Metaphors in the time of coronavirus

On Sunday, 15th March, Kenan Malik wrote an article on metaphors for The Observer. This was inspired by Matthew Cobb’s new book on The Idea of the Brain which delves into the many metaphors of and for the brain that have been used over time. I have just started to read that book – a …

Gene drives and Trojan horses: A tale of two metaphor uses

I was reading a recent article on gene drive entitled “Engineering bugs, resurrecting species: The wild world of synthetic biology for conservation” and came across this sentence about a so-called ‘Medea drive’: “This genetic Trojan Horse could then be used to spread elements that confer susceptibility to certain environmental factors, such as triggering the death …

New metaphors for new understandings of genomes

This is a guest post by Sarah Perrault and Meaghan O’Keefe (University of California Davis) based on their article “New metaphors for new understanding of genomes”. The article goes beyond regular complaints about the inadequacy of old metaphors, such as the genome as a blueprint, and beyond regular calls for a new language. Instead, it …

Coronavirus: Risk, rumour and resilience 

I was just starting to write this post, when I saw a tweet from Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, quoting Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, Director-General of the World Health Organisation, who said, as widely reported: “This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumours. This is the time for solidarity, …

Climategate: Some reflections

Ten years ago (it seems like yesterday), I was doing relatively pedestrian research on how people talked about climate change. Then, one morning I woke up to the news that emails by climate scientists had been hacked and were being used to cast doubt on the credibility of climate science and the integrity of climate …

Metaphors and society (and Brexit)

I have been interested in metaphors and society for a long time. My thinking has been influenced mainly by people who wrote about metaphor (and society) at the end of the 1970s and early 1980s; for example, Susan Sontag, Donald Schön, Andrew Ortony, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson and others, who examined ‘conceptual’ or ‘generative’ …

Encounters between life and language

Philip Ball has just written a great article dissecting new research showing that there is no ‘gene for’ homosexuality. He notes the fallacies behind the facile way of pointing to individual genes and saying what they are ‘for’. This is dangerous, especially when talking about genes for behavioural traits. Single genes don’t determine such traits …

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. …