July 17, 2024

Science is Responsibility

The true story of Frankenstein is often twisted compared to the original by Mary Shelley. We have all seen the typical Frankenstein costume during Halloween, a grotesque and ghastly monster, usually green. But what those who never read the gothic novel don’t realize is Frankenstein is not only the true monster,  but the creator.  I suppose the lasting image of fear could have in a way preserved one of the lessons taught in Frankenstein: That moving forward with science without thought of consequences can lead to terror.  Dr. Victor Frankenstein, the woeful fleer of his own creation, opens with his story after being found in the Arctic.

Victor was not a bad man, at least not from what we read. He is in fact one of the main proponents for good, the elixir of life. The supposed miracle of converting life from elemental experimentation was Victor’s driving force. It became his obsession, and I think this is the start of his downfall. Yes, the pursuit for such a boon to humanity is surely noble, upon success it would be an act of greatness. But in my opinion Victor lost that intention along the way. His constant praise for being a genius went from admiration to a standard that had to be kept regardless of the consequences. He was able to master the sciences so well that his aspirations became not limited to what he should do but only to what he could do. And that lead him to create his monster. Successfully reanimating a dead corpse with electricity, Victor failed to see what a hulking nightmare he had given life to until it came alive. The sacrifices he made in the name of his progress, the huge proportions, the scars, the simply nightmarish frame and face, he had brushed past them to succeed.

The monster was not born a monster. A clean slate, perhaps even kind from the start, it wandered into the woods after being abandoned by Victor to live among the birds and animals. Tragically, his appearance could only lead to him being scorned by all humans but a blind man. Constant rejection and abuse lead to murder, and Victor would be blamed for one of them. Promising to live far from humans if Victor would create him a mate, the monster waited for Victor to fulfill his wish. However, Victor did not keep his word and tossed the monster’s hope into water. Furious, the monster killed Victor’s wife and the two chased each other into the Arctic.  All of this could have been prevented if Victor had taken the time to think of the consequences of his creation. But he was blinded by ambition until it was too late. His inability to take responsibility and mend his wrongs after the fact only solidifies him as the villain in my eyes. But there are many variables to consider in this story and that is what makes it so impactful. Real life will not be black and white either, there is no manual to determine if an advancement is “good or bad.” Take Chernobyl for example. We can all agree on energy being needed. But is nuclear the way to go? Even if it is the cleanest and most high in potential to help us, catastrophic accidents like Chernobyl might make us reconsider as we see the brutal effects of radiation.

We should always consider what impact our advancements in science might have on ourselves and others. But Frankenstein shows us that we do not always exercise caution, and that the responsibility does not end simply when we deem our experiment over. It may not go the way we wanted or expected, but that doesn’t mean you can pull a Victor and ditch the project and forget about it. Obviously we haven’t reached the pinnacle of creating an artificial life to be responsible for yet, but the lesson still stands. And at this point, we might be a lot closer to such events than expected.


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