Habermas on acid: a rhetorical analysis of a scientific controversy



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Texas Tech University


This dissertation contains a analysis of 11 publications that appeared in scientific journals in the year 1967 and dealt with the potential for LSD to cause chromosome damage and/or birth defects. These publications were analyzed using the ideal speech communication situation, a theory developed by the German social philosopher, Jürgen Habermas. Within these texts, the existence and influence of distorted communication, as defined by Habermas, indicates when and where open, free communication broke down and influenced the course of scientific discussion. This dissertation’s analysis of the articles from 1967 shows that the publications contained communicative distortion, and the communicative distortion provides more than enough reason to doubt both the scientific validity of the reported LSD-chromosome damage and LSD-birth defects links and the reasoning behind the scientific consensus emerging at the end of 1967 that LSD did cause chromosome damage and birth defects. In terms of technical communication scholarship, this dissertation’s analysis demonstrates that Habermas’s theory of the ideal speech communication situation can be used as an analytical tool for rhetoric of science studies and contribute to the further development of the field.