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Disrupting Science

Disrupting Science: Social Movements, American Scientists, and the Politics of the Military, 1945-1975

Kelly Moore
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Disrupting Science
    Book Description:

    In the decades following World War II, American scientists were celebrated for their contributions to social and technological progress. They were also widely criticized for their increasingly close ties to military and governmental power--not only by outside activists but from among the ranks of scientists themselves.Disrupting Sciencetells the story of how scientists formed new protest organizations that democratized science and made its pursuit more transparent. The book explores how scientists weakened their own authority even as they invented new forms of political action.

    Drawing extensively from archival sources and in-depth interviews, Kelly Moore examines the features of American science that made it an attractive target for protesters in the early cold war and Vietnam eras, including scientists' work in military research and activities perceived as environmentally harmful. She describes the intellectual traditions that protesters drew from--liberalism, moral individualism, and the New Left--and traces the rise and influence of scientist-led protest organizations such as Science for the People and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Moore shows how scientist protest activities disrupted basic assumptions about science and the ways scientific knowledge should be produced, and recast scientists' relationships to political and military institutions.

    Disrupting Sciencereveals how the scientific community cumulatively worked to unbind its own scientific authority and change how science and scientists are perceived. In doing so, the book redefines our understanding of social movements and the power of insider-led protest.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2380-2
    Subjects: Population Studies, History of Science & Technology, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-21)

    In 1960, American scientists wereTimemagazine’s “Men of the Year,” described as superheroes whose powers and social contributions surpassed those of any other group in human history. The “true 20th century adventurers, the real intellectuals of the day,” and the “leaders of mankind’s greatest inquiries into life itself,” scientists were “statesman and savants, builders and even priests” whose work shaped the “life of every human being on the planet.”¹ In 1970, after a decade of criticism from environmentalists, antiwar activists, and members of the counterculture,The Nationdeclared that science had become a “war/space machine.” As a result, some...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Expansion and Critiques of Science-Military Ties, 1945–1970
    (pp. 22-53)

    In the decade and a half after World War II, the profession of science appeared to be at the height of its power. As a result of scientists’ proven contributions to weapons production in the war, funding from industry and government reached levels unheard of for any profession in the history of the United States. Much of this funding was from the Department of Defense (DOD), and the major beneficiaries of this arrangement were physicists. An elite group of scientists, many of them physicists, had entered the halls of government after the war. They provided the federal government with scientific...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Scientists as Moral Individuals: Quakerism and the Society for Social Responsibility in Science
    (pp. 54-95)

    Founded by scientists and engineers who came from a pacifist and moral individualist political tradition, the Society for Social Responsibility in Science (SSRS) eschewed professional work that was morally unconscionable to individual members. The main organizer of the group, Victor Paschkis, was a Quaker and an engineer at Columbia University. Thirty-five scientists and engineers joined him in forming the group in 1949. Many were members of historic peace churches or worked at colleges traditionally associated with those churches. A handful were conscientious objectors during World War II. The SSRS was formed to serve as a source of fellowship for individuals...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Information and Political Neutrality: Liberal Science Activism and the St. Louis Committee for Nuclear Information
    (pp. 96-129)

    The Greater St. Louis Citizens’ Committee for Nuclear Information (CNI) was formed in 1958 by a coalition of scientists, lawyers, community members, doctors, dentists, and women activists in response to what they perceived to be the failure of the government to provide citizens with accurate information about the health effects of atomic fallout. Over the next seven years, CNI developed a new model of collective political action for scientists: the provision of information to the public. It is now commonplace for scientists, individually or in groups, to provide information to the public about a variety of issues, but in the...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Confronting Liberalism: The Anti–Vietnam War Movement and the ABM Debate, 1965–1969
    (pp. 130-157)

    In 1969, four physicists who were frustrated by the failure of the American Physical Society (APS) to publicly oppose the war in Vietnam called for the organization of a new group of scientists. More than three hundred physicists attending the annual APS meeting in February 1969 came together to discuss the formation of the new group. First called Scientists for Social and Political Action, and then Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action, and, more colloquially, Science for the People (SftP), the organization was the most important radical science group in the United States in the mid-twentieth century. The...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Doing “Science for the People”: Enactments of a New Left Politics of Science
    (pp. 158-189)

    The “Science for the People” manifesto, published inLiberationin 1972, captures two key features of the “science for the people” project: its explicit rejection of the reform of political institutions and the moral individualist strategy, and an open-ended approach to the development of ways of using scientific ideas and skills in the service of “the people.” Scientific knowledge, according to this perspective, was not politically neutral, but the product of political and economic arrangements that led it to be most beneficial to elites, rather than to ordinary people. Liberals and moral individualists had already asserted that scientific knowledge was...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Conclusions: Disrupting the Social and Moral Order of Science
    (pp. 190-214)

    Like many other scholars, Yaron Ezrahi offers a philosophical argument that the decline in the authority of scientists in the twentieth century is owing to the removal of science from sites of public debate and scrutiny.¹ Many other critics have laid blame on the hostility of certain social groups, such as religious conservatives, postmodernists, or an ignorant public, or on general social systems such as capitalism.² My argument here is different. It is neither the privatization of scientists’ role in political decision making nor the pressures from nonscientists or large-scale social systems alone that have caused this shift in scientists’...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 215-268)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-292)
  14. Index
    (pp. 293-312)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 313-313)