This passage from The Great Influenza describes the scientific process and how a scientist must have the courage to “embrace” uncertainty to make the unknown known. Through the use of metaphors, analogies, and other rhetorical devices, the author further conveys a scientist’s tedious process to reveal a newfound truth.
Barry begins by contrasting the strength and conviction of certainty with the weakness and fear of uncertainty. He uses clear, definitive language to convey broad ideas. He establishes direction in his second paragraph as he lists the qualities an ideal scientist should have. He emphasizes that a scientist must have “the courage to accept—indeed, embrace—uncertainty.” To conclude this paragraph the author uses Claude Bernard, a famous physiologist, as an authority to strengthen the make-up of a scientist.
Barry opens the third paragraph with a ...view middle of the document...
The author includes an allusion to Lewis Carroll’s novel about Alice In Wonderland, by conveying that careful testing “can take them through the looking glass into a world that seems entirely different.” Barry finishes the fourth paragraph with two contrasting sentences. The second to last sentence is long, elaborate, and relates the finding of the truth to a crystal that illuminates the road for colleagues. The last sentence is quite blunt in which the author provides the inverse result – falling off a cliff – which instills the idea of fear and uncertainty in the reader. “Frontier,” “one step beyond the unknown,” “wilderness,” and “cliff” are all part of an extended metaphor woven throughout the fourth paragraph to imply a heroic journey. This suggests the idea that a scientist is like a trailblazer, an idea supported in the fifth and sixth paragraphs, moving into uncharted territory.
Barry’s fifth paragraph strengthens the pioneer analogy with the use of questions. These questions are not rhetorical. Their sole purpose is to represent the thought process of a scientist. The analogy finally ends with the scientist’s success. Once progress has been made and certainty restored, “a flood of colleagues will pave over the path laid” to delve into whatever uncertainty is left. In this small paragraph, there is a hint of criticism in Barry’s diction. He refers to the scientists as a “flood,” their paved roads as “orderly and straight,” and remarking that their tools will be ready for them. However, considering Barry acknowledges that not all scientists can be so courageous in the following paragraph, it is very a subtle judgment at best.
In the final paragraph, Barry suggests that not all scientific researchers have what is takes to reveal the unknown. The transition to the fact that experiments do not always give the desired results is made to connect to uncertainty. The fact that experiments fail and can be “manipulate[d] and … force[d] to … yield an answer” is itself uncertain in its attempt to establish certainty. Through the use of rhetorical strategies, Barry managed to uncover that the only certainty in science is uncertainty.