Science and Ideology in the 20th Century

Subject HPSC40014 (2013)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2013.

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

This subject is not offered in 2013.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 2 (1x 2 hour seminar each week)
Total Time Commitment:

An average of 10 hours each week.





Recommended Background Knowledge:

Students enrolling in this subject must have completed a Bachelor of Arts degree or equivalent.

Non Allowed Subjects:


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 and Soviet Marxism, and the emergence of new movements such as feminism. In this subject we examine the different ways in which these wider social, cultural, and political movements have influenced scientific theories and concepts over the past century. Drawing on historical studies from twentieth century physics, molecular biology, immunology, genetics, evolutionary theory and archaeology, we critically examine the controversial thesis that politics, culture and ideology have shaped 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 historical approaches to understanding the complex relationship between science and ideology. These include a focus on cultural history, the connection between knowledge and political power, the role of metaphor in science, and the intersection of moral and scientific discourse.


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

Written work totaling 5,000 words comprising written assignments totaling 1,500 words worth 30% (due during semester), and a 3,500-word research essay worth 70% (due at the end of semester).

Hurdle Requirement: Students are required to attend a minimum of 75% of classes in order to pass this subject. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 2% per working day; after five working days, no late assessment will be marked. 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:

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