Rhetoric of the Sciences

Yesterday in class we discussed the latest chapter in Herrick regarding the rhetoric of science. It was said that sciences, which are primarily constructed of data and numbers, are presented as facts. Facts, that we then assume are implicitly true, which are actually theories. We debated over whether or not the receiving audience is also to blame for blindly accepting the truths and failing to question the principles taught. Another topic of discussion was the differences of interpretation between the humanities and the sciences. For example we said that english majors are interpretive in the sense that texts could be read and interpreted multiple ways, whereas the sciences typically deal with data which is taken at face-value.

It was also mentioned that there is a gap between the two disciplines. We talked about how jargon plays a role in the sciences and makes it difficult for people outside the discipline to understand. Also, we talked about how due to this very difficulty there are careers to help convey information to everyone, one of which is technical writers. So we debated for some time about whether this gap between the disciplines is due to scientific illiteracy or ignorance of the masses. Most scientists, we concluded, write solely to their coworkers because that is who they are speaking to and when doing this they neglect their secondary and tertiary audiences. They assume that anyone reading their work would have a basic knowledge of the content, which is vague in itself because who is to determine what ‘basic’ knowledge is, and this ostracizes a magnitude of people.

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One thought on “Rhetoric of the Sciences

  1. Courtney, I thought this was an interesting class. We never look at science rhetorically; like you said, we take it fact. Herrick’s chapter says that even scientists look at their work rhetorically. However, they expect the public, especially students, to take their work as fact. Most of the work that scientists do are based in theory, which is a word that means something different in the science world. I liked that you mentioned the difference between disciplines in the humanities and disciplines in the sciences. I thought that was very important to point out!

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