Science and Justice

Fridays, 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

This course focuses on the relationship between science and justice. By exploring several themes from health, medicine, environmental, and research sciences we’ll seek to put these issues into context for individuals and the social compact.

Scientists have been, and continue to be, persecuted for their forthrightness in an environment of moral or religious dogma, or for publishing information a government would rather not be revealed to the general public. Evidence-based science continually competes with folklore, superstitions, beliefs, and intentional misinformation.

During first term we’ll explore the history of the relationship science and scientists like Aristotle, Galileo, and Copernicus had to the societies of their time. We’ll compare this to the modern-day battles of corporate America vs. evidence-or-not-based environmentalism.  We’ll further discuss the challenges women and minority scientists have for recognition of their contributions.

Justice issues are further compounded by the advent of big data in health and medicine. We’ll delve into the issues of access to healthcare and accurate health information.

We’ll explore how paywall-based scientific information of successes in research, and the omission of failures, has affected scientific exploration.

Scientific technology, forensics, and bioinformatics are used within the criminal justice system, but they are going well beyond DNA matches of suspects and searches on the FBI CODIS database, to using emerging techniques like DNA phenotyping. We’ll explore what this means in bringing justice not only to victims of crime but hopefully preventing false accusation and prosecution.

We’ll also tackle questions of access to the tools of individuals and poorer communities hoping to be able to monitor their environments and their corporate neighbors. Extinctions rarely affect only that species, invariably poorer communities bear the burden of failure to protect ecosystems.

The course will involve assigned reading, research, investigative labs, classroom debate, presentations and movies for the first term. Second term will involve research projects for providing environmental tools, procedures to provide individuals, schools, and communities to take charge of their local environments.

Time each week : reading or research, 5-9 hours.

Assignments: Two presentations per term : the equivalent of a mid-term and final. It can be a mini poster, 3-page paper, short presentation, illustrations, or other media (student can choose format, no more than 5 mins to present). For a final project students can work in groups or individually to bring some solution to a school, community, or other entity, based on our studies. Final projects (and previous projects) will be presented to families on the last day.

Students are encouraged to submit their final project to the Illinois State University High School Science Symposium, tentatively scheduled for April 27, 2018.

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