The meta-disciplinary rhetoric of metabiology : reconsidering the role of disciplinarity in rhetorical stagings of scientific controversies




Heermans, Andrew Jacob

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This project interrogates how scholars in the rhetoric of science understand and stage controversies within scientific discourse communities. In the paper, I argue that scholarship in the rhetoric of science does not offer a consistent theoretical framework for addressing disciplinary interactions that take rhetorical advantage of extant connections between disparate fields/disciplines to render one discipline in terms of another at the ontological or essential level. By offering an extended rhetorical analysis of one such case, Gregory Chaitin’s “Metabiology”, I argue that this kind of disciplinary interaction has significant rhetorical import for scholars addressing scientific conversations and the controversies that unfold, but are also at work within the scientific pre-stagings themselves. Distinguishing between intra-disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and finally meta-disciplinary stagings of scientific controversies within rhetoric of science literature, this paper offers a provisional heuristic that aims to refine how scholars in rhetoric approach scientific controversies as being already-scientifically distinct from other controversies, yet somehow explanatorily amenable to rhetorical analysis. Recent scholarship has indicated that this is a broadly unaccounted for duplicity within the extant rhetoric of science literature’s and my paper argues that Chaitin’s project of Metabiology offers an honest animation of a post-incommensurability rhetoric that, perhaps through theoretical and methodological projections of inter-disciplinarity as an end in itself, results in a disciplinary hierarchy that does more rhetorical violence than intra- or inter-disciplinary frameworks would let on



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