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Ethnic Minorities in Science

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  1. Ethnic Minorities in Science HUB-202

  2. Course objectives • To understand the history and culture of science in the United States, in order to understand the contributing factors that have led to the current under representation of ethnic minorities in science • To recognize the often undervalued or overlooked contributions of scientists who are members of ethnic minorities

  3. Course objectives, cont’d. • To gain perspective on the disparities in the quality of health care available to various ethnic groups in the US, and to be aware of recent changes in health policies and programs that have been implemented to address these disparities. • To identify ways to initiate change and improve the climate for ethnic minorities in science.

  4. Readings • Books available at Phoenix Bookstore • Readings are listed in syllabus ON THE DAY THEY ARE TO BE DISCUSSED • Other required readings may be handed out in class • Reaction papers will be written IN CLASS • Attendance will be recorded

  5. Basis for evaluation • Exams (2@ 50 points) > 100 points • Class participation / attendance > 100 points • Reactions papers (2@ 50 points) > 100 points • Presentation > 100 points

  6. Final project • In – class presentation on the life and work of a scientist who is a member of an ethnic minority • 20 minutes in length • Library orientation coming soon… • Assignment of presentation dates

  7. Presentation • Describe the work of the scientist. • What professional obstacles were encountered by the scientist due to his/her ethnicity? • How did he/she overcome these obstacles? • Describe the significance of the person’s contributions to science. • Who served as a mentor for the scientist? • Did he/she play a significant role as a mentor for other scientists?

  8. Presentation, cont’d. • List of references must be handed in on the day of presentation • Three concise, well-written multiple choice questions pertaining to presentation material must be submitted via email by the day of presentation • Final exam will be comprised of student-written multiple choice questions pertaining to material presented by students

  9. History and Culture of Science • Based on 1st reading in Harding (pp. 1-22, “Eurocentric Scientific Illiteracy – A challenge for the World Community”) • Thoughts on “scientific illiteracy”…..

  10. Scientific illiteracy • Humanists uninterested in understanding concerns, ways of thinking of scientists • Obstacle to technological development of “have – not” nations 2. “Two cultures” problem in U.S. – low level of science education among majority of U.S. citizens • Failure of sciences to provide adequate level of general education to all U.S. citizens • Result: groups unable to make intelligent decisions about their lives and policies that affect them

  11. Scientific illiteracy, cont’d. 2. Two cultures problem, cont’d. • Failure to provide general scientific education compromises democratic process 3. New, enlarged perspective on scientific illiteracy focuses on scientists themselves • “Eurocentric”, “Androcentric” nature of Western Sciences influences: • Types of questions asked • Interpretation of data

  12. Definitions • Western sciences: conducted in noncommunist countries of Europe and America • Eurocentric: interpretation of the world in terms of Western / European values • Androcentric: dominated by masculine point of view

  13. The Scientific Method • Limited to measurable, observable phenomena • Cannot address questions of morality, spirituality, ethics

  14. The process of science • Begins with inductive reasoning: observe many events and infer a general principle of explanation 1) In the early stages of Little League practices, we’ve noticed that boys were generally more accurate than girls when throwing a baseball. 2) As adults, men are more likely than women to engage in ball sports. 3) We know from anthropological research that in many non-technological human societies, men perform more of the hunting tasks than women.

  15. The process, cont’d. • process of verification of hypothesis = deductive reasoning • Deductive reasoning : make a prediction about the outcome of an action or expt • “If….then….” statement “If boys have an inborn throwing skill and girls don’t, then boys will be more accurate than girls when throwing an object which neither have much experiences with – for instance, a javelin.” • Many untested hypotheses (unsupported assertions) exit

  16. The process, cont’d. • Deductive reasoning is used to reject an incorrect hypothesis • Can’t be used to prove a correct hypothesis; alternative hypotheses may exist

  17. The Experimental Method • Importance of controls (exactly like expt’l subject but not exposed to expt’l treatment) • Importance of random assignment • Good controls eliminate alternative hypotheses

  18. What are appropriate controls for the following studies? • Does regular exercise in rats cause a decrease in the rats’ appetite? • Is the growth of house plants stunted by playing loud rock music in their vicinity? • Do pink walls decrease the number of assaults inside jails? • What is the control group in the javelin experiment described earlier?

  19. Statistics • Used to determine if results are due to error in sampling rather than expt’l treatment • Statistical tests consider: • Size of diff. between group means • Sample size • Variability (a few unusual results can influence group avg) • Results that are statistically significant = >95% chance that diff is due to expt’l treatment • Assumes expt was designed and carried out correctly

  20. Confounding factors in human expts • Observer bias • Subject expectation • Usefulness of animal models

  21. The “Racial” Economy of Science • Criticism comes from scientists and nonscientists • Call for a “better science”, modes of self-correction • Strengths, value of Western science, medicine are recognized • Limitations, flaws must also be recognized

  22. Resources for understanding:Anti-Eurocentric Movements • Criticism: Western countries impose their values and standards on people whose histories and concerns are opposed to those of privileged groups in the West • All of the world must bear consequences of policies of West, but don’t get a share in decision making • Should there be one “world science”?

  23. Resources for understanding:The new social studies of science and technology • Cognitive content of natural sciences is coherent with distinctive values, social interests of culture • e.g. gender-focused studies of science, studies of craniometry • Third world cultures have their own legacies of androcentrism

  24. Resources for understanding:Diversity Concerns at Educational Institutions • Demographics of America are changing • Shortcomings of Eurocentric educations are more obvious • Curricula, courses, research and scholarship are changing • Reflects desire of many to act fairly, responsibly, advance democracy • Some of the concern is self-serving…. • Desire to attract tuition monies from foreign students • Need to train individuals to effectively compete in international markets

  25. Resources for understanding:Reflexive Science Tendencies • Scientists strive for greater objectivity • Many must learn to understand research projects in context of local and international politics • National Academy of Sciences now argues for enlargement of notion of “scientific method”: • “The term ‘methods’ can be interpreted more broadly. Methods include the judgements scientists make about interpretation or reliability of data. They also include the decisions scientists make about which problems to pursue or when to conclude an investigation. Methods involve the ways scientists work with each other & exchange information” (p. 6). • Scientists must identify their own values & determine the effects of those values on their science

  26. Resources for understanding:Science Education • Educators strive for change in science courses to address older problem of scientific illiteracy • General science courses to educate humanists • Changes at many levels to attract, retain women and minority scientists • Efforts have drawn attention to Eurocentric, androcentric tendencies within Western science • Changes needed to allow diverse U.S. students to realize benefits of science for THEM (and not militarism, consumerism, profit, social control)

  27. Resources for understanding:The Changing World Community • Power made available by Western science, technologies has resulted in increased destruction to humans, environments • Effects must be recognized and addressed to figure out desirable social relations for world community • Issues are too important to be left to scientists and scholars alone! • Important for every citizen of the world

  28. Science Constructs “Race” • Sciences constructed category of “race” • Concept of a fixed and discrete cluster of biological attributes is outdated • Incompatible with evolutionary theory • Human variability more appropriately explained by population genetics • Many scientists (e.g. public health) still look for biological basis for racial distinctions

  29. Early Non-Western Scientific Traditions • Scholars: European sciences progressed primarily due to military, economic and political power, not because of greater rationality • Examples: • Production of carbon steel in Tanzania 1,500 years ago: • Andean experimental agriculture: • Contributions of China, Islam to experimental sciences, mathematics ( ) • Non-Western achievements often unrecognized

  30. Who gets to do/direct science? • Paradox: the natural sciences, with methods for id and elimination of social biases, is primarily conducted by an elite group • Under representation of ethnic minorities, females • Problem of “leaky pipeline”

  31. Visions and Strategies for the Future • Methods to recruit minority scientists • Expectation of assuming Eurocentric agenda • “Sciences of our own” • Can science change before society as a whole changes?