The Dangers of Science
1. What is it?
The notion of ‘the dangers of science’ is to question whether perceived scientific progress is actually destructive and harmful due to human nature.
In literature, the dangers of science is usually shown by science getting out of control or being misused by authorities.
2. How is it made?
|A leading scientist or scientifically-advanced society is presented. Science drives their lives.||The scientist or society pushes their science to extreme lengths. This is usually driven by ego or the desire to see what is possible.|
|The scientist or decision makers are warned about potential problems by a ‘voice of reason’, but ignore it. They may go rogue, opting to live outside rules.||The negative consequences of this scientific progress becomes apparent. People begin to suffer.|
|Ultimate disaster arrives. The scientist or society may realise their folly.|
3. Examples in literature
Brave New World
Know Your Book
by Aldous Huxley
Title: Brave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Genre: Fiction; novel; science fiction; dystopia
Plot: Life in London has become engineered: sexual attractiveness determines rank; the drug Soma ensures happiness; disease has been eradicated; and naturally born ‘savages’ are kept outside the city. On a holiday to look at the savages, Lenina and Bernard meet Linda, a non-savage whose son John was born in the wilderness. They take the two back to London, where John becomes a celebrity. However, he cannot fit into a controlled society, and punishment for the whole group awaits.
Setting: London, in a fictional World State; 652 AF (i.e. 2540)
Characters: Lenina Crowne; Bernard Marx; John; Linda; Helmholtz; The Director
Excerpt from Chapter 2:
Turned, the babies at once fell silent, then began to crawl towards those clusters of sleek colours, those shapes so gay and brilliant on the white pages. As they approached, the sun came out of a momentary eclipse behind a cloud. Those roses flamed up as though with a sudden passion from within; a new and profound significance seemed to suffuse the shining pages of the books. From the ranks of the crawling babies came little squeals of excitement, gurgles and twittering of pleasure.
The Director rubbed his hands. ‘Excellent!’ He said. ‘It might almost have been done on purpose.’
The swiftest crawlers were already at their goal. Small hands reached out uncertainly, touched, grasped, unpetalling the transfigured roses, crumpling the illuminated pages of the books. The Director waited until all were happily busy. Then, ‘Watch carefully,’ he said. And, lifting his hand, he gave the signal.
The Head Nurse, who was standing by a switchboard at the other end of the room, pressed down a little lever.
There was a violent explosion. Shriller and ever shriller, a siren shrieked. Alarm bells maddingly sounded.
The children started, screamed; their faces were distorted with terror.
‘And now,’ the Director shouted (for the noise was deafening), ‘now we proceed to run in the lesson with a mild electric shock.’
|Skimming, Scanning and Basic Comprehension|
1. What is the director doing to the babies?
2. Why does the director say ‘excellent!’?
3. How does the children’s mood change?
4. What anaphora is used in the first sentence of this passage?
5. What onomatopoeia is used to describe the noises the babies?
6. What epithet is used for the main protagonist in this passage?
7. How does the director’s response contrast to the changing scene around him?
8. What events occur within the first paragraph that are in tonal contrast to what follows?
9. How does sound affect this passage? Is it in a positive or negative way?
10. How does the concept of innocence work within the passage?
11. In what way is science ‘dangerous’ in this passage? Is this different from how the The Director view his scientific work?
12. Do you believe that children can be conditioned to behave in a certain way? If so, in what ways can this conditioning be done?
13. Is it ever OK to harm a group of people for the benefit of society?
14. Should science be regulated? How about the pursuit of knowledge?
Know Your Book
by Mary Shelley
Title: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
Author: Mary Shelley (Mary Godwin) (1797-1851)
Genre: Fiction; novel; Gothic; horror; science fiction
Plot: Brilliant young scientist Victor Frankenstein decides to create a human using parts from dead bodies. Unable to create beauty, however, the creature is monstrous, and Victor immediately abandons it. Heartbroken at being rejected by its creator, the creature wanders the Earth being insulted and attacked by humans. It returns to Frankenstein and asks for a companion. Frankenstein agrees, but then breaks his promise, provoking the creature to seek revenge, starting with its creator’s family.
Setting: Ingolstadt; Britain and Ireland; Naples; Arctic Ocean; 1817
Characters: Dr Victor Frankenstein; The Creature; Elizabeth; De Lacey; Dr Waldman; Capt. Walton
Excerpt from Chapter 5:
It was on a dreary night of November, that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I may infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! – Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.
|1. Within the first paragraph, the doctor’s motivation for his experiment appears to be|
a) personal wealth
b) peer pressure
c) a sense of achievement
d) pressure from superiors
e) pleasure gained from his work
|2. After the creature is brought to life, the passage notes how Dr. Frankenstein (the narrator)|
a) decides to build another creature
b) admires its beauty
c) is disgusted with his creation
d) thinks about the people who died to have it made
e) flees the scene
|3. Psychologically, which of these could be given as a reason for the doctor’s immediate reaction to the creature?|
a) Abandonment issues
b) The uncanny valley
c) Post-traumatic stress
d) Stockholm syndrome
e) Fear of rejection
|4. Which of the following examples contains the same theme as expressed in this passage?|
a) After building one of history’s biggest navies, the leaders of China’s Ming dynasty order the destruction of its own ships.
b) During WWI, some soldiers stop fighting and enjoy a Christmas truce before restarting battles the next week.
c) Two young English girls cut out cardboard fairies and have pictures taken with them in the garden. Many people take these pictures as evidence that fairies exist.
d) A Swiss engineer creates Velcro, but is ridiculed. After NASA starts using it, his invention becomes popular and makes him a millionaire.
e) Cane toads are introduced to Australia to control a pest, only to subsequently destroy much of the local wildlife.
|5. Both the actions of the director in Brave New World and those of Dr. Frankenstein are examples of|
b) playing God
c) Oedipal complexes
d) angels of death
e) insanity via isolation