Preface to the Second Edition, by Jenée Wilde and Steve Rust


The Culture of Science began in 2008 with editor Patricia Oman’s important work developing the Composition Program’s very first casebook. Like that first edition, this updated version opens up modes of inquiry into Western knowledge foundations, asking students to embrace epistemological uncertainty as a productive means of developing critical thinking skills. The new digital format also meets open access education priorities for free online textbooks and resources. Our goals with this edition are to address the University’s priorities for inclusive, engaged, and research-led teaching by: (1) increasing the global scope of the readings as well as the diversity of the authors; (2) selecting readings that aim to improve scientific vocabulary and literacy for all students; and (3) making often difficult scientific topics approachable for students with a range of academic interests. When students read interesting articles, have engaging conversations, and are invited to question the assumptions behind what counts as knowledge in our culture, they learn to think critically, write better papers, and actively engage the rhetorical concepts we teach in the Composition Program.


At the University of Oregon, our diverse students benefit greatly from understanding the broader culture of academia and their place as scholars within it. The Culture of Science allows students to see particular knowledge debates in the social and natural sciences as happening in the contexts of people who share ideas, argue claims, and through cooperative processes come to agreement over time about the information and methods that constitute “science,” our best knowledge about ourselves and the world. As a result, rather than seeing themselves as merely receptors of information, students become active participants in this ongoing process of knowledge building. The casebook is particularly suited to addressing questions at issue that students will encounter across University courses and disciplines, such as: What are the boundaries of science and who gets to decide? How do researchers work through disagreements as a community in order to advance our knowledge about the world? What roles should science and scientists play in public discourses and policy-making? (See Reading Unit abstracts for additional questions.) These cultural processes involve discussions of acceptable research methods and ethical use of sources, the importance of peer review in academic discourse, and the values expressed in debates over the demarcation between scientific knowledge and other ways of perceiving the world, among other topics. In addition to giving students the language and skills to navigate a range of disciplinary approaches, The Culture of Science invites them to think about the academy as a culture and their own work within the writing classroom and their majors as participating within this culture.

Overview of Content

The casebook offers five reading units organized thematically around significant questions at issue. Reading Unit 1 grounds students in contemporary questions of science and its boundaries, offering a blend of dense and approachable readings intended to spark class conversations on the topic of scientific culture. Units 2 and 3 extend discourses on scientific culture into areas of critical analysis such as gender, race and ethnicity, religion, ethics, and colonialism, as well as examining issues of language and perception. Unit 4 focuses on basic questions of fact, definition, and interpretation by exploring the discourse surrounding anomalies, pseudoscience, and skepticism, making it particularly useful for reviewing and extending students’ understanding of skills learned in Writing 121. Finally, Unit 5 offers a case study on Frankenstein as a techno-moral lesson on overreaching ambition and how it applies to scientific culture today. While the Table of Contents is organized thematically, many readings have cross-unit (and cross-disciplinary) connections and relevance. We encourage instructors to make use of the Alternative Table of Contents and to feel welcome to assign the entire casebook in your courses and/or to use individual readings or units as launching points for individual and team research projects. Supplementary teaching resources can be found in the casebook bibliography.


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