Neil Postman's final fears and warnings


A culture transformed by science distorted and technology without guidance.




"He believes that the study of human behavior, when conducted according to the rigorous principles established by the physical and biological sciences, will produce objective facts, testable theories, and profound understandings of the human condition. Perhaps even universal laws."


Three interrelated ideas that "stand as one of the pillars of Technopoly."

1) "the methods of the natural sciences can be applied to human behavior

2) "social science generates specific principles which can be used to organize society on a rational and humane basis."

3) "faith in science can serve as a comprehensive belief system that gives meaning to life...."

p. 147.

Postman endeavors

"I wish to show how these ideas spiral into each other and how they give energy and form to Technopoly."


What is science?


The origins of science "as it is generally used today–referring to the work of those in physical, chemical, and biological disciplines–was popularized in the early nineteenth century,

1831               British Association for the Advancement of Science

1867               "earliest use of the term in the modern sense"

Compare to Pursell, pp. 121-122.


Without understanding the history of these concepts technology and science the argument distorts reality because --

"it blurs the distinction between processes and practices."

p. 147.


"'processes' refers to those events that occur in nature such as the orbiting of the planets,..."


"By 'Practices'," are "the creation of people–those events that result from human decisions and actions...."

p. 148.


"What we may call science then is the quest to find the immutable and universal laws that govern processes, presuming that there are cause-and-effect relations among these processes."



The scientist uses mathematics to assist in uncovering and describing the structure of nature."

pp 148-149.


The Grand Illusion

that science and technology can become a susbstitute for a moral imagination and sound judgment


Freud's Future of an Illusion (1911)


"Whether humankind could survive without the illusion of God....but it must do without the illusion of God."

pp. 162-163.

"no illusion or hope at all for an ultimate source of moral authority, which is most likely to serve the human interest,..."

p. 163.



THE Great Symbol Drain


"there are two intertwined reasons that make it possible to trivialize traditional symbols."

1) images are endlessly repeatable

2) "the more frequently a symbol is used , the less potent is its meaning."


Daniel Boorstin's argument that mid-nineteenth century: "Easy reproduction of visual images"


"They become only sounds, not symbols."



"What story does American education wish to tell now?

In a growing Technopoly, what do we believe education is for?"

1.    jobs

2.    competitive advantage over foes and/or allies



Compare to Snow's fears about mass educating for a purpose.

Sir Charles Percy Snow's, The Two Cultures, 1956.


"It is, expected outcome of any education that students become acquainted with important references of their culture."


"what is right thought and proper behavior?"


"Technopoly is a malevolent force requiring opposition."


Critics charge that:


There is no "national culture, a narrative of organizing power and inspiring symbols which all citizens can identify with and draw sustenance from."


A. "progress without limits"

B. "rights without responsibilities"

C. "technology without cost"


Is an insufficient technopolistic credo



"This leads to a mood of skepticism...sometimes a world-weary nihilism in which even the most conventional minds begin to question both distinctions of value and the value of distinctions." Irving Howe, The New Republic, 2-18-1991, p. 42. quoted in Postman.


We must anew

"locate stories that would reaffirm our national culture."



The First Iraq / Persian Gulf War


"a President's calling Americans to Arms for the sake of their 'life-style.' This was followed by the Secretary of State's request that they fight to protect their jobs. . . . to thwart the naked aggression of a 'little Hitler.'...[they] struggle to find a vital narrative and accompanying symbols that would awaken a national spirit and a sense of resolve."


What we represent will remainÉ."

p. 180.

Pursell, Pacey and Snow share a deep sense of foreboding due to misunderstood power

Technology: A powerful capacity

Question to ask.

Writing about it!