What Matters More, Science or Poetry?

Even though she may have taken some flack from Jon Stewart, Elizabeth Alexander's presence at the Obama inauguration seems to officially signal the return of eloquence and rhetoric to the political world. Poetry places an emphasis, if not on clear meaning, then at least on precision of word choice—something that stands to seriously improve the integrity of political dialogue in the the US.


Just yesterday, Newark Mayor Cory Booker took a page from Obama's book in the state of the city address he gave last night, quoting Maya Angelou in an effort to rally his citizens to stay strong in the face of recession. It seems that now, more than ever, poetry has a certain resonance with the economically depressed masses.

And yet, poetic verse can't seem to shirk its role as the scapegoat for frivolous culture everywhere. Yesterday, Oxford University Online Debates announced its latest discussion topic: "Poetry is beautiful, but science is what matters." The spokesmen for the respective liberal arts will be Professor Peter Atkins, of Lincoln College and the Department of Chemistry, and Dr Peter McDonald, of Christ Church and the Faculty of English Language and Literature. We're doubtful about the possibility of succcessfully arguing either side—science can be shockingly beautiful and if the last few months are any evidence, poetry certainly matters.

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