The Myth of Modern Science: Metaphor and Myth in the Languages of Biology and Chemistry

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The language of science is traditionally contrasted to the language of
poetry or literature. Modern science, the myth goes, talks the universal language of logic and mathematics and computer programs. By contrast, poetry and fiction rely on opaque metaphors embedded in national or regional cultures. The aim of this paper is to explode the myth. The paper explores and compares the language of modern biology and genetics to the language of classical myths and other forms of narrative and conversely, the role of scientific metaphors in literature, such as Levi’s autobiography. We draw on phenomenological analyses of the role of perception and embodiment in the production of abstract knowledge and we highlight the productive role of ambiguity and metaphors in science and the range of national and transnational values they conceal.

Keywords: Biology, Chemistry, Myth, Metaphor, Phenomenology, Literary Criticism
Stream: Arts Policy, Management and Advocacy
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Prof Rachel Falconer

Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature, School of English, University of Sheffield
Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK

My research interests are in modern and contemporary literature and theories
of narrative and subjectivity. I have written books and articles on Virgil, John Milton, Mikhail Bakhtin, Hell in Contemporary Literature (Edinburgh, 2005) and Crossover Literature (Routledge, 2008). The Hell book draws on Bakhtin and Dante to define Hell as a distinctive chronotope (set of time-space coordinates) in which the image of a human being is fashioned out of a transformative journey, culminating in an encounter with absolute Otherness; this book includes a chapter on Primo Levi's The Search for Roots and If This is a Man. Currently, I am exploring bridges between contemporary literature and science. Writers I find particularly interesting on the science/arts boundary include Primo Levi, J L Borges and Italo Calvino. I am interested in literary writers inspired by science, and conversely the literariness of science writing.

Prof. Aurora Plomer

Professor of Law and Bioethics, School of Law, University of Sheffield
Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK

Professor Plomer has a dual background in Philosophy (MA, BA, PhD) and
Law (LLB). She took up a Chair in Law and Bioethics and Directorship of SIBLE (Sheffield Institute of Biotechnological Law and Ethics) at the University of Sheffield in January 2007. Prof. Plomer is the single author of two books, over 25 chapters in books and articles in international refereed journals and several reports, including a report commissioned by the Council of Europe. Prof. Plomer was the PI and lead author of the report ‘Stem Cell Patents: European Law and Ethics’ (2006) funded by the European Commission under the FP6 programme. She has given numerous papers and presentations at international conferences on the interface between law, bioethics and human rights. Her book ‘The Law and Ethics of Medical Research: International Bioethics & Human Rights’ has been extensively reviewed in international journals and singled out as an excellent and important contribution to existing scholarship by the lead authors in the BMJ, the JME and the Human Rights Review. Prof. Plomer was an adviser to the Retained Organs Commission in England and is a member of the UK Economic and Social Research Council committee on the impact of the UK stem cell initiative. She has collaborative research links with the two leading European funded projects EUROSTEMCELL and ESTOOLS, as well as being a partner in two major Canadian projects funded by the Canadian Stem Cell Networks and a scientific advisor to the University of Stanford’s Stem Cells and Society Programme.

Ref: A09P0221