Article Review


Writing a rhetorical Analysis paper of an article
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Rhetorical Analysis of an Article

The article titled “Can We Know the Universe?” is an excerpt published in Broca’s Brain by Carl Sagan. He was an American astrophysicist and cosmologist who contributed immensely to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), and worked as an astronomy and planetary studies professor at Cornell University. Sagan also served as an advisor to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and contributed to many space exploration projects. He was also successful in sending out physical messages into space in efforts to communicate with potential extra-terrestrial creatures.

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In his works, Sagan mostly focuses on the expansion of extra-terrestrial intelligence theories. He is very interested and knowledgeable on the solar system and the universe. In this piece, he begins by explaining science as a way of thinking as opposed to a fixed knowledge entity. Sagan describes science as the pathway to understanding the university that still remains largely hidden or unexplained. The article explains the connectedness of all things in the world, a phenomenon that can be summarized in knowledge relating to cosmos (Filkin 45). According to the article, scientific inquiry requires courage, and finding the right answers requires the ability and strength to think objectively while daring to question what has been presented as facts.

Moreover, the article explains that if natural laws existed in regularity and certainty, then we would know everything about the universe. The presence of these natural laws and the ability to understand them makes the world knowable or unknowable depending on one’s perspective. Based on this view, Sagan concludes that a world that is not fully known and understood is ultimately more interesting because it promotes science, encourages critical thinking, and livens up the world (Sagan 13).

Additionally, the argument being made in this excerpt is well-supported using logical explanations and analogy. For example, the author uses the salt used effectively to shed light on the current level of human understanding of the outer world. In making an argument, the author has sought to provide insights that can easily spur human interest in the nature of the universe in addition to the unseen things that exist in the world.

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At the same time, the author appears to be very knowledgeable on the topic. For example, he has taught it in various universities and advised many stakeholders in the space exploration industry. Besides, Sagan has conducted thorough scientific research to come up with relevant information on extraterrestrial intelligence and the universe. His intention is to provide a relatable empirical example explaining various aspects of life in the universe.

At the outset, the author offers an introductory comment on the topic before progressing towards subtle persuasion. He observed that the theory of extra-terrestrial intelligence has traditionally been dismissed as fictional or mythical. Sagan’s piece was meant to present scientific facts to create the impression that the possibility of the existence of other forms of life in other planets should not be ruled out. Thus, this writing does not employ direct persuasion; rather, it provides a presentation of accurate and captivating facts that inspire people to think objective in order to come up with their own conclusions. The excerpt urges people to embrace and evaluate little-known facts about the world and then use them as a basis for coming up with a reasoned argument on extraterrestrial intelligence.

Meanwhile, the writing does not appear to target any particular group or individuals. It seeks to appeal to the masses. However, it has specific focus on those who, despite their lack crucial information, are remotely interested in the universe and exploration. The writer does not give any consideration to those who do not even acknowledge the complexity of the world and the universe. On the contrary, he targets those who have a belief in not only what they can see, but also what they cannot see. His reasoning is mostly drawn from scientific experiments and information gathered by himself and other experts in the field.

The main figure of speech used is the analogy of the grain of salt (Sagan 14). The author argues that though small, it contains millions of smaller components that altogether make up the grain. He calculates the total capacity of things the brain can know, and they turn out to be one percent of the atoms that make up the grain of salt. The analogy explains the atomic composition of salt being chlorine and sodium linked by atomic and molecular bonds and existing in billions just to form one grain of salt. The message being emphasized through this analogy is that the number of things that are knowable to the brain is very small, even smaller than the number of atoms in a grain of salt. In this respect, Sagan explains that it is literally impossible to understand everything about the universe unless our brains were as big as the universe. Using this analogy, he explains that natural laws that exist today make it possible to understand the universe through science. Thus, the universe appears to limits itself and human beings from further exploration.

The tone used to write the essay is characterized by assertiveness. It commands immediate attention because it sounds honest and fact-filled. Moreover, the writing is very well organized in a way that perfect projects aspects of total variation. A sense of calmness is projected at the beginning, but it soon gives way to firmness and reflection in a way that imparts a strong element of persuasion. The style of writing is properly organized; it starts off with an interesting observation on what science actually is in comparison to what it is thought to be.  The paper then slowly grows to introduce the main theme before switching over to analogies. Afterwards, the author gives the reader an opportunity to think and come up with a personal decision. By adopting a neutral stand on the issue, the article succeed in communicating the intended message effectively.

Although this piece was written many years ago (1979), it is still relevant. Furthermore, it is about to experience even more practical relevance since a growing number of scientists and space explorers believe in the existence of other forms of life in the outer space. With today’s robust technological development, the prospect of achieving new milestones in research on various components of the solar system is within reach. The technology makes it possible for diverse aspects of the universe to be monitored to generate new insights. Consequently, extra-terrestrial existence has gained worldwide recognition and is now a crucial research area for scientists.

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On the other hand, the author has adequately appealed to logic by providing accurate facts that can be used to draw conclusions.  He also appeals to readers’ emotions by encouraging them to incorporate scientific thinking into their understanding of the universe in order to create and preserve a sense of identity and belonging. Finally, he appeals to ethics when he talks about scientists who proclaim that everything can be known. The tone used reveals the author’s dissatisfaction with these self-righteous and self-proclaimed scientists.

Lastly, the article contains well laid-out facts and allusions that provide accurate information. However, the allusions and analogies are not exquisitely explained; thus, the likelihood of misinterpretation by the reader should not be ruled out. Nevertheless, the writer has managed to pass a strong argument to a wide audience using a credible platform. By extension, the resulting argument is credible: scientific knowledge, courage, and objective thinking are the key requirements for a fulfilling exploration and understanding of the universe.

Works Cited

Filkin, David. Stephen Hawkin’s Universe: The Cosmos Explained. New York: Basic Books, 1998. Print.

Sagan, Carl. “Can We Know the Universe?” In Carl Sagan, Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science. New York: Random House, 1979. Web.

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