Despite a facade of brilliant technological advances, American science has led humanity to the brink of interrelated disasters. In The Tragedy of American Science, historian of science Clifford D. Conner describes the dual processes by which this history has unfolded since the Second World War, addressing the corporatization and the militarization of science in the US. First, he examines the role of private profit considerations in determining the direction of scientific inquiry and the ways those considerations have dangerously undermined the integrity of sciences impacting food, water, air, medicine, and the climate. Second, Conner explores the relationship between scientific industries and the US military, discussing the innumerable financial and human scientific resources that have been diverted from other critical areas in order to further military aggrandizement and technological development.
While the underlying problems may appear intractable, Conner compellingly argues that replacing the current science-for-profit system with a science-for-human-needs system is not an impossible, utopian dream. But to get there, we’ll need to grapple with this important history.