Science and Ideology in the 20th Century

Subject HPSC40014 (2011)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2011.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2011.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 2 (1x 2 hour seminar each week)
Total Time Commitment: An average of 10 hours each week.
Prerequisites: None.
Corequisites: None.
Recommended Background Knowledge: Students enrolling in this subject must have completed a Bachelor of Arts degree or equivalent.
Non Allowed Subjects: None.
Core Participation Requirements: For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:
Subject Overview:

During the course the twentieth century the sciences underwent a dramatic transformation, both in terms of their theoretical foundations and their technological applications. But this was also a tumultuous period of intellectual, cultural and political history, which saw the outbreak of two World Wars, the rise to prominence of political regimes and ideologies of Nazism, Fascism and Communism, the battle between liberal capitalist democracy and Soviet Marxism, and the emergence of new social and political movements, including the various strands of feminist thought. In this subject we examine the different ways in which scientific theories and concepts over the past century have been influenced by these wider social, cultural, and political movements. Drawing on historical studies from physics, genetics, evolutionary biology, psychology, biomedical science and zoology, we critically examine the controversial thesis that politics, culture and ideology shape not only the direction and organisation of scientific research, but also the very content and form of scientific knowledge. Through an analysis of these case studies, students taking this subject will explore a range of different approaches to the history of science, which attempt to show how different social, political and cultural settings have left their mark on twentieth century scientific thought.


Student who successfully complete this course will have learnt

  • to understand the history of science within a broader social, political and cultural context
  • to appreciate how different historiographical approaches and can provide new insights into the understanding of science
  • to recognise the difficulties in understanding the motivations and attitudes of scientists in different historical and social contexts
  • to demonstrate an ability to write clear, coherent and persuasive analyses of ambiguous and difficult issues
Assessment: Written work totalling 5,000 words comprising a 1,000 word review, 20% (due during semester), and a 4,000 word research essay, 80% (due at the end of semester).

Hurdle Requirement: Students are required to attend a minimum of 80% of classes in order to qualify to have their written work assessed. Students who fail to meet this hurdle requirement will be deemed ineligible to submit the final piece of assessment for this subject. Regular participation in class is required.

Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 2% per working day. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

A course reader will be made available from the University Bookshop. Readings will also be made available online.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Student who successfully complete this course wil:

  • develop skills in written and oral communication.
  • conduct independent research.
  • make appropriate use of primary and secondary sources in mounting an argument.
  • form defensible judgements based on a critical evaluation of conflicting evidence.
Links to further information:
Related Course(s): M.A.History & Philosophy of Science (Advanced Seminars & Shorter Thesis)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: 200 point program - full time over 18 months
200 point program - full time over 24 months
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science

Download PDF version.