Frontiers of Illusion

Science, Technology, and the Politics of Progress

Daniel Sarewitz
Book Cover

PB: $37.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-416-1
Publication: May 96

HC: $74.50
EAN: 978-1-56639-415-4
Publication: May 96

Ebook: $37.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0372-8
Publication: May 96

256 pages
6 x 9

An incisive argument for fostering stronger links between the interests of society and progress in science


For the past fifty years, science and technology—supported with billions of dollars from the U.S. government—have advanced at a rate that would once have seemed miraculous, while society's problems have grown more intractable, complex, and diverse. Yet scientists and politicians alike continue to prescribe more science and more technology to cure such afflictions as global climate change, natural resource depletion, overpopulation, inadequate health care, weapons proliferation, and economic inequality.

Daniel Sarewitz scrutinizes the fundamental myths that have guided the formulation of science policy for half a century—myths that serve the professional and political interests of the scientific community, but often fail to advance the interests of society as a whole. His analysis ultimately demonstrates that stronger linkages between progress in science and progress in society will require research agendas that emerge not from the intellectual momentum of science, but from the needs and goals of society.


"This is a period of change and challenge for our science and technology enterprise. This book provides invaluable insight into the origins of that change and examines ways to turn the challenge into opportunity. For those seeking fresh perspectives on modern science policy, Frontiers of Illusion should be a part of your library. For those in the science and technology community seeking to survive these tumultuous times, Frontiers of Illusion is essential reading."
Congressman George E. Brown, Jr.

"Daniel Sarewitz has written a well-informed and incisive description and analysis of the mythos by which science policy is guided, and has shown how these self-serving illusions limit and distort the contributions of scientists to the common good. Highly recommended!"
Herman E. Daly, School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland, author of Steady-State Economics

"...Sarewitz's book, which is clearly written and cogently argued, will be useful to specialists as a thought-provoking, if not historically textured, treatise on postwar science policy and to students as an introduction to some of the major issues in the recent debate on the topic."

Table of Contents


1. The End of the Age of Physics
Science and Technology Policy • Policy Goals and Policy Myths • Beyond the Age of Physics: Science, Technology, and Reality

2. The Myth of Infinite Benefit

3. The Myth of Unfettered Research
External Fetters: Teapot in a Tempest • Internal Fetters: The Maleness of the System • Unfettered Reality

4. The Myth of Accountability

5. The Myth of Authoritativeness
DNA Fingerprinting: Disorder in the Court • Global Climate Change: An Atmosphere of Uncertainty • Stratospheric Ozone Depletion: Getting It Right (by Accident) • Authoritative Politics

6. The Myth of the Endless Frontier
Endless Frontier, Finite Earth • Moral Science

7. Pas de Trois: Science, Technology, and the Marketplace
The Sound of Invisible Hands Clapping • Nobody's Partner

8. Science as a Surrogate for Social Action
Sickness Care • The Best Defense • Tailoring People to Taste

9. Toward a New Mythology
Five Policy Suggestions • 1. Expanding Diversity • 2. Integrating the Human Element • 3. Honest Brokers • 4. Introducing Democracy • 5. The Global R&D Community • The Search for Ellipses


About the Author(s)

Daniel Sarewitz worked for four years on science policy issues for the U.S. Congress, first as a Congressional Science Fellow, and then as science consultant to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives. He now directs the Institute for Environmental Education at the Geological Society of America.