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

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Overview

"Kelly Moore's book is a significant scholarly achievement and will be an important and much-cited work in the sociology and social studies of science. Moore not only advances how we conceive of the politics that scientists engage in, but she also more clearly spells out the protest activities of the 1960s and places science near the center of their concerns."—David H. Guston, author of Between Politics and Science: Assuring the Integrity and Productivity of Research

"This is a truly excellent book by a thoughtful scholar. Moore's theoretical development is compelling and her concepts are of use beyond the empirical terrain she covers in the book. What's more, she shows that it is worth looking at social movements that focus on institutions like science and studying these movements' effects on meanings and orientation, not just policies."—Daniel Lee Kleinman, editor of Science, Technology, and Democracy

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Editorial Reviews

Science - Audra J. Wolfe
In Disrupting Science, Kelly Moore attempts to explain how scientists' attitudes about the proper role of science and scientists in public life changed so dramatically within two generations....Moore's well-researched account introduces the pacifists, petition writers, newsletter publishers, and protestors—who doggedly drew attention to the ways that militarism was infiltrating the practice of science in the United States.
Choice - G.D. Oberle
Disrupting Science is an important scholarly addition to the literature in the sociology of science and history of science. The book's examination of archival sources shows a complex relationship between scientists and the military from 1945 to 1975.
American Journal of Sociology - Joseph C. Hermanowicz
The book prompts intriguing questions about the professional role, the boundaries by which it is constituted, and the potential consequences of overstepping those boundaries.
H-Net Reviews - William J. Astore
As the U.S. government's budget for national and homeland security approaches three-quarters of a trillion dollars in fiscal year 2009, and the roles of science and technology continue to expand in our daily lives, our collective need for nuanced studies of the relations between the military and science is ever more pressing. Moore's thoughtful study points the way.
Mobilization - Steven Epstein
Disrupting Science is first rate work. . . . Moore's account serves as an exemplary case study in what she and Scott Frickel have billed in their 2006 book as 'the new political sociology of science.' I expect her new book to be read widely across the discipline.
Canadian Journal of Sociology - Ronjon Paul Datta
Moore's book is very well-written, scholarly, and impeccably organized, making it a useful reference tool. It is relevant to those interested in political sociology, the 'fact-value' debate in the philosophy of science, questions of science and ideology, and science studies.
Social Science Journal - Chelsea Schelly
Useful for academics studying the history of science and social movements, this book offers an interesting, unique, and insightful look at the role of scientists in challenging the boundaries of their own expertise and positions of influence. From scientists as elite experts to science 'for the people,' this work offers a captivating glimpse as social movement activists among scientists during this time in history.
Science
In Disrupting Science, Kelly Moore attempts to explain how scientists' attitudes about the proper role of science and scientists in public life changed so dramatically within two generations....Moore's well-researched account introduces the pacifists, petition writers, newsletter publishers, and protestors—who doggedly drew attention to the ways that militarism was infiltrating the practice of science in the United States.
— Audra J. Wolfe
Choice
Disrupting Science is an important scholarly addition to the literature in the sociology of science and history of science. The book's examination of archival sources shows a complex relationship between scientists and the military from 1945 to 1975.
— G.D. Oberle
American Journal of Sociology
The book prompts intriguing questions about the professional role, the boundaries by which it is constituted, and the potential consequences of overstepping those boundaries.
— Joseph C. Hermanowicz
H-Net Reviews
As the U.S. government's budget for national and homeland security approaches three-quarters of a trillion dollars in fiscal year 2009, and the roles of science and technology continue to expand in our daily lives, our collective need for nuanced studies of the relations between the military and science is ever more pressing. Moore's thoughtful study points the way.
— William J. Astore
Mobilization
Disrupting Science is first rate work. . . . Moore's account serves as an exemplary case study in what she and Scott Frickel have billed in their 2006 book as 'the new political sociology of science.' I expect her new book to be read widely across the discipline.
— Steven Epstein
Canadian Journal of Sociology
Moore's book is very well-written, scholarly, and impeccably organized, making it a useful reference tool. It is relevant to those interested in political sociology, the 'fact-value' debate in the philosophy of science, questions of science and ideology, and science studies.
— Ronjon Paul Datta
Social Science Journal
Useful for academics studying the history of science and social movements, this book offers an interesting, unique, and insightful look at the role of scientists in challenging the boundaries of their own expertise and positions of influence. From scientists as elite experts to science 'for the people,' this work offers a captivating glimpse as social movement activists among scientists during this time in history.
— Chelsea Schelly
Science
In Disrupting Science, Kelly Moore attempts to explain how scientists' attitudes about the proper role of science and scientists in public life changed so dramatically within two generations....Moore's well-researched account introduces the pacifists, petition writers, newsletter publishers, and protestors—who doggedly drew attention to the ways that militarism was infiltrating the practice of science in the United States.
— Audra J. Wolfe
Choice
Disrupting Science is an important scholarly addition to the literature in the sociology of science and history of science. The book's examination of archival sources shows a complex relationship between scientists and the military from 1945 to 1975.
— G.D. Oberle
Mobilization
Disrupting Science is first rate work. . . . Moore's account serves as an exemplary case study in what she and Scott Frickel have billed in their 2006 book as 'the new political sociology of science.' I expect her new book to be read widely across the discipline.
— Steven Epstein
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2011 Robert K. Merton Book Award, Science, Knowledge, and Technology Sectio of the American Sociological Association

Honorable Mention for the 2009 Charles Tilly Best Book Award, Collective Behavior and Social Movements Section of the American Sociological Association

"In Disrupting Science, Kelly Moore attempts to explain how scientists' attitudes about the proper role of science and scientists in public life changed so dramatically within two generations....Moore's well-researched account introduces the pacifists, petition writers, newsletter publishers, and protestors—who doggedly drew attention to the ways that militarism was infiltrating the practice of science in the United States."—Audra J. Wolfe, Science

"Disrupting Science is an important scholarly addition to the literature in the sociology of science and history of science. The book's examination of archival sources shows a complex relationship between scientists and the military from 1945 to 1975."—G.D. Oberle, Choice

"The book prompts intriguing questions about the professional role, the boundaries by which it is constituted, and the potential consequences of overstepping those boundaries."—Joseph C. Hermanowicz, American Journal of Sociology

"As the U.S. government's budget for national and homeland security approaches three-quarters of a trillion dollars in fiscal year 2009, and the roles of science and technology continue to expand in our daily lives, our collective need for nuanced studies of the relations between the military and science is ever more pressing. Moore's thoughtful study points the way."—William J. Astore, H-Net Reviews

"Disrupting Science is first rate work. . . . Moore's account serves as an exemplary case study in what she and Scott Frickel have billed in their 2006 book as 'the new political sociology of science.' I expect her new book to be read widely across the discipline."—Steven Epstein, Mobilization

"Moore's book is very well-written, scholarly, and impeccably organized, making it a useful reference tool. It is relevant to those interested in political sociology, the 'fact-value' debate in the philosophy of science, questions of science and ideology, and science studies."—Ronjon Paul Datta, Canadian Journal of Sociology

"Useful for academics studying the history of science and social movements, this book offers an interesting, unique, and insightful look at the role of scientists in challenging the boundaries of their own expertise and positions of influence. From scientists as elite experts to science 'for the people,' this work offers a captivating glimpse as social movement activists among scientists during this time in history."—Chelsea Schelly, Social Science Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691113524
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 1/7/2008
  • Series: Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Kelly Moore is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Cincinnati.

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Read an Excerpt

Disrupting Science Social Movements, American Scientists, and the Politics of the Military, 1945-1975
By Kelly Moore Princeton University Press
Copyright © 2007
Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-11352-4


Chapter One Introduction

In 1960, American scientists were Time magazine'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." In 1970, after a decade of criticism from environmentalists, antiwar activists, and members of the counterculture, The Nation declared that science had become a "war/space machine." As a result, some citizens had grown "hostile to science, identifying it with war, pollution, and every manner of evil." Philip Abelson, the editor of Science, decried the growing "war on scientists," caused, he argued, by unrealistic demands for "relevant" scientific research. Once lauded for their contributions to national security, scientists were now under fire for helping to perpetuate warfare. One of the most interesting aspects of the challenges to the relationship between scientists and the military was that these challenges were not simply waged by "outsiders." Scientists themselves filled theranks of critics, charging their peers, the government, and industry with a failure to make good on the promise of science to improve human life. Although criticism of science and scientists and doubts about the benefits of technology have a long history in America, by 1970 the criticisms of science and of scientists were more vociferous and diverse than ever before.

Although it is tempting to treat scientists' self-criticism as an aberration, the historical record demonstrates quite the opposite. Throughout the twentieth century, American scientists were involved in varied and visible forms of public political action, especially in efforts against racism and war, often working closely with and inspired by activists who were not scientists. Disrupting Science examines the development of scientists' activism against the financial and political relationship between scientists and the military between 1945 and 1975. To do so, the book compares three episodes in which scientists formed organizations that articulated different public political roles for themselves and their peers. In the early 1950s, pacifist scientists formed the Society for Social Responsibility in Science to convince other scientists to renounce all research that might contribute to war; in the late 1950s, scientists and citizens embroiled in the public debate over the wisdom of above-ground atomic testing developed a method of providing the public with information about the health effects of fallout through the formation of the Committee for Nuclear Information; and in the late 1960s, scientists formed Scientists for Social and Political Action (later known as Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action), which eventually came to call itself Science for the People. At first, Science for the People used direct action, public education, and other methods to call attention to and to discourage scientists' association with the military, racism, and sexism. Later, they used a variety of methods to put scientific knowledge into the hands of "the people." Each group represented a different vision of the place of science in public life, shaped by new arrangements between science and the state and by social movements of the day.

Scientists' roles in transforming the political meaning and uses of science raise three puzzles that are the central focus of Disrupting Science. Why did scientists engage in activism against the relationship between the military and science, the most radical of which undermined their privileged social position and the ideological foundation of their own work? What forms did their actions take, and why did they differ from one another? How did their efforts simultaneously contribute to buttressing the power of science in American political life and transforming it? The scientists who were involved in these debates grappled with the classical question Max Weber posed in "Science as a Vocation": "What is the value of science?" In more specific form, they asked what the proper relationship between science and politics was and ought to be. None came up with the same answer, but all defined ideals and practices that they believed should govern the normative link between science and public politics.

At the heart of this book are the vibrant efforts of scientists to redefine the relationships between fact and value, between politics and science, and between expert and citizen. Although the most active critics were a small minority of all scientists, they were drawn from many ranks, disciplines, and institutions. Some were highly visible members of prestigious universities and government agencies, and others worked in industry. They ranged in rank from graduate students to Nobel Prize winners. Their strategies for linking-and separating-were equally varied, including the disruption of scientific meetings, letter writing and public speaking, the provision of information to the public, and collaborating with like-minded groups of scientists and other activists. Whatever their tactics, scientists were above all engaged in thoughtful and earnest debates over how to best make good on the promise of science to provide the greatest benefit to the largest number of people. These efforts helped make one of the most important changes in the place of science in public life in the twentieth century: the authority of scientists to make unchallenged claims about nature and about their relationship to public political life, and to mediate the relationship between scientific knowledge and political values, decreased. At the same time, however, the authority of scientific knowledge itself increased. In this chapter, I provide an overview of the central arguments in the book and of the structure and content of the chapters to come.

THE MILITARY, SCIENCE, AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS, 1945-1975

After World War II and increasingly through the 1960s, the idea that science and scientists were uniform forces for progress came under fire. Although criticism of science and scientists and doubts about the benefits of technology have a long history in America, the criticisms during this period were far more vociferous and diverse than ever before. Many were centered around the relationship between scientists and the military. As we will see, those who criticized science drew force from the social movements of the time. Although early challenges took the relatively genteel form of written and verbal debate, by the late 1960s radical critics of scientists and science were targeting the places where scientists worked and lived. They had gone beyond cool professional discourse and cerebral argument to personally identify, ridicule, and in some cases physically attack individual scientists. Some elite scientists fared the worst: jeered and heckled at meetings and forced to walk gauntlets of protestors in front of their homes and workplaces, scientists who considered their military-sponsored research a patriotic act were accused of being as responsible for the war in Vietnam as the generals who directed it. Other critics lambasted scientists for producing racist and sexist research under the guise of scientific objectivity.

That scientists attempted to reorganize their relationships with the public and the state in the period between 1945 and 1975 was not idiosyncratic. Other professionals have organized themselves to include public problems and concerns within their jurisdiction while still leaving a special set of tasks, skills, and responsibilities for themselves. For example, Kristen Luker showed that American physicians in the mid-nineteenth century removed women from decision making about abortion to establish their own professional jurisdiction. Other professionals have taken on new research subjects as a result of their engagement with public political debates, as Lily Hoffman demonstrated in her study of the mobilization of physicians and urban planners in the 1970s, and Scott Frickel has shown in his study of the formation of the field of environmental toxicology. Still other professions have expanded their jurisdictions to include service to new groups, as Christian Smith's study of the development of liberation theology among Central American Catholic priests and nuns showed. More generally, in the late 1960s, professionals in most Western countries were rethinking their relationships with public political issues and considering how to better use their skills and authority to address immediate social and political concerns.

Before World War II, American scientists were no strangers to political engagement, of course. Engineers in the early twentieth century organized and advocated for "social responsibility" among their peers. In the late 1920s, some scientists who favored teaching evolution over creationism lectured and published to advocate using evolutionary theory and science as a basis for personal and public morality. Many eugenics scientists were active members of a broad movement to "purify" the American "race," working closely with politicians and citizen groups around the nation. In the 1930s, scientists organized groups to fight fascism and racism and to seek ways to use science to end poverty and war.

Yet the mid-twentieth century presents a special case. Some scientists wanted to continue with some of their prewar political activities and, more broadly, to develop a New Deal-style system for science funding that would be based on regional need rather than federal military priorities. Their hopes would not be fulfilled, however, because the promilitary sponsorship of science forces won out in the battles over who would control atomic power production and on what basis federal funding would be delivered. The intensification of scientists' efforts to define the proper relationship among knowledge creation, war, and the public was not simply a philosophic or epistemological dispute, or a matter of intellectual positions. It was a response to the changing material conditions of science and to the political mobilization of Americans from many different political communities and walks of life.

The close association between scientific research and the military began after World War II. Government and military leaders, and some scientists, realized the importance of scientific talent and ideas in maintaining atomic and other forms of military supremacy. As a result, federal funding for scientific research and education swelled dramatically, from fifty million dollars in 1939 to nearly fifteen billion dollars in 1970. Between 1947 and 1960, most federal funding for science came from the Department of Defense. Funding was distributed to a decentralized network of recipients that included universities and federally funded laboratories. New knowledge proliferated and more disciplines and subdisciplines formed, increasing the intellectual diversity of the field of science.

Scientists became important political advisors during the mid-twentieth century, too, providing recommendations on everything from which weapons to build to what students should learn in school. In the 1940s and 1950s, scientists' contributions to defense were often lauded as contributions to democracy. Scientists were thought to provide the know-how to keep the nation safe, and to contribute to an "informed public," which was considered an important feature of a healthy democracy. As Gerard Piel and Dennis Flanagan, the publisher and editor of Scientific American in the late 1940s, wrote, without information about science, "modern man has only the haziest idea of how to act in behalf of his own welfare, or that of his own family and community."

Yet lavish funding, access to the highest levels of government, and association with national defense were not uniformly welcomed by all scientists, nor by the public, intellectuals, or political authorities. The new state-science relationship posed threats to scientists' ability to act on their political beliefs, and shifted funding toward a limited range of subjects. Above all, it raised questions about the extent to which science was an independent community and a force for the improvement rather than the destruction of society.

In the 1940s and 1950s, it was difficult for scientists to speak out on these issues. The national security system, which was intensified in 1947, swept up scientists in high-profile and routine investigations. As Jessica Wang has shown, scientists made up more than half of those investigated by the federal government between 1947 and 1954. The security frenzy included extensive surveillance of scientists who were peace activists, including Albert Einstein, and repeated public investigations of leading scientists such as Robert Oppenheimer and Edward U. Condon, whose reputations were damaged despite the failure of loyalty committees to find them guilty of security breaches. Restrictions on travel and security clearances for federal grants and contracts added to the atmosphere of suspicion and fear. As a result, many scientists-but by no means all-were wary of taking explicit political positions that might be construed as contrary to the military goals of the United States or in any way "political." Part of the story I tell in Disrupting Science is of a small group of dedicated pacifist scientists who personally refused military funding and who urged their peers to find ways to use science for "productive" ends, even though they were at great risk for asserting their perspective.

By the late 1950s, as repression had eased, scientists began to raise new questions about the politics of science, this time about the extent to which democratic procedures were being subverted by the failure of scientists to provide the public with facts and information sufficient to allow their full participation in political debates about the wisdom of atomic testing. In the late 1960s, radical scientists went beyond calls to reform the behavior of scientists or democratic procedures; they called for the wholesale restructuring of society.

Yet scientists were not the only ones who questioned the new military-science relationship. In the early 1960s, members of Congress began to raise questions about the wisdom of using the majority of federal research funds for military purposes. They called instead for more spending on health and social problems. President Eisenhower's last presidential speech famously warned of the dangers of a "military-industrial complex," and of the dangers to the freedom of university research presented by massive federal funding. Politicians and presidents, however, played a relatively small role in generating the moral outrage that drove scientists to rearticulate their place in American public life. The social movements of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s provided some of the pressure and much of the moral argumentation and camaraderie that led to the creation of new means of organizing the relationship between knowledge production and power. The scientists who are featured in this book often considered themselves part of these broader political movements. The intersection of social movements and changes in the organizational, moral, political, and economic organization of science offers a window through which we can observe how scientists created new understandings of the place of science in American public life.

The critiques of science and scientists that scientists and other activists made in the three episodes I examine can best be understood as arguments stemming from two established and dominant American political traditions, liberalism and moral individualism, and one emergent perspective, that of a Marxian-inspired New Left. By political traditions, I do not mean static tools strategically identified and mechanically applied. Traditions are full of currents and countercurrents that people endlessly recon-figure as they creatively integrate them with real political problems. Even as the protagonists in this book drew on political traditions to formulate criticisms of science, they also transformed them in powerful ways. By the late 1960s, scientists' efforts to forge a new relationship with the public and the government were informed by the political analyses of the New Left and by Marxists. Both had roots in earlier American political thought, but compared to moral individualism and liberalism, they were more fertile ground for the development of novel ways of articulating how scientists could use their skills in the service of the public.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Disrupting Science by Kelly Moore
Copyright © 2007 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     vii
List of Abbreviations     ix
Introduction     1
The Expansion and Critiques of Science-Military Ties, 1945-1970     22
Scientists as Moral Individuals: Quakerism and the Society for Social Responsibility in Science     54
Information and Political Neutrality: Liberal Science Activism and the St. Louis Committee for Nuclear Information     96
Confronting Liberalism: The Anti-Vietnam War Movement and the ABM Debate, 1965-1969     130
Doing "Science for the People": Enactments of a New Left Politics of Science     158
Conclusions: Disrupting the Social and Moral Order of Science     190
Notes     215
Bibliography     269
Index     293
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