Matching Items (31)

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Enchanting the Secular: Religion, Science, and Industry

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In my Honors Thesis, I endeavor to complicate and to respond to conventional debates over historical periodization and the problem of what it means to be "modern." I understand the modern as a conceptual product of discourses surrounding religion, science,

In my Honors Thesis, I endeavor to complicate and to respond to conventional debates over historical periodization and the problem of what it means to be "modern." I understand the modern as a conceptual product of discourses surrounding religion, science, and industry. Specifically, the modern era has been defined as one in which the forms of rationalization associated with quantitative and experimental scientific methods and large-scale, technologically sophisticated industrial production have surpassed the "irrational" superstitions associated with religion. Critical responses to this definition have largely had the goal of supplanting it with another way of conceiving of the historical discontinuity between the "modern" and the "non-modern." In three essays, I aim to complicate the terms (religion, science, and industry) in which these debates have been conducted and to relate them to one another both historically and conceptually. As opposed to the goal of re-defining the modern, my goal in these essays is to complicate the existing definitions and to reveal and challenge the ideological motives of historical periodization. I illuminate the connections of the modern conception of "religion" to a colonial system of power, between scientific development and changes in economic and religious thinking, and between contemporary technological and industrial projects to an "enchanted" view of the world. In tracing these connections, I am indebted to conventional discourses of modernization, Max Weber's theory of "disenchantment," and recent scholarship on the use of materialist methods in the study of history. In these essays, I move beyond the critical project of "re-imagining" the modern, and illuminate some of the ideological commitments of that project that I consider untenable. In addition to a more sophisticated historical understanding of the meaning of religion, science, and industry, what I aim to achieve in my thesis is a better framing of some of the largest problems faced by contemporary humanity, including the looming risks of ecological, economic, and geopolitical collapse. In this framing, I situate these risks in the context of their connection to strategies of historical periodization, and argue that managing them will require a radically new view of religion, science, industry, and the roles that they play in producing historical discontinuity.

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2018-05

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A History of Astrobiology: Social Network Structures of the Emerging Field

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Astrobiology, as it is known by official statements and agencies, is “the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe” (NASA Astrobiology Insitute , 2018). This definition should suit a dictionary, but it may not

Astrobiology, as it is known by official statements and agencies, is “the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe” (NASA Astrobiology Insitute , 2018). This definition should suit a dictionary, but it may not accurately describe the research and motivations of practicing astrobiologists. Furthermore, it does little to characterize the context in which astrobiologists work. The aim of this project is to explore various social network structures within a large body of astrobiological research, intending to both further define the current motivations of astrobiological research and to lend context to these motivations. In this effort, two Web of Science queries were assembled to search for two contrasting corpora related to astrobiological research. The first search, for astrobiology and its close synonym, exobiology, returned a corpus of 3,229 journal articles. The second search, which includes the first and supplements it with further search terms (see Table 1) returned a corpus of 19,017 journal articles. The metadata for these articles were then used to construct various networks. The resulting networks describe an astrobiology that is well entrenched in other related fields, showcasing the interdisciplinarity of astrobiology in its emergence. The networks also showcase the entrenchment of astrobiology in the sociological context in which it is conducted—namely, its relative dependence on the United States government, which should prompt further discussion amongst astrobiology researchers.

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Date Created
2019-12

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From Monsters to Medicine: A Historical Analysis of Changes in the Field of Teratology Over the Twentieth Century

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This project focuses on the history of how teratogens, or agents which have the potential to cause birth defects, have been understood and tested for teratogenic potential in the US over the twentieth century. Prior to this time, teratogen studies

This project focuses on the history of how teratogens, or agents which have the potential to cause birth defects, have been understood and tested for teratogenic potential in the US over the twentieth century. Prior to this time, teratogen studies were primarily concerned with cataloguing defects rather than exploring possible causes. At the turn of the twentieth century, experimental teratogen studies with the aim of elucidating mechanisms commenced. However, these early studies did not aim to discover human pregnancy outcomes and ways to prevent them, but simply focused on the results of exposing pregnant mammals to various physical and chemical insults. My project documents the change in understanding of teratogens over the twentieth century, the advancement of testing methods, and the causes of these advancements. Through the Embryo Project at Arizona State University (embryo.asu.edu), a digital encyclopedia for topics related to embryology, development, and reproductive medicine, I wrote ten encyclopedic articles that focused on chemical mechanisms of various teratogens, testing limitations in animal models, and legal and regulatory responses to well-known teratogens. As an extension of my previous work, this project bridges the current gap in research and focuses on contextualizing major events in the field of teratology to determine how these events led to various shifts in the understanding of birth defects and their causes, and how those conceptual shifts led to the creation of teratological testing guidelines. Results show that throughout the twentieth century, there are four distinct shifts in the understanding of teratogens: the first being 1900-1945, the second being 1946-1960, the third being 1961-1980, and the fourth being 1981-2000.

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2014-05

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Timeline of Changes in Mammography Guidelines in the United States

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Background: Breast cancer affects about 12% of women in the US. Arguably, it is one of the most advertised cancers. Mammography became a popular tool of breast cancer screening in the 1970s, and patient-geared guidelines came from the American Cancer

Background: Breast cancer affects about 12% of women in the US. Arguably, it is one of the most advertised cancers. Mammography became a popular tool of breast cancer screening in the 1970s, and patient-geared guidelines came from the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the US Preventative Task Force (USPSTF). This research focuses on ACS guidelines, as they were the earliest as well as the most changed guidelines. Mammography guidelines changed over time due to multiple factors. This research has tracked possible causes of those changes. Methods: Research began with an extensive literature search of clinical trials, the New York Times and the Washington Post archives, systematic reviews, ACS and USPSTF archives. Results and Discussion: ACS was the first organization to provide easily accessible patient geared mammography guidelines. The guidelines have changed six times since 1976. The first came after a large clinical trial, which screened 60,000 women and showed that mammography use decreased breast cancer deaths by 30%. During the 1980s and 1990s, anti-cancer lobbyists and health insurance companies were in conflict, as the former pushed for more frequent mammography screening while the latter pushed for less. The USPSTF published their first guidelines in 2002, separated women into different age groups, and suggested screening intervals, but also included a rating of evidence quality (A-I) that supported the screening recommendation. They changed in 2009 and 2016. The frequent changes had different, not all purely scientific and evidence-based causes. The political influence of anti-cancer activists, as well as media coverage, increased public interest in mammography, which in turn influenced changes in mammography guidelines, sometimes against scientific evidence. Most changes moved towards more frequent screening for women older than 40, and less frequently for younger women, probably because multiple clinical trials had found that mammography was not useful for younger women with no history of breast cancer. There was also growing evidence of overdiagnosis and overtreatment risks from frequent mammography use. Conclusions: The patient-geared mammography guidelines have changed due to multiple and not always well-grounded factors, such as public interpretations of mammography usefulness, social attention to mammography, and influence of different stakeholders at the time. Some changes have resulted solely from political and social factors, disregarding building scientific and clinical evidence against frequent mammography use.

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Date Created
2018-05

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Surviving Cervical Cancer: A History of Prevention, Early Detection, and Treatment

Description

Cervical cancer, which many physicians of 2019 consider to be a success in terms of establishing widely used forms of early preventative and diagnostic technologies, experienced a reduction in incidence rates in women by over fifty percent between 1975 and

Cervical cancer, which many physicians of 2019 consider to be a success in terms of establishing widely used forms of early preventative and diagnostic technologies, experienced a reduction in incidence rates in women by over fifty percent between 1975 and 2016. Cervical cancer does not often present in women with symptoms until it has entered a later stage of the disease. Because of this fact, in the early twentieth century, physicians were often only able to diagnose cervical cancer when either the woman reported complaints or there was a visual confirmation of lesions on the cervix. The symptoms women often reported included vague abdominal pain, bleeding after sex, and abnormal amounts of vaginal discharge, all of which are non-specific symptoms, making it even harder for women to be diagnosed with cervical cancer. This thesis answers the following question: How does the history of cervical cancer show that prevention helps reduce rates of cancer-related deaths among women? By studying the history of cervical cancer, people can understand how a cancer that was once one of the top killers of women in the US has declined to become one of the lowest through the establishment of and effective communication of early prevention and diagnostics, both among the general public and within the medical community itself. This thesis is organized based on key episodes which were pertinent to the history of cervical cancer, primarily within the United States and Europe. The episodes are organized in context of the shifts in thought regarding cervical cancer and include topics such as vaccine technologies like the Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines, social awareness movements that educated women on the importance of early detection, and analyses of the early preventative strategies and attempts at treating cervical cancer. After analyzing eleven key episodes, the thesis determined that, through the narrative of early attempts to treat cervical cancer, shifting the societal thought on cancer, evolving the importance of early detection, and, finally, obtaining a means of prevention, the history of cervical cancer does demonstrate that the development of preventative strategies has resulted in reducing cancer-related deaths among women. Understanding what it took for physicians to evolve from simply detecting cervical cancer to being able to prevent it entirely matters because it can change the way we think about managing other forms of cancer.

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2019-05

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The Human Genome Project and ELSI: the imperative of technology and the reduction of the public ethics debate

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In the past century, a number of technological projects have been undertaken as grand solutions to social problems. In the so called century of biology, this technological world view focuses on biomedical advances. The President of the United States, who

In the past century, a number of technological projects have been undertaken as grand solutions to social problems. In the so called century of biology, this technological world view focuses on biomedical advances. The President of the United States, who once called for nuclear weapons and space exploration, now calls for new biotechnologies, such as genomics, individualized medicine, and nanotechnology, which will improve the world by improving our biological lives. Portrayed as the Manhattan Project of the late 20th Century, the Human Genome Project (HGP) not only undertook the science of sequencing the human genome but also the ethics of it. For this thesis I ask how the HGP did this; what was the range of possibilities of goods and evils imagined by the HGP; and what, if anything, was left out. I show that the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) research program of the HGP was inscribed with the competencies of the professional field of bioethics, which had lent itself useful for governing biomedical science and technology earlier in the 20th century. Drawing on a sociological framework for understanding the development of professional bioethics, I describe the development of ELSI, and I note how the given-in-advance boundaries between authorized/unauthorized questions shaped its formation and biased technologically based conceptualizations of social problems and potential solutions. In this sense, the HGP and ELSI served both as the ends of policy and as instruments of self-legitimation, thus re-inscribing and enacting the structures for these powerful sociotechnical imaginaries. I engage the HGP and ELSI through historical, sociological, and political philosophical analysis, by examining their immediate context of the NIH, the meso level of professional/disciplinary bioethics, and the larger context of American democracy and modernity. My argument is simultaneously a claim about how questions are asked and how knowledge and expertise are made, exposing the relationship between the HGP and ELSI as a mutually constitutive and reciprocally related form of coproduction of knowledge and social structures. I finish by arguing that ELSI is in a better position than bioethics to carry out the original project of that field, i.e., to provide a space to elucidate certain institutionally authorized questions about science and technology. Finally, I venture into making a prophecy about the future of ELSI and bioethics: that the former will replace the latter as a locus for only formally rational and thin ethical debates.

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Date Created
2012

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Cultures of collection in late nineteenth century American natural history

Description

Natural history is, and was, dependent upon the collection of specimens. In the nineteenth century, American naturalists and institutions of natural history cultivated and maintained extensive collection networks comprised of numerous collectors that provided objects of natural history for study.

Natural history is, and was, dependent upon the collection of specimens. In the nineteenth century, American naturalists and institutions of natural history cultivated and maintained extensive collection networks comprised of numerous collectors that provided objects of natural history for study. Effective networks were collaborative in nature, with naturalists such as Spencer Baird of the Smithsonian trading their time and expertise for specimens. The incorporation of Darwinian and Neo-Lamarckian evolutionary theory into natural history in the middle of the century led to dramatic changes in the relationship between naturalists and collectors, as naturalists sought to reconcile their observations within the new evolutionary context. This dissertation uses the careers of collectors Robert Kennicott, Frank Stephens, Edward W. Nelson, E.A. Goldman, and Edmund Heller as case studies in order to evaluate how the changes in the theoretical framework of late nineteenth century natural history led to advances in field practice by assessing how naturalists trained their collectors to meet new demands within the field. Research focused on the correspondence between naturalists and collectors, along with the field notes and applicable publications by collectors. I argue that the changes in natural history necessitated naturalists training their collectors in the basics of biogeography - the study of geographic distribution of organisms, and systematics - the study of the diversity of life - leading to a collaborative relationship in which collectors played an active role in the formation of new biological knowledge. The project concludes that the changes in natural history with regard to theory and practice gradually necessitated a more professional cadre of collectors. Collectors became active agents in the formation of biological knowledge, and instrumental in the formation of a truly systematic natural history. As a result, collectors became de facto field naturalists, the forerunners of the field biologists that dominated the practice of natural history in the early and middle twentieth century.

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2011

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The "",field_main_title:"history and nature of science" in the era of standards-based reform

Description

The goal of science education in the United States is promoting scientific literacy for all students. The goal necessitates understanding the nature of science-what science is as a body of knowledge, explanatory tool, and human enterprise. The history of science

The goal of science education in the United States is promoting scientific literacy for all students. The goal necessitates understanding the nature of science-what science is as a body of knowledge, explanatory tool, and human enterprise. The history of science is one of the most long-standing pedagogical methods of getting at the nature of science. But scientific literacy also encompasses education in scientific inquiry, and in the relationships among science, technology, and society (STS), as well as fact and theory-based subject-matter content. Since the beginning of the standards-based reform movement (circa 1983) many attempts have been made to codify the components of scientific literacy. National level voluntary standards have lead to state standards. Under No Child Left Behind, those state standards have become integral parts of the educational system. Standards are political in nature, yet play the role of intended curriculum. I examine one thread of scientific literacy, the history and nature of science, from its beginnings in science education through the political perturbations of the last thirty years. This examination of "the history and nature of science" through the history of standards-based reform sheds light on our changing conception of scientific literacy.

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Date Created
2011

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Volatile perceptions: the power of the public sphere to reshape science

Description

This thesis examines the role of the media and popular culture in defining the shape and scope of what we think of today as "science." As a source of cognitive authority the scientific establishment is virtually beyond dispute. The intellectual

This thesis examines the role of the media and popular culture in defining the shape and scope of what we think of today as "science." As a source of cognitive authority the scientific establishment is virtually beyond dispute. The intellectual clout of science seemingly elevates it to a position outside the influence of the general population. Yet in reality the emergence and evolution of the public sphere, including popular culture, has had a profound impact on the definition and application of science. What science is and how it relates to the life of the ordinary person are hardly static concepts; the public perception of science has been molding its boundaries since at least the 18th century. During the Enlightenment "natural philosophy" was broadly accessible and integrated nicely with other forms of knowledge. As the years passed into the 19th century, however, science became increasingly professionalized and distinct, until the "Two Cultures" had fully developed. The established scientific institution distanced itself from the nonscientific community, leaving the task of communicating scientific knowledge to various popularizers, who typically operated through the media and often used the mantle of science to further their own social or political agendas. Such isolation from orthodox science forced the public to create an alternate form of science for popular consumption, a form consisting mainly of decontextualized facts, often used in contrast to other forms of thought (i.e. religion, art, or pseudoscience). However, with the recent advent of "Web 2.0" and the increasing prominence of convergence culture, the role of the public sphere is undergoing a dramatic revolution. Concepts such as "collective intelligence" are changing consumers of information into simultaneous producers, establishing vast peer networks of collaboration and enabling the public to bypass traditional sources of authority. This new hypermobility of information and empowerment of the public sphere are just now beginning to break down science's monolithic status. In many ways, it seems, we are entering a new Enlightenment.

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Date Created
2012

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Science, practice, and policy: : the Committee on Rare and Endangered Wildlife Species and the development of U.S. federal endangered species policy, 1956-1973

Description

The Committee on Rare and Endangered Wildlife Species (CREWS) of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) made important and lasting contributions to one of the most significant pieces of environmental legislation in U.S. history: the Endangered Species Act of

The Committee on Rare and Endangered Wildlife Species (CREWS) of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) made important and lasting contributions to one of the most significant pieces of environmental legislation in U.S. history: the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). CREWS was a prominent science-advisory body within the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) in the 1960s and 1970s, responsible for advising on the development of federal endangered-wildlife policy. The Committee took full advantage of its scientific and political authority by identifying a particular object of conservation--used in the development of the first U.S. list of endangered species--and establishing captive breeding as a primary conservation practice, both of which were written into the ESA and are employed in endangered-species listing and recovery to this day. Despite these important contributions to federal endangered-species practice and policy, CREWS has received little attention from historians of science or policy scholars. This dissertation is an empirical history of CREWS that draws on primary sources from the Smithsonian Institution (SI) Archives and a detailed analysis of the U.S. congressional record. The SI sources (including the records of the Bird and Mammal Laboratory, an FWS staffed research group stationed at the Smithsonian Institution) reveal the technical and political details of CREWS's advisory work. The congressional record provides evidence showing significant contributions of CREWS and its advisors and supervisors to the legislative process that resulted in the inclusion of key CREWS-inspired concepts and practices in the ESA. The foundational concepts and practices of the CREWS's research program drew from a number of areas currently of interest to several sub-disciplines that investigate the complex relationship between science and society. Among them are migratory bird conservation, systematics inspired by the Evolutionary Synthesis, species-focused ecology, captive breeding, reintroduction, and species transplantation. The following pages describe the role played by CREWS in drawing these various threads together and codifying them as endangered-species policy in the ESA.

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Date Created
2011