Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Lindsey Churchill

Committee Members

Stanley Aronowitz

Roslyn Bologh

Subject Categories



This dissertation analyzes environmental arguments for their stance toward science. It is a sociology of knowledge investigation of arguments made primarily by environmental scientists in the United States in the 1960s and 70s.

The environmental crisis puts science in question but at the same time looks to science for information and solutions. Thus, science is a center of contention around which arguments develop and oppositions are established. Science is beginning to take the place of political thought in providing legitimating concepts for arguments intended to effect social change. Major environmental books and articles by American authors of the 1960s and 70s judge postwar science and technology from the opposed positions of "science skeptic" and "science truster.".

The guiding theory for this research is from Karl Mannheim, especially from his interpretive, cultural analysis of conservative thought, in which he uses the term "style of thought" for a coherent argument intended to persuade toward a course of social action. Thought styles develop oppositionally around a common center of contention during periods of great change; conservative and liberal thought styles developed with the rise of modern politics.

This study concludes that there is an environmental style of thought organized around questions about science in society, that its current form originated among biologists, and that it is the main argument to have introduced skepticism of science to the public.

The influence of science imparts to politics a new identity which does not accord with older political concepts. A "conceptual shift" is occurring, in Western societies, in legitimating arguments for social and political action. This shift is from arguments that rely on political-frame concepts of a just society, to arguments that rely on scientific-frame concepts of truth and factuality, and it is particularly evident in the environmental debate.

Works analyzed: Silent Spring, Science and Survival, The Population Bomb, "The Tragedy of the Commons," "The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis," Post-Scarcity Anarchism, The Closing Circle, Only One Earth, The Limits to Growth.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.

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