Darwin the Wordsmith

Personally, I have always been “scientifically challenged.” Meaning, I have always struggled academically and conceptually with subjects of scientific nature. Chemistry, physics, earth science… they have all tripped me up in some way or another. Often times, when staring in a blank daze at a, or any, science textbook, I have attempted to comfort myself by silently declaring, “I’m an English person. Naturally, science just isn’t my thing.”

I had made it so that I was always able to put up a sturdy wall between my beautiful, subjective, lyrical English world and the cold, hard, seemingly intimidating world of science. While time is beginning to teach me that my struggles with the sciences do not necessarily lie in the idea that I have married myself to English Lit, it was my reading of Joe Moran’s Interdisciplinarity which helped me, in many ways, gradually disassemble my dividing wall.

In Chapter 5, Moran delves into that scientific domain with gusto. By discussing individuals from Mary Shelley to Charles Darwin, Moran drags the sciences into the spiraling mixing bowl of interdisciplinarity, drawing specifically on the connections between them and English in particular. What was most glaring, to me, was the wrangling of Charles Darwin- perhaps the most famous scientist in history- into the sphere of literature. Clearly, he was a writer, considering he penned the famed Origin of Species (1859). However, even he, strict scientist as he was, had to utilize elements of literature in order to convey his discoveries to a largely “non-scientific culture” (Moran, 145). Darwin drew on metaphors and society’s known literature, such as Shakespeare and the Bible. He did not adhere to the natural enemy of subjective mechanisms, that is, the empirical order of doing things. This would have been to limit his claims to merely what he could observe; he couldn’t do this. Darwin needed to convey his theory of evolution, which is not something that can be directly observed by a person in his own lifetime. He, therefore, had to extend past the existing limits of scientific behavior in order to successfully publish his findings (Moran, 146). Such a clear example of interdisciplinarity that was successful in its administration is a huge step in the winning direction for the argument of interweaving the disciplines.

If Charles Darwin can be as successful as his findings were by bridging the gap between science and literature, there isn’t much of an excuse for me, is there?

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