Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

Where is the Power of Scientific Language

Scientific language is filled with metaphors which transport meaning from one reality to another.

When I think about natural selection, it is important to know that Darwin recognized it as a metaphor used to explain the evolutionary principle he had in mind. However, such metaphor was later used in Social Darwinism to justify behaviors against human dignity, which took time to overcome and produced more suffering than expected.

We shouldn’t blame Darwin, but it definitely shows the power of scientific language in the metaphors used to explain material reality.

Consider another example: struggle for existence. It is a metaphor used again by Darwin because he made his research in a place where resources where abundant and you had the “luxury” – so to say – to compete. In Siberia’s tundra, the scenario was completely the opposite, which is why Peter Kropotkin developed the same theory as Darwin, but from the mutual aid point of view. When resources are low, species survive if they cooperate. A metaphor including both views could be relate for existence. Relations can be hard sometimes, and coorperative, and putting the emphasis on relationship would provide a wider scope in the metaphor.

If there is enough power in scientific metaphors producing a relevant social impact, does this means some metaphors could – should(?) – change in the future?

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

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