Should the Quest for Knowledge be Boundless?

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Victor Frankenstein suffered from a lack of foresight. He only planned to reanimate a human being; he did not consider the consequences of such an action, and he did not build protections for unexpected, detrimental effects. Real-life scientists suffer from the same problem. Today we are reminded with every issue of "Time" that scientists in one modern field, nuclear technology, and emerging field genome mapping/genetic engineering wield considerable power. Shelley raises the question whether the quest for scientific knowledge should be bound. The quest for knowledge should never be bound because injunctions against originality would lead to the oppression of mankind's most important resource, our thinkers. But scientists themselves should be bound by foresight. At the inception of a new idea or process, bodies of scientists should review the question before the new methods have been applied. They should try to foresee possible ill effects and seek to minimize these beforehand, and contain them afterwards. This would have come in handy for Victor Frankenstein.

The emergence of agriculture at the dawn of civilization was also the emergence of genetic engineering. Everyday varieties of horses and wheat that we know today were crossbred into current, recognizable states from earlier, wild plants and animals well before history began to be recorded. "Crossbreeding is a relatively slow and clumsy method of 'improving' animal and plant species" *1* compared to modern times, when gene manipulation means tests tubes and petri dishes, not dirt or husbandry. While prohibitively expensive (for the time being) DNA manipulation and fertility techniques will become simpler, cheaper, and more accurate. Soon, any hack scientist with...

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... 1991.

Andrea A Lunsford, John J. Ruszkiewicz, The Presence of Others: Voices and Images that Call for Response

Mary Shelly, Frankenstein. Bedford/St.Martins, Boston MA, 2000.

1 Van Doren p.398

2 Van Doren p.293

3 quoted in McGowan p.82

4 quoted in McGowan p.82

5 Van Doren p.398

6 McGowan Ch.12







13 McGowan p.191





18 Shelley p.232

19 Shelley p.232

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