Can Natural Philosophy (Or Modern Science) Raise The Dead?
1816 – ‘The Darkest Year’ – That Gave Birth To A Monster – And Modern Science!
When English Novelist Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein what influences and what inner-war was shaping this current landscape for this mightily creative soul? Modern Head Transplants? Our spiritual nature and the ultimate moral code?
1816 – This was the year of the demise of 100,000 lives following a volcanic eruption on an Indonesian Island Of Sumbawa – the largest recorded eruption in history. This was also known as ‘the year without a summer’, with weather patterns vastly affected by the volcanic ash Worldwide.
The skies of Europe were dark, doomsday sayers were spreading the word that THIS was the end of the world. THIS was to be the serendipitous canvas for one of the finest gothic tales ever written.
Just an external glimpse of the then current world, the internal current world of an eighteen year old Mary Shelley – a dark and deep reflection of a world she sunk into for what seemed eternity, summoning ‘A Monster To Light’. ‘Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus’ took his (or it’s) first gasp of air.
Mary Shelley – Daughter to a Political Philosopher William Godwin, and a Philosopher Feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary Wollstonecraft’s life untimely cut short days after giving birth to Mary Shelley, leaving her to be sullenly brought up by her (Liberally) Politically Philosopher Writer/Father.
At sixteen, (An Already Married) Romantic Poet/Philosopher by the name of Percy Bysshe Shelley came into her life. The both of them eloping and facing sure ostracism, constant debt and the sudden death of their prematurely born daughter, only making ‘their’ world even the more isolated and bleak.
The relentless despair, constant world-gloom, a passion for science (before scientists were called scientists) infested and self-nurtured into a self-driven dangerous narrative of taking science as such – too far! Kind of a conundrum – taking something too far that hasn’t (yet) a name to be taken too far? The term ‘scientist’ (the hero/protagonist of her story) didn’t actually exist until a couple of decades after Frankenstein was published. Before Scientist = Natural Philosopher.
Nevertheless the scientist – ‘Victor Frankenstein’ and his ungodly thirst for the previously unknown/unfathomable was heart-started. Possibilities – Life! To breathe life into the ‘dead’, into the ‘inanimate’. To Build A Living Being. Circulating Blood, Breathe Of Air, A Mind, A Soul!
Real/Metaphorical Intentions Aside, such forward thinking of an era take us to a current place in time where not much has really materialised on this same level of imagination – or has it?
2018 – Enter our new Mad Scientist: Professor Sergio Canavero.
(From fiction we shift to pure non-fiction)? “Death does not sit well with me”, Professor Sergio States.
Leading up until relative modernity, transplantations of hearts, hands, livers, kidneys, eyes, faces, bone marrow, were all considered mere fiction. Rightfully so, considering the maturing of our understanding and technology taking so many twists and turns to modestly get us to where we are in modern medicine. A once far-fetched reality of transplanting a whole human head is surely going to become as routine as a kidney – according to Professor Sergio.
Starting with a paralysed patient willing enough to be a ‘headstrong equation’ of this pioneering endeavour. A Wheelchair-bound Russian man called Valery Spiridonov is all ‘yes’ to this operation that will entail complete removal of his head and placing/connecting it onto a ‘fully-abled’ donor body.
Success or no success on so many levels such as the successful fusing of delicate cells, the ‘accepting’ of the foreign anatomy, the deep subconscious of the brain being compliant to a whole new universe of connections (willing or not)! The real question regardless of progress and actualisation is What Does It Mean To Be Me?
We have to ask ‘am I possible?’ The questions Mary Shelley asked, the forthright that the Modern Professor Sergio asks, and the Now/Future obligations we all have with our own souls or our own bodies. As Mary Shelley quantified her present with a need for a (novel) scientist to put her back together again she was surely replacing one ability for another. One being the soul and one being the body – in THAT order.
Before all Science this was all natural philosophy and this was Mary Shelley’s ‘own’ notion of a soul. The soul being the electricity. A human soul that senses, shares it’s life-Nature with the fluid current of electricity. Shelley’s mad scientist was created in hope to piece ‘her’ back together again. Make her whole once again – or for the first time. What other possible way would there be to reverse the shattering of a shattered soul but to create the mad scientist who just happens to be ‘mad’ enough to succeed?