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Discourse Comparison of John Steinbeck and Rick Bass Scientific Perspectives

John Steinbeck tries to reinvent scientific discourse. Actually, he poaches on long before delienated boundaries of scientific prose and states them anew. Clearly enough Steinbeck reports the inadequacy of traditional scientific style and its objectivity claims.

I see Steinbeck saying: let us not envision researcher as a detached person. Under that circumstances, his/her abstractness as a nature observer cannot render him/her disheartened and impartial. His personal glow has a primary and constructive role in science development as well as his possessiveness in personal and close participation in scientific research that might bring him fame.(“Why do men, sitting at the microscope, examine the calcareous plates of sea-cucumber, and, finding a new arrangement and number, feel an exaltation and give a new species a name and write about it possessively.”) But later Steinbeck specifies that mild and half-true formula. He insist on there be no objective science at all, no objective field of research laying prone and still, await for the observer. His scientific world is catious of every extraneous intrusion, be it transposition of life organisms within one tiny eco-system, contamination of a vast region entailing massive ‘die out’ of inhabitants or mere existence of observer which tries to spy out its internal life. Steinbeck’s scientific world resembles a whirlpool within which mutual exchanges and influences makes a single whole of interrelated flows. Practically, system has no internal life distinct from that of its surrounding.(“…realizing that we became forever a part of it; that our rubber boots slogging through a flat eelgrass, that the rocks we turn over in a tide pool, make us truly and permanently a factor in the ecology of the region.”)

Author is right to notice the equal prominence of mighty and minor external impulses for the constructing of notion of non-isolated and resilient eco-system which, what is the most important to finally discredit objective science, contains observer as its integral part. For the purpose of objective science mirrored by imperious discourse the existence of observer, foreign as he is to the system, does not entail his influence on the system. Even if objective science momentarily becomes aware of researcher, it is only to acknowledge his contribution and give his name to some specie. The influence observer projects onto the living system is deemed immaterial to its inherent characteristic within objective dogmas. Steinbeck, on the contrary, emphasizes the fragility and fluidness of living systems, which react to every impulse from without and observer, as such, might lawfully be treated as one of those impulses however minor his influence may be.

From the onset of his article Rick Bass also spoke in favour of reinventing of the relations between nature and man. He seems to illuminate the advantage of anthropomorphizing wolves as that, which imparts new, more promising perspective. In a nature were human is no more guest but true host, every other animal is influenced by his Omniscience. According to him, human presence affects wolves even in their traditional sanctuaries. Practically, aggressive stance of humans, which can be traced back to the aggressive concepts of conquest, applicable to wolves only as they hit their primary goal, is accountable of many (evolutionary) changes within them. Man actually contributed to wolves assaulting livestock by diminishing the acreage of forests, planting fence posts to delineate their territory wherein their livestock could enjoy safe life. Naturally, wolves trickled into farms area to get some reimbursement for the nearly extinct dears. But that’s a rather trivial thing. The benefits of anthropomorphizing wolves spring from protruding a human society categories on wolves, which may prompt acknowledging the exact position human occupy within wild world. This is to say, the degree to which wolves lend themselves to describing in human society categories or wolves, affected by humans to the degree which makes them evolutionary dependent on its human neighbor, may signify the “swaying balance” between affected nature and active human.

The scientific perspective of Bass is reversed as compared to that of Steinbeck: Bass seems to believe in powerful influence man exerts on the nature. He also acknowledges that man has come to redress the balance between him and all the rest of living animals excessively. At this point he actually is interested in stating or fixing of that redressed balance: what is the actual state of that man-nature relations? Wolves’ example proves to be good for that aim because wolves has come to live by man as he goes on intruding their provinces, their are affected by his activity because it leads to ‘food chain’ transformation, diminishing the role of predators as regulators of the population of hoofed and keeping to biological balance appropriate for the particular territory. In fact, man has usurped the function predators used to fulfil by exterminating the actual populations of deer and pushing them further into remote areas. Wolves are bound by human activity and driven by the migration and hoofed population’s changes induced by man. But wolves also evolve along the way and transform into some other, more clever and “edgier” creatures, whose genetic pattern actually is influenced by man and that strange neighboring. I see the general idea of Bass in claiming that a new balance ought to be stricken between man and wolves, that which will adequately acknowledge conditions changed a lot and, in practical terms, will signify the reality of that mighty mutual influences, which brought that transformation, notable in ‘patterns of behaviour’ terms if not recognized on genetic level yet. He declares the source of wolves evolution to be a human and a source of human evolution to be, primarily, history and appreciation of universal experience but also, the centuries of men-wolves neighbouring. (“And this time will be able to find out if human nature, and our politics, have changed – metamorphosed, perhaps, into something more advanced – or if at the base of our politics are still those of Indian killers. The wolves intend to find out too.”)

Bass accords with Steinbeck in that humans are part to the nature, they do change nature immensely but can’t resist being themselves changed. Humans and nature in whole evolve at different speeds but in one destination because that destination is pre-conditioned by their day-to-day interconnexion and mutual influences, which like flows may fill one and then rebound to the other. The interdependence of man and nature and their actual linkage seem to be the general idea shared by both Bass and Steinbeck. How consonant may sound both authors when their speak about the dialogue with nature. Bass writes: “If I could say any one thing to politicians, to people with guns and poisons (and sheeps and cows) it would be this: that to have the balance the majority of people claim to long for, it must be struck by the wolves as much as by the people. The wolves must have some say in defining it, or it will not be valid.”

For Steinbeck, to acknowledge every live system as non-isolated is to declare a man, which intrudes with an aim to research , its integral part, prescribing him, thenceforth, powers to truly construe the nature’s secrets provided he gave a due regard to natures voice, which speaks out to him as a partner. (“Let’s go wide open. Let’s see what we see, record what we find and not fool ourselves with conventional scientific structures.”)

Bass may only uphold the inadequacy of traditional scintific style when dealing with social as well as natural phenomena. He, in his discourse, is less concerned with problems of conflict between science and reality; at least, he does not emphisize it, say, like Steinback does. Nevertheless, Bass might be reported to repudiate objectivity claims: “I can say want to say. I gave up my science badge a long time ago…The story is so rich. We can begin anywhere.” Bass perceives many different agenda as possible depending on whether people are “for” or “against”. He beleives not in science when it lays its basement for the discussion; he renders ‘objectivity’ as an impediment to finding a plausible solution of the situation. Objectivity in that case equals to detachment from the real problem which takes place in the real world around the author. In this world presupposition “for” or “against” speak for the the attitudes, ways of thinking, in which science may play but a tributary role. Those mighty piles of human experience are the primary addressee Bass relates to. He speaks about time and changes that might come with a time. He wants stating human-nature relations anew as people and nature had that new relations coming and the time is right now. Bass dismisses scientific objectivity as one of those falacious ploys to circumvent the necessity of striking a new balance and more fair delimitation. Science for him is one of those many impedimens (along with money and ill-fated killing zeal) which may play against his purpose.

Steinbeck, on the contrary, pays a great deal more attention to refuting dogmas o traditional science. Debasement of traditional science may, as I construed from Steinbeck, springs from its overreliance on vast intervention of traditional scientific structures, which filter into free discourse through author’s conscience, to actually shape that discourse in terms of purpose and methodology.
Scientific discourse lacks the freedom, abundant in poetic modes of reality representation, which (poetic modes) has lost its objectiveness but nevertheless may rely on its singularity and representation power. Author, who has “decided to let it (book) form itself”, may lawfully be addressed to as true reformer in the realm of science. I can see him neither impairing analytical and deductive function of science nor questioning the scientific purview by approaching new “relational externality”, which is capable of assailing but may, as every living thing, fight back. That novelty, which new relation between system and observer may signify, can give a new perspective to scientific research without devoiding it of that positive methodology, which will prove capable enough of utilizing that broad purview, leaving behind only those presuppositions which obstruct that process.

The difference between two realities: holistic or, as Steinbeck put it, addressing “an entity which is more than the sum of fish plus fisherman” and objective reality, the proponents of which “set down one truth” and record “many lies”, may be treated within Epicurean-like or ‘wholeness-jealous’ scheme. In short, science misses a lot of treasures findings, which may only be revealed within broader approach and by changing the subject of research from ‘nature’ and its objective or intact laws to ‘man and nature’ united by mutual influences. Thus, the difference between pickled fish and alive fish, so evident to everyone, might be rendered as vital with respect to scientific fruitfulness of the subject: “The man with pickled fish has sacrificed a great observation about himself, the fish, and the focal point, which is his thought on both sierra and himself.”

Steinbeck fights for the improvement of cognitive process, planting into a new perspective.
While Bass is more concerned with finding out real person with pronounced social conscience which will have both scientific and practical, deepened into local situation outlook, while being critical enough to discern falacy of scientific grounds yet not abandoning logics and reasoning, Steinbeck is concerned with idea of ‘perfect researcher’, namely, – what it takes to stay perfect at the temptation of either ‘objectivity’ or ‘romantic anti-science’ slant.

Drawin and Linnaeus are hardly referred to as hardly ponderous pundits, serving the abstract science and paying back his debt to mother-nature and all live creatures by stating thier genealogy, in Steinbeck. They rather are some remote and appealing personification of passionate researcher, inflamed by his ideas and striving to explain nature with a view to stand closer to it. Now that their great passion has faded away in the face of more particular science issues, their all-encompassing studies seem only to fix the findings and impose the grid or scientific structure wherein new findings should fit. The scale of their systematic work and zeal for singularity and perfection now, surprisingly as it may seem, contributed to the generous apprehension of their discourse as imperious and compelling. Thereby Steinbeck at first seems to trace the origin of ‘power discourse’ situation and then introduces his general but very expedient explanation.


On the whole, Bass and Steinbeck both acknowledge indivisibility of man and nature and their mutual influences as a focal point of scientific and social perspective, which nicely fits into subjectivism model. Steinbeck employs very specific, ‘revelation style’ and the whole design of his article is wrapped around finding the right mode of observation. He appeals to its effectiveness and frankness when preferring subjective outlook, thus condemning objective reality as hypocritic slogan. Bass resorts to plain, though marked with touch of scientific-like mode of investigation, language and presents a perfect and mobilizing article. He seems to use deeper and more appealing mode than that of Steinback because he did not introduce the man into alien wild world, he tries to at last bring nature and man to terms more or less adequate to current situation now that so much has been between them. Bass sees in man-wolves relation a mere continuation of killing zeal, inherent with man in the past and asks whether that feature can be rendered obsolete with man.

Contributors Bio

Contributor photo Lona Glenn
Los Angeles
Lona graduated from Los Angeles City College. While being a lecturer in several high school institutions Lona founded an online educational project Tutorsclass.Read more
Contributor photo Maria Castle
Davis, CA
I studied education and currently work as a tutor for school-age children. I've worked as a volunteer in many different international social projects and as a camp counselor every summer.Read more

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