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Study information

Knowledge, Human Values and Anti-Science

Module titleKnowledge, Human Values and Anti-Science
Module codePHL3128
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Celso Alves Neto (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Can knowledge be politically neutral? Can it state facts that are completely independent from our political and moral views? In this module, you will examine these and related questions about how politics and morality influence what we take to be “true” or “false”. You will also consider the motivations and merits of anti-science movements, such as anti-vaxxers and climate change denialists. Are these movements politically biased? Are they correctly denouncing science (and thus knowledge) as rigged? To discuss these issues, we draw on different scholarly traditions, such as feminist philosophy and sociology of science. The module requires no background in science, epistemology, ethics, or politics. The module is highly recommended for interdisciplinary pathways.  

Module aims - intentions of the module

In this module, we investigate the relationship between knowledge, science, anti-scientific movements, and socio-political values. You will gain comprehensive knowledge of central issues in the philosophy and sociology of science, such as the question of whether knowledge and science are politically neutral.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate understanding of key issues in the contemporary debate over knowledge, values, and anti-science
  • 2. Critically assess the central positions and arguments concerning the influence of socio-political values in knowledge production, as well as develop original arguments in written form about this influence
  • 3. Demonstrate competency in applying concepts and theories to current events and movements, such as climate change denialism

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Demonstrate an excellent understanding of concepts and theories coming from philosophy, politics, and the social sciences, as well as the capacity to apply to real-world cases
  • 5. Demonstrate competency in critically evaluating philosophical and social scientific positions, arguments, and methods

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Demonstrate the capacity to produce clear and concise writing
  • 7. Demonstrate competency in integrating, synthesizing, and applying new knowledge
  • 8. Engage in independent research, within a limited time frame, to develop original positions and arguments

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • The Value-Free Ideal of Science
  • What makes Science objective?
  • What Values should influence Science?
  • When should we suspend trust in science or deny it?
  • What makes something “anti-science”?
  • Science and Democracy: Should science be democratic? Should democracy defend science?

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Weekly 2-hour lectures/seminars or 1 hour lecture + 1 hour seminar.
Guided Independent Study 83Private research in preparation for essay writing and blog post. Instructions will be given via ELE.
Guided Independent Study 45Private study: reading the assigned material for classes and additional readings

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay PlanDraft outline: 500 words1-8Oral/written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Research Portfolio (5 discussion questions and one final essay) 1002,500 words (5X100 words for essay questions and 2,000 words essay)1-8Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Research Portfolio (5 discussion questions and one final essay) Research Portfolio (5X100 words for essay questions and 2,000 words essay) 1-8August/September reassessment period

Re-assessment notes

Re-assessment takes place when the summative assessment has not been completed by the original deadline, and the student has been allowed to refer or defer it to a later date (this only happens following certain criteria and is always subject to exam board approval). At times re-assessments cannot be the same as the original assessment and so these alternatives are set. In cases where the form of assessment is the same, the content will nevertheless be different.

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Douglas, H. (2009). Science, policy, and the value-free ideal. University of Pittsburgh Pre.

Elliott, K. C. (2017). A tapestry of values: An introduction to values in science. Oxford University Press.

Elliott, K. C., & Steel, D. (Eds.). (2017). Current controversies in values and science. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Kitcher, P. (2003). Science, truth, and democracy. Oxford University Press.

Longino, H. E. (2018). The fate of knowledge. Princeton University Press.

McKinnon, Catriona (2016) “Should We Tolerate Climate Change Denial?”, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 40(1): 205–216.

Oreskes, N. (2021). Why trust science?. Princeton University Press.

Oreskes, Naomi and Erik M. Conway (2010). Merchants of doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming, New York: Bloomsbury Press.

Pigliucci, Massimo and Maarten Boudry (eds.) (2013). Philosophy of Pseudoscience. Reconsidering the demarcation problem. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages

Key words search

Science; human values; anti-science

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date