“With a grain of salt”: Rhetoric of the Sciences

Let’s be honest: Science and Rhetoric do not mix! Or, so I thought prior to reading Herrick’s section on the rhetoric of science. It is the norm to teach soft and hard sciences as being fact-based, whether it’s Psychology, Anthropology, Biology or, even Economics. But, Herrick has challenged the way I think about science. Scientists, in the most traditional sense, have to “argue” and  “persuade” their peers to accept their hypotheses and theories based on personal observations that are not entirely fact-based.

I think one of the most thought-provoking examples was the break down of Charles Darwin’s “natural selection theory” by John Campbell. He studied Darwin’s work and criticized much of his natural selection theory. Campbell says Darwin’s theory is “misleading” and “wrong,” which I found to be interesting. The section also explains how Darwin shaped his theory to suit a religious audience. He used rhetoric to persuade the religious community.

As a student, I think its important to take everything you hear with a grain of salt. I never thought about doing that for science courses because science, to me, has always been fact. But, Herrick has made me re-think the way I understand scientific theory. Not saying, I’m going to start questioning everything I have learned in science courses. It’s just something  important to think about!


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