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PWR 2JS: In Science We Trust

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Fall 2021: Not offered

Winter 2022: Not offered

Spring 2022: Not offered

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: PWR 1, ESF, ITALIC 95W, or equivalent

Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

Science and technology are integral parts of our society, and this belief is held by both scientists and the general public. A 2015 report from the Pew Research Center showed that 79% of Americans believe that science has positively impacted our society. However, despite this overall positive view of science, the general public was less accepting of specific scientific topics. This same report showed that only 65% of Americans believe that humans have evolved over time (compared to 98% of scientists) and only 50% believe that human activity is causing global warming (compared to 87% of scientists). This disconnect between scientists and the general public has broad implications on scientific funding, progress, and acceptance.

In this class, we will take a multi-disciplinary approach to study the origins and outcomes of this disconnect. We will discuss the psychology of belief and reason, using Chris Mooney’s essay “The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science” as a jumping off point. We will analyze the rhetoric of science communication, from Bill Nye the Science Guy to anti-vax message boards. Ultimately, students will gather data from a variety of source materials to help them complete their own research project on a topic related to the course theme.

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(3-5 minute presentation; written text of 600-1200 words) You will propose a research-based argument of a topic related to the course theme. Potential topics could include analysis of pro- and anti-vaccine rhetoric in the wake of the California measles outbreak, exploration of Chipotle’s “Non-GMO” marketing campaign, or analysis of the climate change rhetoric used by candidates in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Written Research-Based Argument

(2400-3000 words) You will collect and synthesize information from a variety of sources to produce a thoughtful, research-based argument about your topic of interest.

Delivery of Research

(10 minute presentation; written text of 1800-2400 words) You will revise your written research based argument into an oral presentation to the class. Presentations should include multimedia components such as presentation software, audio and video clips, or other visual aids.

Research Reflection

(3-5 minute presentation; written text of 600-900 words) For the final assignment you will reflect on the challenges you overcame in presenting your arguments in written and oral formats.