Philosophy 120

Science, Technology, and Values
WI and Ethics-focused

Ronald C. Pine, Ph.D.
7, Rm 625      
845-9163(& voice mail)
Web: Ron's Web Page
Total course involvement: For every one hour of class time, expect to spend at least two hours for outside preparation.

Prerequisite:  Since this course meets the guidelines of a writing-intensive course, English 100 (C grade or higher)  is a prerequisite. Word processing skills are essential.

Course Description & Purpose: An introductory course addressing the relationship between science, technology, and human values with a focus on contemporary problems posed by developments in modern science. (3 credits)  WI and E-focus.

General Education area: Diversification in Humanities

The course also aims to have students appreciate the vastness of the Universe and the wonder of its parts, and the philosophical significance of this for improving the quality of human life through value clarification.

As the world culture becomes increasingly driven by developments in science and technology, and as our curriculum becomes increasingly driven by the goal of achieving technical competence in a field, there is also a complementary need for value clarification and assessment of the ethical implications of new technologies and developments in modern science. The goal will not be a complete understanding in detail of every scientific topic discussed. The course is not intended to replace introductory courses in Astronomy, Biology, and Physics. The goal is to impart a "feel" for the scientific method and an appreciation for the scientific endeavor. It will present the world view of modern science and discuss the implications of this view for the human prospect. It is an attempt to present the Big Picture in terms of what we think we know, how we have developed this knowledge, how values affect the development of knowledge, and the ethical choices that confront us, such that we may better understand ourselves and appreciate what is truly human and valuable. Each student will be asked to participate critically in this endeavor through writing a series of short essays.

Course Objectives and Student Learning Outcomes:  Students will demonstrate in college level writing


Science and the Human Prospect, by Ronald C. Pine
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Handouts and Internet resources on case studies and contemporary ethical issues.

Course Content:

    1. An introduction to the world view of modern science with emphasis on its relationship to ethical issues..
    2. Scientific method and the philosophy of science: a sample of problems and an introduction to cognitive and moral values and problems in professional ethics.
    3. Darwin's theory of evolution and an analysis of concrete moral questions: The moral value of genetic diversity, genetic engineering, cloning, stem-cell research.
    4. Historical origins of modern science, an analysis of scientific revolutions and world views, and ethical analysis of power relationships in research.
    5. An introduction to the field of Ethics, related terminology and methodology, deontological and teleological stances, instrumental naturalism, instrumental and intrinsic value questions.
    6. An analysis and deliberation on selected modern ethical issues generated by advances in technology.


            One 5 page essay, 100 pts. 
            12 one and half page essays, 20 pts. each. (Highest 10 counted)
    The essay and WI-method of evaluation used in this course is based on the assumption that clear, well-organized writing is a way of acquiring, analyzing, and communicating knowledge, and that the act of writing does not merely record thought or even simply reformulate it -- it generates thought. In other words, in many disciplines you don't really know what you know until you write about it.  Students must demonstrate a writing ability at the English 100+ level for a C grade or higher.  As an Ethics-focused course, each major essay paper will involve ethical deliberation.  Some of the one-page papers will also involve ethical deliberation.

    The essay topic for the major paper will be given to the student early in the semester. Students will first write their essay in draft form and then consult and interact with the instructor. A final version of the paper is due at the end of the semester.  The final paper is worth 100 points; if a draft is not submitted ON TIME, 5 points will be deducted. The major paper is intended to be capstone effort that integrates major concepts of the course and many aspects of the short essays.  The short one-page papers will be on concepts introduced step by step during the semester.  They are intended to help students master individually the major concepts that need to be integrated in the major papers.  Detailed feedback on concepts and writing mechanics will be provided for the short essays by the instructor. No late short essays will be accepted but the two lowest scores will be dropped at the end of the semester prior to grade computation.

    The final grade will be based on a percentage of the total points as follows:

            -54%----F, N or Inc.
    Please note that the "N" and "Inc." grades are given only for special circumstances.

Qualified students with disabilities will receive appropriate accommodations in this course. Students with disabilities may obtain information on available services online at  Specific inquires may be made by contacting Student ACCESS at 844-2392, by e-mail at, or by simply stopping by the office located in 2/409.

    Final Note:

    The course goals are perhaps best represented by the following quote from the 18th century philosopher-physicist Immanuel Kant.

    What can I know? 
    What should I do? 
    For what may I hope? 
    What does it mean to be human?

Special Note: Students with disabilities may obtain information on available services online at Specific inquires may be made by contacting Student ACCESS at (808) 844-2392 voice/text, by e-mail at, or simply stopping by Student ACCESS located in Bldg. 7, Rm. 319.