Science, Technology & Society

Studying STS at Butler

Butler's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers both a major and minor in Science, Technology and Society (STS). The intent of these programs is to give you a balanced view of science and technology, both from within and without. Majors and minors in STS take both traditional courses in science and technology disciplines and special STS courses offered by departments throughout the University. In addition, you will take part in special STS activities outside the traditional classroom. For details of our program, visit our requirements page.

Butler is an exciting place for STS study. Faculty from a number of disciplines specialize in the study of STS issues. Butler's teaching and research programs in science and technology also provide valuable resources for STS students. Many faculty in Butler's professional colleges also do teaching and research in STS issues, and their professional perspective provides another valuable dimension to the understanding of science and technology. In addition, Butler's visiting writer's series and the J. James Woods science lecture series provide students with unparalleled opportunities to meet and interact with prominent figures in science and technology. Finally, as the seat of state government and a growing center of science and technology based industries, Indianapolis provides students with many opportunities for internships and other learning experiences beyond Butler's campus.

Science, Technology, and Society Studies is highly Interdisciplinary.

Our Majors enjoy taking courses about Science in several different departments.

To help you understand how different disciplines might examine an issue in Science, here is an example:

How several disciplines examine the problem of global warming

Natural Sciences need to gather evidence from climate data, core samples from ice sheets, observed changes in ecological systems, animal habitats and populations in order to ascertain whether warming is occurring and whether this is the result of natural or human factors.

Sociologists are eager to understand how biologists and climate scientists conduct their investigations, collaborate, come to agree that human caused global warming is a fact and how this agreement resulted not only from assembling evidence but also through a social process involving tacit rules of conduct. They may enter laboratories to follow scientists through their investigation, interview participants, and trace the development of key conclusions.

Anthropologists share with sociologists an interest in the social nature of science. They want to determine how the wider culture impacts science, how cultural norms, values, themes affect what problems scientist study and how they study them. Concerning climate change, anthropologists would be interested in how cultural themes such as economic progress, individualism, and survival of the fittest have hindered scientific investigation and public policy mitigating climate change.

Philosophers study the nature of scientific knowledge and scientific reasoning. They uncover the tacit assumptions and definitions scientists use when they develop theories, causal explanations, and employ methods. In examining climate science, philosophers would examine the nature of prediction and how scientists reason through known and unknown variables to determine a likely outcome.

Historians want to develop a narrative of scientific developments in an area over time. They identify the initial catalyst for investigation, the key figures involved, the factors influencing knowledge growth. Historians of climate science would identify the early efforts to understand global temperature, follow the work of the key investigators who discovered a warming trend, and reveal the gradual growth of interest in the finding over time.

Communications specialists, linguists, and rhetoricians are interested in how language (verbal, mathematical, and visual) is used by scientists to describe, explain, and argue claims about objects, events, and processes. They want to understand how science is communicated among scientists as well as to the wider community of non-scientists. These specialists would investigate, for example, climate scientists use of language to report confirmation of warming due to human factors. Their language, appropriate for their peers, dutifully captured the indeterminate nature of predicting all events, yet it opened the door for naysayers, such as politicians, to say that the science was not solid.

Writing about science or translating scientific findings for different audiences is also important area of interest to communications specialists. Science journalists often come from STS programs.

Requirements for the Major
Requirements for the Minor
A Sample Four Year STS Program