The remarkable growth of science and technology over the past century raises pressing philosophical, historical and social issues. Many questions pondered by philosophers and historians for generations – how might objective knowledge be attained, if at all? by what criteria might one theory be judged better than another? what are the contexts in which science operates and has operated historically? what is the social role of science? – continue to be relevant. But advances in science and technology have raised new questions, too. In a world where biotechnologists regularly create new species, what remains of the notion of “nature”? Ought we allow parents to alter the genetic makeup of their offspring according to their preferences? Should researchers be constrained from cloning humans? from “weaponizing” bacteria and viruses? from privatizing seed stock for food crops? from producing and promoting technologies that cause great damage to our landscape. Does “virtual” communication, through a screen and keyboard, with strangers, create a satisfying sense of community, or does it simply magnify the loneliness of those increasing numbers who spend most of their time in the soft glow of a computer terminal?
Science and technology are intertwined with all of societies' other institutions. Schools “scientifically” test children, “scientifically” sort them, and aspire to teach “scientifically,” increasingly via computer. Courts find themselves more and more dependent upon scientific expert witnesses who compete to use their skills to determine the “truth” behind contested events. Religious leaders struggle to accommodate the latest findings from laboratories, findings that often flatly contradict traditional religious teachings. Government seeks the advice of scientists when determining policy, while at the same time acting to influence the research agendas of scientists themselves. Art, too, ambivalently registers the great importance of technology and science in our lives, from films (which are today utterly dependant upon computers to generate images that could never otherwise be visualized) to electronic music to science fiction.
The Graduate Program in Science, Technology and Society at Bar Ilan invites you to take part in an intellectual adventure, studying science and technology with rigor and creativity, from a perspective that incorporates many disciplines: history, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, literary criticism, critical theory, and much more. Our students gain the tools needed to understand science, technology and medicine from a broad and critical perspective. Our faculty appreciates the majesty of contemporary scientific achievements as well as its storied history, which are a great tribute to human ingenuity, yet we also appreciate the complicated, ambivalent, and sometimes dangerous ways in which science, technology and society interact.
Students and Faculty in the STS Program study a very broad spectrum of subjects from many different angles. Over the past several years, several concentrations of research have developed around a group of issues that have especially captured the imaginations of students and faculty members. In most cases, these students and faculty have organized ongoing, informal study groups and forums around these areas of concentration. Frequently, these study groups produce national and internation workshops and conferences. The concentrations are: