Genes and genomes in science and society: Do metaphors matter?

Brigitte Nerlich was invited to present at the Wellcome Genome Campus as a part of the Society and Ethics Seminar Series, co-hosted by Public Engagement
11th April 2018

Metaphors are necessary and not just nice

Presentation synopsis:

 Scientists try to make sense of the world. People try to make sense of science. Science writers and communicators try to turn this into a joined-up enterprise. Metaphors are an essential ingredient in this process. In this talk I’ll first make a case for the importance of metaphors in science and society. I’ll then examine a selection of metaphors that changed biology and genomics (and through them how we see ourselves and the world), homing in on metaphors of the ‘code’ and the ‘book’ in particular. I’ll then zoom in even further and discuss genome editing and its struggle with metaphors. I’ll end the talk by asking how best one can convey, through metaphor or otherwise, the importance, promise, complexities and uncertainties of genome editing in science and society.

Speaker bio:

Brigitte Nerlich is Emeritus Professor of Science, Language and Society at the University of Nottingham. After studying French and philosophy in Germany, she became a Junior Research Fellow in General Linguistics at Wolfson College, Oxford. She then moved to the University of Nottingham, where she worked in linguistics and psychology. In the early 2000s she co-founded the Institute for Science and Society. Her current research focuses on the use of metaphors and other rhetorical devices in debates about science and society. She was awarded a DLitt from the University of Nottingham in 2011 and became a member of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2008. She tweets under @BNerlich. 



Nerlich B (2018). Genes and genomes in science and society: Do metaphors matter? Invited speaker as a part of the Society and Ethics Research Seminar Series. 11 April. Wellcome Genome Campus, Cambridge, UK