Science, Technology, and Social Progress

Steven L. Goldman, ed.
Lehigh University Press - Science, Technology, and Social Justice
The claim of progress has been savaged by twentieth-century intellectuals, but the idea of progress remains a prominent feature of political language, as well as of the language of scientific research and technological innovation. What are the features of Western culture and of the practices of science and technology that anchor the idea of progress in the face of more than half a century of intellectual criticism? Can Western societies be said to have progressed over the past three hundred years, and to what extent have science and technology been responsible for that progress? If science and technology were institutionalized differently, or if science and technology policy were more rationally determined, would they then be socially progressive? In Science, Technology, and Social Progress, a distinguished group of writers prominent in their fields brings to light the answers to questions like these.
Essays by Hill, Noble, Winner, and Rothschild deal with the value structure of technology policy; sexist, classist, and racist values implicit in the language of reproductive technologies and in the implementation of new automation technologies; and the cultural values that have sustained the popularity of the idea of progress in the United States from the Pilgrims to the present. Essays by Yalo, Restivo, Chubin, and Shrader-Frechette deal with unrealized public benefits from new technologies as a consequence of irrational fears of radiation; the cultural and epistemological roots of modern science that militate against social progress; the language of progress as part of workbench science and of the politicking for public support of research; and the methodological changes that need to be made if the public interest is to be incorporated into science policy.
The last set of essays by Lasch, Mitcham, Provine, and Staudenmaier look at the idea of progress itself from four different-though-related perspectives. Lasch dismisses all claims of social progress as superficial and dismisses as well the claim that science is, or can be, progressive. Provine, by contrast, argues that science is the unique basis for human progress even as applied to the sequential development of scientific theories, let alone of social institutions. And Staudenmaier traces the vitality of the hold of the idea of progress on Western culture to the Cartesian split in the pursuit of knowledge between method and object, form and content.
093422305X (AUP)
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