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Freedom's Laboratory

The Cold War Struggle for the Soul of Science

Audra J. Wolfe

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The Cold War ended long ago, but the language of science and freedom continues to shape public debates over the relationship between science and politics in the United States.

Scientists like to proclaim that science knows no borders. Scientific researchers follow the evidence where it leads, their conclusions free of prejudice or ideology. But is that really the case? In Freedom's Laboratory, Audra J. Wolfe shows how these ideas were tested to their limits in the high-stakes propaganda battles of the Cold War.

Wolfe examines the role that scientists, in concert with administrators and…

The Cold War ended long ago, but the language of science and freedom continues to shape public debates over the relationship between science and politics in the United States.

Scientists like to proclaim that science knows no borders. Scientific researchers follow the evidence where it leads, their conclusions free of prejudice or ideology. But is that really the case? In Freedom's Laboratory, Audra J. Wolfe shows how these ideas were tested to their limits in the high-stakes propaganda battles of the Cold War.

Wolfe examines the role that scientists, in concert with administrators and policymakers, played in American cultural diplomacy after World War II. During this period, the engines of US propaganda promoted a vision of science that highlighted empiricism, objectivity, a commitment to pure research, and internationalism. Working (both overtly and covertly, wittingly and unwittingly) with governmental and private organizations, scientists attempted to decide what, exactly, they meant when they referred to "scientific freedom" or the "US ideology." More frequently, however, they defined American science merely as the opposite of Communist science.

Uncovering many startling episodes of the close relationship between the US government and private scientific groups, Freedom's Laboratory is the first work to explore science's link to US propaganda and psychological warfare campaigns during the Cold War. Closing in the present day with a discussion of the 2017 March for Science and the prospects for science and science diplomacy in the Trump era, the book demonstrates the continued hold of Cold War thinking on ideas about science and politics in the United States.

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Freedom's Laboratory

Audra J. Wolfe

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Reviews

A strong contribution to the history of modern science.

Historian Wolfe offers a thoughtful, thoroughly researched history of how the American government employed science and scientists to improve world opinion of liberal democracy during the Cold War... [R]eaders with an interest in the conjunction of science and politics will find her book an informative one.

Cold-war history, Wolfe writes, is not a heroes-and-villains narrative: it must be told in 'shades of gray.' The government used scientists' ideals for its own political reasons. And the scientists, who saw themselves as apolitical, used the government's political messages and support to question, observe, conclude, write and speak—freely and in accord with their ideals.

One of the common misbeliefs about science is that it is apolitical. Actually, as historian Wolfe reveals in her well-researched and closely argued study, during the Cold War, American scientists were often deeply involved in promoting American cultural values to other parts of the world in an effort to defeat the communists at the same game. An excellent study on a topic that deserves more attention.

Wolfe's new book, Freedom's Laboratory, frontally addresses questions of what science is, how it is best done, and how it (and scientists themselves) might be strategically deployed to advance national interests.

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Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
312
ISBN
9781421439082
Table of Contents

Introduction
1. Western Science vs. Marxist Science
2. Ambassadors for Science
3. A War of Ideas
4. Science and Freedom
5. Science for Peace
6. Science for Diplomacy
7. Developing Scientific Minds
8. An

Introduction
1. Western Science vs. Marxist Science
2. Ambassadors for Science
3. A War of Ideas
4. Science and Freedom
5. Science for Peace
6. Science for Diplomacy
7. Developing Scientific Minds
8. An Unscientific Reckoning
9. Scientists' Rights are Human Rights
Epilogue

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