Maria RojasApril 16, 2012The Heroic Narrative in Science: Darwin Catherine Milne’s essay “Philosophically Correct Science Stories? Examining theImplications of Heroic Science Stories for School Science” presents three different kinds ofheroic scientists: 1) the cautious and deprecating scientist, 2) the well-connected brilliantscientist, and 3) the “acolyte of nature” scientist. Although the scientists we have discussed thusfar tend to fit perfectly well into one of these categories, Charles Darwin is an exception. Insteadof fitting into one category, Darwin fits into all, but it depends on what sources or versions arebeing used. For example, as seen in the drama entitled Darwin’s Darkest Hour, Charles Darwinseems to be very cautious when presenting his work. As the scientific hero type one, Darwin isnot sure whether or not to publish his work on the theory of evolution and natural selection. Onone hand, he knows that there are social implications to his work that are incompatible with theorthodox religious values of his day. To protect his family from public aggression or attacks, hedelays the publishing of his work. On the other hand, however, if he delays too long or does notpublish at all, there is the possibility of having someone else publish similar work, devaluatinghis own brilliant theory. In other words, all the work he has done throughout his life would bevirtually useless. In here, the second part of being scientific hero type one does not fit well withDarwin. He is not deprecating of his achievements, but rather knows how significant it is. Furthermore, Darwin also seems to fit well into the second category of scientific hero.Under this category, the scientist is brilliant, well connected, attended the “rights institution,”
and is a “central member of the science culture” (Milne, pg. 185). From the biographicalpresentation, we know that Darwin comes from wealthy parents and had a famous grandfather.Yet, it is in Mr. Darwin’s Shooter that we can truly see how Darwin’s background helped himachieve his accomplishments. Through the comparison of Syms Covington to Charles Darwin,the outcome of Darwin’s success almost seems inevitable. In a world were social-class meanseverything; Covington had limited possibilities back in Britain. Darwin, on the other hand, had afather supporting him, had several people working for him (therefore having more time todevelop his ideas), and had connections in the scientific world. Hence, it is no surprise that awealthy and brilliant scientist (Darwin) ends up publishing the outstanding work of On theOrigins of Species. Lastly, the third type of scientist—the acolyte of nature—can also reflect CharlesDarwin’s work on the theory of evolution and natural selection. In Darwin’s Shooter, Darwin ispresented as a solitary and focused scientist, with a mind in his own little world. Although he isworking with Covington, Darwin seems distant and cold. Yet, at the same time however, he has apassion for observing nature, loves examining fossils, collecting specimens, and takes numerousnotes down. As we can see in Chapter 5 of The Voyage of the Beagle, Darwin is enthusiasticabout every observation he sees throughout the voyage. While doing so, he speculates on ideasthat eventually lead him to his theory of evolution. After all, what could all these observationsmean? Hence, once we combined all these three types of scientific heroes into one, we getCharles Darwin. He is a unique scientist that incorporates several aspects of different scientificheroes, and in return influences public perception on what a scientist is. He embodies the aloof,cautious, wealthy, and brilliant scientist, who is always working with nature meticulously. When
combined, these three types of scientific heroes reinforce the popular image that a scientist is farapart from the “real” world, and to a certain degree, it is more difficult to attain his status. Ascientist must to be brilliant and well connected, as both “who you know” and “what you know”play a role in the scientist’s success. Furthermore, a scientist must love his work, that it almostseems like it is a full-time hobby. To be specific, a naturalist is probably outdoors most of thetime and continues to get exited every time he notices a new observation. Lastly, a scientistshould (although it is not always the case) be aware of the implications of their science. Theymust be cautious with the interpretation of their work and have enough evidence to support it.Social Implications of Evolution As presented in Mr. Darwin’s Shooter and Darwin’s Darkest Hour, Darwin was aware ofthe social implications his theory of evolution would elicit in society. Because it went against thenotion of creationism, his theory of evolution and natural selection were in direct conflict withprevalent social attitudes and values held during his time period. Yet, this conflict betweenreligion and evolution has continued until today. In America, it is continuously brought up,especially when concerning public education. Because our Constitution’s explicit separation ofchurch and state, public schools are prohibited from having religious-based education, butteachers are permitted to teach evolution. This in return outrageous some parents and religiouspopulation, who have strong values that go against evolution. Hence, public policy and courtactions continue to be debated to this day, and will continue in the future.
Works CitedDarwin, Charles. The Voyage of the Beagle. Literature.org, 1997. Web. 16 Apr. 2012.Darwin’s Darkest Hour. Dir. John Bradshaw. Perf. Henry Ian Cusick and Frances O’Connor. NOVA, 2009. Film.McDonald, Roger. Mr. Darwin’s Shooter. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1998. Print.Milne, Catherine. “Philosophically Correct Science Stories? Examining the Implications of Heroic Science Stories for School Science.” Journal of Research in Science Teaching 35.2 (1998): 175-187. Web. 27 Feb 2010.