Saturday, 5 April 2008

product and process

The inimitable J.E.H. Smith from 3QD, in the style of 18th century Scientific Society:

It is reported that with the aid of convex lenses a sharp-eyed Hollander has discovered countless little animals in the male seed, which do propel themselves about, like so many tadpoles, by means of a long, whip-like tail. We would like to know whether these spermatic worms might play a role in the generation of animals and men, or whether they are not rather the product of putrefaction, like the worms that we see spontaneously generated in rotten meat, and in the interstices betwixt our teeth. We would also like to know how this Hollander obtained his seed sample, whether his wife was not implicated in its procuring, and whether in his view the abomination of Onan is not in some way cancelled out by the great contribution this "waste" of seed has made to the advancement of medical knowledge.

A familiar story, indeed, to anyone who has sat through "Scientific Revolutions" at the University of Toronto. He continues:

We have received news of the "science wars" raging in the universities of lands less advanced than ours. It appears one of the belligerent camps asserts that science is only a "narrative," and is in no way superior to other folk practices, like musical theatre, or gin-rummy. Are these people mad? Could they perhaps use a drop of lamb's blood in their veins too? And what could they know of science? Do they belong to Scientific Societies, such as ours? Or do they teach English literature, like The Red Badge of Courage, Oliver Twist, and Old Yeller? Please tell us: what do these people know of science?

Would that we could return to days when readers could be trusted to draw the right conclusion from passages such as these.

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