Popularization and science


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Popularization and science informing metaphors in Loren Eiseley
Informing metaphors in Loren Eiseley
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viii, 320 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Pitts, Mary Ellen, 1939-
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English thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1985.
Bibliography: leaves 311-319.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Mary Ellen Pitts.
General Note:
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Full Text







Copyright 1985


Mary Ellen Pitts


To my dissertation director, Dr. Gregory L. Ulmer, I express my

appreciation for his knowledge, insight, willingness to help, and

patient guidance, all of which have made this project a profound

learning experience. Thanks are due also to the other members of the

committee, Drs. Alistair Duckworth, Sidney Homan, David Locke, and

Robert D'Amico, for their helpful suggestions at various stages of the

writing. Finally, I thank the family and friends whose emotional

support and help in practical details have made possible the

completion of this project.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS................................. ..................iii

EISELEY'S TEXTS AND ABBREVIATIONS USED.............................vi




Time .....................................................4
The Evolution of Life....................................4
The Emergence of Man.....................................6
Evolving Culture.......................................8
The Relation of the Individual to Evolutionary Nature
and Culture...........................................9
The Relation Between Self and Evolution: Autobiography
as Theme and Technique.................................. 11
Literary Influences.......................................14
Technique .. .... ........................................... 18
Notes.... ...................... .. ........................ 32

(II THE CASE FOR POPULARIZATION..............................34

What Is Popularization?...................................34
Why Popularization Is Necessary..........................38
Institutionalization of Science and Estrangement from
the Public............................................39
Isolation of Specialists from One Another................47
The Specialist and the Pull of Tradition.................51
The Threat of Technology and the Need for Reflection.....55
Answers of a Popularizer: Reflective Union of Science
and Art................................................. 59
Notes ................................................... ..66

III EISELEY'S METHOD...........................................68

Hybrid Genre.................... ........................69
Eiseley's Hybrid Genre and the Paraliterary..............73
The Observer-Participant and the Uses of Autobiography...81

Structure and Method: The Conclusion to Darwin's Century..86
Metaphor and Method...................................... 104
The Uses of Metaphor...................................105
Eiseley's Metaphors...................................114
A Postscript to Method: The Continuing Hybrid Genre......125
Notes............................................................ 131


Metaphorical Framework: The Journey.....................133
Cultural Metaphors Within the Journey.....................156
Games of Chance....................................... 163
Alchemy and Magic.......................................172
The Magic Theater......................................179
Art as a Cultural Model for Symbiosis...................188
Notes.................... ..............................191


Hand.................................................. .194
Eye........................... .........210
Eye as Metaphor. ................................... 215
Metaphors Dependent on the Eye.........................226
Notes.......................... .......................275


Eiseley and Science: What We Have Learned................278
Eiseley's Texts and the Case for Popularization...........288
How the Vehicle Explains.................................293
Codes.......................... ....................296
Models ....................... ......................301
Models and the Reexamination of the Dominant
Science as a Vehicle for Thought..........................306
Notes.......................... ................ .........309

WORKS CITED......................................................311

VITA............................... ............................... 320



Darwin's Century (1958)

Collections of Popular Essays

The Immense Journey (1957)

The Firmament of Time (1960)

The Unexpected Universe (1969)

The Invisible Pyramid (1970)

The Night Country (1971)

The Man Who Saw Through Time (1973), originally
published in 1962 as Francis Bacon and the
Modern Dilemma

The Star Thrower (1978)

Darwin and the Mysterious Mr. X (1979)










All the Strange Hours (1975)

Notes of an Alchemist (1972)

The Innocent Assassins (1973)

Another Kind of Autumn (1977)

All the Night Wings (1979)







Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Mary Ellen Pitts

December 1985

Chairman: Gregory L. Ulmer
Major Department: English

This study addresses the literary role of the hybrid of science

and literature, as exemplified by Loren Eiseley's essays, which

provide both a popularization of science and a science of

popularization. Eiseley's purposes as a popularizer of scientific

information are both scientific and literary. His metaphors are

"informing"--carrying information and giving form to the thought.

Using simple metaphors, Eiseley reexamines and reshapes evolutionary

concepts and displaces certain popular assumptions that

have arisen largely out of metaphor, such as the emphasis on warfare.

Specifically, Eiseley displaces metaphors and notions of fixity,

teleology, hierarchy, extreme reductionism, struggle, decidability,

and determinacy. He stresses an understanding based on the

cooperative, symbiotic elements of physical and cultural evolution.

Eiseley's metaphors join explanation with exploration of other

possible understandings and with exploration of how we understand.

Because essay suggests exploring, the heuristic function of the

metaphors reinforces the larger heuristic function of the essays.

Eiseley's metaphors also function effectively and persuasively to

evoke sympathy with and concern for man's relationship to the natural

world, to stress cooperation rather than struggle.

With evolution, itself symbolic, as the central metaphor and

concern, Eiseley uses cultural metaphors for the physical universe.

The journey is the central metaphor through which he explores the

individual's relationship to the evolutionary world and his means of

understanding. Within the metaphor of the journey and its

accompanying contingencies, Eiseley employs metaphors from the body of

man in treating cultural evolution. Specifically, the physical

metaphors are related to hand, eye, and tongue and their associated

philosophemes or root metaphors, through which Eiseley reexamines the

means by which we know. Eiseley's system of metaphor and metonym is

basic to his task as a popularizer, to his defamiliarizing and

reshaping evolutionary concepts. The Eiseleyan vehicle works through

alternation of familiar and unfamiliar, through appeals to cultural

codes, through moving from metaphor to model, and through

reexploration of the dominant philosophemes associated with the organs

through which knowledge is acquired. Using science and personal

experience, Eiseley creates an effective literary hybrid, a model of

science as a vehicle for thought.



By profession a physical anthropologist, university administrator

(he was for a time Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, and

later Benjamin Franklin Professor of the History of Science), and

lecturer, Loren Eiseley was nevertheless a poet by temperament and

both essayist and poet by choice. Of his fifteen published volumes,

all remain in print: Darwin's Century (1958), a work of scholarship

whose Conclusion parallels his development as a popular essayist; six

collections of popular essays--The Immense Journey (1957), The

Firmament of Time (1960), The Unexpected Universe (1969), The

Invisible Pyramid (1970), The Night Country (1971), and The Star

Thrower (a 1978 collection bringing together several previously

unpublished essays and some of Eiseley's most popular published work

under the title of his best-known essay, which was originally included

in The Unexpected Universe); a biography of Francis Bacon, originally

published in 1962 as Francis Bacon and the Modern Dilemma but later

republished as The Man Who Saw through Time (1973); a loosely

structured series of reminiscences published as an autobiography, All

the Strange Hours: The Excavation of a Life (1975); three volumes of

poetry--Notes of an Alchemist (1972), The Innocent Assassins (1973),

Another Kind of Autumn (1977), and All the Night Wings (1979); and a

posthumous collection of essays, scholarly and popular, on which he

had worked to establish the importance of Edward Blyth's contributions

to the development of evolutionary theory, Darwin and the Mysterious

Mr. X (1979).

Scholars have agreed that demands for "classification" and the

difficulty of classifying Eiseley's texts have led to some neglect of

the texts. James M. Schwartz finds Eiseley "primarily a scientist,"

but he emphasizes Eiseley's "aesthetic intentions" and contends that

not only does Eiseley argue for the existence of creativity in both

science and art, "but the literary quality of his own narrative design

and thematic concerns" reveals "just such an imaginative integration"

("The 'Immense Journey' of an Artist" 10-11). Deborah H. Pickering

also finds Eiseley difficult to classify and feels that he was more

comfortable with other roles than the scientific and scholarly ones

that he referred to as "disguises" (10).

Part of the difficulty in classification arises from Eiseley's

status as a writer of essays rather than books. Though his essays

have been combined and organized thematically to give a strong sense

of coherence to each of the collections of popular essays, they were,

nevertheless, often combined from multiple sources. Eiseley's

strength lies in his essays rather than in the particular combinations

produced in these collections. In The Immense Journey, still his most

popular collection, there are, for example, perhaps six essays--

including especially "The Real Secret of Piltdown" and "The Maze"--

whose scientific information is now dated. Current readers may find

the environmentalist polemics of The Invisible Pyramid less to the

point than explorations of how to implement the environmentalist ethic

today. For these reasons, Leslie Gerber and Margaret McFadden suggest

that Eiseley's editors rather than his books may determine his

standing as a literary figure. Properly "winnowed," Eiseley's texts

could, they suggest, stand as examples of "a powerful and exact

exercise" of Roszak's "rhapsodic intellect" (158). In the present

study, the focus is on Eiseley's essays rather than on his books,

specifically on the popular essays in the five major collections and

All the Strange Hours, as well as the seminal Conclusion to Darwin's


As a literary figure, Eiseley has been studied in regard to

biography (Andrew Angyal, Leslie Gerber and Margaret McFadden, James

Schwartz, Deborah Pickering, and E. Fred Carlisle, whose recent book

suggests the growth of Eiseley's identity through writing); the role

of autobiography as theme and technique (Pickering, Gerber and

McFadden, Schwartz ["The 'Immense Journey' of an Artist" and

"Scientist as Artist"]); literary influences and relation to other

literary naturalists (Deanna K. Haney); and themes (Gerber and

McFadden, Angyal, Schwartz, Kassebaum, Haney, and Pickering). Though

my concern is with Eiseley's metaphorical method and its relationship

to exploration and explanation of themes, at this point a review of

the major Eiseleyan themes, literary influences, and autobiographical

and thematic techniques will provide an introduction to the oeuvre and

a preparation for the approach I will follow.


Eiseley's themes have met with general scholarly agreement. The

themes may be grouped under five general headings to reflect Eiseley's

concern with (1) time, (2) the evolution of life, (3) the emergence of

man, (4) evolving culture, and (5) the relation of the individual to

evolutionary nature and culture.


Time is, for Eiseley, immense, flowing, nonreturning, and,

paradoxically, both creative and destructive. Of the four

perspectives that had to be understood and accepted before Darwin's

thesis could be articulated,2 two are related to time: the great age

of the earth and the succession of geological and animate forms.

Both vast reaches of time and the "naturalness" of death had to be

accepted, Eiseley contends, before man could accept the extinction of

species and the evolution of life (FT, Chap. 2). Form is, for

Eiseley, not reality, but "an illusion of the time dimension" ("The

Star Thrower," UU 78); only primitives are without the concept of

time, possessing sometimes a notion of "dream time."

The Evolution of Life

Eiseley treats life as a product of continuous and non-

teleological evolution. Evolution is more than scientific fact for

him; it is "a sensibility, a specific way of feeling and seeing,"

which is best appreciated through an understanding of its own

evolution from pre-Darwinian thought to the present (Gerber and

McFadden 37). Eiseley has been called "the Proust of evolution,

remembering the past of the life of his species" (Gerber and McFadden

40). And evolution is a process--ongoing, unfinished. Schwartz finds

that "the concept of dynamic process is central to Eiseley's

epistemology," and he treats Eiseley's link of evolution and the human

need to explore as representative of a "conjunction between exterior

and interior process," with emphasis on the human need to project

oneself into other substances, human or not ("The 'Immense Journey' of

an Artist" 13, 21).

In this unfinished process, the "unexpected" becomes an important

theme, whether Eiseley deals with unexpected mutations in evolution or

with natural occurrences such as cyclones. "To the unexpected nature

of the universe man owes his being," Eiseley says. "More than any

other living creature he contains, unknowingly, the shapes and forms

of an uncreated future to be drawn from his own substance" ("The

Unexpected Universe," UU 46-47). For Eiseley, life is continuously

dissatisfied with what it is, continuously "reaching" or "probing"

beyond itself and seeking to be other than what it is.

Life is also, paradoxically, both creative and destructive; aware

of the nineteenth-century images of evolution as warfare or struggle,

Eiseley is also concerned with the possibilities for symbiosis.

Flowers created our atmosphere ("How Flowers Changed the World," IJ);

and the cooperation of microscopic parts of the human body, such as

the phagocytes that "sacrifice" themselves for the good of the whole,

provides a model for symbiosis rather than for struggle.

Evolving life also creates the paradox that its failures become

its successes. In "The Inner Galaxy," Eiseley affirms his faith in

life's power to endure: "We would win, I thought steadily, if not in

human guise then in another. It was the failures who had always

won, but by the time they won they had come to be called successes.

This is the final paradox, which men call evolution" (UU 193). And it

is love for the "failures of the world" that leads the narrator in

"The Star Thrower" to a feeling that he compares to "the renunciation

of my scientific heritage" (UU 86), which is not to be taken

literally, but as a statement of Eiseley's role as critic as well as

explicator of science.

Life's infinite adaptability Eiseley considers both boon and

blessing. It makes possible the emergence of man, but it is "the

single lethal factor" in civilizations because it has led man away

from the security of instinct and into a world of exploration and

hunger for experience ("The Lethal Factor," ST 262-63).

Finally, Eiseley finds in nature not only the indeterminate, the

unfixed, the unexpected, but also the inexplicable. "[I]n the world,"

he says, "there is nothing to explain the world. Nothing to explain

the necessity of life, nothing to explain the hunger of the elements

to become life, nothing to explain why the stolid realm of rock and

soil and mineral should diversify itself into beauty, terror, and

uncertainty" (ASH 242).

The Emergence of Man

For Eiseley, because man "belongs to the community of descent"

(Gerber and McFadden 51) and partakes of the same experiences that

have produced all of life, he needs to develop an awareness of the web

that links all things together. Man is both infinitely small--

displaced from what he once thought was the center of the universe--

and enormous--capable of modifying and even of destroying the nature

that produced him. He is capable of great destructiveness, so that

the sensitive individual may be forced to assume the identity of a

fugitive (Schwartz, "The 'Immense Journey' of an Artist" 64-65).

Reflecting the unexpected quality of the universe and having the

ability to shape his own future, man bears a responsibility to the

natural world that produced him. Yet in Eiseley's texts, one is

constantly aware of the human tendency to move farther from the

natural world, whether by creating a society whose frequent changes

make individual adjustment impossible, by directing his attention

exteriorlyy upon the machines which now occupy most of his waking

hours," by denying "personal responsibility for the way his

discoveries are used," or by consuming "the great green forest that

once surrounded us Americans and behind which we could seek refuge"

("How Human Is Man?" FT 133-39). Man re-enters nature less like a

Greek shepherd than like "an evil and precocious animal who slinks

home in the night with a few stolen powers" ("How Human Is Man?" FT


In Eiseley's texts man is, says W. H. Auden, "the Quest Hero, the

wanderer, the voyager, the seeker after adventure, knowledge, power,

meaning, and righteousness" (18). L. Harvey Kassebaum, however,

insists that Eiseley "also sees man as the modern and mindless hero, a

'hero' on a Quest that is focused on a means without knowledge of what

end may be found, and, worse, without caring about the consequences of

the means" (200). This view suggests a pessimistic and often "grim

vision" (Kassebaum 67) of man, which is especially evident in The

Invisible Pyramid and its description of men as "world eaters" (Chap.

3). For Kassebaum, this grim vision leads to the "Eiseley Imperative"

that "'a life in nature' must remain possible if man, perhaps if life,

is to continue on our earth" (248).

Individual man is a potential fossil sedimented with the

crudities of former existences, but he also contains the future, both

genetically and in his linguistic ability to create the future. The

Darwinians, Eiseley suggests, would, sometimes unwittingly, animalize

man. Eiseley, though his admiration for Darwin is great, would

displace this animalizing tendency and humanize man. Man's ability to

displace the perceived reality of one time to the imagined reality of

another came only through language and writing, and this is the most

important of human abilities. Yet this ability to communicate with

another time and place is both a bane and a blessing, as is science,

which could not exist without linguistic and writing abilities.

Finally, man is a product of the last ice age, and his

relationship to the ice is recurrent in Eiseley's texts. The ice is a

source of isolation and desolation. "On the world island we are all

castaways," Eiseley says in the first essay in The Immense Journey

("The Slit" 14); the notion, Kassebaum suggests, reverberates

throughout the texts (5-6).

Evolving Culture

Several themes center on human culture. One of Eiseley's major

themes is that man, through the evolved brain capacity that makes

possible technology, has escaped the "tangled bank" of struggle for

existence. Man has the capacity for empathy, for compassion, for

love--not only toward fellow human beings, but toward animate and

inanimate nature. Man's specialized brain, which enabled him, as

Alfred Russel Wallace emphasized, to escape further specialization,

has made possible the growth of culture, which, like nature, evolves.

Culture is linked to time, which is unreturning, continuously

changing. Through language, man has created cultures, has devised an

inner world. (The Cartesian opposition of inside-outside is recurrent

in Eiseley's texts.) Science is a product of culture; it is an

institution that has often gotten out of hand, has been worshipped as

the panacea for man. For Eiseley, however, a reunification of science

and the humanities is more important than scientific "progress," which

has created the spinning "whirlpool" of modern man. Eiseley is both

critic and advocate of science (Haney 6; Carlisle, "Heretical Science"

57). As a major cultural institution, science, in Eiseley's view, can

be made to serve human ends (Gerber and McFadden 53). Angyal sees

Eiseley as "more comfortable with Bacon's style of visionary science

and his concern for the ends to which the scientific method would be

put than with Darwin's methodical sifting through factual evidence"


Writing in the tradition of the literary naturalist, Eiseley is

clearly concerned with the uses of science, as well as with science as

a cultural phenomenon. Deanna K. Haney not only finds the naturalist

an important figure spanning both science and art, whose study can

lead to "the essence of civilization" (12), but also notes that for

Eiseley there is also a kind of solace in the ongoing evolutionary

process (200-201).

Relation of the Individual to Evolutionary Nature and Culture

Eiseley's most powerful themes address the relation of the

individual to evolutionary nature and to culture. He writes often of

the limits of the empiricism that he embraces. Eiseley's concern with

the relation of the individual to the whole, of the microcosm to the

macrocosm, is reflected in Schwartz's view of Eiseley as

representative of "one of the essential epistemological problems of

Romanticism: how and why man should see the relationship between an

ever-evolving self and an ever-evolving nature" ("The 'Immense

Journey' of an Artist" 123). Schwartz sees Eiseley's chief concern as

the relationship between the evolving self and the evolving universe

("Scientist as Artist" 859). The individual's consciousness may

isolate him from the nature which produced him, but it can also enable

man to return to nature; the projection of the inner upon the outer,

of the dream onto the semblance of reality, is the key to humanity

(Schwartz, "Scientist as Artist" 860). The individual's isolation may

lead him to become a "fugitive," an identity assumed by Eiseley and

treated by scholars,3 but it also leads to a search for a kind of

alchemical means of transcending immediate reality and finding a

"reaffirmation of nature's mutability and variety" (Schwartz, "The

'Immense Journey' of an Artist" 36). As Schwartz suggests, "a reunion

of man and nature is often dependent upon solitary experience"

("The 'Immense Journey' of an Artist" 32).

The individual's relation to the Darwinian universe is expressed

by Gerber and McFadden in a comparison with Kierkegaard's questioning

of intellectual schemes: "What Hegelian thought was to Kierkegaard,

Darwinian evolution was to Eiseley. Both men ask the question, Where

shall I live in this embracing system?" (113). In more specific

terms, "What meaning have the words 'mercy' or 'pity' in a Darwinian

world?" (Gerber and McFadden xvii). The individual's awareness of

time, of the interrelationship of all life, and of the paradox of

failures and successes must be explored in an attempt to answer these

questions. The result of such questioning is a hybrid of knowing and

not knowing, and a continuing epistemological quest that stretches

throughout the texts. From this hybrid of knowing and not knowing a

certain wonder emerges, for "science expands rather than reduces the

mystery of the world" as the scientist encounters "unexpected angles"

(Gerber and McFadden 53, 91). Eiseley writes that for the scientist

who is not afraid of feeling, "the common day turns marvellous" ("How

Death Became Natural," FT 58).

Yet for all of his knowing and unknowing, for all of his ability

to feel wonder, man is not necessarily free or happy or able to love

(Gerber and McFadden 53). Angyal emphasizes Eiseley's concern with

projecting oneself "into other lives" and finds the recurrent themes

of antimaterialism, condemnation of scientism, and transcendence of

time in an effort to recover the past (27), as well as a Bacononian

sense of man's power to create and shape the natural world (74). The

question Where shall I live? will become, for Eiseley, the question

How shall I know where I shall live? The answers will come, for

Eiseley as for Heidegger, in "dwelling poetically."

The Relation between Self and Evolution:
Autobiography as Theme and Technique

Eiseley's use of autobiography, of the self to think through the

problems that he poses, is one of the dominant features of his texts.

The relation between self and evolution is both theme and technique;

as such, it has received considerable attention from scholars.

Schwartz studies Eiseley as a literary figure, stressing his emerging

narrative abilities and his autobiographical technique and suggesting

that Eiseley, like many important thinkers, "parallels the maturation

of creative consciousness, the growth of the artist, to the evolution

of the entire universe" ("The 'Immense Journey' of an Artist" 11, 70).

Schwartz contends that Eiseley transcends the formal essay or the

scientific tract because, in his texts, "space and time, perception

and recollection, become important only when projected onto the screen

of individual human consciousness"; the result is "sacrificing

photographic verisimilitude for a more percipient, conceptual

universal validity" ("The 'Immense Journey' of an Artist" 71, 74).

Thus Eiseley insists that man must accept his own duality and must

also recognize the need for compassion, for "oxymoronic recognition"

in a "wise sorrow" (77).

Carlisle treats Eiseley's "connection between personal impulse

and universal intent" as "two poles of a single endeavor" and thus

"really inseparable" ("Heretical Science" 365). For Carlisle,

Eiseley's "science is a personal quest that recognizes the self as the

origin of all knowledge--even scientific knowledge--but that also

requires the systematic structure of science for its success--and that

relies on investigation and imagination for its insights"; thus

Eiseley gives to both biology and anthropology "a new idiom" and "a

new dimension" (359). He blends "the universal intent of science"

with his "personal quest" (368) to create a second world through art.

Carlisle stresses Eiseley's notion of the importance of language as

"an instrument of science," an instrument, in Bacon's phrase, "for the

uses of life" (372). Thus for Carlisle Eiseley's texts provide a

means by which "both the scientist and the artist discover and remake

reality" (373), creating a "more comprehensive version of science,"

which now includes Bacon's phrase (377).

If Carlisle's approach to Eiseley seems at first more

biographical than analytical, he is not alone in stressing the

relationship of self and science in Eiseley's writing. Gerber and

McFadden return to Eiseley's theme of the fugitive, concluding that

his lack of a sense of belonging partly explains "his avidity for

literary form" (144) as well as his concern with "identity--its

elusiveness and final impossibility in an unexpected universe" (146).

They find, with Carlisle, a blending of science and self in Eiseley's

quest and questioning, and they perceive in the choice to love the

"failures of the world" a negation of the standard assumption of

evolutionary struggle through the choice to feel and express pity


Angyal compares Eiseley with Augustine, Rousseau, and Wordsworth

in that he is "primarily concerned with the growth of his mind and

sensibility," rearranging experiences for effect and changing facts

and settings so that memories of childhood are turned into fictions

that reveal the part childhood plays in developing the artist's

sensibility (93-94). He finds more in common with Thoreau's ability

to see metaphors in "natural facts" than with Darwin's love for

painstaking assembly of details (111).

Pickering, too, emphasizes Eiseley's use of autobiography in his

quest for a human and a scientific identity. Pickering views Eiseley

in terms of a series of "selves" through which he explores the role of

the individual in relation to science. For her, the "mask" the author

wears may determine what he perceives (15). In the movement from one

life form or landscape or metaphor to another she sees the search for

self, which is an impossible search, for "the object is the search

itself" (21). In writing his own "Obituary of a Bone Hunter" in All

the Strange Hours, she contends, Eiseley "ironically signaled

the beginning of his life as a humanistic writer" (132).

Literary Influences

Eiseley's relation to earlier writers has been noted. Gerber

and McFadden link him with other familiar esayists, including Heine,

Lamb, Hunt, Hazlitt, Emerson, and Thoreau. They find the roots of

Eiseley's work in Montaigne's classic essai, in which the "weighing"

or "assaying" of a thesis is important, with emphasis on the writer's

personal opinion, the writer's self. Thus the essay becomes "a

vehicle for exploration rather than demonstration" (21). With the

essay as a vehicle for exploration, Gerber and McFadden find Eiseley's

movement "backward and forward in time" dependent on "Proustian

epiphanies of memoire involuntaire" (17) in All the Strange Hours.

Eiseley's texts are often linked to natural history writers. In

an essay written for a high school English class, the young Eiseley

proclaimed, "I want to be a nature writer" (ASH 75). Gerber and

McFadden link him both to the tradition of the parson-naturalists

(107) and to contemporary natural history writers (156). Angyal looks

to Eiseley's development as a literary naturalist, noting his quarrel

with reductionism and his kinship with British and American writers of

natural history, including parson-naturalists such as White,

Jefferies, and Hudson, as well as observers such as Emerson and

Thoreau. The work of these prescientific writers, Angyal contends,

"is both personal and factual, balancing objectivity with delight"

(34), influenced by empiricism but involving personal observations

rather than collecting and quantifying data to verify a scientific

hypothesis. The "poetic" quality that emerges in Eiseley's essays

provides yet another link with these writers of natural history

because of what Kassebaum calls his "poetic" techniques of imagery

and tropes and "his peculiar emotional intimacy with natural things"


Eiseley's connections with Thoreau, Melville, and Emerson are

evident partly because of his frequent references to these writers.

Two of the essays in his last collection, The Star Thrower, revolve

around Thoreau's texts: "Thoreau's Vision of the Natural World" and

"Walden: Thoreau's Unfinished Business." His approach is what Angyal

has termed not so much literary scholarship as "appreciation" (88).

In these essays Thoreau's texts provide the vehicle for Eiseley's own

reflections as well as his interpretations of Thoreau. Thoreau and

Darwin provide tutor texts for "The Golden Alphabet" in The Unexpected

Universe: Thoreau was the stay-at-home whose mental travels took him

into the future; Darwin was the actual traveler whose observations

changed the understanding of man and society. Both had insight into

the future, both loved odd facts, both were readers, both found

satisfaction in nature, and both "forfeited the orthodox hopes that

had sustained, through many centuries, the Christian world" (121-22).

For Eiseley, in spite of his extensive study of and admiration for

Darwin, Thoreau is the one who both "transcends" and "amplifies" the

Darwinian vision (122). Gerber and McFadden emphasize Eiseley's

affinity for the rural qualities Thoreau extolls, as well as his sense

of estrangement from the mechanistic life of the great city (23).

Schwartz finds Eiseley's "mytho-symbolic world of golden wheels and

'instruments of darkness'" in The Night Country a world comparable to

Thoreau's "excursions" or "'incursions'--into nature and self" ("The

'Immense Journey' of an Artist" 92).

Eiseley links Emerson with Darwin in "Man Against the Universe"

as "opposed yet converging forces in nineteenth-century thought"

(ST 210). His exploration of the affinity between Emerson and Darwin

is significant, say Gerber and McFadden, chiefly because Emerson,

unburdened as he was by rigorous scientific procedures, was both an

observer of nature and one who indulged "his expansive, image-making,

synthetic powers" (108). Thus the complementarity between literature

and science is extended in Eiseley's link with Emerson, whom he treats

as a process philosopher.

Noting that the "intensified empathy," "picturesque revolu-

tionaries and moon-haunted landscapes," and "mysterium" of Romanticism

had an unrecognized impact on nineteenth-century science, Eiseley

turns to Emerson, who, although he is sometimes perceived as simply a

Romantic idealist, is for Eiseley the "honest romantic" who, free of

Darwin's rigorous approach to science, saw more clearly than Darwin

the lack of permanence in nature, the lack of teleology, and the

dominance of process ("Man Against the Universe," ST 211-13). Darwin

projected "a certain orthodox benignity" onto the conclusion of the

Origin; but Emerson, Eiseley contends, "provided what would have been

a less timid notion for the end of the Origin, when he wrote that

nature's "permanence is a perpetual inchoation," further "that no

single end may be selected and nature judged thereby," and finally

"that if man himself be considered as the end, and it be assumed that

the final cause of the world is to make holy or wise or beautiful men,

we see that it has not succeeded" ("Man Against the Universe," ST 215-


The link with Melville is clear in Eiseley's recurrent use of

Ishmael as the wanderer and wonderer who has escaped to tell what he

has seen. The most explicit tribute to the insights in Moby-Dick

comes in "Science and the Sense of the Holy," in which Eiseley opposes

the sensitive, wondering Ishmael to the crazed Ahab-the one

representing the sensitive, "wondering man, the acceptor of all races

and their gods" (ST 199), and the other representing a "single

obsession, the hidden obsession that lies at the root of much Faustian

overdrive in science," the desire to know even "if the knowing kills

him, if naught lies beyond" (198-99). Carlisle compares Eiseley's

texts with Melville's because Melville also presents "another

dimension without which the quest cannot succeed"; for Melville,

empiricism is not enough, but there must be immediate personal

involvement, so that "the seeker must directly experience the

living whale in all its beauty and power" ("Heretical Science" 358).

Because of Eiseley's study of Bacon, Francis Bacon and the Modern

Dilemma (1962), republished as The Man Who Saw through Time (1973),

the link of Eiseley's texts with Bacon's has received some attention.

Gerber and McFadden find a similarity of Eiseley's method and Bacon's

"dispersed meditaciones" (21). They emphasize that Eiseley, in

upholding Bacon as the originator of a new empirical approach to

knowledge, also came to uphold "the shapers of the parson-naturalist

tradition"--men for whom observation was joined by empathy and a sense

of participation in the immediate experience, but who had often been

"dismissed by positivistic scientists as too soft, literary, or

undisciplined" (107). In fact, Eiseley suggests that Darwin himself

was indebted to Gilbert White (DC 13-14), and he argues later that

Romanticism helped to shape and to prepare Darwin's mind for new

experiences, for adventure, and for observing unique creatures and

possibilities ("Man Against the Universe," ST 214).


Eiseley's techniques have been variously treated, most often with

an emphasis on the use of autobiography. Aside from autobiography as

a technique as well as a theme, Eiseley's dominant technique is the

use of analogues and metaphors. Angyal suggests that Eiseley may have

acquired from Bacon "the habit of balancing scientific or scholarly

ideas with vivid metaphors, although in this respect he is far more

candid than Bacon" (38). In Pickering's treatment of Eiseley's

"selves" or "personas," she contends that each of these personas is

accompanied by certain images--from rats and spiders and other

creatures that suggest the solitude associated with the "contemplative

naturalist" (18), to the wanderer, drifter, traveler, sometimes

wearing "masks and disguises" as reinforcement of the journey

metaphors (20), to images of the seasons to reinforce the journey and

to reveal "the ages of man persona" (20). In Eiseley's own references

to the task of the writer in All the Strange Hours Pickering finds an

emphasis on visual images, the importance of sight and hearing, and

the childhood decisions to read and to be a fugitive (28-35).

The dominant metaphor in Eiseley's texts is the journey. The

Immense Journey is for Pickering a revelation of Eiseley's evolution--

his journey--as a writer (52-53). Carlisle finds the journey metaphor

not just a casual figure, but a means of implying both "quest and

discovery" ("Heretical Science" 362). He notes the use of the journey

in Darwin's Century when Eiseley refers to scientists as explorers who

try "to piece together the charts and maps of unknown seas" just as

they try "to piece together the theory of evolution" (362). The

metaphor, says Carlisle, is suggestive of the way scientific

discoveries are made, in that they are "pieced together from the

results of uncertain thrusts into the unknown," and it further

suggests the function of new theories as "new maps or charts of

experience that enable us to understand the world more clearly" (362).

The journey, he contends, suggests "the adventure, risk, and mystery

characteristic of scientific search and discovery" (362). And

like a journey, science requires "personal passion, commitment, and

risk" (363).

But for Carlisle, this metaphor does more than provide structural

coherence for The Immense Journey and Darwin's Century. Journeys are

made by men, and Eiseley's treatment of science suggests that the

journey must be made by men, that scientific "truths" are "still human

constructions that are fundamentally personal and provisional," and

that the "strange colorings" which scientists give to reality "have

come mostly from within" ("Heretical Science" 363). Predating

Eiseley's own espousal of evolution as a root metaphor ("The

Illusion," ST 275), Carlisle suggests that Eiseley apparently sees

evolutionary theory "not only as a human construction but as a root

metaphor" (364).

The journey may also be viewed as a quest. Schwartz writes of

Eiseley's use of "literal and figurative pilgrimages through

scientific, cultural, and personal history" ("The 'Immense Journey' of

an Artist" 86). Man is thus portrayed as "a visionary explorer" (39).

And Schwartz stresses Eiseley's maturation as an artist from The

Immense Journey through The Invisible Pyramid.

Eiseley's use of the journey is also linked to his allusions to

the Odyssey, which Kassebaum finds central to "all Western journeys,

both those of the mind and of the body" (61). In "The Slit," the

initial essay in The Immense Journey, Kassebaum finds the "prototype

essay" for Eiseley's other "journeys" and also "an admirable metaphor

for his accumulated work," for in the essay the narrator, situated in

a slit in the earth, is able to "look metaphorically upwards through

history" and toward the future (102). The essay, then, provides both

a perspective and a journey. And Kassebaum further notes that the

cyclical journey of Halley's comet is the basis of the structure of

The Invisible Pyramid (114).

Also worthy of notice is Eiseley's penchant for the journey on

which the reader is invited. Angyal finds the shamanisticc per-

spective" useful in the journey "backward through time and outward

from man to his fellow creatures" (18). And Haney notes that Eiseley

asks the reader to accompany him "on an inward journey back into the

psyche, to where humans and animals merge" (217).

Eiseley's merging of narrative and reflection is another

technique that has received some attention. Angyal says that Eiseley's

accomplishment "is virtually to invent a new genre--an imaginative

synthesis of literature and science--one that enlarged the power and

range of the personal essay" (39). Carlisle contends that Eiseley

"discovered and developed a new prose idiom for science and for

literature" ("Poetic Achievement" 112). Angyal defines what Eiseley

called his "concealed essay" as one in which the subject matter "is

framed or 'concealed' by the personal approach, which serves as a

rhetorical device to engage the reader's attention" (39). Thus

Eiseley develops

a highly elaborate form, with frequent literary references
and allusions, numerous quotations, multiple themes, and an
interwoven structure of contemplative concerns. This casual
and informal, though sophisticated technique brings nar-
rative and personal experience--essentially fictional and
autobiographical tools--to bear on what is otherwise
expository material--scientific fact and hypothesis.
(Angyal 39)

The form created is what I shall treat in Chapter III as a hybrid genre,

a combination of science and literature that draws on the work of

writers as disparate as the British parson-naturalists, American

romantics such as Emerson and Melville, and twentieth-century thinkers

such as Whitehead and Santayana. As an interdisciplinary hybrid,

Eiseley's genre engages not only autobiography, philosophical

reflection, and popularization of scientific information, but literary

intertexts and tutor texts, philosophy, and the politics of rocketry

and education.


Studies of Eiseley's texts, then, have centered on biography, on

theme, on the development of personas, on his role as a natural

history writer and environmentalist, and on his development of

narrative and autobiographical techniques. Scholars have not, however,

addressed the framework of metaphors and analogies, the integral

relationship of thought and image and purpose, that may be perceived

in Eiseley's major collections of essays. My purpose in this study is

to examine the question and the necessity of popularization and to

examine Eiseley's reasons and methods for popularizing the evolving

concepts of evolution. He is a popularizer of scientific information

whose purposes are not only scientific, but literary as well (indeed,

for Eiseley the two are hardly separable). I shall argue that the key

to Eiseley's method of popularization is the use of metaphors and

analogues which are what I shall call "informing"--that is, both

carrying information and giving form, eidos, to the thought--and which

Eiseley himself discusses in terms of Stephen C. Pepper's "root

metaphors." In the etymological sense of the Latin informare, "to

give material form to" or "to form an idea of," these figures help to

shape the information imparted or to give form to an idea, but they

also "inform" in the usual exegetical sense. In the rare sense of

helping to shape the mind, the term fits the texts, since a major

purpose is to (re)shape the reader's mental constructs concerning

science, culture, and evolution. These metaphors, involving simple

objects and images, do not appear accidentally, nor are they mere

ornaments. Instead, as they "inform" the essays they provide the

theoretical models that are often used as a means of approaching

complex material in scientific explanations.

My contention is that in what Heidegger calls "here and now and

in little things" ("Question" 33) Eiseley discovers a means of

explaining the complex materials of evolution to a public that he saw

as skeptical, especially toward the notion of continuing evolution

(Haney 201). But in the "little things" that function as metaphors

and models he also finds a means of exploring the process of knowing,

and he attempts to displace certain popular assumptions that have

largely arisen out of metaphor, such as the emphasis (partly arising

from Darwin's own writing, but largely from writings of his followers)

on the aspect of warfare in evolution--an emphasis that resulted in

Herbert Spencer's "social Darwinism"--in favor of an understanding

that stresses the cooperative, symbiotic elements of physical and

cultural evolution.

Thus the metaphors in Eiseley's texts function heuristically to

join explanation with exploration of other possible understandings,

even with exploration of how we understand at all. If, as Gerber and

McFadden contend, the essay in its classical roots is "a vehicle for

exploration rather than demonstration" (21), then the heuristic

function of the metaphors only reinforces the larger heuristic

function of the essays. As models of struggle are replaced by models

of cooperation, the possibility of exploring an other understanding is

always present. But the metaphors also function effectively and

persuasively; as a popularizer Eiseley attempts to evoke the sympathy

with and concern for man's relationship to the natural world that will

lead to cooperation rather than struggle, to understanding of the

"living screen" rather than dominance of animate and inanimate nature.

Eiseley's central concern, then, is the development of man--

biologically and culturally--through evolution. For Eiseley,

evolution itself is both subject and method, both subject of the quest

and source of the question, for "indeed evolution itself has become

S. a figurative symbol" ("The Illusion," ST 275). Thus

evolutionary science is both subject and vehicle of understanding.

Cultural evolution has brought man into a world of technology, of

machines, of "objectivity," of scientism. A frightening result for

humankind is the loss of humane concern, of pity, of the capacity for

wonder that may accompany the necessary Darwinian understanding.

"Like Kierkegaard, Eiseley demanded to know the inner, personal

meaning of the great intellectual schemes" (Gerber and McFadden 113).

Thus he questions the individual's role in evolving knowledge and

evolving culture.

If evolution, then, provides the central concern and the central

metaphor of Eiseley's texts, through which he examines human being and

becoming, factors the texts must confront are the changes of life

through time, and chance or contingency. The metaphors for the

physical universe, paradoxically, come from the cultural universe.

The journey is basic. It is the central metaphor through which

Eiseley approaches the question Where shall I live. ? The journey

is also the means of exploring the method of understanding. The

journey is epistemological, for it is the model for the way we learn--

stopping, starting, moving without always knowing our direction,

following a map or a metaphor. The metaphor of journey is the journey

of metaphor as well. At issue is the epistemological question How

shall I know where I shall live in this embracing system? Within this

journey, the physical factor of contingency has been represented in

various cultures by symbols for those elements in nature that man

cannot understand. Contingency is the "trickster" of primitive man, a

dice game, or a shuffling of cards.

Within the metaphor of the journey and its accompanying

contingencies, Eiseley employs a no less integral framework of

metaphors from the physical universe and the body of man as he treats

cultural evolution. The most important physical metaphors are related

to hand, eye, and tongue and their associated philosophemes. The eye

is the organ for the philosophemes of perception, observation, and

participation; the hand is the metaphor of concept because it grasps,

holds, gathers together. The hand-eye link is basic to our metaphors

of knowing. The tongue, which participates in the voice-ear circuit

of knowing, becomes a metonym for language, which is in turn a

metonym for culture. (And Umberto Eco notes that metaphor, often

assumed to be based on similarity rather than on contiguity, "can be

traced back to a subjacent chain of metonymic connections" [68]). The

cultural metaphors for the physical and physical metaphors for the

cultural are, as we shall see, vital in Eiseley's heuristic of

learning and in his program of displacing certain well-known

metaphors, especially metaphors of machine and struggle, often

associated with popularization of scientific concepts.

Eiseley is clearly aware of the role of metaphor in

popularization. He notes "that it is the successful analogy or symbol

which frequently allows the scientist to leap from a generalization in

one field of thought to a triumphant achievement in another" ("The

Illusion of the Two Cultures," ST 274). For him, scientific analogies

are not separate from but identical to the creative act of the

literary imagination:

Such images drawn from the world of science are every bit
as powerful as great literary symbolism and equally
demanding upon the individual imagination of the scientist
who would fully grasp the extension of meaning which is
involved. It is, in fact, one and the same creative act in
both domains. (275)

For Eiseley, such analogies are essential to scientific communication

as well as to popularization: "It is only by the hook of analogy, by

the root metaphor that science succeeded in extending its

domain" ("How the World Became Natural," FT 20)."

"But metaphor is never innocent," says Jacques Derrida. "It

orients research and fixes results" (Writing and Difference 17). The

"impression" of the image, in Herman Rapaport's terms, may remain even

if we forget the image itself. Thus the "impression 'houses' or

'supports' the gaze of the reader"; but the image, "itself

framed, can suddenly stage itself as stage and in that way absent

itself or disappear from the viewer's consciousness as image, object,

or prop" (61,60). Image, metaphor, analogy can disappear from

immediate view; yet, remaining unknown to the perceiver or to the

creator, it can provide a framework for understanding, can shape

results, can be the only means of understanding for even the scientist

who cannot see the "waves" or "particles" that he comes to view as

complementary theories.

"Even the traditional language of the natural sciences cannot

claim to be totally literal," says M. H. Abrams, although "its key

terms often are not recognized to be metaphors until, in the course of

time, the general adoption of a new analogy yields perspective into

the nature of the old" (20). As Howard Gruber suggests, "images

generate ideas and ideas clarify images" (133). Or as M. H. Abrams

notes, the "facts" of a scientific understanding may be chosen and

shaped by the figures which convey the understanding. "For facts are

facta, things made as much as things found, and made in part by the

analogies through which we look at the world as through a lens" (20).

The role of scientific metaphor as a controlling force in human

culture is thus inescapable. David Edge posits the centrality of

ambiguous technological metaphors in contemporary thinking.

Technological devices, he says, have become part of our everyday

existence, "forming the literal basis of metaphors which give

implicit, tacit structures to our thought and feeling" (136). Edge

notes that the successful metaphor, "by radically restructuring our

perception of the situation, creates new questions, and, in so

doing, largely determines the nature of the answers" (136, italics in

original). Successful metaphors are usually ambiguous, and the result

is a certain ambivalence in the public mind that leaves the public

open to manipulation (137-139). Another possibility he suggests is

that metaphor may "alter feelings and attitudes towards oneself and

others, and the natural world," with Descartes' image of the body as

machine a classic example (140). Further, and most significantly,

Edge suggests that the metaphor is likely to be accompanied by

"attitudes appropriate to its literal referent" (141), so that in the

popular mind the vehicle replaces the tenor. Society, then, responds

with attitudes toward the vehicle instead of attitudes toward the

tenor of the metaphor. In a kind of unwitting Derridean reversal, the

vehicle becomes the tenor; assuredly the vehicle shapes the response

to the tenor. Such response clearly occurred to the metaphor of the

universe as clock, with resulting shifts in attitudes toward nature

from cooperation to exploitation--man as master of the machine (Edge

141)--and in the social application of the Darwinian metaphor of

struggle in the tangled bank epitomized by Herbert Spencer's notion of

struggle in the economic marketplace--survival of the "fittest" by any

"useful" means. Thus metaphor itself becomes a means of "establishing

and reinforcing moral and social control" (142).

That Eiseley is aware of the social and moral implications of

scientific metaphors is clear when he writes of the role of evolution

as a symbol, the result of the creative act:

Indeed evolution itself has become such a figurative symbol,
as has also the hypothesis of the expanding universe. The
laboratory worker may think of these concepts in a totally
empirical fashion as subject to proof or disproof by the
experimental method. Like Freud's doctrine of the
subconscious, however, such ideas frequently escape from the
professional scientist into the public domain. There they
may undergo further individual transformation and
embellishment. Whether the scholar approves or not, such
hypotheses are now as free to evolve in the mind of the
individual as are the creations of art. .
As figurative insights into the nature of things, such
embracing conceptions may become grotesquely distorted or
glow with added philosophical wisdom. ("The
Illusion," ST 277)

Because the figurative insight is itself subject to evolution, "we

will do well," Eiseley says early in his writing career, "to take a

long second look at the history of [evolution] and at its moral

implications" (DC 326).

The problem of metaphorical transfer is one that James Bunn also

addresses, contending that the transfer of a discovery from one field

to another often leads to distortion. In fact,

the successes of Newtonian mechanics, of Darwinian
evolution, of information theory, might be gauged by their
widespread misapplication in remote disciplines. The
complete substitution of the model for a different problem
produced cross-categorical sports such as the interiori-
zation of Newtonian space inside the head of Lockean
psychology, the transformation of natural selection into an
economic principle justifying Herbert Spencer's dog-eat-dog
theories, and the chess-playing computer that would
subjugate man. (25)

Other transfers, such as Harvey's comparison of hydraulics to the

circulation of blood, have been more successful; but the distortions

have occurred, Bunn suggests, when "revolutionary models were

understood to be special cases of wider phenomena which the original

designers had not imagined" (26). Such understandings of metaphors

and models, then, are not necessarily detrimental. According to Bunn

the danger arises chiefly when the model is perceived as a panacea


If in Eiseley's view evolution itself has undergone a process of

transformation, one purpose of the contemporary natural history writer

is to use science as the vehicle for other understandings. The

struggle suggested by Darwin and his followers has escaped from the

domain of the scientist, and the metaphor of the tangled bank has

brought both "enrichment and confusion." If science moves by what

Eiseley calls "the hook of analogy" and the analogy is often altered

as it moves into the public mind, then the results may be powerful.

"The machine analogy," says Eiseley, ". bulks large in the

interpretation of eighteenth-century thought and descends into our own

day" ("How the World Became Natural," FT 20). An analogy may even be


yet so potent is its effect upon a whole generation of
scientific thinking that it may lie buried in the lowest
stratum of accepted thought, or color unconsciously the
thinking of entire generations. While proceeding with
what is called "empirical research" and "experiment," the
scientist will almost inevitably fit such experiments into
an existing comprehensive framework, an integrative forumla,
until such time as that principle gives way to another.
(Eiseley, "How the World Became Natural" 20)

In the words of the early medical scientist William Harvey, "Doctrine

once sown strikes deep its root," and "wont and custom become a second

nature" (120). Having studied thoroughly the scientists whom he later

called the "dancers in the ring" (ASH Chap. 18)--the thinkers of

Bacon's time and their responses to empiricism, the forerunners of

Darwin and their difficulty in seeing outside their own "framework" of

analogies, and the Darwinians and their tendency to emphasize one

aspect of evolution, the struggle, to the detriment of the larger

view--Eiseley is, both in his explicit statements and in his textual

methods, clearly aware of the scientific, social, and cultural

importance of metaphor. For him, then, one of the primary tasks of

the literary naturalist is to help modify the old metaphors and

provide new ones.

My contention, then, is that Eiseley's texts attempt to shift

from metaphors of fixity and decidability long dominant in Western

thinking, for as we have seen Eiseley is aware that the machine

metaphors continued to have an impact long after their time, and to

return to simple, natural, physical metaphors for cultural changes,

and to cultural metaphors for physical changes. I see in Eiseley's

texts an attempt to displace conventional metaphors of struggle,

reductionism, teleology, hierarchy, fixity, decidability, and

determinacy in favor of metaphors which become models of an other way

of viewing nature and culture.

Thus metaphors of struggle are replaced by those of symbiosis;

metaphors of reductionism, by those of the inexplicable or of "magic";

metaphors of teleology, by those of the unexpected or unplanned;

metaphors of hierarchy (both the power hierarchy, whether in nature or

in human affairs, and the hierarchy of fields of knowledge), by those

of coexistence or of symbiosis (especially, in cultural affairs, the

symbiosis of "science" and "art"); metaphors of fixity, by those of

continuous change; metaphors of decidability, by those of

undecidability; metaphors of determinacy, by those of indeterminacy.

Thus the struggle in the tangled bank is replaced by the metonymic

statement, which becomes metaphorical, that flowers changed the world

(by providing oxygen, plants made animate life possible, and by

providing seed for sustenance, flowers made possible the chain of food

leading to man). Human phagocytes "sacrifice" themselves for the

organism. Circular or recurring time gives way to unreturning,

continuously altering time. The planned, ordered, machine-like

universe gives way to the "hazard" of a dice game; even the mingling

of genetic traits that sexual attraction brings is the shuffling of a

deck of cards. The reductionism of Ernst Haeckel, who proclaimed in

the nineteenth century, before modern cell biology, that all mystery

is annulled by knowledge of the components of the cell, is displaced

by the inexplicability of alchemy (ironically, Hermes, inventor of

alchemy, twice rescues Ulysses, Eiseley's prototypical wanderer, on

his journeys) or the sphex wasp's uncanny awareness of its prey's most

vulnerable spot. Eiseley's metaphors and metonyms, images and

journeys lead to understanding how we came to where we are, to human

sympathy for one another, to concern for the natural world that

produced us. Eiseley's question Where shall I live in this embracing

system? is expanded to How shall I know where I shall live in this

embracing system? The answers are not answers, but explorations--on

the most obvious level discursive, but begun more importantly through

the displacement of metaphors that have reinforced notions of fixity,

teleology, hierarchy, reductionism, struggle, decidability, and



1. Gerber and McFadden note six recurrent "Eiseleyan motifs":

1. Time is immense, linear, and creative.
2. Humanity belongs to the community of descent.
3. The human brain creates a second world.
4. For the evolutionist, the common day has turned
5. Guided by Bacon's ideas, science can serve
human ends.
6. Scientific knowledge bestows neither freedom
nor the capacity for love. (50-54)

2. Eiseley articulated four perspectives that had to be
understood and accepted before Darwin's thesis could be stated: (1)
the great age of the earth, (2) the succession of geological and
animate forms, (3) the great quantity of individual variation and the
significance of minute changes in creating species, and (4) the
decline of the eighteenth-century notion of the world as a great,
balanced machine (see DC Chaps. I-VIII; these perspectives are more
succinctly stated in FT 70-71). All require a dynamic rather than a
static conception of nature (DC 6) and an awareness of a universe
"being made continuously" (DC 9), as well as "a combination of Judeo-
Greek ideas, amalgamated within the medieval church itself" to bring

about "the recovery of the lost history of life, and the demonstration
of its total interrelatedness" (DC 6).

3. Schwartz pinpoints Eiseley's motif of "a modern-day
'fugitive' on a recollective journey through the darkness of interior
and exterior reality" ("The 'Immense Journey' of an Artist" 63), a
motif Eiseley treats also in All the Strange Hours, as he identifies
with an escaped fugitive who perished in a snowstorm when Eiseley was
five years old ("The Time Traders" 248-257). Schwartz also treats the
motif of the fugitive in The Night Country as man becomes the attacker
who makes war on nature, while the sensitive observer becomes the
"fugitive" searching for harmony with nature outside the activities of
his fellows who would "conquer" the natural environment ("The 'Immense
Journey' of an Artist" 64-65). Pickering treats The Immense Journey,
The Night Country, and All the Strange Hours in terms of Eiseley's
"selves" or "personas," each of which is accompanied by certain
images, with the personas of wanderer, drifter, traveler, and fugitive
sometimes wearing "masks and disguises" and reinforcing the journey
metaphors (20, 118). The fugitive, she notes, is fleeing; he is the
dominant persona, becoming dominant only after examining the other
"possible selves" (119).

4. In establishing these four functions, I acknowledge the
influence of Edward Manier, who establishes five broad rhetorical
categories for understanding Darwin's scientific uses of metaphor:
"(1) critical-persuasive, (2) heuristic, (3) semantic, (4) explanatory
and (5) affective" (182).

5. The other physical metaphors Eiseley uses to represent
cultural evolution derive from the physical world but are not included
here because they are simply recurrent metaphors that do not function,
as do the metaphors that derive from the philosophemes, in Eiseley's
heuristic of the learning process. The spiral, whose most basic form
is the double helix of the DNA molecule, occurs also in the vortices
of tornados, whirlpools. It is basic to the code of life, but it is
also a model for the unexpected. The spiral in Eiseley's texts is a
physical counter-model to the traditional image of the circle of
completion, teleology. The spiral is a paradoxical model--at once the
code that controls and the uncontrollable, unexpected force that
introduces chance or disorder into the orderly.
The circle functions as a metaphor of enclosure or restriction.
It is most effective in Eiseley's chapter on the tendency of science
to become enclosed in its own systems, "The Dancers in the Ring" (ASH
Chap. 18), in which he compares scientists caught in the enclosure of
their own system to dancers in the circle of fungi that arises
overnight (an interesting play on the transitoriness of scientific and
philosophical systems from the perspective of the earth's age), the
circle known as a "fairy ring" in Bacon's age.
The web, too, is a metaphor from the physical world. Eiseley's
usual web is the glistening, fragile web of a spider caught by the
sun's light. But the web is also a "nerve net," and it is the screen
that links all living beings.


Although his concerns become increasingly "literary" in the later

essays, Eiseley's work is basically that of a popularizer. The

significance of the popularizer's role is evident in the comments on

popularization made early in Darwin's Century:

Theupopularizer, however, was often a very significant
figure in the earlier centuries of science. His work might
plant the germ of new ideas in other, more systematic minds,
v and the actual diffusion of his books, as represented by
numbers of editions and translations, can throw light upon
the ideas which were beginning to intrigue the public
imagination. (30) .

Eiseley also comments that, in writing for a larger audience, "no man

expounds upon great ideas to a single audience. Man is not one

public; he is many and the messages he receives are likely to become

garbled in transmission" ("Man Against the Universe," ST 208-209).

This garbling, however, is a necessary process in the evolution of the

"message." Eiseley's texts are concerned with a "scientific

synthesis" which can never be "really fixed in the public mind until

that public has been prepared to receive it through anticipatory

glimpses" ("Man Against the Universe," ST 209). These "anticipatory

glimpses" are Eiseley's subject as he presents science, in combination

with his own humanistic insights, on a popular level.

What Is Popularization?

The term popularization refers to making popular or making

intelligible and interesting to the layman information which has


formerly been limited to the specialist. Popularization is

vulgarization, "making vulgar," making information accessible to the

mass of people rather than to a scientific, cultural, or educational

elite. The negative connotations of vulgarization in English suggest

an elitist view that specialized information, whether literary or

scientific, belongs in the realm of the specialist. If, however,

writing is the province of the "literary" specialist, then

popularization is a part of the domain. To borrow from Michel Serres

(writing on Michelet's book of natural history The Sea), "There are

texts, and that is all" ("Michelet: The Soup" 38).

The popularizer's texts are not technical or scientific

treatises. The strictly scientific paper requires factual, detailed

sifting of evidence, often organized into four sections: Materials

and Methods, Results, Conclusions, and Discussion. Only in the last

two sections should commentary or interpretation appear, and then only

on the basis of evidence. Scientific writing for the professional

audience is direct, nonreflective, usually not figurative, except when

an analogy or a metaphor seems essential for clarification (more

likely in a textbook or a conference presentation than in a paper

published for an audience of specialists). _The emhasis is on method,

since replication of the experiment is the key to verificationpLth

results, and some emphasis is given to the contribution to the body of

scientific knowledge. "Human interest" is of little or no concern in

modern scientific writing.

In contrast, popularization usually emphasizes the "human

element"--the scientist who, in James Watson's words, "winged into the

Eagle to tell everyone within hearing distance that we had found the

secret of life" (148) or the anthropologist, in Eiseley's "The Relic

Men," who carefully removes a "petrified woman," actually no more than

a concretion that had become an old bachelor's fetish, before dumping

it in a canyon to avoid the museum director's wrath at the expense of

bringing in a worthless piece of stone (NC Chap. 8).

The popularizer emphasizes what he or she thinks an informed

public needs to know: the informed public neither needs nor wants to

.. know the materials and methods by which one may conduct an experiment

j in replicating DNA, but wants to understand the architectonics of the

/ DNA molecule; the informed public neither needs nor wants to know how

to reconstruct the skeleton of a prehistoric animal, but may be

interested in perceiving the relationship of the prairie dog to man in

the evolutionary scheme. Thus the popularizer focuses on im.jliati~

and ramifications rather than on materials and methebd or on how to

replicate the experiment.

One other distinction between scientific writing and popular

e scientific writing is the far wider use of tropes and figures in

popularizing. Though the scientist may use metaphor and the metaphor

may come to dominate popular notions and applications of his theory,

as discussed in Chapter I, his basic emphasis is factual, not

metaphoric. It is in popularizing that the metaphor becomes dominant--

that the double helix becomes more than the means of understanding a

molecule, that the tangled bank becomes the means of understanding

evolution as struggle, that an individual cell becomes a model for the

biosphere (Thomas, Lives Chap. 1). In Eiseley's texts, the metaphors

of popularization are explored, tried, "worried" into a system of

subversive metaphors that remove--one might say "derail"--the popular

metaphors of mechanism, struggle, determinacy, fixity, teleology,

reductionism, decidability, hierarchy.

Eiseley popularizes the basic concepts of evolution, but he

emphasizes the implications of evolution and of what George Gaylord

Simpson calls the "new" evolution--cultural evolution--for the human

future. Popularization of pre- and post-Darwinian evolution involves

more than explaining what Eiseley calls the "community of descent."

To comprehend the principles of evolution requires one level of

understanding. Here Eiseley emphasizes the four vital factors of vast

and linear time, gradual geological change, the "naturalness" of

extinction, and the creative role of gradual change in organic and

inorganic objects (specifically delineated in DC I-VIII and FT 70-71).

But to imagine, to visualize, the implications of the theory for human

life today in terms of process and change requires additional

understanding. Psychological, ethical, and moral implications are

inextricably interwoven in any complex understanding. To use the

theory, in Bacon's words, "for the uses of life" in a combination of

science and art requires far more than naive understanding of the


The early evolutionists stressed the "struggle" of life. The

infamous result of this stress was Herbert Spencer's "social

Darwinism," a notion that since the fit will survive, then any method

one uses, in society or in business, is simply a means of ensuring

"survival." The resulting disregard of individual rights and humane

values, especially among late-nineteenth-century American businessmen,

is well known.1 (Mis)readings of Darwinian thinking have thus led to

disregard of the individual's feelings, rights, and relationships both

to other human beings and to animate and inanimate life. For Eiseley,

an understanding of the ramifications of evolution is essential for

the modern informed public. Understanding of man's relation to time,

to the world, to nature, to the ecosystem, and to other men can come

only through understanding the evolutionary net, the living screen,

that has produced us. The answer to the question Where shall I live

. ? depends, in Eiseley's view, on an understanding of the

evolutionary screen, an understanding in terms other than the popular

"transformations" of Darwin's metaphor of the tangled bank. Eiseley

is, then, a popularizer whose role is both dissemination of

evolutionary science and application of that science to develop public

understanding of interrelationship rather than struggle. His approach

is explanatory, heuristic, affective, and persuasive. His purposes as

a popularizer are the key to his method, his displacement of

traditional evolutionary metaphors by organic and cultural metaphors

of the "living screen."

Why Popularization Is Necessary

A number of problems--both institutions and attitudes toward

them--make popularization of specialized information, whether from the

natural sciences, the social sciences, or the humanities, an

increasingly important genre of writing. The recurrent termscientism

and terms coined in opposition to it delineate a group of attitudes

that underscore the need for popularization of information from both

the sciences and the humanities. Involving a "fundamental assumption

of a separate, quantifiable, objective world" (Jones 17), scientism,

as it filters into the general public, generates attitudes of awe and

expectations of truth from science that are both factually misleading

and subject to use for manipulative purposes by members of the power

hierarchy. F. R. Leavis, as part of his longstanding debate with

C. P. Snow over his notion of "two cultures," opposes the term

scientism to literarism (Aldous Huxley's coinage). But the opposition

of terms helps to emphasize aspects of the problem of "scientism" that

I should like to address, including the institutionalization of

science, the estrangement of science from the public, the isolation of

specialists from one another, the role of tradition in perpetuating

even (especially) scientific thought, and the effects or dangers of


Institutionalization of Science and Estrangement from the Public

Science in this century, Martin Heidegger maintains, "attains to

the respect due a science only when it has become capable of being

institutionalized"; institutions become essential "because science,

intrinsically as research, has the character of ongoing activity"

("The Age of the World Picture" 124). Eiseley contrasts

institutionalized science with science "as a dream and an ideal of the

individual," suggesting that "powerful and changing forces are at work

upon science, the institution," which "is a construct of men and is

subject, like other social structures, to human pressures and

inescapable distortions" ("The Illusion," ST 272). Historically,

Eiseley contends, western science has grown out of monotheism--

Whitehead's notion of the medieval assumption of the rationality of

God, an ironic "combination of Judeo-Greek ideas, amalgamated within

the medieval church itself" (DC 6)--and out of man's separation from

awareness of other animal life. Thus science looks upon the natural

world "as might a curious stranger" and then turns to man himself with

a look of estrangement, "the same gaze that had driven the animal

forever into the forest" (IP 144). Science is a cultural expression

which can create tools but has "not succeeded in controlling their

ambivalent nature" (Eiseley, UU 81). As an institution "of human

devising and manufacture" (UU 46), science retains a "man-centered way

of looking at the world" (DC 136). An amalgam of many times and many

ways of looking at the world, science is thus a cultural institution,

itself still evolving.

One result of institutionalized science is the belief that

"science" is the domain of "truth." Especially strong in the public

mind, though not infrequently revealed by some scientists, this

assumption is the source of increasing estrangement of the scientific

institution from the general public. The assumption that everything

can be quantified and objectified is part of what Geoffrey Vickers

calls "a mistaken identification of science with rationality" (162).

Thus if "everything real must be fully describable," our culture

rejects a non-quantifiable phenomenon such as intuition "as a strange

incursion from a foreign field called 'aesthetics'" (Vickers 145).

Institutionalized science accepted as the domain of truth easily

becomes authoritarian as well as narrow. The narrowness, Eiseley

contends, has been produced by "high technical specialization, the

deliberate blunting of wonder, and the equally deliberate suppression

of a phase of our humanity in the name of an authoritarian

institution,-science. ." ("The Illusion," ST 271). To Eiseley, such

an attitude represents a kind of "puritanism"--a rigidity and an

inflexibility characteristic of the old puritan "authoritarian desire

to shackle the human imagination," though it arises from "a total

dedication to science" ("The Illusion," ST 269).

Further, an isolated and authoritarian scientific institution

takes on mythological overtones. Increasingly, Eiseley says, science

becomes the twentieth century's "substitute for magic" ("The Time

Effacers," IP 105), and scientists themselves form a kind of priestly

elite. People look to science as the replacement for "primitive magic

as the solution for all human problems" and as the source of human

happiness (Eiseley, "The Spore Bearers," IP 90). As Michel Serres

contends, myth is not excluded from science, but "the science in

question is diffused along paths belonging to myth. It is grasped as

myth, it becomes myth" (Feux et signaux de brume 18, qtd. in Harari

and Bell xix).

One result is a "public unenlighened by the achievements of

science," which, says Jacques Barzun, only "gapes at its wonders,

incapable of critical judgment" (335). The popular mind sees science

as "truth" when it should be asking "What is science?" (Barzun 335).

Both scientists and the general public are guilty of what Roger S.

Jones calls "scientific idolatry," characterized by an "implicit

assumption that an external physical world exists as an objective

reality independent of the human mind and that the business of science

is the discussion and description, not the creation, of that world"

(206-207). Thus science, which is "a value-construct, created by the

human mind" (Jones 42), assumes the role of idol.

Even in 1862, Henry Adams wrote, "Man has mounted science and is

now run away with. I firmly believe that before many centuries more,

science will be the master of man" (Henry to Charles F. Adams, Jr.,

qtd. in Marx 350). Eiseley notes that modern science as "a

professional body" intent upon "regulations" and governed by a narrow

"professionalism" is marked by the assumption "that the accretions of

fact are cumulative and lead to progress, whereas the insights of art

are, at best, singular and lead nowhere, or when introduced into the

realm of science, produce obscurity and confusion" ("The Illusion," ST

272). Unquestioning faith in institutionalized science, in Eiseley's

view, leads to loss of vision, of humanity, of.wonder.! And "when one

has destroyed human wonder and compassion, one has killed man, even if

the man in question continues to go about his laboratory tasks"

("Science and the Sense of the Holy," ST 298).

But another effect of institutionalized science is the creation

of a caste system of cognoscenti and laymen. A scientific elite

emerges--the kind of elite that F. R. Leavis opposed when he attacked

Lord Snow for advocating schools designed to supply large numbers of

"trained technicians" (208). Appearing in the public mind as

possessors of "truth" who move unfailingly toward further

accumulations of "truth," this scientific elite becomes a powerful

political force. As Jiirgen Habermas argues,_the increasing dominance

of science, through research and technology, can lead to the

scientific institution's assuming "the role of an ideology" through

which "the masses will accept their own depoliticization" (Toward a

Rational Society 104). If the model of science replaces communication

and action based on communication, then the depoliticized masses,

separated from knowledge and understanding, turn increasingly toward

the scientific institution.

There emerges, then, "under the slick domination of technology

and science as ideology," a "reorganization of social institutions" in

the name of progress (Habermas, Rational Society 118). The motives

for a technology that can accomplish almost anything are open to

questioning, and science shapes even society itself as technology

projects "what a society and its ruling interests intend to do with

men and things" (Habermas, Rational Society 82). Often if the

decision-makers are able to increase productivity and to manipulate

nature to provide comforts that assuage anxiety, the people are

unaware of repression (Habermas, Rational Society 83). Thus the

combination of "idolatry" toward science and science functioning as

ideology without mediation through the populace is likely to lead to

repression in which the populace cooperates. In a freesociety,

decision-making must involve an informed populace.

SAnd science has other political roles. In Darwin's Century

Eiseley notes the use of the pre-scientific scala nature and of early

scientific notions of "missing links" to suggest racial hierarchy (255-

85). Without the humorous examples that Stephen Jay Gould employs in

The Mismeasure of Man, Eiseley nevertheless..placesin perspective the

use of science for racist and sexist purposes. He cites a Swiss

scholar who not only attempted to relate t he~ ootoft.he Negro to the

form of a hand, but also turned to woman's role in the "hierarchy":

"We may be sure that wherever we perceive an approach to the animal

type, the female is nearer to it than the male. (Carl Vogt,

Lectures on Man [London, 1864], qtd. in DC 265). Eiseley sees in

Darwin's farewell to his South American Indian shipmates "the pathos

of great literature" and suggests that only after he became dominated

by the idea of natural selection did Darwin begin to search for

evidence of the closeness of savages to "missing links." Recalling

Darwin's description, Eiseley says that "Jemmy Button's wistful,

forgotten face is an eternal reproach to those who persist in

projecting upon the bodies of living men the shadow of an unknown

vanished ape" (265).

Specialized, institutionalized science is also tied to other

institutions. Military secrecy requires that research findings with

practical applications remain secret, and the processes of research

are subject to such "bureaucratic encapsulation" that what was once a

free and expected contact between the scientist and the public is no

longer possible (Habermas, Rational Society 76). The client of

research has ceased to be an interested public and has become merely

an agency concerned with technological application of research

findings. Memoranda and research reports replace what Habermas and

Heidegger and Eiseley call "scientific reflection"; and mediation

through public opinion, which could lead to confrontation of technical

capability with human understanding, is replaced by communication

between political authorities and scientific consultants, both tied to

the political institution (Habermas, Rational Society 72-76). Thus

instead of abolishing war and cruelty and corruption, science has

enabled them to thrive and has, in Eiseley's words, allowed problems

to "escape out of scientific hands" ("The Unexpected Universe," UU 46)

to the advantage of the military-industrial complex and to the

detriment of the "uses of life" that Bacon projected for science.

The public, then, willingly participates in its own

depoliticization, accepts the scientific institution as "right," and

remains isolated from the scientific elite. "Man, the tool user,"

says Eiseley, "grows convinced that he is himself only useful as a

tool, that fertility except in the use of the scientific imagination

is wasteful and without purpose. ." ("The Illusion," ST 269). Thus

the isolation of the scientist and of the institution from the public

is a matter of great concern, for as communication is lost man

increasingly accepts his role as a "tool." A scientific elite such as

Leavis decries is separated from the public by lack of communication.

The focus of science on quantification--on "reckoning-up" as

"methodology" (Heidegger, "Science and Reflection" 170)--and

announcements concerning the "hard" subjects by writers such as Lord

Snow lead to further isolation and lack of communication.

Furthermore, a populace isolated from and manipulated by a

scientific-industrial-military institution may willingly cooperate in

destruction of the environment. New technological capabilities "erupt

without preparation into existing forms of life-acivity and conduct"

(Habermas, Rational Society 60). That these new technologies have far-

reaching effects on the physical environment has been treated from

Hawthorne and Thoreau to the present; Leo Marx documents how the

machine, particularly through the railroad metaphor, is asserted in

literature as manipulative, even destructive, technology.2 In

addition, domination of nature and domination of man have become so

linked that we attempt to control nature, refusing to "seek out a

fraternal rather than an exploited nature," but expecting, says

Habermas, "to adapt the environment to our needs culturally rather

than adapting ourselves to external nature" (Rational Society 88,


Yet if specialization, as Heidegger maintains, "is not the

consequence but the foundation of the progress of all research"

("World Picture" 123), neither a "deterioration" nor "an unavoidable

evil," but a necessary result of the presencing of science ("Science

and Reflection" 170), human culture must learn to live with

specialization. Clearly communication seems the most likely means of

living with specialization and remaining part of a free society; such

communication will require popularization of specialized information.

SIn voicing his concern with specialization, Eiseley recalls that

some of the most important scientific discoveries were made by those

who today might be called "amateurs," while today "the content of much

of science and philosophy is confined to learned circles and only

rarely reaches a wider audience" ("Man Against the Universe," ST 208).

The public, he notes, turns to the specialist for answers. "As our

probes into nature become more sophisticated, the greater becomes our

reliance upon the specialist, while he, in turn, appeals to a minute

audience of his peers" ("Man Against the Universe," ST 208). Eiseley

decries the narrowness of writing intended solely for a scientific

elite, just as Jacques Derrida decries what happens to writing in the

humanities when "a writing made to manifest, serve, and preserve

knowledge-for custody of meaning, the repository of learning, and the

laying out of the archive--encrypts itself, becoming secret and

reserved, diverted from common usage, esoteric" and eventually

"becomes the instrument of an abusive power, of a caste of

'intellectuals' that is thus ensuring hegemony, whether its own or

that of special interests. .. ("Scribble" 118).

As science and technology intervene at the most basic biological

level (through manipulation of genetic coding), at the cultural and

political levels, and at the level of man's interaction with his

environment, the role of the reflective scientist is crucial. There

remains the question that Eiseley attempts to answer through

popularization: Where shall I live. .. ? becomes also What is my

role as a reflective scientist in disseminating scientific information

to a public increasingly isolated from an institutionalized scientific

community? Eiseley's fear for the loss of humanity that scientism

has brought is close to Barzun's concern for a public that accepts

science as "truth" instead of questioning What is science? And

Eiseley's task as popularizer is in part to ask the question and to

doubt science itself even as he explicates it. In the human sciences

one uses the self to explore and to learn. Eiseley, as scientist,

uses the self as a means for questioning science and for seeking

values that science itself cannot give or that have been overlooked or

distorted in the transmission of information from one generation to


Isolation of Specialists from One Another

Even the specialist is affected by increasing isolation and by

the separation of science and the humanities as fields of study.

C. P. Snow's rather glib announcement in 1956 that the modern world

is indeed divided into two cultures, with literary intellectuals and

scientists, especially physical scientists, representing separate

poles, is of primary concern to specialists. Snow's dichotomizing of

"cultures," seen in the gentlest light as an oversimplification,

remains significant. F. R. Leavis called Snow a "portent," since "he

has become for a vast public on both sides of the Atlantic a master-

mind and a sage" (42). Snow's concern with the "literary" culture's

"total incomprehension" of science (inability to describe the Second

Law of Thermodynamics is the equivalent of never having read anything

by Shakespeare) leads him to suggest that nonscientific intellectuals

in the West "have never tried, wanted, or been able to understand the

industrial revolution, much less accept it" ("Two Cultures" 22). For

Snow, specialization produces "a tiny elite educated in one

academic skill," but scientists, who "have the future in their bones,"

fare better in his account than benighted literary intellectuals ("Two

Cultures" 17, 19). Increasingly, Geoffrey Vickers asserts, we move

toward an "exaggerated dichotomy between science and nonscience"

(161). As art has moved "into the purview of aesthetics" and science

and machine technology have become dominant (Heidegger, "World Picture"

116), science and art, Vickers says, have become increasingly narrow,

"diminished and incommensurable rivals--the one an island in the sea

of knowledge not certified as Science; the other an island in the sea

of skill not certified as Art" (Vickers 143).

Even between scientific disciplines communication is often

ineffective, and scientists who do not communicate with each other are

unlikely to communicate with the general public. The individual who

hopes for communication between different sciences may even be treated

with suspicion as if he were attempting "to put scientific discussion

on a mass basis and thus to misuse it ideologically" (Habermas,

Rational Society 69). Whatever the realm of knowledge--whether

natural, physical, or human science--the problem of isolation and lack

of understanding continues even as communication between specialists

becomes more limited to the initiated, more mysterious to the public.

Habermas finds "an esoteric scientific public in which experts

exchange knowledge through professional journals or at conferences,"

with at least fifty thousand professional jouornals making the

discourses of knowledge almost impossible to survey, much less to gain

an overview (Rational Society 77).

F Even among scholars in the humanities, such lack of communication

leads to an esotericism that Wayne Booth criticizes in his

Presidential Address to the Modern Language Association in 1982. He

attacks the profession for slipping into jargon and for its failure to

lead students into "critical understanding": ". [W]hen we fail to

test our scholarship by making its most important results accessible

to nonspecialists, we also lose our capacity to address, thus recreate

in each generation, the literate public who can understand its stake

in what we do" (320). Criticizing "recondite" jargons, Booth contends

that literary scholars have lost the "caacity to address each other"

as well as a more general audience and as a result "produce more and

more books and articles for fewer and fewer readers" (321).

Translation of information from one specialty to another and from

specialists to the general public becomes increasingly important.

SMargaret Mead notes that we may be in danger of doing what other

civilizations have done--developing "special esoteric groups who can

communicate only with each other and who can accept as neophytes and

apprentices only those individuals whose intellectual abilities,

temperamental bents, and motivations are like their own" (142-43).

Eiseley recalls the topheavy Mayan system headed by astronomer priests

who calculated time as no civilization had done, but who apparently

became too burdensome and were toppled by revolution; their

descendants worshipped their upended mathematical tablets ("Man in the

Autumn Light," IP 131).J

Such recollections underscore the need for popularization in a

world where specialists fail to communicate even with each other and

turn to news magazines or daily newspapers, as Habermas suggests, to

keep up with developments in other fields than their own. Habermas

also notes the increasing use of journals of abstracts and explains

the problem in spatial terms of "the distances that important

information must traverse in order to enter into the work of another

expert"; he suggests the need for a "detour" involving "the practical

results of technical progress" as mediation before scientific research

can be expressed in literature (Rational Society 77, 52). Even though

information must "take the long route of ordinary language and the

everyday understanding of the layman" on its way from one specialist

to another, such mediation may have advantages; in fact, "the lay

public often provides the shortest path of internal understanding

between mutually estranged specialists," and the result may even help

"the endangered communication between scientists and the general

public in the political sphere" (Habermas, Rational Society 77-78).

The Specialist and the Pull of Tradition

Another concern that accompanies specialization is the immense

difficulty that specialists themselves have in accepting views that

challenge their philosophical framework, the lack of an inter-

disciplinarity that can open new insights and that comes only to those

informed beyond the boundaries of narrow specialties. Of particular

concern for Eiseley, this attitude reveals scientific study as

paradoxically limiting, "apt to produce a restraint, laudable enough

in itself, that can readily degenerate into a kind of institutional

conservatism"--a conservatism that Darwin also noted in his age ("The

Spore Bearers," IP 78). Like the peripheral figures whom Richard

Rorty regards as keeping alive the notion "that this century's

'superstition' was the last century's triumph of reason" and that the

latest terms borrowed from science "may not express privileged

representations of essences" but may be just another vocabulary for

describing the world (367), Eiseley repeatedly responds to science as

a conservative body dependent on narrow professionalism and on

mythmaking for institutional perpetuation that may become its chief


Science, Eiseley suggests, conforms to "style"; he sees "styles

in science just as in other institutions" ("Strangeness in the

Proportion," NC 140). The early years of modern science, the

eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Eiseley perceives as "basking

comfortably in the conception of the balanced world machine" that

provided universal order ("The Unexpected Universe," UU 32) or dancing

in the "fairy ring" of convention ("The Dancers in the Ring," ASH 181-

95). For Eiseley, the modern scientific institution relies on "an

exaggerated conformity and, at the same time, an equally exaggerated

assumption that science, a tool for manipulating the outside, the

material universe, can be used to create happiness and ethical living"

("Strangeness in the Proportion," NC 140). In fact, Eiseley sees a

"new class of highly skilled barbarians," as well as an "unappetizing

puritanism which attaches itself all too readily to those who, without

grace or humor, have found their salvation in 'facts'" ("Strangeness

in the Proportion," NC 142).

And scientific style may also be affected by the general

intellectual milieu. Eiseley chooses Coleridge as an example of a

literary genius who realized, as many scientists did not, "the way in

which the intellectual climate of a given period may unconsciously

retard or limit the theoretical ventures of an exploring scientist,"

for Coleridge suggests that there is "a sort of secret and tacit

compact among the learned, not to pass beyond a certain limit in

speculative science" ("How Life Became Natural," FT 61). Ironically,

Eiseley suggests, it may be the literary figure who can see the

dancers in the ring, even even when the dancers themselves cannot.

Eiseley seems intent on explaining the misapprehension involved

in nineteenth-century notions of objectivity and exact empiricism,

using as an example a scientist who, at the turn of the century--

before Einstein and Freud, or the rediscovery of Mendel--asserted that

all past generations lived in a world of illusions ("How the World

Became Natural," FT 5). Because scientists are limited by their own

perceptions and by what their milieu tells them is important, they

work within a framework suggestive of Thomas S. Kuhn's "paradigm

shift" (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was published two

years after The Firmament of Time and includes references to Darwin's

Century). Eiseley states the pattern thus:

While proceeding with what is called "empirical research"
and "experiment," the scientist will almost inevitably fit
such experiments into an existing comprehensive framework,
an integrative formula, until such time as that principle
gives way to another. ("How the World Became Natural," FT

Two restrictions limit what many perceive as "discovery": first, the

scientist "must extrapolate his laws from what exists in his or his

society's moment of time," and further, "he is limited by what his

senses can tell him of the surrounding world" ("The Unexpected

Universe," UU 30). For Eiseley, "even the great visionary thinker

never completely escapes his own age or the limitations it imposes

upon him" ("Strangeness in the Proportion," NC 131). And if

individuals are susceptible to the pressures of the intellectual

milieu, so are the professions as a whole: "Professional academic

science tends to strengthen the mutual pull of the dancers already

circling in the ring, not, on the whole, those trying to dance out"

("The Dancers in the Ring," ASH 189).

Nor are scientists exempt from the pull of emotions as well as

the pull of tradition, philosophy, style, and professionalism. Gerald

Holton notes the impact of "personal struggle" (19), of the elements

of science which he treats as "themata" or "(usually unacknowledged)

presuppositions pervading the work of scientists" (29). Holton is

convinced that there is often "quite flagrant neglect of 'experimental

evidence' when such evidence is contrary to a given thematic

commitment" (14). Against the popular notion that science is "a

sustained, undeviating march toward some final truth," Eiseley places

the "ambiguities, fears, and trends which may play upon and influence

severely disciplined minds" ("The Dancers in the Ring," ASH 186).

Even supposedly objective "experiments are apt to be colored by what

we subconsciously believe or hope" ("The Coming of the Giant Wasps,"

ASH 239). Using Darwin and Freud as opposite poles of interpretation,

Eiseley points out "that, in the supposed objective world of science,

emotion and temperament may play a role in our selection of the mental

tools with which we choose to investigate nature" ("Science and the

Sense of the Holy," ST 187).

Another problem related to the pull of tradition and unacknow-

ledged presupposition is that science itself is often hesitant to

recognize what Eiseley considers an essential factor in nature, the

"discontinuity in natural events"--a discontinuity underscored by

quantum theory and Mendel's genetics and the unpredictable rhythm of

the ice ages, all of which repeatedly reassert nature's "hidden

powers" ("The Lethal Factor," ST 255). Eiseley regrets that for some

scientists achievement in a single discipline is identified "with

certitude on a cosmic scale"; as a "heretic," Eiseley is not

interested, however, in denigrating science itself, but "in a farther

stretch of the imagination" to the point where "predictability ceases

and the unimaginable begins" ("The Unexpected Universe," UU 31). For

Eiseley, "the tools, if not science itself," are linked to nature's

discontinuities, which are not to be overlooked, and "things grow

incalculable by being calculated" ("The Star Thrower," UU 82).

Eiseley, then, insists on science as a "construct," as a social

institution worthy of objective study. But it is also an "atmosphere

[which] evolves and changes with the society of which it is a part"

("How the World Became Natural," FT 7). He recognizes that even

supposedly objective specialists reflect the impact of the

intellectual milieu, of the tension between tradition and change or

between self and observation.

The Threat of Technology and the Need for Reflection

In addition to the lack of communication between specialized

fields as well as between specialists and nonspecialists, there is the

threat of technology. Technological application of science is often

perceived as the greatest threat to modern culture, both because of

its impact on culture and its ability to destroy both culture and

life. But at least as dangerous as political manipulation or the

physical threat of destruction is the role of man as "master" of

technology, the determination to fulfill the possibility suggested by

the vehicle of the essential technological metaphor. Heidegger

suggests that the danger is not in technology itself, but in its

"Enframing," which "threatens man with the possibility that it could

be denied to him to enter into a more original revealing and hence to

experience the call of a more primal truth" ("The Question Concerning

Technology" 28). Similarly, writing of the fear of science, Richard

Rorty echoes Heidegger in suggesting that what is most frightening is

the elimination of "the possibility of something new under the sun, of

human life as poetic rather than merely contemplative" (389). Those

he calls "edifying philosophers" attempt

to keep space open for the sense of wonder which poets can
sometimes cause--wonder that there is something new under
the sun, something which is not an accurate representation


of what was already there, something which (at least for the
moment) cannot be explained and can barely be described.

Eiseley contends that "the human realm is denied in favor of the world

of pure technics" ("The Illusion," ST 269). Thus arises Eiseley's

concern with the recurrent appearance of the "unexpected" and the

human need to feel wonder in an "unexpected universe." In his view,

the function of the poet and the function of the scientist overlap in

these two areas; they function as does Rorty's philosopher. Darwin,

Einstein, and Newton, as well as Leonardo, Eiseley says, "show a deep

humility and an emotional hunger which is the prerogative of the

artist" ("The Illusion," ST 276).

Yet as Heidegger further warns, "So long as we represent

technology as an instrument, we remain held fast in the will to master

it" ("Question" 32). In the will to master technology, there is also

the will to master and to manipulate the environment and to use

technology in extending human manipulation beyond the earth. The

result, in Eiseley's terms, is that we have become "secretly homesick

for a lost world of inward tranquility," because "knowledge, or at

least what the twentieth century acclaims as knowledge, has not led to

happiness" ("The Ghost Continent," UU 5). What is needed, according

to Eiseley, is an echo of Baconian hope: "The special value of

science lies not in what it makes of the world, but in what it

makes of the knower" ("How Natural Is Natural? FT 172). The answer

grows out of reflection. Even the oldest subjects of reflection--the

questions that Job heard in the whirlwind--have, for Eiseley,

"precisely the ring of modern science" ("The Hidden Teacher," UU 48).

In the reflection that asks the questions--in the sensitivity to

both physical and animate surroundings, in the awareness of the web

that connects all life, we at least refuse "to close our eyes to

ultimate questions," and we reject mere "classification and

experiment" as escape ("The Coming of the Giant Wasps," ASH 239).

What Habermas calls "the self-reflection of the sciences themselves"

is a means by which "philosophizing retains its universal power" and

can serve as "interpreter between one specialized narrow-mindedness

and another" (Rational Society 8). Heidegger suggests that "every

researcher and teacher of the sciences, every man pursuing a way

through a science, can move, as a thinking being, on various levels of

reflection and can keep reflection vigilant" ("Science and Reflection"

181-82). Both Heidegger and Eiseley use the metaphor of the journey

to describe the reflective intellectual quest of humankind--the

wandering and wondering that constitute the method of knowledge. It

is reflection, says Heidegger, that "first brings us onto the way

toward the place of our sojourning" ("Science and Reflection" 181-82).

But reflection is more than mere consciousness: "It is calm,

self-possessed surrender to that which is worthy of questioning"

(Heidegger, "Science and Reflection" 180). And if "Enframing" is the

danger of technology, there is still, within the essence of

technology, a "saving power," which is, for Heidegger, "here and now

and in little things" ("Question" 33). Thus, says Heidegger,

Because the essence of technology is nothing technological,
essential reflection upon technology and decisive
confrontation with it must happen in a realm that is, on the
one hand, akin to the essence of technology and, on the
other, fundamentally different from it. Such a realm is
art. ("Question" 34)

Paradoxically, though, "the more questioningly we ponder the essence

of technology, the more mysterious the essence of art becomes"

("Question" 34). Reflection through art, then, is one answer. In

Holderlin's words, which Heidegger quotes, "Where danger grows, there

grows the saving power." Whereas Heidegger turns to poetry, Eiseley

turns to poetry and to a form of the informal essay that blends

science and poetry, anthropological insights and literary passages--a

hybrid genre which I shall discuss in Chapter III. In Eiseley's

reflection science is the vehicle for understanding; in learning about

time, evolution, nature itself, one learns about man. What Eiseley

attempts is what Jacob Bronowski calls the task "of making the

physical world personal to each of us in our abilities and

experiences," for "science for nonscientists needs to be directed

towards an understanding of nature as she expresses herself in us, the

human creatures" (1).

Habermas sees scientists themselves as lacking direct power,

though an emerging technocraticc model" reverses the roles of

professional and politician so that the politician comes to serve the

"scientific intelligentsia," and he sees a need for discussion that

brings together technical and practical knowledge (Rational Society 62-

63). As both citizens and professionals, scientists need "to go

beyond the technical recommendations that they produce and reflect

upon their practical consequences" (Habermas, Rational Society 78).

Eiseley reverberates the point, not abstractly, but through anecdote,

in the account of an atomic scientist who chose not to move a turtle

because he had already "tampered enough with the universe" ("How Human

Is Man?" FT 148). The scientist as citizen and professional must

communicate. "A scientized society," Habermas contends, "could

constitute itself as a rational one only to the extent that science

and technology are mediated with the conduct of life through the minds

of its citizens" (Rational Society 79-80).

One way to meet the threat of technology, then, is with the

reflection that keeps the way open for a merging of disciplines and

for dissemination of scientific insights to a broad audience. The

reflective scientist--or any specialist, for that matter--can provide

the Heideggerian "saving power." In response to notions of "two

cultures," Eiseley asserts, "All talk of the two cultures is an

illusion" ("The Illusion, ST 279). Gerald Holton suggests that

controversies such as that between Snow and Leavis usually result from

"erroneous definition," but that they

serve to remind us how necessary it is for each age to re-
think what "culture" is in each of its multiple senses, what
makes the culture of a people cohere, and what forces and
mechanisms are at work to change it. In this light the
important topic is not to what extent science is separated
from other activities, but rather how we may define and
transmit culture in such a way that the sciences are seen to
be valid components of our culture. (463-64)

Eiseley's answer to the threat of technology in a "scientized society"

is to explore and to explain the place of science as a "cultural

construct" through his own artistic medium.

Answers of a Popularizer: Reflective Union of Science and Art

In the reflective essay that combines popularization of

scientific information with philosophic reflection and with literary

methods, insights, and quotations, to produce a blend of science and

art, Eiseley finds one answer to the threat of technology and to the

rift that many perceive between science and the humanities. As a

popularizer, Eiseley incorporates science and art, the utilitarian and

the aesthetic. Indeed, as he contends in "The Illusion of the Two

Cultures," the two are not actually separate. In a stone carved by an

anthropoid who might frighten us today, he finds a meeting of the two


There had not been room in his short and desperate life for
the delicate and supercilious separation of the arts from
the sciences. There did not exist then the refined
distinctions set up between the scholarly percipience of
reality and what has sometimes been called the vaporings of
the artistic imagination. ("The Illusion of the Two
Cultures," ST 271)

The stone was the result of "the kind of mind which, once having

shaped an object of any sort, leaves an individual trace behind it

which speaks to others across the barriers of time and language," for

the carver had "wasted time"; in a world filled with dangers he had

shaped a practical tool and then "with a virtuoso's elegance,

proceeded to embellish his product" (271). Art and science, brought

together in this object, are not separable. Indeed, Heidegger reminds


There was a time when it was not technology alone that
bore the name techne. .
Once there was a time when the bringing-forth of the true
into the beautiful was called techne. And the poiesis of
the fine arts also was called techne. ("Question" 34)

Eiseley says that "it is the pebble that tells the story"; both

science and art demand "a high level of imaginative insight and

intuitive perception" ("The Illusion," ST 279,273). Both are, as the

primitive model suggests, essential in creating man as "man" rather

than as animal.

Indeed, science and art share more than just the creative

process. Because scientific thought can be viewed as "the lived

experience of scientists" (Gruber 124), science and art touch in the

role of the scientist as observer as the artist is observer, with both

recording "lived experience" and neither eliminating the element of

creativity. Or the two may also be seen to merge in what Arthur I.

Miller calls "a domain of thinking where distinctions between

conceptions in art and science become meaningless" because there one

finds "the efficacy of visual thinking" (95, 73). Such a domain is

exemplified by the physicist's portrayals of light and matter as both

waves and particles, which form "'complementary pictures,' both

necessary for a complete description of atomic phenomena" (95). For

Miller this is "the domain where art and science merge," a domain

addressed by thinkers such as Bohr, Einstein, and Poincare, who ignore

traditional categorization of disciplines (95).

For Eiseley, symbols and analogies function in the scientist's

domain as well as in the artist's, and "it is the successful analogy

or symbol which frequently allows the scientist to leap from a

generalization in one field of thought to a triumphant achievement in

another" ("The Illusion," ST 274). Images such as fossil raindrops

drawn from the world of science are every bit as powerful as
great literary symbolism and equally demanding upon the
individual imagination of the scientist who would fully
grasp the extension of meaning which is involved. It is, in
fact, one and the same creative act in both domains. ("The
Illusion," ST 275)

For Eiseley, both poet and scientist bring together responses to

the natural world. Observing that desert rocks still glow after

sunset with the sun's warmth, Eiseley links the two creative roles:


"Similar emanations may come from the writer or the scientist. The

creative individual is someone upon whom mysterious rays have

converged and are again reflected, not necessarily immediately, but in

the course of years" ("The Last Neanderthal," UU 213-14). Artistic

and scientific creation, for Eiseley, "have sprung from the same being

and have their points of contact even in division" ("The Illusion," ST


Further, both poet and scientist deal with what Bergson called

the indeterminationn" that life adds to "matter," an indetermination

that "is, in a sense, an intrusion from a realm which can never be

completely subject to prophetic analysis by science. The novelties of

evolution emerge; they cannot be predicted" (Eiseley, "The Illusion,"

ST 278). Transferred to the realm of scientific or artistic

creativity, the "unexpected" continues to evolve. As both artist and

scientist see through an "inexorable lens," what they see is the

unexpected--"the unlawful, the oncoming world, whether endurable or

mad, but shaped, shaped always by the harsh angles of truth as

glimpsed through the terrible crystal of genius" ("Thoreau's

Unfinished Business," ST 250). The artist, like the scientist, plays

a role in shaping, even creating, humanity. Citing Lewis Mumford's

description of man as "the self-creating animal," Eiseley contends

that because the artist's symbols help "in releasing our humanity from

the solitary tower of the self," an act of "self-creation" takes

place, with the artist's role as crucial ("The Illusion," ST 274).

Although both artist and scientist ask the same questions, they

are often questions that "the rigors of the scientific method do not


enable us to pursue directly" (Eiseley, "The Illusion," ST 274). In

the artist's brain, however, there can exist "the momentary

illumination in which a whole countryside may be transmuted in an

instant" in an "absolute unexpectedness" ("Strangeness in the

Proportion," NC 137), which reflects the unexpectedness of the ongoing

process that produced both the artist and the moment.

Tied as he is to the privileging of "light," "enlightenment,"

"illumination"--"reflecting" the traditional Western logocentric

philosophemes--Eiseley suggests that both artist and scientist

privilege observation. For him, "looking is in itself the business of

art" ("Thoreau's Unfinished Business," ST 236). Similarly, Darwin had

a "glimpse, as through the mosaic of a stained-glass window, at the

imperfect changing quality of life," even though his own ethnocentrism

prevented him from fully comprehending "the oncoming world of the

indeterminate and the possible that he had helped to initiate" ("The

Golden Alphabet," UU 123-37). The artist both simplifies and,

continuing the visual philosopheme, magnifies; in a single pair of

gloves washed up on a beach and in a charity house for sailors that

lacked provisions, Thoreau found a simplified vision, but as artist he

"magnified" the incident ("Thoreau's Unfinished Business" ST 249).

And Melville's Ishmael and Ahab provide insights into the uses of

science and art. For Eiseley, the whole of Moby-Dick becomes a

vehicle for contrasting two ways of looking at the universe--not "two

cultures," but the sensitive view as opposed to an obsessed view.

Ishmael, who says, "I only am escaped to tell thee," represents the

sensitive view of the universe, whereas Ahab symbolizes science in

monomaniacal form. All science is not represented by Ahab, for the

reflective scientist is close to the poet; but Ahab is the monomaniac

who has lost all sense of awe, who has given himself over to extreme

reductionism and aims only for "facts" which will "explain" the

inexplicable. In a continuation of the visual treatment in terms of

the artist's canvas, Eiseley says that Melville's

tale is not of science, but it symbolizes on a gigantic
canvas the struggle between two ways of looking at the
universe: the magnification by the poet's mind attempting
to see all, while disturbing as little as possible, as
opposed to the plunging fury of Ahab with his cry, "Strike,
strike through the mask, whatever it may cost in lives and
suffering." ("Science and the Sense of the Holy, ST 200)

Ishmael and Ahab thus symbolize, respectively, the poet, who can be

both scientist and artist, but who is open to the oncoming, unexpected

process of the universe, and the reductionist, who is mindful only of

his own pursuit, whatever the consequences. For Eiseley the "real

business" of both artist and reflective scientist is to contribute to

man's "understanding his ingredients" and thus "to make him less of an

outlaw to himself" ("Thoreau's Unfinished Business," ST 237-38).

Using the recurrent motif of the outlaw, Eiseley treats all human

beings as outlaws and returns to the artist's function of reuniting

humankind with the nature from which it emerged. In this process

there is a kind of catharsis. Man alone is aware that he and his kind

"evaporate into the air and sun that once had nourished the dinosaurs.

Man alone knows the way he came. ("Thoreau's Unfinished

Business," ST 243). Man can effect an "utter cleansing, either by the

powers of art alone, or, more terribly. ." (243). The "utter

cleansing" may be the traditional catharsis of tragedy, but it may

also be man's ability to destroy himself and the world that has

produced him. The artist's role, and the role of the reflective

scientist in creating an informed populace who participate in rather

than accept the decisions of the scientific institution, is to

participate in the one catharsis that will render the other untenable.

As a popularizer, then, Eiseley is deeply concerned with the

interconnectedness of the roles of scientist and artist, since they

spring from the "same" creative act. If artistic contemplation is one

answer to the dangers of technology, if creativity in art and science

spring from the same source, and if communication among specialists as

well as between specialists and laymen is essential in an informed and

free society, then the role of the popularizer is indeed important.

The contemplative scientist, aware of his closeness to art, can play a

vital role, just as the popularizer did in the early days of science.

Eiseley's notion of popularization, as indicated in his statement

of the purpose of the lectures in The Firmament of Time, includes a

sense of sharing; these lectures were designed "to promote among both

students and the general public a better understanding of the role of

science as its own evolution permeates and controls the thought of man

through the culture" (v). This statement suggests much of Eiseley's

overall purpose: he treats more than scientific facts; his interest

is in the evolution of science itself, in the role of science as it

affects human thought. The popularizer inevitably engages the

individual's relationship to such an institution. Further, if, as

Edge suggests, essentially ambiguous successful metaphors are able "to

alter feelings and attitudes towards oneself and others, and the

natural world," and if we recognize "the role of metaphor in

establishing and reinforcing moral and social control" (140, 142),

then the role of Eiseley's specific form of popularization becomes

clear. If the "hook of analogy" indeed "may color unconsciously the

thinking of entire generations" ("How the World Became Natural," FT

20), then his task is to subvert and displace (supplement) those

metaphors whose vehicles have led to misunderstanding. If models of

struggle can be replaced with those of symbiosis, if models of

reduction can be replaced with those of inexplicability, if models of

teleology can be replaced by those of the unexpected, if models of a

hierarchy of systems of knowledge can be replaced by those of equality

or symbiosis of "science" and "art," if models of fixity can be

replaced by those of change, and if models of decidability can be

replaced by those of undecidability, then the popularizer can help to

displace the caste system of cognoscenti and "others" and can help to

replace the animal willingness to be manipulated with a desire, backed

by understanding, to participate in mediation of ideas. In answer to

the underlying question Where shall I live in such an embracing

system? perhaps the model of the young Darwin's gentle perceptiveness

can replace the harshness of Herbert Spencer's model or the

destructive thrust of military machines.


1. For further discussion of the philosophical, political, and
cultural impact of Darwinian thinking, see Ruse, The Darwinian
Revolution. For excellent essays on the continuing "Darwinian
revolution" and reactions of the general public in America, see
Appleman, "Darwin: On Changing the Mind" (529-51) and "Darwin among
the Moralists" (551-71).

2. Marx traces the theme of intrusion of the machine into the
idyllic American setting, beginning with Hawthorne's description of a
wooded area near Concord, Massachusetts, a place "like the lap of
bounteous Nature" into which bursts "the long shriek, harsh, above all


other harshness" of a locomotive which "tells a story of busy men,
citizens, from the hot street. ., men of business" and "of all
unquietness" (12-13). He traces this theme of mechanistic intrusion
into the idyllic quietness from the Jeffersonian garden through Henry
Adams' juxtaposition of the dynamo and the Virgin, through the
peaceful greenness (the pastoral equivalent at sea) opposed by violent
furnace flames aboard Melville's Pequod, through Thoreau's sense of
the machine's ambiguous relation to nature, and through Fitzgerald's
green lawns opposed by the valley of ashes. In British literature he
notes the moment when Boswell became aware of technology through
Thomson and Schiller; he cites the "mechanistic habit of mind" (297)
that Carlyle found in his contemporaries and the fear of writers such
as Carlyle, Ruskin, and Morris that technology might threaten "some
cherished ideal of high civilization or art or craftsmanship" (347).


Certainly Eiseley is a popularizer. Haney considers him "an

interpreter of modern science for a broad, unspecialized audience"

(186) and links him to earlier literary naturalists who "hold up a

mirror to reflect the nature of the human soul" (13). His

popularization of evolutionary theory, she says, leads the audience to

"judge the importance of evolution in terms of our present cultural

goals" (211). As an informal essayist he touches "a varied audience

of general readers," Kassebaum says, in an effort "to reconcile the

humanities and the sciences in a century when such reconciliation is

imperative" (3, vi). Schwartz finds Eiseley "primarily a scientist,"

although he studies the texts for their "imaginative integration" of

science with "aesthetic intentions" ("The 'Immense Journey' of an

Artist" 10-11).

But there is general agreement that Eiseley is more than a

popularizer per se because of his literary intention and practice.

"Place him in the company of other popularizing scientists," say

Gerber and McFadden, who feel that his major contribution is to the

essay as a genre, "and he will appear as merely the author of many

beautifully written expositions, some of which rise to literary

heights" (20). Carlisle credits him with having "discovered and

developed a new prose idiom for science and for literature" ("Poetic

Achievement" 112). Angyal treats Eiseley as a literary naturalist but

emphasizes his desire to produce "a more personalized scientific

literature where fact and knowledge are balanced by affection"

(35). Eiseley's accomplishment, says Angyal, "is virtually to invent

a new genre-an imaginative synthesis of literature and science--one

that enlarged the power and range of the personal essay" (39). Angyal

credits him with developing the kind of popular scientific essay that

continues to be written by Lewis Thomas, Carl Sagan, Robert Jastrow,

and Stephen Jay Gould, among others. "And," says Angyal, "if there is

a movement among scientists today to reassert the humane values that

are intrinsic to science wisely practiced, then credit for that must

also be due in part to Eiseley" (125).

Hybrid Genre

In writing of the genre that attracts him, what Eiseley calls for

is a kind of hybrid writing that defies categorization in literature

or science, but is close to what the natural history writer produces

and Eiseley describes in "The Enchanted Glass." It is writing that

involves "a partial transformation of data" so that it "contains

overtones of thought which is not science, nor intended to be, and yet

without which science itself would be the poorer" ("The Enchanted

Glass" 482). Such writing presents "personal experiences capable of

being shared by every perceptive human being. They are part of that

indefinable country which lies between the realm of natural objects

and the human spirit which moves among them" (480). This writing

treats more than external nature; it "is the natural history of the

human soul itself. (480). The writer of such a hybrid form will

undoubtedly employ scientific theories, but he will nevertheless

record the "personal element, the shifting colors in the

enchanted glass of the mind which the extreme Baconians would reduce

to pellucid sobriety" (480). Thus the writer becomes a "magician" who

knows that "it does not lie within the power of science alone to make

life or the shadows everywhere confronting it acceptable," but that

what is needed is "the supreme synthesis of knowledge and emotional

insight" achieved in Keats's letter describing his participation in

the existence of the sparrow picking in the gravel outside his window


The form that Eiseley devises, which he calls the "concealed

essay," involves a blend of science, history of science, and personal

observation. It is a form with which he experimented in the decade

before the publication of The Immense Journey and Darwin's Century.

The Immense Journey, the first collection of popular essays, was first

published in 1957, after several years of work. Parts of the book had

appeared in three journals (American Scholar, Harper's, and Scientific

American) before the collection appeared, and Eiseley had copyrighted

certain essays as early as 1946. The work on Darwin's Century began

in the early 1950s, on request from Doubleday for a well-researched

study to be published in time for the anniversary year of 1959; the

book was first published in 1958 after extensive research that caused

Eiseley, in Carlisle's words, to interiorizee" Darwin's theory "so

that it functions as a major structure for perceiving and com-

prehending experience," a structure through which he "makes contact

with reality" ("Heretical Science" 365). The work on Darwin's

Century, say Gerber and McFadden, "served to crystallize Eiseley's

entire intellectual outlook"; The Immense Journey emerges as "a

companion volume" (50).

As the thought was crystallized through painstaking scholarship

on Darwin and his predecessors and successors, the form of the popular

essays was shaped in the concurrent work on The Immense Journey.

Clearly, work on the two books overlapped to some extent, and the

similarity of ideas in the two--as scholarly and popular books--

suggests the influence of the scholarship on the popular essays.

(Indeed, a study of Eiseley's poetry reveals a parallel of subject

matter and approach similar to those of the popular essays. The

poems, however, are beyond the scope of this study, though deserving

of further analysis.) My contention is that the rigorous scholarship

of Darwin's Century provides the basis for most of the popular essays,

though the strategies of popularization do not emerge until the

Conclusion of the scholarly work but are emerging in the essays

collected in The Immense Journey and developed through the other five

collections of essays. The Immense Journey, say Gerber and McFadden,

"vindicated Eiseley's confidence in the concealed essay as his

artistic medium. In these two works, the whole of his future literary

effort lay in concentrated form" (50). Certainly the complementarity

of the two books further supports Eiseley's contentions that creative

and intellectual activity necessarily interact.

In the "concealed essay," "personal anecdote was allowed gently

to bring under observation thoughts of a more purely scientific

nature" (ASH 277). The subject matter of the "concealed essay" "is

framed or 'concealed' by the personal approach, which serves as a


rhetorical device to engage the reader's attention" (Angyal 39). But

in addition to the "thoughts of a more purely scientific nature,"

there is a realm, Eiseley suggests, "which can never be completely

subject to prophetic analysis by science"; it is the realm of

indeterminationn" ("The Illusion," ST 278), which will evoke much of

his reflection. Eiseley expresses the Renaissance notion of the

writer's adding his own creativity to nature even as his creativity

springs from nature, for he asserts that the writer may share with

Shakespeare and Bacon "a recognition of the creativeness which adds to

nature, and which emerges from nature as 'an art which nature makes'"

("The Illusion," ST 278). For Eiseley, "the world of nature, once

seen through the eye of genius, is never seen in quite the same manner

afterward. A dimension has been added" ("Strangeness in the

Proportion," NC 143). The artist is not only mirror but lamp, in a

passage intertextual with M. H. Abrams (and indeed, as Jonathan Culler

argues, the mirror and the lamp are the same metaphor [The Pursuit of

Signs 162]): "It is within the power of great art to shed on nature a

light which can be had from no other source than the mind itself"

("Strangeness in the Proportion," NC 143). Both mirror and lamp

contribute to the "creativeness which adds to nature," and always, in

the words of John Donne, "the substance of the truth is in the great

images which lie behind" ("The Illusion," ST 275).

The "concealed essay" depends increasingly throughout Eiseley's

writing career on literary references, often approaching science

through apt passages from literature and philosophy, with some of the

later essays ("Walden: Thoreau's Unfinished Business," "Thoreau's

Vision of the Natural World," and "Man Against the Universe") adopting

a tutor text and using it to extract a personal reading. Eiseley's

"concealed essay" thus becomes "a highly elaborate form, with frequent

literary references and allusions, numerous quotations, multiple

themes, and an interwoven structure of contemplative concerns" (Angyal

39). It is a "casual and informal, though sophisticated technique"

that combines "memory, landscape, and visual imagination" (Angyal 41).

The form is, like the natural history essay from which it

emerged, highly interdisciplinary, providing the advantages of

perceiving interrelationships of organisms and of cultures, of

developing what Haney calls "holistic" attitudes toward nature that

incorporate more concerns than the exact scientist may recognize (3-

4). It is a form that combines experiment and experience, a form in

which "an extension of the senses has become an extension of science"

(Carlisle, "Heretical Science" 354-55).

Eiseley's Hybrid Genre and the Paraliterary

Critics' difficulties in "categorizing" Eiseley's texts, placing

them where they "belong," may be itself evidence of an emerging hybrid

genre. Writing of the breakdown of "the solidarity of the old

disciplines" that leads to emergence of a hybrid genre, Roland Barthes

says that the "new object and new language" cannot find a place in the

established sciences, "this unease in classification being precisely

the point from which it is possible to diagnose a certain mutation"

("From Work to Text" 155). If indeed Eiseley is responsible for

initiating a "new genre," as Carlisle and Angyal have contended--a

genre that emerges out of natural history writing, history of science,

pre- and post-Darwinian biology, autobiography, and use of tutor texts

from literature and philosophy--that genre represents a movement now

already successful in science and often discussed among post-

structuralist literary theorists as emerging in the humanities in the

form of the "paraliterary."

Indeed, suggesting a hybrid genre mixing literary theory and

philosophy, as well as cognizance of the role of language in thinking,

Richard Rorty places the genesis of such a hybrid in the humanities in

the nineteenth century:

Beginning in the days of Goethe and Macaulay and Carlyle and
Emerson a kind of writing has developed which is
neither the evaluation of the relative merits of literary
productions, nor intellectual history, nor moral philosophy,
nor epistemology, nor social prophecy, but all of these
mingled together in a new genre often still called
"literary criticism". ("Professionalized Philosophy
and Transcendentalist Culture" 763-64)

Jonathan Culler writes that texts of this genre "function not as

demonstrations within the parameters of a discipline but as

redescriptions that challenge disciplinary boundaries" (On Decon-

struction 9). Identifying this mixture of literature and philosophy

broadly as "theory," Culler writes of its "power to make strange the

familiar and to make readers conceive of their own thinking, behavior,

and institutions in new ways" and of the "persuasive novelty of [its

writers'] redescriptions" (9).

Among poststructuralist literary theorists who identify a new

interdisciplinary hybrid for the humanities, Rosalind Krauss

identifies the "paraliterary" in reference to texts that engage

creativity and the discourse of knowledge. Citing a lecture by

Jacques Derrida and pointing to a significant portion of Roland

Barthes's work, Krauss notes what "simply cannot be called criticism,

but cannot, for that matter, be called not-criticism either,"

for "criticism finds itself caught in a dramatic web of many voices,

citations, asides, divigations. And what is created, as in the case

of much of Derrida, is a kind of paraliterature" (37). Krauss writes

of "the paraliterary space," which "is the space of debate, quotation,

partisanship, betrayal, reconciliation" as opposed to "the space of

unity, coherence, or resolution that we think of as constituting the

work of literature" (37). Paraliterature stands outside the non-

university critical establishment, for "the paraliterary cannot be a

model for the systematic unpacking of the meanings of a work of art

that criticism's task is thought to be" (38). Finding Barthes and

Derrida "the writers, not the critics, that students now read," Krauss

contends that if modernism drew attention to its own structure, to

reading as "critical," then postmodernist literature it likely to "be

the critical text wrought into a paraliterary form" (40).

Finding collage/montage the model of hybridization adopted by

"post-criticism" (post-modernist, post-structural, Derrida's model of

the age as a post card), Gregory Ulmer notes Barthes' "'paraliterary'

initiative" in Critique et Verit6 and in "The Structuralist Activity":

The insight of paraliterature is that although by the 1960s
the collage revolution seemed to have run its course, it was
in fact being renewed in critical discourse, which was
itself finally being affected by experiments with
representation. ("The Object of Post-Criticism" 108, n. 10)

As Ulmer notes, both Barthes and Derrida have recognized the

sensitivity of the critical establishment to touching or "tampering

with" language ("The Object" 87). The question Ulmer asks is one that

touches on hybridization as related to the humanities:

Will the collage/montage revolution in representation be
admitted into the academic essay, into the discourse of
knowledge, replacing the 'realist' criticism based on the
notions of 'truth' as correspondence to or correct repro-
duction of a referent object of study? ("The Object" 86)

Barthes, as Ulmer notes, initiated the question when he contended that

"literature" and "criticism" cannot continue to be separated, for now

there are "only writers" ("The Object" 86). Michel Serres writes of

literature and criticism, "Why should there be a dichotomy between

texts, between the ones that operate and the ones that are operated

upon? There are texts, and that is all" ("Michelet: The Soup" 38).

Ulmer refers to paraliterature as "a hybrid of literature and

criticism, art and science" ("The Object" 94), thus clearly

emphasizing the shift from "criticism" as an isolated activity into a

combination of creativity and the discourse of knowledge.

Certainly Roland Barthes's texts, which become increasingly more

"paraliterary," help set the stage for the hybridization of the

paraliterary. Barthes sees "no technical difference between

structuralism as an intellectual activity on the one hand and

literature in particular, art in general on the other" ("The

Structuralist Activity" 150). Thus he can submit that there is

today a new perspective of consideration which is
common to literature and linguistics, to the creator and
the critic, whose tasks until now completely self-contained,
are beginning to inter-relate, perhaps even to merge. ("To
Write" 156)

Barthes's notion of the "text" is also relevant to para-

literature. Rejecting the notion of a "work" with an "ultimate

meaning," Barthes turns to the "text," which "is made of multiple

writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations

of dialogue, parody, contestation," all drawn together, not by the

"author," but by the reader ("The Death of the Author" 148). Further,

and especially relevant in the present context of hybrid genres in the

sciences and the humanities, Barthes addresses the effects of

interdisciplinarity on the concept of the literary work or "text." As

linguistics, anthropology, Marxism, and psychoanalysis have touched

literature, the newness of the text is their "encounter in relation to

an object which traditionally is the province of none of them .

Interdisciplinarity is not the calm of an easy security ("From

Work to Text" 155). Barthes finds the "text" not limited to "(good)

Literature," but instead, "subversive" toward established categories

(157). The text is "woven entirely with citations, references,

echoes, cultural languages which cut across it through and

through in a vast stereophony" (160). And once he has created a text,

the author may return to it, but only as a visitor, for "the I which

writes the text is never more than a paper-I" (161). Further,

for Barthes, any "discourse on the text should itself be nothing other

than text, research, textual activity" ("From Work to Text" 164).

If, indeed, thinkers from diverse backgrounds such as Rorty,

Booth, Habermas, Derrida (whose media theory, Ulmer suggests, can be

subsumed under the term popularization ["The Post-Age" 53]), Barthes,

and Eiseley have all called for a kind of popularization--whether

through an interdisciplinary hybrid (or collage/montage) of philosophy

and social criticism, or of popularized humanities, or of science that

can be absorbed by a populace that will no longer participate in its

own depoliticization, or of science and art "for the uses of life"--

then the hybrid genre is not to be overlooked. Even paraliterature


emerges in a world dominated by science. And Eiseley's combination of

the discourse of natural science with creativity is not unexpected.

Philosophically, Heidegger rejected "scientific" knowledge per se, as

many contemporary thinkers have rejected science as the means to all

knowledge. For Heidegger, the result of his rejection was to think and

write poetically, to find in art the "saving power." Eiseley compares

his identification with "the lost ones, the failures of the world" to

"the renunciation of my scientific heritage" ("The Unexpected

Universe," UU 86) and, despite deep admiration for Darwin, rejects

Darwin's tangled bank in favor of the failures of the world and the

poetic treatment of such humble subjects.

If one looks carefully at those texts considered "paraliterary,"

certain traits emerge. Such texts, for example, often move by motif

or image or theme rather than by argumentative discourse. These

writers often deal with what cannot be dealt with conceptually, but

must be approached by image: the "tissue" of the text in Barthes and

in Derrida, which becomes "web" and "tissue" in Derrida, or the

Derridean invaginationn," which is a "non-concept." Thus style is a

matter for consideration, also. The whole scientific-rational-

empirical tradition demands clarity of thought and expression, but the

writer of paraliterature realizes that "plain style" may not always

communicate effectively. If even our thought-words contain visual

metaphors (as Richard Rorty has contended), the poetic style may

indeed be a more effective means of communicating than the "plain

style." In Heidegger's words, borrowed from Hl8derlin, "Poetically

man dwells." And if only poetry is adequate to convey emotional, as

opposed to conceptual, knowledge, the hybrid genre provides a means of

transferring from the discourse of knowledge information that is not

just unconventional, but emotionally moving as well.

"Dwelling poetically" is a means of celebrating feelings

for which there are no words, an awareness of the "uncanny." Eiseley

would say that man has fallen from instinct into wonder. In Eiseley's

hybrid genre the movement by image or motif and the consciousness of

style are important. Eiseleyis constantly aware of the importance of

style in treating knowledge, of the mediation by language of any

reality. Increasingly, he turns to the use of a literary tutor text

for personal analysis which he blends with scientific information to

produce a hybrid form. "Walden: Thoreau's Unfinished Business,"

"Thoreau's Vision of the Natural World," "The Illusion of the Two

Cultures," "Man Against the Universe," and the increasingly frequent

references to Thoreau, Emerson, Kierkegaard, and process philosophy

all help to create a form that is neither purely essayisticc" nor

"scientific" nor "critical," but a hybrid form similar in the domain

of life and social sciences to what Rorty describes as a cross between

philosophy and social or moral criticism or to what Barthes describes

as a blending of criticism and literature or to Krauss's and Ulmer's

definitions of the "paraliterary" rather than to any established


Eiseley's texts clearly depend on subjects and metaphors that

cross disciplinary borders. Barthes's "interdisciplinarity," a

"mutation" which "is more in the nature of an epistemological slide

than of a real break" ("From Work to Text," 153) emerges in these

texts. The similarity of analogies and symbols in literature and

science is a major theme in "The Illusion of the Two Cultures."

Metaphors from ancient alchemy, from particle physics, from cell

biology, and from archaeology and paleontology mingle with metaphors

from the primitives' serious attitudes toward the relationship of man

and nature. Eiseley's essays, then, cross borderlines and bring

interdisciplinarity in subject and in metaphor. They are a blend of

literature with social, historical, and scientific history and

criticism, with a sprinkling of Eiseley's own literary readings.

Like other post-Heideggerian "texts," Eiseley's texts, perhaps

because of the anthropologist's awareness of the role of language in

the development of man, occasionally allow the play of the signifier

to enter. Dyersville, Iowa, becomes "that dire place" in "The Star

Thrower" (UU, 85); prehensile suggests prehension in "The Lethal

Factor" (ST, 251); wander and wonder are often juxtaposed, with wide

suggestiveness of the epistemological dimension of the journey (the

wanderer is also a wonderer, and knowledge is a journey; Ishmael in

Moby-Dick is "wondering man, the acceptor of all races and their gods"

["Science and the Sense of the Holy," ST 199]); in one of Eiseley's

wry references to the "mad Shepards," his maternal ancestors, he

recalls associating them with "people pictured in the family Bible"

(ASH, 25). The play of the signifier is thus sometimes the source of

an entry into the material other than the focus of the signified. Such

play--in the Derridean sense of looseness and fluctuation as well as

of engaging in play--is useful to the popularizer who writes a hybrid

genre, though it would hardly be accepted by the Royal Society.

The Observer-Participant and the Uses of Autobiography

Another consideration that further links Eiseley's texts to other

notions of a hybrid genre is his emphasis on the role of the observer-

participant and his use of autobiography. As an anthropologist and a

student of nineteenth-century science, he discusses the impossibility

of the mythical "objectivity" and turns to individual experiences in

his essays; indeed, undermining the myth of "objectivity" becomes part

of his task as a popularizer. Like Heidegger, Eiseley finds that what

is important "is the necessary interplay between subjectivism and

objectivism" ("World Picture" 128). Indeed, as Jones points out,

since Kuhn (who credits Eiseley for insights into nineteenth-century

scientific change), with his concept of "paradigm shifts," and Holton,

with his treatment of the thema-antithema by which science moves,

almost no one would deny that "the observer has an uncontrollable and

nonremovable effect on what is observed" (6). And Jones cites

Eiseley's work, in addition to that of Kuhn, Holton, Poincare, and

Polanyi, in reevaluating the role of subjectivism in science (207-


In Eiseley's texts the role of the popularizer is that of

observer-participant. The narrator in his texts makes no pretense to

"objectivity," but involves personal narrative and privileges personal

observation for literary purposes. But although autobiographical

details appear frequently, they are not used in the usual sense of

autobiography. The self becomes a particular point of entry into

complex material. The I of the statement is not necessarily the I of

the author, for Eiseley's use of personal narratives involves creation

of a persona who narrates (compare Pickering's study of the various

personas that Eiseley creates). The "conscious 'I'" is referred to as

insignificant to the phagocytes in the human body ("The Hidden

Teacher," UU 50); similarly, the "conscious 'I'" is insignificant in

the text itself, except as it provides access to the information

presented. As with Heidegger, a "metaphysical meaning of the concept

of subject has first of all no special relationship to man and none at

all to the I" ("World Picture" 128). As with Barthes, "linguistically

the author is never more than the instance writing, just as I is

nothing other than the instance saying I: language knows a 'subject,'

not a 'person'. ." ("The Death of the Author" 145).

Barthes also notes that in primitive societies a shaman or

mediator takes the responsibility for narrating events, leaving the

"author" to be a creation of the modern world. With Eiseley's

penchant for shamans and his identification of primitive societies as

models for the relationship of man and the environment, he seems to

prefer the function of this detached mediator or shaman rather than

that of the modern "author." "Shamanism provides a model ,"

says Ulmer, "for the 'objective' use of the autobiography as a

research tool applied to fields of knowledge beyond itself" (Applied

Grammatology 328, n. 22). Eiseley's method involves, not auto-

biography per se, but autobiographical "glimpses" through which to

treat the being and becoming of experience. The result resembles what

Barthes refers to as the attempt among modern writers "to establish a

new status in writing for the agent of writing," in effect "to

substitute the instance of discourse for the instance of reality (or

of the referent), which has been, and still is, a mythical 'alibi'

dominating the idea of literature" ("To Write" 166).

Writing of the I in post-structuralism, Terry Eagleton delineates

the problematic of the conscious I in a text--a problematic echoed in

Eiseley's assumption of personas of fugitive, gambler, and scholar

(ASH 248 and passim), among others--when he says, "Not only can I

never be fully present to you, but I can never be fully present to

myself" (130). And Barthes disputes the notion that in the I a

"person" is brought from "storage" into being: "When a narrator

recounts what has happened to him, the I who recounts is no longer the

same I as the one that is recounted. .. [T]he I of discourse can

no longer be a place where a previously stored-up person is innocently

restored" ("To Write" 162). For Barthes, using I as a sign "is an act

which is always new," but "the I of the one who writes is not the same

as the I which is read by thou" ("To Write" 163). To seek an

"identity" behind the I is, then, to abandon text for history or

biography. Eiseley's attempts to evade those who would pursue a

"critical biography" (specifically Carlisle), as well as his own

comments, would suggest agreement with Barthes and Eagleton.

For his "autobiography," in fact, Eiseley chose an epigraph from

Browning's The Ring and the Book, which deals with the impossibility

of discerning "truth" because multiple perspectives prevent the

existence of a single identifiable "truth." The epigraph reflects--in

the specular sense of the color spectrum--the changing perspective

that comes with changing time: "I' the color the tale takes, there's

change perhaps; / 'Tis natural, since the sky is different, / Eclipse

in the air now, still the outline stays" (Qtd. in ASH iii). Not only

are the shifting colors present, but also the palimpsest effect in

which the outline remains, as if to echo the subtitle, The Excavation

of a Life, and the use of archaeology as a model of knowledge. Early

in the "autobiography" Eiseley explains his use of the I:

I am every man and no man, and will be so to the end. This
is why I must tell the story as I may. Not for the nameless
name upon the page, not for the trails behind me that faded
or led nowhere, not for the confusion of where I was
to go, or if I had a destiny recognizable by any star. No,
in retrospect it was the loneliness of not knowing, not
knowing at all. (23)

If the I in All the Strange Hours is "every man and no man," certainly

it is not the I expected in autobiography. Nowhere does he deal

diachronically with his own life's story. The book treats

recollections that lead to reflection on recurrent Eiseleyan themes,

but it does not reconstruct a personal life. As the subtitle

indicates, it is "an excavation of a life," with incidental artifacts

uncovered from a life with what seems the same chance by which

artifacts are uncovered in an excavation. As an autobiography, it is

more an account of the journey of knowing than a reconstruction of a

life. "Excavation" becomes the model of the epistemological quest,

for human knowledge, like the individual life, is sedimented with

meanings and quests for meaning. And "the fragmentary narrative,"

says Angyal, becomes "a way of depicting the tricks of memory," for

the "continuously existing personality in time," though it may not be

an illusion, "is not accessible to memory" (109). The shattered

mirror that recurs throughout the book is an apt metaphor for the

autobiographical element. The I is the eye--observer and homophone,

the cracked fragment of a mirror reflecting the whole yet also

participating in a strangely fragmented reflection of the whole that

the intact mirror would have reflected.

In Eiseley's essays, the details from his life are as fleeting

and as shifting as is the universe. These details shift as in a mirror

or a kaleidoscope so that even the narrator who recalls emerging from

a cave to see the modern world as "a little lost century, a toy" (ASH

104) is uncertain who the I is. The I of Eiseley's texts, like the ]

in this example, is a dramatized observer--part self, part observer

and participant, part fictional creation. The I allows a seemingly

personal, though sometimes obviously fictional, creation of a young

man eye-to-eye with an owl in a cave ("Obituary of a Bone Hunter," NC

181-91) or an old biologist who, on a dark and foggy night, becomes an

atavistic throwback who joins in the "dance" of thousands of frogs on

their way to a lake ("The Dance of the Frogs," ST 106-115).

The I of Eiseley's autobiographical examples is "all men and no

man," the part that, in a sense, reflects the whole, the individual

who, in his own experiences, recreates the experiences of humankind,

indeed of life. The I is the synecdoche for man and his history,

retold through human tales whose "reality" or "fictionalism" is

sometimes difficult to determine and assuredly irrelevant to the

effect created. What is important, Eiseley asserts as he attempts to

explain why one person writes, is that "we all live in a moving

stream, as surely as a catfish groping with its whiskers in the muddy

dark" and that even an obscure writer of a book on acquarium-building

may play a role in forming the inclinations of a writer: "That is the

wonder of words. They drift on and on beyond imagining" (ASH 170).

The I is in language, part of the moving stream of time and becoming.

And the I is able, not only to employ the metaphors that guide

the reader through Eiseley's texts, but to involve the reader in

recreating a journey--the long journey of man, the journey into an old

man's world, the journey of a fish down the Platte River, the journey

into the world of a porpoise, the journey of knowledge. Eiseley's I

is constantly shifting, but it is the I of the experience of life, the

eye of the observer-participant. Like other writers of contemporary

hybrid genres, Eiseley is more concerned with "living-through" than

with mimesis.

Eiseley's essays, then, cross borderlines and bring in

interdisciplinarity in subject and in metaphor. They are often part

science and history of science, part literature, part social,

historical, scientific, and literary criticism. They are part of a

hybrid genre of texts that have become highly successful in

popularizing science, just as similar hybrid texts are emerging as

strategies of popularization in the humanities. These texts defy

boundaries and closure, "live through" rather than represent, and

allow language to speak itself, with the observer-participant as

writer. For when "the voice loses its origin, the author enters into

his own death, writing begins," and "the birth of the reader must be

at the cost of the death of the Author" (Barthes, "The Death of the

Author" 142, 148).

Structure and Method: The Conclusion to Darwin's Century

Because of the pivotal position that Darwin's Century holds in

Eiseley's work, because the Conclusion summarizes the major themes

that will recur in the popular essays, and because the Conclusion

employs the method of the popular essays (concurrently developed in

The Immense Journey), the Conclusion to Darwin's Century may be seen

as the prototype of Eiseley's popular essays. In the Conclusion

Eiseley establishes four of the points on which he will hammer away

in the popular essays: the need to assess man's powers, the

understanding of man's role in indeterminationn," the rejection of

metaphors that perpetuate emphasis on struggle, and the validity of

turning to primitive man and "primitive" thinking as models for a

culture dominated by a scientific-industrial-military institution

which is accepted and even worshipped by many people. The Conclusion

is a combination of scientific information, which becomes the vehicle

for the recurrent Eiseleyan themes, with metaphor and analogue,

quotation, interpretation, and personal experience. In the later

essays, the element of personal experience will often play a larger

role, but here it adds a powerful affective dimension; and this essay,

which summarizes the main points treated in Darwin's Century and looks

toward their cultural and human implications, is nevertheless a model

for the later work.

Like most of Eiseley's essays, the Conclusion begins with an

epigraph that abstracts one of the main themes--in this case the theme

of time and its human interpretation: "Life can only be understood

backward but it must be lived forward" (325). In this line from

Kierkegaard Eiseley pinpoints the problematic of the human

relationship to time, which becomes the basis for organization of the

essay into five sections: I. Time: Cyclic and Historic; II. The

Pre-Darwinian Era; III. The Struggle of the Parts; IV. Evolution and

Human Culture; and V. The Role of Indeterminism. Each section treats

the human awareness of time from one perspective or another, and the

focus is on the impact that the prevailing concept of time has on

human culture.

The Conclusion is about time and its relationship to human

cultures, as is the whole of Darwin's Century. But in the research on

Darwin as well as on pre- and post-Darwinian evolution, Eiseley has

become acutely aware that popularization of evolution involves more

than explaining natural selection and the "community of descent."

Psychological, ethical, and moral implications are inextricably

inverwoven in his study, especially in the Conclusion. In Eiseley's

words, "the man of blood" and "the man of peace" have both utilized

the arguments of evolution (from the age of the earth, to the gradual

emergence of geological and animate forms, to the great quantity of

individual variations and their roles in creating species, to the

decline of acceptance of the world as a balanced machine [DC I-VIII;

succinctly stated in FT 70-71]), but what is needed is "a long second

look at the history of this concept and at its moral implications" (DC

326). The Conclusion, then, not only summarizes the main points of

the book, but also provides the beginning of this "long second look."

In the opening paragraph Eiseley not only states the point that

"ideas, like the disintegrating face of Hutton's planet, evolve,

erode, and change" (325), but also introduces what will become the

controlling metaphor for evolution in this essay. Some ideas vanish

overnight, he contends, while others--metaphorically, rocky

projections from the physical landscape--"may last for ages

protruding, gaunt, bare, and uncompromising, from the soft sward of

later beliefs" (325). An idea--the very word is related to "seeing,"

to the Old English wit, "knowledge, intelligence," to the Latin

videre, "to see," to the Greek eidos, "form, shape" (all dependent on

the visual perception of form and boundaries)--is thus imaged in terms

of a geological formation. Like the geological formation that is its

model, the idea appears fixed but is nevertheless subject to erosion,

to evolution, to constant and creative change. This "rock" is subject

to the Eiseleyan process of "transmutation" through the kaleidoscopic

effect of shifting light (kaleidoscope, too, descends from eidos--plus

kalos, "beautiful"). The interaction of cloud and landscape produces

the effect of shifting colors in the metaphoric eidos:

Sometimes, in the clouds that pass over the formless
landscape of time, they will seem to shift and catch new
lights, become transmuted into something other than what
they were, grow dull, or glisten with a kind of sunset color
reflected from the human mind itself. Of such a nature is
that vast monument to human thinking which is now called
evolution. (325)

The idea of evolution, we learn later, is not only a rocky formation,

a "monument to human thinking," but a "structure," which "looms ever

vaster and more impenetrable" (325). Eiseley suggests that this

formation is linked both to the atom's mysteries (which introduce the

unpredictable and indeterminate in nature--one might even add

Epicurus's clinamen) and to "that intangible, immaterial world of

consciousness" which is not quite identifiable "with the soft dust

that flies up from a summer road" (326). The cloud itself, which

gives shifting colors to a landscape that is equally but more slowly

shifting, is constituted of fine droplets or particles of ice, of

steam or smoke or dust; its formations are unpredictable. Further,

cloud in Middle English referred to a hill or a mass of earth as well

as to what we know as "cloud." In the metaphoric rocky projection of

the idea of evolution is the constant disintegration of the hill--a

disintegration that produces the consciousness which is not quite

identifiable with "the soft dust that flies up from a summer road."

Evolution itself is linked to the human consciousness, which cannot be

totally explained by the dust cloud, as the cloud cannot be totally

explained or predicted. Both are constantly shifting; as Eiseley will

say later, "form is an illusion of the time dimension" ("The Star

Thrower," UU 78).

In addition, in all of Eiseley's cloud and dust metaphors there

lurks a defamiliarization of the Judeo-Christian notion of man as

supernaturally compounded of dust; Eiseley omits the supernatural but

retains the shifting and diaphanous cloud of dust or moisture (in

something of a Bachelardian sense, the ancient elements of fire, air,

earth, and water recur in various guises in Eiseley's texts). It is

relevant that he concludes this first section of the essay with a

speculation that between Sedgwick's supernaturally oriented

"progressionism" (which preceded but helped to pave the way for

evolution) and modern scientific man's "complacency" in his scientific

ability to explain all things, there may remain "other mysteries as

great as those that intrigued Darwin" (326).

But the cloud can also be a cloud of ice, which is relevant to

Eiseley's texts because of the omnipresence of his theme of modern man

as a survivor of and a product of the last ice and his theme of the

inevitable return of the ice. And a cloud is also a swarm or a moving

body of creatures, such as the student of life inevitably perceives in

the swarming multitude of creatures. Consciousness, then, seems in one

sense like the cloud of dust, yet "no one has quite succeeded in

identifying" the two.

The equivocity of consciousness and its role in the evolutionary

process is echoed in the equivocity of the history of evolution, for

some have seen evolution as reducing man to a bestial condition, while

others have viewed it in terms of potential progress. It is this

tendency, above all, that leads Eiseley to posit the need for his

"long second look" at evolution and its history, which becomes a look

at evolution not only from the perspective of its social and moral

ramifications, but also at evolution as itself a "figure" of thought.

With the metaphor of evolution as a rocky projection, a monument, and

of the cloud that diffuses shifting colors onto the monument, then,

Eiseley introduces his consideration of these ramifications. Thus this

concluding chapter is prototypical of Eiseley's concern with the

social implications of evolution, the problem of the individual in

relation to evolutionarytheory, the question Where shall I live in

this embracing system? and its epistemological extension How shall I

know where I shall live. ? And it is prototypical of the

Eiseleyan method of organization, which employs (not in a fixed

order) metaphor, quotation, personal reading of the quotation, and

personal experience or anecdote, all in explication of a point of

science or of its cultural ramifications.

The second part of the essay re-views and summarizes the pre-

Darwinian nineteenth century, with its progress in geological

understanding, growth in morophological biology, increasing awareness

of the enormity of time, and theories of "progressionism," which

perceived a successive development of life forms from simple to

complex, though with the notion of successive creations rather than

actual phylogenetic descent of forms. Eiseley emphasizes the notion of

the past as unreturning and undermines Lyell's "safe," cyclical time

predicated on the Newtonian machine. As astronomy and paleontology

discovered an increasingly lengthy past, "the historic ever-changing,

irreversible, on-flowing continuum of events was being linked to

galaxies and suns and worlds" (330). Gradually the clues emerged that

would present time as itself creative and thus would emphasize both

cosmic and organic novelty. Even Malthus, Eiseley notes, with his

notion of the "balances" on population, was a product of eighteenth-

century notions of "balance" inherited from Newton. What Darwin and

Wallace left to the next century was a new sense of time, which

brought with it a new, continuously and infinitely creative world.

The stylistic strategy with which Eiseley makes the point is a

metaphor as wild and uncontrolled and teeming with creative life as

the Newtonian metaphor of the universal machine is fixed and

controlled and not creative but representative: time, no longer

subject to a Newtonian "natural government" (the word natural provides

great tension in Eiseley's texts because man seems to accept as

"given" anything that comes to be seen as "natural"), has become

"instead a vast chaotic Amazon pouring through unimaginable

wildernesses its burden of 'houses and bones and gardens, cooks and

clocks'" (332). Time, then, is a wild, unknown, and romantic river

rather than a machine. As such it carries forward the synecdoches

of human life, in the phrase quoted from Alfred Russel Wallace.