Science and Literature:
Bridging the Two Cultures

David L. Wilson and Zack Bowen

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"Social issues are not susceptible to scientific analysis alone, and scientific developments generally have major societal impact. This book shows that intelligent and constructive exchange can occur between a scientist and a humanist with potential benefit to both fields and to society at large."--John D. Meakin, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering, University of Delaware

"Lucid, interesting, thought-provoking, and benignly contentious."--Thomas Jackson Rice, professor of English, University of South Carolina


In this lively and provocative book, a scientist and a humanities scholar attempt to build a bridge between the two cultures in which they work. Addressing fundamental issues of human nature and the ability of science to understand it, and using texts from the biblical Genesis to Brave New World, they explore topics from ethics and social values to chaos theory.
With an eye on keeping the science accessible to all, the book contains background chapters on concepts in science that feed into the analysis of literature. That discussion leads to expanded consideration of some of the most compelling contemporary issues, from new developments in the science of the brain and the nature of the mind to possible limitations on scientific knowledge in the natural and social sciences.
The authors then explore the use of scientific concepts and ideas in particular literary works: they use Darwinian theories to extract insights from John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman; they use entropy, Maxwell's demon, and chaos theory to study Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49; and they confront the notion of scientific progress with artistic notions of patterns and cycles in W. B. Yeats's poetry.
Supplementing the basic discussion, dialogues between the authors range over more controversial areas, such as the question of free will and postmodern views of power, knowledge, and language. Never allowing either of them to escape with trite or trivial statements, the debates illustrate the extent to which commonalities and differences exist between their fields. This entertaining and exceptionally timely book will enlighten both student and scholar, no matter what their discipline.

David L. Wilson, professor of biology at the University of Miami, is the author of Introduction to Biology and the author or coauthor of fifty research papers in Journal of General Physiology, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Journal of Neurochemistry, DNA and Cell Biology, and other publications.

Zack Bowen, professor of English at the University of Miami, has written nine books on modern and contemporary literature, including Bloom's Old Sweet Song (UPF, 1995). He is editor of the James Joyce Literary Supplement and serves as editor of the University Press of Florida James Joyce Series and as general editor of the Twayne/Macmillan Critical Essays in British
Literature Series.

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"Science and Literature is an important addition to the growing canon of works focused on issues on academic disciplinarity." - Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment
--Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment

"This book explores the interface between the sciences and humanities in a quite novel manner… Although it is unclear whether they achieve their goal of 'bridging the two cultures,' the book makes for good reading. The dialogue is substantive, serious, stimulating and, on occasion, fun. It is worthwhile reading for those interested in a novel approach to the subject." - Quarterly Review of Biology
--Quarterly Review of Biology

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