21st September 2018

2.5 Perspectives Speech

Broaden knowledge on the idea of scientific exploration explored this year. Construct and deliver a seminar (discussion on a topic) on the idea of scientific exploration, explore the two differing perspectives of Victor Frankenstein and John Locke. This means evaluating the differences between the two perspectives and expressing my own view on which perspective I believe is correct (John Locke).

Structure Plan:

Victor and Scientists vsrepercussions John Locke and Rest of Society                                                        Use Frankenstein and John Locke’s essay to springboard into the wider idea of scientific exploration. Present both sides of the argument evenly, do not veer towards Locke as this is bias, wait for body 3.                                                                                            *  Metaphor, similes, imagery, emotive and connotative language to subliminally send messages.                                                                                                                                           *  Third Person Perspective, looking in through my eyes on both sides of the conflicting perspectives evenly:                                                                                                    *   Introduction – Captivate the audience, introduce the idea of scientific exploration.  Introduce Frankenstein’s perspective initial society or John Locke’s perspective.            *    Frankenstein’s Perspective – Explain his beliefs, point of view on scientific exploration and reasonings, with evidence via quotes from the beginning of the novel.  *      Locke/ Society’s Perspective – Explain his beliefs established in his essay, his established viewpoint on scientific exploration, with evidence via quotes from his essay.                                                                                                                                                    *      Comparing and expressing my view merged with the conclusion: Evaluate the comparisons and conflicting beliefs of Frankenstein and Locke, express my own view on where I stand within this conflict and introduce broader ideas relating to modern day scientific exploration. Explain how I view the idea of exploring dangerous scientific knowledge, that we shouldn’t or don’t need to understand everything that is unknown to humanity and what we fear may threaten our existence.                            Summarise the conflict, sending a final message to leave the audience and conclude with something memorable.

“I cannot describe to you my sensations on the near prospect of my undertaking. It is impossible to communicate to you a conception of the trembling sensation, half pleasurable and half fearful, with which I am preparing to depart. I am going to unexplored regions, to ‘the land of mist and snow.”

Robert Walton

Curiosity and fear, they run through our wires. Emotions which have coursed through our complex networks since the beginning of time, two powerful surges of electricity, one driving us forwards, the other pushing us backwards.

Curiosity, the desire to obtain unknown knowledge, to feed our hungry brains and relieve our trembling desires. Fear, the unpleasant sensation when danger is near. Two emotions perpetually intertwined with each other, in that we both fear and are curious about what remains in dark fog, what remains unclear. Scientific exploration is a result of human curiosity to explore the unknown. Our curiosities are however checked by anxiety, by the fear for the negative consequences for discovering what should be left untouched. Scientists and explorers often believe that newfound knowledge will cause us, as a species, to grow stronger or more powerful, this desire typically overpowering any fears or risks of endangering human existence. Curiosity to explore the outer limits of the unknown and the fear that objectifies this tendency are two key ideas expressed in the novel Frankenstein. By forming a creature from the leftovers of death, Victor sources a new artificially advanced species. Initially, through Victor’s eyes, success in this scientific breakthrough will be a plausible service to mankind, believing that venturing through the depths of uncharted knowledge should be perceived as a heroic act. However, the negative repercussions of such actions reveals itself whilst the harsh reality of Victor’s mistakes begins to hit him. Opposing Victor’s initial beliefs is John Locke, who, in his ‘essay concerning human understanding’, indirectly detests to the ideas and motives expressed by Victor. In Locke’s eyes, scientific exploration needs limits, that some dangerous and undiscovered knowledge should merely remain as a curiosity and shouldn’t be chased into reality. Victor’s decision to venture into the realm of reanimation conflicts with Locke’s ideologies of what scientific knowledge shouldn’t be discovered. If Locke and Victor were to meet face to face, conflict would likely arise, the two holding contrasting ideologies. Today I’m discussing these two differing perspectives on scientific exploration and will be expressing my personal opinion on which side I agree with.

During the beginning of Victor’s scientific exploration, he expresses an immense desire and optimism for reanimation stating that “life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source…” Alongside satisfaction for fulfilling his curious desires, he also believes that he will gain power, respect, and praise by creating a new species, this belief being common among scientists wishing to push the limits of science and uncover the secrets which the world has yet to reveal. In addition to fame, his ambitions are also an act of defiance against both those who scoffed at his beliefs and against the laws of nature. I know, like me each of us are likely skeptical on the significance of his scientific studies, but there is a level of truth to Victor’s claims. Without pushing the limits of knowledge, humanity wouldn’t get anywhere, society wouldn’t have developed to where we are now and we may be stuck living within ancient civilizations or even worse, musty old caves. Explorers, pioneers, and scientists must take risks to benefit the human race, uncover earth’s scientific secrets. Limits must be pushed, what is dark and ominous must be enlightened for inventors to craft gadgets and various appliances that, in our day and age, we couldn’t imagine living without. For example, when Thomas Edison invented electricity, the world was cautious and concerned that this was dangerous, however, this scientific breakthrough turned out to be a major turning point for the improvement of human life. Or when computers were invented, people feared for the Y2K bug causing computers worldwide to fail due to the rolling of the calendar from 1999 to 2000, however, this presumption didn’t become reality and computers continue to become a necessity of everyday life. Bottom line is that, for our species to develop the way we have, we mustn’t be afraid to chase away the darkness and give in to curious desires or we will remain surrounded by darkness. Our torches need sparks to ignite into flames, so that darkness begins to fade with each burning ember, so we may venture into enlightenment. Case in point, Victor believed that, by forming artificial life, he would innovate the world just like these famous figures that we praise as heroes. Yes, his dream may have eventuated into disaster, but his aspirations were alike many others who, at the time, aspired to become an enlightenment thinker. In a period of rapid change in scientific development, he wished to join his idols and simply underestimated the outcomes of success. After all, haven’t all of us made mistakes which we wish could be irreversible? Its part of being human. Victor’s mistake was at a larger scale and he was oblivious to the consequences but he did have a dream, which, though crossed ethical boundaries did have good intentions. Some could argue that, if Victor had lovingly nurtured the creature and treated the deformity as human, the tragic chain of events that followed the creature’s birth may not have occurred. This means that Victor’s major mistake was his abandonment, neglect, and disgust for the creature as opposed to his initial ambitious beliefs. By delving into such a dangerous scientific journey and succeeding to source artificial life, caring and loving the creature and protecting it from harm maybe he wouldn’t have ended up in this ‘after tale of misery’.

Exploring and understanding the acquisition of knowledge is an idea emphasized in English philosopher John Locke’s essay “Concerning Human Understanding”. Particularly in the introduction, Locke highlights the necessity of rules and boundaries to guide how confident we allow ourselves to be that our various opinions or theories, which we have no certain knowledge of, are correct and how much unknown knowledge should, or needs to be, understood. Through his essay, Locke hopes to succeed in “persuading the busy mind of man to be more cautious in meddling with things that are beyond its powers to understand, to stop when it is at the extreme end of its tether and to be peacefully reconciled to ignorance of things that turn out to be beyond the reach of our capacities.” He asks why… why does humanity have the tendency to raise bold questions and get into “confusing disputes with others about things to which our understandings are not suited – things that we can’t form any clear or distinct perceptions in our minds.” We are certain that newfound scientific discoveries, which we merely just judge and guess whether they are beneficial, will help us. In his eyes, there are “limitations that we should accept” and that we should “rest content with knowing only what our human condition enables us to know.” , We already have everything we need on our plates, the conveniences of life needed to survive and thrive, so why push for more. Later on, an analogy is used to compare knowledge to a vast ocean which we feel obligated to explore. Its purpose is to provide a visual of how far our knowledge can safely extend to before our lungs collapse.  Where is the horizon of this endless ocean, what marks the boundary when enough is enough? The enlightenment period was an era in which there was an overwhelming wave of newfound scientific discoveries, inviting humanity into the new world that we know today and diverting many from the ingrained beliefs of religion. The whole idea of enlightenment is directly referenced by Locke when he discusses how we need to distinguish the “illuminated parts of things, the things we can understand, from the dark ones, the things we can’t”.  Darkness may reference the dangers of the unknown, during this period of exploration, fear being commonly expressed by society, this fear checking curiosities and risks holding us back from major scientific breakthroughs. For example, when Galileo invented the telescope, an entire universe of exploration opened up, enlightening the world to the possibilities that lie beyond known existence. However, this exposed the public to danger and fear of such things as extraterrestrial life, asteroid strikes and even more concepts and questions which we may never be able to answer or understand. Overall, Locke believes that, in an age of rapid discoveries, limits of scientific exploration are necessary, that not some things should remain in the dark and that humanity should be aware of the risks and dangers of scientific exploration.

Mary Shelley reflects Locke’s theories and concepts in her novel ‘Frankenstein’, reflecting on the idea that there is a limit of acquired knowledge to the novel’s morals. I believe that she had read Locke’s essay and became inspired or enlightened by its ideas, then formed Victor as a direct response, Victor being a character who expresses all of the particular traits which Locke despises in his essay.
I choose to side with Locke in this conflict because any risks of harm of Victor’s creation weren’t outweighed by any benefits. Though Victor should be blamed for his foolish actions, he isn’t alone in holding this toxic mentality. Victor stands by many ambitious minds determined to be the first to discover futuristic advances in modern science. Genetic modification, anti-ageing and artificial intelligence are now a reality in today’s world, proving that there are many Victor’s out there in the world, all at risk of making the same mistakes. What will be the consequences for us as a race? We have all seen the disastrous outcomes of such actions play out on film and television. Terminator, Black Mirror, Jurassic Park and even on the news. All of the mentioned come as warnings of risking scientific exploration, of crossing the edge of the cliff that we weren’t aware was there. After all, since when was humanoid robots doing our work for us necessary for us to survive.  I believe that, as a species, we have an egocentric belief that we are at the top of the food chain and that the world centers around us. We continue to explore and push the limits of science to become more powerful, smarter and more capable because we fear that we may be inferior to other unknown lifeforms. However, this curious tendency may end up resulting in the creation of what we fear the most. Humanity must learn to cope with just sitting with the curious urge to pour light into the dangerous darkness and focus on dangers that threaten us, and not creating it.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Hi Lucas,

    You have some strong ideas in here and some wonderful moments of expression.

    I would like to see you strengthen some of your reflections around the impact that your topic could have on society. You would be wise to weave this throughout your speech more and touch on the society that surrounded the two texts and perspectives you are discussing.

    You have some great vocabulary choices in this script. I would advise you to work on developing some of the written and sound devices. You can find suggestions for this on the task handout.

    Mrs. P

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