The illusion of science : images of science on stage
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Master of Science
Professional and Technical Communication
Lynch, Robert Edward
Science has long been regarded as a process of thinking, of pursuing the truth. This quest traditionally has been reserved for an elite group of thinkers, since at least the time of Aristotle, who was considered as the undisputed authority on philosophical truth, including that which we call science. The Scientific Revolution challenged Aristotle's authority and paved the way for the new method of evaluating scientific truths developed by Bacon, Descartes, and Galileo. Science became, over time, a process of inquiry open to all social and economic classes and accessible to all. In the twentieth century, the role of science again became hidden from or remote to public view, either because of innate complexity or the necessity of wartime secrecy.
One forum in which science has been made available to the public is the stage. A few playwrights of the twentieth century have used science in their works. But more often than not, they primarily wrote about the lives of scientists with only the illusion that the plays are about science. Bertolt Brecht's Galileo (1939), Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's Inherit the Wind (1955) and Peter Parnell's QED (2002) describe, to varying degrees, the lives of scientists, but although scientific concepts are mentioned, these are not fully integrated into the meaning and form of the plays. In Copenhagen (1998), however, Michael Frayn has managed to present the key concepts of twentieth century physics within the theme and structure of the play. In Copenhagen , finally, we have a play in which science is its subject, not merely an illusion of a subject.
njit-etd2003-044 (72 pages ~ 2,762 KB pdf)
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Created September 15, 2003