout the course. Links to the electronic resources (articles and Web resources) are provided. Please note that no course package is sent to students.

Open Learning Faculty Member Information

An Open Learning Faculty Member is available to assist students. Primary communication is through Blackboard's "Mail" tool or by phone. You will receive the necessary contact information when you start your course.


In order to successfully complete this course, you must obtain at least 50 % on the final mandatory project exam and 50 % overall. It is strongly recommended that students complete all assignments in order to achieve the learning objectives of the course. The total mark will be determined on the following basis:

Assignment 1 5%
Assignment 2 15%
Assignment 3 15%
Assignment 4 15%
Web Discussions 20%
Project Exam 30%

Students must pass the final project exam to receive a passing grade in the course.