A thought-provoking examination of the intersections of knowledge and violence, and the quandaries and costs of modern, technoscientific warfare.
Science and violence converge in modern warfare. While the finest minds of the twentieth century have improved human life, they have also produced human injury. They engineered radar, developed electronic computers, and helped mass produce penicillin all in the context of military mobilization. Scientists also developed chemical weapons, atomic bombs, and psychological warfare strategies.
Rational Fog explores the quandary of scientific and technological productivity in an era of perpetual war. Science is, at its foundation, an international endeavor oriented toward advancing human welfare. At the same time, it has been nationalistic and militaristic in times of crisis and conflict. As our weapons have become more powerful, scientists have struggled to reconcile these tensions, engaging in heated debates over the problems inherent in exploiting science for military purposes. M. Susan Lindee examines this interplay between science and state violence and takes stock of researchers’ efforts to respond. Many scientists who wanted to distance their work from killing have found it difficult and have succumbed to the exigencies of war. Indeed, Lindee notes that scientists who otherwise oppose violence have sometimes been swept up in the spirit of militarism when war breaks out.
From the first uses of the gun to the mass production of DDT and the twenty-first-century battlefield of the mind, the science of war has achieved remarkable things at great human cost. Rational Fog reminds us that, for scientists and for us all, moral costs sometimes mount alongside technological and scientific advances.
Rational Fog demonstrates that [scientists’] expertise is remarkably effective when combined with militaristic goals…One may doubt the ‘science’ of climate change or vaccines, but the power of science is displayed every time a drone carries out a remote strike, a jet breaks the sound barrier, or a nuclear warhead ‘explodes’ inside of a computer simulation. It may be inconvenient, but those truths are neither nebulous nor negligible. They are lethal.
Lindee…begins her study of technoscientific warfare by observing that the eroticism of modern weaponry has mesmerized the public…Lindee’s plainest ambition in Rational Fog consists in what she calls an ‘audit’ of the key moments in history when science was regrettably appropriated for warfare. Her unflinching examination abrades a naïve picture of science…as ‘uniquely neutral, universalistic, and benevolent…a calling, not a profession.’
Offers the reader a journey through some of the most prominent examples of the ambivalent achievements of human scientific and engineering ingenuity: machines and technical and organic systems of destruction…Casts the history of modern scientific expertise as a process of groping in the fog of war…Lindee goes on to offer a set of arguments to bolster her call for opposition to the militarization of technoscience.
Lindee has not written a typical monograph on the relationship between science and warfare. Rational Fog is a long essay on the systematic relation between the growth of scientific knowledge and violence and an insightful reflection on the ultimate consequences of this closeness…A book for all those intrigued—and let’s be honest, who is not, right now?—by the daily paradox of the achievements of science and technology, which simultaneously threaten and open possibilities for the Earth and humankind.
There is a voluminous literature on science, technology, and warfare, but most of it focuses on a particular science, a particular technology, or a particular war. In this ambitious, synthetic work, M. Susan Lindee explores the relationship between technical knowledge and violence across a wide historical expanse. A highly original and fascinating book.
This book brilliantly illuminates how the ‘fog of war’ creeps beyond the battlefield, engulfing the collaborative and analytical systems of scientists and engineers in the production of weapon systems for the modern age.
This fascinating book compels us to reckon with how science has been developed and directed by the military—and how scientific knowledge and technology underlie the ghastly deadliness of modern warfare, from gunshot wounds to the atomic bomb. M. Susan Lindee presents the coupling of science to the defense state as integral and systemic, not a matter of a few bad actors or the corruption of research. Vital reading.
- 296 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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