// Latest Posts

A Whole New (re-cycled) World? An interdisciplinary conversation about the Circular Economy, Synthetic Biology and Sustainability Goals

This is a guest post by Penny Polson, Carmen McLeod, Sarah Hartley and Eleanor Hadley Kershaw *** Introduction to the Circular Economy The notion of a ‘circular economy’ has been gaining a lot of traction lately. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in particular, has raised the profile of this radical rethinking of how consumer goods are …

On the division of social knowledge and its breakdown

Most social scientists reading this title will think, aha that’s modelled on Émile Durkheim’s De La Division du Travail Social (The Division of Labour in Society) (1893). They ‘know’ that book; at least its title. It’s part of their knowledge repertoire. What’s underneath the title may not go very deep or may be forgotten, as in …

Poo and puns: Recent representations of faecal microbiota transplants in English language news media

This post, by Carmen McLeod, Brigitte Nerlich and Rusi Jaspal, has recently been published on the Microbiology Society Blog. We reblog it here with permission. *** Bacteria, germs, poo…these are words that normally don’t evoke images of health and happiness. The relationship between humans and bacteria is often understood as a combative one. Bacteria are …

Making the transgenerational epigenetic inheritance of trauma real

This post has been co-authored with Aleksandra Stelmach and Alan Miguel Valdez *** Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance (TEI) is a contested hypothesis within the complex field of epigenetics. The guess is that there are molecular mechanisms (‘beyond the gene’) through which social, cultural and physical experiences impact the human body and are transmitted to future generations. …

What is a climate change communicator to do?

In a recent article, social scientists claim that a rhetoric of deadlines to urge action on climate change is ‘dangerous’. While I agree that it might be dangerous to get into a situation where you extend deadlines forever if you cannot achieve them, setting no deadlines at all may make it difficult to talk about …

Inspecting Pandora’s box: Promises and perils of gene drives

This is a guest post by Aleksandra Stelmach, University of Nottingham, Institute for Science and Society. *** Some years ago the sociologist Alan Petersen noted that metaphors of new biotechnologies not only express hopes and fears about their use and misuse, but that they also set the agenda for debate and action. Thus, metaphors not …

When is a metaphor not a metaphor?

A few weeks ago Daniel Nicholson posted an article on twitter entitled “Are cells really machines?” This made me think, and I wrote a blog post pondering the relations between science, metaphors and technology. In this post I want to reflect on another aspect of the relation between science and metaphors, namely on when metaphors …

The history of biology and the joys of blogging

For the first time in my life and after the end of my official academic career, I’ll be co-presenting a paper at the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology conference, which is taking place this year in Oslo, from July 7-12. I’ll only be co-presenting and I won’t be there …

Metaphors, machines and the meaning of life

Machine metaphors are ubiquitous in biology, nowhere more so than in synthetic biology, a type of biology that is inspired by engineering and design. This has attracted the attention of metaphor analysts, but also of philosophers and ethicists. Various scholars, both from the humanities/social sciences and the life sciences have grappled with some of the …