Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
The end of the Cold War brought with it profound changes in the way that scientific research is funded and practiced. Aided by a culture that once largely promoted scientific objectivity and purity, scientific rhetoric traditionally eschewed arguments that relied on ethos. Instead, scientists during the Cold War era were able to adopt a persona of objective "invisibility" that occluded the material realities of "doing" science, preferring to use logos-based appeals to persuade. The decline in Cold War era federal funding, however, coupled with an intense public interest in the effects of global warming have increasingly prompted scientists to build what Miller refers to as "arguments from [scientific] authority" that communicate the pragmatic and applied value of their work to broad audiences. This project looks at the ways that scientists interpret their rhetorical situations or "read" kairos and attempt to exercise agency by developing a scientific ethos that is no longer invisible, transparent or isolated from public discourse. I focus on a group of scientists involved in the biorenewables movement, who, in their own words, have found themselves caught up in a "perfect storm" of kairotic circumstances that have enabled them to build a strong argument for the importance of biorenewable energy research. Some of these circumstances include widespread public concern over global warming and unstable oil prices. In this project, I sought to learn more about the nature and limitations of rhetorical agency, namely about how much kairotically sensitive rhetors can achieve in the face of determined structural hegemony. I did a rhetorical analysis of the chemurgy movement of the 1930s and 1940s that shared many similarities to the contemporary biorenewables movement and found that agency is inextricably linked to kairos and must be viewed through the dynamic lens of history.
Noel Elyce Holton
Holton, Noel Elyce, "A perfect storm: how biorenewables scientists are reading kairos, exercising agency, and locating a new scientific ethos that supports public engagement" (2010). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 11625.