A God or a Biological By-Product? Rethinking the Imaginative Place of Man in the Post-Copernican Cosmos

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Though some Enlightenment poets (including Pope and Thomson) hailed the Scientific Revolution as a great human accomplishment, that Revolution has unsettled a good number of creative writers (including Donne, Milton, Tennyson, and Waugh). For the common interpretation of modern science is one that consigns the earth to a trivial spot in the cosmos and reduces man to insignificance as a species. Such an interpretation of science necessarily robs literature—an inherently anthropocentric art—of its traditional high status. But another interpretation of science—one that affirms rather than threatens literature—emerges in the recognition that terrestrial humans are the only known creatures doing science, just as they are the only known creatures creating art. Such a recognition of human uniqueness can foster a cross-disciplinary union of science and literature, to the benefit of both.

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Published in July 2013