How the Gene Got Its Groove: Figurative Language, Science, by Elizabeth Parthenia Shea

By Elizabeth Parthenia Shea

Opposed to a backdrop of the historical past of the gene as a systematic and a cultural icon, How the Gene obtained Its Groove examines how "genes" functionality as rhetorical gadgets. Returning to Wilhelm Johannsen's unique argument for the time period, Elizabeth Parthenia Shea keeps that the gene was once, at the beginning, a rhetorical invention, designed to put declare to a cloth truth and to dissociate itself from the issues of language, conjecture, and rhetorical uncertainty. She lines the rhetorical paintings of the gene via clinical and nonscientific arguments through the 20th century. The gene's travels among medical and renowned texts problem us to acknowledge the sophisticated powers of figurative language in making a experience that concerns of technology stand outdoor the contingencies of language and the affects of rhetoric.

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In the game, “one person can build up a large repertoire of string figures on a single pair of hands; but the cat’s cradle figures can be passed back and forth on the hands of several players, who add new moves in the building of complex patterns” (69). As a trope for rhetoric and epistemology, cat’s cradle offers advantages over the agonistic tropes of war and argumentation, in which one theory, explanation, or paradigm wins and reigns supreme, dominating the field until its power is usurped by another explanation that overthrows it.

That characteristics are specified in the gametes is commonplace among the range of researchers studying biology, evolution, and heredity at the time. That special conditions, foundations, and dispositions are involved in this process of specification is hardly new and certainly not challenging or antithetical to any theoretical commitment of the time. What is new here is the encapsulation of these ideas into a single word that is to function as an incontrovertible fact. The passage excerpted from the textbook provides a sense of the rhetorical work that Johannsen prescribed for the gene.

Having associated the notion of “ancestral influence” with the flawed statistical methods of the biometricians, Johannsen secures its place outside the realm of real genetics, associating it with fictions and ghosts: PRESCRIBING RHETORICAL WORK 41 Ancestral influence! As to heredity, it is a mystical expression for a fiction. The ancestral influences are the ‘ghosts’ of genetics, but generally the belief in ghosts is still powerful. (138) Finally, having been associated with pretending, fiction, and ghosts, the concept is placed outside the clearest boundary: “Ancestral influence in heredity is, plainly speaking, a term of the ‘transmission-conception’ and nothing else” (138).

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