Boorstin, Daniel J. The Image: A Guide To Pseudo-Events in America. New York: Harper

 

Boorstin, Daniel J. The Image: A Guide To Pseudo-Events in America. New York: Harper
Colophon, 1964. (Originally, Atheneum, 1962)

Here is science as a pseudo-event! We have illustrations of it "...because we suffer from
extravagant expectations." (p. 3) We want, we demand momentous science, momentous events;
we want novelty and change. We have our illusions about science because we want Big Science
today.

"We have made peculiar difficulties for ourselves by our fantastic rate of progress in science,
technology, and the social sciences. The great deeds of our time are now accomplished on
unintelligible frontiers (emphasis in original). When heroism appeared as it once did, mostly on
the battlefield or in personal combat, everybody could understand the heroic act... When the
dramatic accomplishment was an incandescent lamp, a steam engine, a telegraph, or an
automobile, everybody could understand what the great man had accomplished. This is no longer
true. The heroic thrusts now occur in the laboratory, among cyclotrons and betatrons, whose very
names are popular symbols of scientific mystery. Even the most dramatic, best publicized
adventures into space are on the edges of our comprehension." (p. 54)

"The social scientist's research enterprises have also become projects. An American Dilemma,
the monumental study of the Negro and American democracy that was sponsored by the Carnegie
Corporation, was the combined product of dozens of individual and collaborative studies.
Gunner Myrdal, director of the project and principal author of the book, played much the same
role that the chairman of the board of directors does in a large corporation." (p. 56)

"The celebrity is a person who is known for his well-knownness." (p. 57). That is a beautiful
description of well- known scientists like Carl Sagan. The hero is, on the other hand, not well
known. His ambiguity makes it possible for him to remain a hero. Boorstin makes the point
clearly: to make science and scientists known, really, is to take their heroic qualities away from
them, to turn them into celebrities. The game of the celebrity and the game of the hero are
different games. One cannot play them both. One cannot be a hero and a celebrity.