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Scientists as Prophets


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Table of Contents

Preface Chapter 1-Prelude: Scientists as Prophets and the Rhetoric of Prophecy Chapter 2-The Delphic Oracle and Ancient Prophetic Ethos Chapter 3-The Natural Magician and the Prophet: Francis Bacon's Ethical Alchemy Chapter 4-Confirming Signs: The Prophetic Ethos of the Early Royal Society Chapter 5-Interlude: Competing Ethical Models and a Catch-22 Chapter 6-J. Robert Oppenheimer: Cultic prophet Chapter 7-Rachel Carson, Kairotic Prophet Chapter 8-Media, Metaphor, and the "Oracles of Science" Chapter 9-Climate Change and the Technologies of Prophecy Chapter 10-Postlude: Problems and Solutions Appendix: Key Reception and Constitution Sources Notes Selected Bibliography

About the Author

Lynda Walsh is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her research centers on the rhetoric of science but also pursues methods for modeling how audiences interpret texts and explores non-Western rhetoric. Her first book, Sins Against Science: The Scientific Hoaxes of Poe, Twain, and Others, treated a watershed moment in American history when scientists-rather than preachers, poets, and philosophers-began to be regarded as the new oracles of social truth.


"On contentious issues like climate change and the teaching of evolution in schools, public officials seek out scientific advisers for guidance, oftentimes pulling scientists into the spotlight away from their comfort zones. Some win widespread acclaim for their efforts to shape public policy, while others are denounced as subverters of traditional values. In Scientists as Prophets, Lynda Walsh shows that across history-Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle, Rachel Carson, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Steven Jay Gould, Carl Sagan-scientists who venture into public policy arenas are immersed in the discourse of prophecy. In this ambitious and insightful book, Walsh raises our appreciation of prophecy as a pragmatic and rational genre for experts doing their best to interpret the unknowable."--Davida Charney, Professor of Rhetoric and Writing, The University of Texas at Austin "Walsh shows that the prophetic function of the science adviser is as old as science itself, not a contemporary add-on. She uses an ingenious adaptation of Kenneth Burke's Pentad to trace its history and to show how the prophetic ethos has shaped contemporary controversies over nuclear security, pesticides, and global warming. The work is deeply informed, engagingly written, and convincingly argued; it enriches our understanding of the rhetoric of science and of the relations between science and the polity."--Carolyn R. Miller, SAS Institute Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Technical Communication, North Carolina State University

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