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Lifting the Veil: The Feminine Face of Science.

The feminine face of science cries real tears, but from its mouth - in this instance - comes psychobabble. Despite the dramatic title, Linda Jean Shepherd, a Seattle biochemist, lifts no veils from science. The veils that have been lifted are those that had once shrouded her view of her work.

After a series of midlife crises - her marriage ended, her mother died, she turned to Jungian psychology at age 36 - Shepherd stepped out of the laboratory to devote four years to writing this book.

Unfortunately, people who ought to heed Shepherd's advice - the primarily male "hard-science" decision-makers and practitioners - probably won't read this book.

She seems content to preach to the converted - to women who have discovered that the achievements of the collective mind of science might be outweighed by the appalling smallness of its soul. Just as nonbelievers turn deaf ears to Bible-thumping sermons, most scientists will ignore this "soft" Jung-thumping treatise.

A typical sentence: "To truly serve ourselves and others well, knowledge must be balanced by love and compassion, channeled through the heart and evaluated by the feeling function."

There's nothing wrong with it and nothing particularly enlightening. But "feeling function" sticks out at the end of the sentence like a red flag flapping on a long piece of lumber: Beware of sluggish writing!

Shepherd calls for a kinder, gentler science, one in which the abstract reductionism of the masculine thinking process is balanced by feminine functions such as feeling, intuition, nurturing, subjectivity, receptivity, compassion, cooperation, intimacy, humility, wholeness.

Shepherd recalls that as a youngster, "my idea of being feminine meant wearing ribbons and fully blouses and pursuing quiet activities like cooking and sewing"

But science was "sparkled with power" she soon discovered. "In order to prove myself and succeed in the male realm of science, I adopted the rational, analytical, hierarchical approach. I wanted to prove that I could be just as smart and competent as men," she said.

Jungian psychology, of course, recognizes that there exits the archetypal feminine within every male, as there exists the archetypal masculine within every female.

At great length, Shepherd says in essence that the deadly power of the masculine in science must now give way to the healing influence of the feminine.

Drawing on precepts of the very earliest scientists, she says that "once united, both thinking and feeling lose their sting and are transformed. Alchemically, their union gives us the elixir of life."

Drawing on the imagery of tarot cards, she proposes union of "the sword of the intellect" with "the cup of receptivity." The sword, of course, has so far been wielded almost entirely by men. The cup has always remained in women's hands.

"I believe," Shepherd writes, "that the feminine in each of us - the part of us that sees life in context, the interconnectedness of everything, and the consequences of our actions on future generations - can help heal the wounds of our planet."

Any thinking/feeling man or woman, looking at nuclear weapons, at pollution, at technology run berserk, would have to agree. If the feminine works, if it can indeed heal us and save us, then let's put it to work.

Shepherd interviews a couple dozen female scientist - several of whom request anonymity - who suggest specific approaches on how the feminine might help science blossom in attractive ways. Perhaps by returning to the lab, Shepherd, the theorist, can join these and other colleagues involved each day in the crucial experiment function.

Frank Zoretich is a freelance journalist in Miami who sometimes reads scientific journals just for fun.
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Author:Zoretich, Frank
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 10, 1993
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