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Editor's Note, December/January 1996-97

In this issue, we begin a two-year project called the New Democracy Forum. Our partner in this project is the New Party, and we have a jointly-authored statement of aims and ambitions on page five.

Boston Review, as readers know, describes itself a "political-cultural- literary magazine." The "political" and "literary" categories are, at least in extension, more or less straightforward. The New Democracy Forum is political. On the literary side, we have-among much else in this issue-Robert Creeley on Amiri Baraka, and Kiki DeLancey's remarkable story "Jules Jr Michael Jules Jr." DeLancey published a story in the Review more than 10 years ago, and we are delighted to welcome her back now as winner of our Fourth Annual Short Story Contest.

"Cultural" is the vexed category. Much is included within it, but by unfortunate convention, it excludes scientific debate. That's too bad: serious science (physics, chemistry, and biology, for starters) is arguably the greatest achievement of modern culture. When NYU physicist Alan Sokal published his "postmodernism-meets-physics" parody in Social Text earlier this year, we were all reminded of the unhappy results of this convention. I am sure you remember the basics: The editors of Social Text published an article-intentionally filled with philosophical jargon and scientific absurdity-that they could not judge; moreover, they lacked the good sense (not to mention humility) to find someone who could.

In the aftermath, we heard the predictable references to C. P. Snow and the difficulties of communicating across scientific and literary cultures. But such ritual invocations of Snow's "two cultures" can only serve to foster existing divisions. Moreover, they are misleading: there simply is no general problem of communication between humanists and scientists. In any case, we have chosen to pursue a different strategy of response. Premising the extraordinary importance to modern culture of scientific argument and achievement, we seek to refute the idea that communication across cultures is impossible by publishing more articles in and about contemporary science. We began two issues back with biologist Allen Orr on Dan Dennett's Darwinism (and Dennett's reply). The current issue features two more articles on evolutionary biology. Computer scientist Robert Berwick explores the limits of Richard Dawkins's evolutionary gradualism-his lack of "feeling for the organism"; Allen Orr exposes the flaws in a new book arguing that cellular complexity can only be explained by the existence of an intelligent creator.

We of course will not confine ourselves to evolutionary biology; that's just how things have gone thus far. The important thing is to bridge the gap. And if we do, we will then deserve our own self-description - as political, literary, and cultural.

-Joshua Cohen

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