Some Technologies of Incivility
YET SCIENCE is no enemy of civility. In the era of the singular American truth, a faith in science was virtually a part of the national creed. Americans believed in both the inevitability and the morality of progress.1 The future would be better than the pre- sent, and scientific advance would lead the way. The market for science fiction exploded. Everybody understood that science would change the world, and everybody was excited about it. Visitors to the New York World's Fair--and to Disneyland too-- wanted to see what tomorrow would look like. When Vannevar Bush, an adviser to President Eisenhower, published a popular book called Science. The Endless Frontier in 1958, he was following, not creating, a trend.
Even today, with our national faith in technology shaken by such phenomena as the Dalkon shield scandal, the Three Mile Island near-disaster, and the stubborn persistence of AIDS, most Americans continue to welcome technological change. Some find the Internet scary, others worry about which food additive will next be linked to cancer, but, for the most part, we seem to believe that when things break, American know-how can fix them. We count on science to cure diseases, design safer cars, warn us of hurricanes, and invent faster computers. We still count on science, in fact, to improve our lives in ways of all sorts. What we do not count on science to do is to change who, fundamentally, we are. And yet that change is occurring, and the student of civility should be worried.