Rhetoric in Science: Response to “How Smart Can We Get?”

While watching the video “How Smart Can We Get?” I was surprised by the ways in which the ideas behind certain scientific discoveries were presented in terms of rhetoric. The most intriguing to me was the discussion of the synthetic E. coli strain.

I say this because genetic manipulation is often a hot topic for those concerned with possible consequences of such manipulation. In other words, people worry all the time that messing around with genetic material can be detrimental to human health.

In the video, however, the lead scientist behind this synthetic E. coli DNA presents his findings in a way that makes this type of testing seem like “the next big thing”. It is interesting that he starts with his background; he tries to hook viewers by telling his story. He includes the death of his mother and his struggle as a gay man in a small town to show the struggles he faced that ultimately encouraged him to work as hard as possible. He then went on to actually talk about his findings once he is sure that viewers are empathizing with him.

The largest part of his argument was the idea that these bacteria could be used to solve the world fuel problem. He shows that simply using switchgrass and E. coli, he and his team of scientists have been able to create biofuel on a small scale. He presents this with such a hopeful tone that it makes viewers hopeful as well.

The reason that I found this particular portion of the video so interesting is that, as stated before, the topic is something that is normally looked at with utmost scrutiny. The presentation of the facts, however, is done in such a way that, at the very least, viewers become curious as to whether or not this will be an effective method.

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