Shaping Science with Rhetoric: The Cases of Dobzhansky, Schrodinger, and Wilson

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University of Chicago Press, Jul 1, 2001 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 204 pages
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How do scientists persuade colleagues from diverse fields to cross the disciplinary divide, risking their careers in new interdisciplinary research programs? Why do some attempts to inspire such research win widespread acclaim and support, while others do not?

In Shaping Science with Rhetoric, Leah Ceccarelli addresses such questions through close readings of three scientific monographs in their historical contexts—Theodosius Dobzhansky's Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937), which inspired the "modern synthesis" of evolutionary biology; Erwin Schrödinger's What Is Life? (1944), which catalyzed the field of molecular biology; and Edward O. Wilson's Consilience (1998), a so far not entirely successful attempt to unite the social and biological sciences. She examines the rhetorical strategies used in each book and evaluates which worked best, based on the reviews and scientific papers that followed in their wake.

Ceccarelli's work will be important for anyone interested in how interdisciplinary fields are formed, from historians and rhetoricians of science to scientists themselves.
  

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Contents

Inspiring Interdisciplinarity
1
Texts That Seek to Catalyze Community An Unexamined Genre of Science
3
Combining Rhetorical Criticism and Historical Research
6
The Initiator of the Evolutionary Synthesis Historians and Scientists Weigh In
13
Conflict between Disciplines and Theories
15
The Evolutionary Synthesis
19
What Launched the Synthesis?
21
The Influence of Dobzhanskys Genetics and the Origin of Species
24
Conceptual Chiasmus
92
Strategic Ambiguity
97
Conclusions
109
The Controversy over Sociobiology Scholars Offer Conflicting Explanations
113
The Effect of Wilsons Interdisciplinary Appeals
116
Wilson Is Wrong The Cultural Divide Should Not Be Bridged
119
Critics Are Unable to See the Truth Because of Political Bias
121
Prelude to a Rhetorical Reading
124

Prelude to a Rhetorical Reading
29
A Text Rhetorically Designed to Unite Competing Fields
31
Surveying the Results of Research
37
Using Language That Promotes Conceptual Change
41
Addressing Social Concerns
45
Conclusions
56
The Uncle Toms Cabin of the Molecular Biology Revolution Assessing the Place of a Text in History
61
Th Influence of Schrödingers Text
63
The Value of Untrue Unoriginal Science
67
Other Laws of Physics
75
Prelude to a Rhetorical Reading
80
A Text Rhetorically Designed to Negotiate Different Interests and Beliefs
82
Comparison with Other Attempts at Inspiring Interdisciplinary Work
83
The Value of Precision
89
The Appeal to Ambition
90
A Text Rhetorically Designed to Fuel Interdisciplinary Hostilities
128
A Rhetoric of Conquest Not Negotiation
129
An Explicit Commitment to Reductionism
139
Equivocation Rather Than Productive Polysemy
145
What Wilsons Consilience Could Have Been
148
The Genre
157
Comparison of Dobzhansky and Schrödinger
158
Wilsons Participation in the Genre
164
Contributions to Four Ongoing Conversations
168
Rhetorical Inquiry
170
History of Science
177
Interdisciplinarity
179
Bibliography
183
Index
199
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About the author (2001)

Leah Ceccarelli is an assistant professor in the Department of Speech Communication at the University of Washington, Seattle.

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