Reading and Writing Science

I had the joy this past weekend of not only visiting with family in Cincinnati, but in visiting one of my favorite independent bookstores where I chanced upon this book that I blogged about last week hidden in the section on literary criticism.

It seemed like an odd shelving at first, which made more sense after noting how many entries in this latest anthology of Dawkins’ writing were book reviews. The back cover of the book, however, is devoid of the usual label in the upper left corner advising how to categorize it, such as Science, Philosophy, or Religion, and this is no coincidence. The wide-ranging collection of topics that spin off science in this anthology enable it to be at home in a variety of departments.

In a conversation that conveys his intellectual depth, as reflected in this book, Dawkins notes (at the 3 minute mark):

“I believe that science is a vehicle for great literature, or should be. I don’t like the dry, scientific style which is encouraged in scientific journals, a sort of Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion format. I think it should be written as a story, almost as prose-poetry in some cases … I don’t like the idea of talking about two cultures, really. I think they should try to merge as one.”

Dawkins’ sentiment is consistent with the editorial vision of the journal of Vision Development & Rehabilitation, for example, which seeks a balance between the narrative of science in its perspective pieces and the traditional style of scientific articles. While this may not be endearing to all PubMed-alists, it is enticing to the majority of the journal’s readership who, I suspect comprise a significant segment of this blog’s readership.

Whether or not one takes issue with Dawkins’ views about theology, his views about science will be of interest in the 20 page piece titled Worlds in Microcosm. It is a lecture that Dawkins presented as one of the Centenary Year Gifford Lectures in Glasgow in 1992. As we approach it’s 30 year anniversary, it remains timely as ever, addressing concepts that include sensory adaptation, purposeful redundancy in sensory systems, lateral inhibition in the visual system, and the role of past experience and prediction in what we perceive in the world around us.

As you perceive the beauty in this day, may you and your family be privileged with good health and cheer this holiday season.

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