Gender Metaphors in Science and the dubious “gene Talk”

Evelyn Fox Keller is one of the pioneers of feminist science studies. 2009 the Canadian radio series How to think about science dedicated an episode to her work. Listen to the feature including a talk about her experiences as a female scientist, the gender metaphors shaping science and the history of genetics. Though not giving a (explicitly) feminist perspective, the second half of the podcast concerning the public discourse on genes and the very different way contemporary biology conceptualizes inheritance is very interesting, too. On Youtube there is a speech by Evelyn Fox Keller on the same issue.

Science, according to its first practitioners, was a masculine pursuit. Francis Bacon writing in the early 17th century invited „the sons of knowledge“ to pass through „the outer courts of nature“ and on into „her inner chambers.“ Science was male, nature female. And, according to Evelyn Fox Keller, this was no mere figure of speech – it had a shaping influence through the centuries on how science was imagined and how it was done. Evelyn Fox is emeritus professor of the philosophy and history of science at MIT, and a keen observer of the ways in which models and metaphors condition our understandings. In recent years she has been particular critical of the ways in which simplistic models of the all-powerful gene mislead public understanding of genetics and developmental biology. And her proposal with regard to what she calls „gene talk“ is the same one she made in her pioneering Reflections on Gender and Science in the 1980’s: „change the terms of the discussion.“ Evelyn Fox Keller shares some of her story and some of her thoughts on how gender, language, model and metaphor have coloured the practice of science.

Listen:

Download: via RS.com (0:54 h, 25 MB)

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