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Monday, August 21, 2006

Liberal Frankensteins

The 17th century was the coming-of-age for scientific rationalism and the rejection of Medieval scholastic philosophy.  It was the time of Francis Bacon, Galileo, Descartes, and Isaac Newton, a period that seemed to promise man’s complete conquest of nature.  People were no longer interested in ultimate reality, the nature of existence itself, that is the nature of God.  They merely wanted to discern physical connections between the forces of nature and identifiable events, with the aim of mastering nature.

The dark underside of this seismic change in our social paradigm was the subject in 1604 of Christopher Marlowe’s “The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus,”  which portrays a man so obsessed with gaining powers over the forces of nature that he sells his soul to the devil.  In the 19th century, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein,” similarly described a power-obsessed man who sought to become God-on-earth by creating human-like life from inanimate materials.

In the First Things website under date of August 21, 2006, Wilfred McClay brings the theme up to date.