Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dissertation Concept Paper 1st Draft

I gave a copy of my draft concept paper to a Ph.D chemist at work who I admire and who has been a friend for over 15 years. He really liked the concept of the paper but he really hated MLA citation format. I laughed so hard because that was one of the things I had trouble getting used to as well -- MLA format. It's just so different than any format we use for scientific publishing. Dr. Bob spent a lot of time grousing about the MLA citation format. I sympathize.

We had a long talk about my concept paper and the difficulties I've encountered trying to bridge myth and science when both sides really aren't that interested in talking to each other. At least with religion and science there is a dialogue, even if at times it's a loud and contentious conversation.

The worst part is being ridiculed from people on both sides. Very recently, I travelled to the Salk Institute in San Diego to demo an X-ray diffraction scanning system made by a major X-ray manufacturer. After the demonstration (and wow did I want the system but lack the $650K to buy one) we went to lunch. In the group were the two of us from my lab, a crystallographer from Pfizer, and the two manufacturer reps, one an engineer. The sales rep asked about my graduate work and I told him it was in Mythological Studies -- everyone at the table laughed, as if I'd delivered a great joke and the punch line was hilarious.

In a recent reflection paper for my Religious Studies class, near the end I make the following observation:

"On a personal note, I feel a bit like Evans-Pritchard, being “a sort of double outsider alienated from both worlds” which is a lot to hold, let alone balance (quoted in Doniger 231). Studying mythology is not compatible with a scientifically constructed worldview and living in a scientific world is not compatible with the animus mundi. Wendy Doniger mentions it at the end of her article, but in my every-day laboratory existence, none of the work we have done in the last three years here at Pacifica is considered scholarly. And at Pacifica, there is a strong anti-Enlightenment, anti-rationalistic, and anti-science perspective. Some of that perspective I’ve found useful and some of it I’ve found to be just another bias."

Doniger, Wendy. “The Uses and Misuses of Other Peoples’ Myths.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 54.2 (1986): 219-239.

So the big question in my mind is whether or not I will be able to bridge the two, myth and science, successfully for my dissertation topic. I've been told I need to provide a science Ph.D to sit on my committee but finding one who will be able to appreciate the mythic path this dissertation will take has been difficult. Dr. Bob wants to read my dissertation but doesn't feel he is social enough to interact productively with my committee. I've encountered Myth faculty who've told me straight up they wouldn't understand my topic, and scientists who have shown me that they don't understand the mythic or depth psychological aspects. In some ways, it seems as though I've made a connection between the two that others just cannot fathom.

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