April 1, 2019, by Brigitte Nerlich
Science and Metaphors
Today I gave a lecture on responsible innovation and responsible language use (via Skype) to biochem and synbio students at the University of Oxford. After the lecture, one student asked whether there was a good go-to book on science and metaphor. I hummed and hawed….
There is of course some stuff, but not a really nice handy text book – I think. I might be wrong!
In terms of books there is:
Brown, T. L. (2003). Making truth: Metaphor in science. University of Illinois Press.
Some other books on science and metaphor are referenced in an article on climate change I wrote some years ago:
Nerlich, B. (2015). Metaphors in science and society: The case of climate science and climate scientists. Language and Semiotic Studies 1(2), 1-15.
In terms of articles there is of course more.
One recent article might be used as a starting point to drill down into this topic:
Taylor, C., & Dewsbury, B. M. (2018). On the problem and promise of metaphor use in science and science communication. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education, 19(1).
A classic is: Nelkin, D. (2001). Molecular metaphors: the gene in popular discourse. Nature Reviews Genetics, 2(7), 555.
On metaphors and synbio (and responsibility), have a look at:
McLeod, C., & Nerlich, B. (2017). Synthetic biology, metaphors and responsibility. Life Sciences, Society and Policy, 13(1), 13.
I’d love to hear about other recommendations!
Image: Wikimedia Commons: The Flammarion engraving is a wood engraving by an unknown artist that first appeared in Camille Flammarion‘s L’atmosphère: météorologie populaire (1888). The image depicts a man crawling under the edge of the sky, depicted as if it were a solid hemisphere, to look at the mysterious Empyrean beyond.
I can’t think of any book to add to your list on the general topic of science and metaphor. But Sophia Roosth’s book Synthetic: How Life Got Made (Chicago 2017) is a very interesting discussion of snythetic biology from a history and sociology of science perspective. It does not have a specific focus on metaphor (nor does the term appear in the index, alas) but it does cover some of the metaphors in the field. And forthcoming is a book by historian of science Mathias Grote: Membranes to Molecular Machines: Active Matter and the Remaking of Life (Chicago: forthcoming 2019) that provides a good focus on how various machine metaphors have driven research and engineering projects in syn bio. I also talk about metaphors in syn bio in my book The Third Lens (Chicago, 2018), especially pp. 137-141.
Perhaps a good overview book on science and metaphor is worth doing?
Ah yes of course!! For some reason I was wrecking my brain about a ‘general’ metaphor and science book and totally forgot about that synbio specific one! And your one of course! Thanks for reminding me!! Oh and the forthcoming book sounds fascinating! Just read the synopsis! https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/M/bo37805871.html