The Voices of Science

Before things were written they were spoken. The Spoken Word has a rich historical basis, especially amongst traditional African societies where culture and knowledge was passed down in the form of riddles, proverbs, stories, poetry, music, and design. Today, spoken word remains a fundamental form of communication, though its limits in academia are rarely challenged. Spoken word poetry is a tool to communicate social issues. Today, it is increasingly popular among the youth with so-called ‘poetry slams’ happening all around the world. Spoken word is appealing as it is impactful and lawless. There are no literary restrictions that define what it is. Instead, it takes a more performative approach, aiming to reach — even interact with — its audience; it is centered on involvement and exchange.This is what makes spoken word, as a type of poetry, powerful: It surpasses communication and creates a participatory audience. Contrastly, scientific phenomena — especially with increasing reliance on technological tools — long ago left the realm of our physical experiences. Consequently, there expands a chasm in intellectual exchange across science and other disciplines that calls for the expertise of a poet. The poet’s role will be to create innovative, metaphorical models in words and to express the often abstract and intangible phenomena in science. The very nomenclature of science, which is often times misleading, could benefit greatly from the collaboration of a poet.

It is the ability of a word to transmit meaning from one consciousness to the other that has significance and power. There is a biblical story of people of one language, building a tower with the intention to reach God. Eventually God decides to confuse them by mixing their languages — thus, the place was given the name Babel, meaning a confusion of voices in Hebrew. The sudden shift in communications, one might imagine, would lead to the development of diverse cultures and ideas. Therefore, metaphorically speaking, the growth of the tower was no longer able to be focused on only one dimension.

To a large extent, the language of science is mathematics but supplemented by words, diagrams, or images, each of which acts as a model to communicate reality. Going deeper into the study of science, particularly physics, it becomes impossible to deeply understand, let alone explain, phenomena without mathematics. One can see mathematics, the main language of science, taking a tower-like trajectory; It becomes increasingly complex and eventually, too high for unspecialized populations to reach and interact with. And when things cease to have the capacity to be understood and influenced; then, they lose their power to progress and diverge through otherwise diverse minds.

The word ‘Science’ itself carries heavy cultural connotations. Science could be seen as a dreaded school subject, a subject that is distant for people unexposed to its exciting study. How the scientist sees him/herself depends on their level of experience as a scientist. Personally, science has evolved from a de facto puzzle of a classroom study to one where there is a lot of structured seeking with a lot of room for speculation, interpretation, mistakes, evolution, and a lot of meticulous tedious work and creative planning.

Ideas of scientism stating that science is a closed box, superior to all other modes of intelligence, not only limit but harm our society.

Science affects everyone and exists in all of creation. It is understood in one way by scientists another way by artists, poets, spiritualists and other disciplines. All these distinctions are relevant for practical purposes. They are not laws. Our strength and integrity as a society will be found in open exchange between science and the other disciplines. Such permeabilities are what will allow us progress in multiple degrees of freedom, adding wealth to science studies and how we as a diverse persons view and interact with it.

One of the entry points in which such exchange can occur is our reliance on models to understand and discover new things. The very model for how learning takes place includes formation of new networks of knowledge upon already existing ones. Our minds work like an intricate web making connections in order to understand and develop ideas. In her book Models and Analogies in Science, Mary Hess makes reference to positive, negative, and neutral analogies. Negative analogies being those that we know are unable to fit into a description, positive being those that agree, and neutral being those that are unknown and have the potential to be investigated. This is where spoken word poetry comes in. Poetry would excel at making connections between science principles and unexpected elements of life, juxtaposing vivid imagery which enlivens striking metaphors and narratives — engaging the scientist, science, and everyday life.

For example the verse below:
“Our consciousness , so close, yet so distant, allows us to travel at the speed of light when we fall in love ;(that’s about a 24 times a year for me- twice a month before and after ovulation) But like two ends of the same string, we sink to normality in the greyness and redness of stuff. Though we are made of things that are the substance of light , we can only pulse in inconsistency”
This describes how time dilation, that occurs in general relativity, is the same kind that is experienced by humans when they are focused or feeling intense emotions such as pain or love. One can model traveling at the speed of light to be analogous to being deeply focused or in intense enjoyment where the actual time is moving much faster than the time internally experienced. It also touches on the wave particle duality, and the relationship between physiology and personality.
Spoken word could lead to a plethora of analogies with the potential to be sorted and investigated. Neutral analogy is just one of the pathways that could lead to research investigation, thereby spoken word poetry is a prime example of art as a research method. It can clearly be used in learning. It’s not uncommon for fantastical scenarios such as: “ What if you found yourself in space holding a….” to be used in a classroom question, but it is often not taken further. Though metaphors might shift from their origin, they always find their way back in some form. Vital is the kind of imagery and metaphorical tension existent in engaging spoken word narratives that trigger the mind’s imagination in ways that information in itself could never dream of.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world,” (Albert Einstein).

Spoken word most importantly holds the power to open room for discourse between unexpected combinations of people.

There seems to me, a great potential to develop scientific spoken word exchanges for the stage, research, learning, creating art, and cultural revolutions.

References

“What is Science” by Sundar Sarukkai
“A review of African Oral traditions and literature”: by Harold Schlub
“Ways of Seeing” by John Berger
“Making science intimate” by Roger Malina
“Science et cetera et cetera for poets et cetera” by John A Moore
“Genesis” Judaic Bible