Author Topic: Should science books merit someone for Nobel Prize in literature?  (Read 697 times)

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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Should science books merit someone for Nobel Prize in literature?
« on: September 23, 2018, 04:40:31 PM »
Richard Dawkins has from time to time argued that science books should make a person merited for Nobel Prize in literature. For example this tweet:

https://twitter.com/richarddawkins/status/1024312008487981057

Do you agree with Dawkins or not here?

Personally, I think "Why not?".
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Offline brilligtove

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Re: Should science books merit someone for Nobel Prize in literature?
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2018, 06:21:02 PM »
Now I have to go look up the full range of Nobel Prizes.


ETA from Wikipedia.org (and deal with formatting)

Outstanding contributions for humanity in:
Often confused with Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2018, 06:28:08 PM by brilligtove »
evidence trumps experience | performance over perfection | responsibility – authority = scapegoat | emotions motivate; data doesn't

Offline brilligtove

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Re: Should science books merit someone for Nobel Prize in literature?
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2018, 06:30:43 PM »
Hrm. What about a prize for Science Communication instead of writing?
evidence trumps experience | performance over perfection | responsibility – authority = scapegoat | emotions motivate; data doesn't

Offline Rai

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Re: Should science books merit someone for Nobel Prize in literature?
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2018, 04:21:42 AM »
I am not very convinced.

While the Literary Nobel has been awarded for non-fiction (Mommsen, Churchill and, to be honest, Sartre (who reads his novels or dramas?)) and philosophy (Bergson, Russell), these were exceptions. With Mommsen, they probably had no idea what they were doing (it was the second such award ever), Churchill was Churchill and Sartre is one of the most important figures of 20th century literature, even if his role as a writer of fiction has been limited. Philosophy is a weird choice buy maybe they just didn't have another European male buddy of theirs to give the award to those years.

Sagan's book is great, but I don't see how it is that exceptionally well-written or even influential enough to be considered for a very prestigious literary prize, which is partially given to honour the life achievements of a literary figure. I do like the guy, but a few well-written popular science books should not be enough for a Literary Nobel.

What is it that makes Sagan more like Seamus Heaney, Toni Morrison or Rabindranath Tagore than writers of other, equally (if not more) popular science books like Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Hawking, Konrad Lorenz, Diane Fossey, Gerald Durrell (who wrote really good fiction as well), Jane Goodall, Philip Hoare (Leviathan or, The Whale is as much literature as non-fiction, and probably one of the best books I've ever read) or David Attenborough? Many of these people were, and are, more prolific and well-known writers after all.

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Should science books merit someone for Nobel Prize in literature?
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2018, 04:44:08 PM »
That particular book by Sagan has been very influential within the skeptical community. In the world at large, not so much. Nevertheless, I think the general argument is not just about that book, but about science books in general.
"I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us." - Christopher Hitchens

Offline Jeremy's Sea

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Re: Should science books merit someone for Nobel Prize in literature?
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2018, 07:19:51 PM »
Then give a Nobel prize to someone like Roddenberry for advancing science by inspiring generations to jump into creating the future.
(I know, it can't be awarded posthumously)  :laugh:

I don't really stand on tradition as a way of doing things often, but what's really the point of changing it? I know Dawkins has skin in the game though. Sagan's book is more akin to philosophy than art. It's more anecdote and rationality than storytelling. Storytelling should have a special place in the world of awards. Let's open the medium up and award Netflix shows. Wait, we have awards for that. So does scientific endeavor.
Let Dawkins eat cake.
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Offline mindme

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Re: Should science books merit someone for Nobel Prize in literature?
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2018, 08:19:29 AM »
Technically a Nobel prize for literature isn't awarded for a particular book but for the author's body of work. Possibly the closest was Bertrand Russell, whose body of work included math, science, and logic. Although I guess the award was given "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought."  But, read between the lines as you see fit.

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