Sunday, 30 September 2007

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Probably most people have heard of Frankenstein, though I guess more people have seen one of the films rather than read the book. I've just read the book and thought it was very interesting. It has been called by a lot of people the first science fiction novel. Written during a time period of significant scientific discovery, it points the reader to think about the relationship of humans to their environment and about the responsible use of science. Frankenstein creates a monster and then accepts no responsibility for either its well being or its future actions. The monster in its turn is shown to have clearly started out as having a moral sense but the negative reactions of humans towards it caused it to attack people. Its a book that has a lot to say in today's world of GM science.


Janice Thomson said...

Unfortunately science often forgets to take into account any consequences or impact it may have on the environment or human life. Discoveries like the plastics of your previous post while a very durable product has in fact created many severe environmental problems because of this very durability. Cars, gadgets and modern inventions have made the population a lazy one and increased their health problems tremendously because machinery now does all the work. When scientists start taking into account the defects, limitations, and disadvantages of their discoveries and refuse to make these items then the world will have reached a new maturity.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Well said Janice. I think that was the point of Frankenstein, though obviously science then was nowhere near as powerful or as irresponsible as it has become since.

FARfetched said...

That's an interesting take, and a valid one as far as it goes. New inventions, and technology in general, has downsides and drawbacks that people don't think about or simply ignore — but you only touched on the second half of it. Technology is a tool that is placed in our hands, and it's up to each of us to decide whether we use it properly. You can use a screwdriver to fix something or as a weapon, for example.

Plastic can be a solution, or a problem — or both at once. Like Janice says, it's a durable material that doesn't rust or corrode (although UV light tends to weaken it); with thoughtful design, it can be used as a structural material as well. The result is much lighter than metal or wood, and can insulate both heat and electricity (I've been zapped by old radios with metal cabinets).

But a substance that degrades only over geological time-scales should first be only used in products with a very long lifespan. And secondly, there should be ways to reuse plastics (and other materials, for that matter) when the product has reached the end of its service life.

To me, the solution isn't so much refusing to use plastic as it is learning to use it responsibly. An economic way to recycle all the plastic out there now (in just about everything) would be a great first step.

Andrea said...

I read this while I lived in the UK in college and I was so surprised--I just loved it. It made me realize the massive power for good and bad in the hands of scientists. Thanks for the reminder.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Thanks Andrea

Farfetched - I agree, plastic can be useful, but so often is used in inappropriate situations. We've discussed it before and will no doubt discuss it again and again.

selma said...

Thank you for your very thoughtful, and indeed, thought-provoking blog. I agree with you wholeheartedly that the themes in 'Frankenstein' are still pertinent today. While scientists can provide us with the answer to so many of life's problems, they can in fact, also be the cause of those problems.

My hubby was recently admitted to hospital with a severe allergic reaction to rice. I found it almost impossible to believe. I mean, who is allergic to rice? The doctors tell you to eat it boiled and plain if you've had a tummy upset.

The allergy specialist in the hospital told us (off the record) that lately there has been a spate of similar reactions. Preliminary research indicates it's due to GM rice slipping into the food chain or onto supermarket shelves. I don't know what it's like in the UK now (haven't lived there since I was a kid) but in Australia there is very little labelling of GM products. It scares me quite a lot.