Sunday, August 9, 2009

Scientific conceit

"None but those who have experienced them can conceive of the enticements of science. In other studies you go as far as others have gone before you, and there is nothing more to know; but in a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder."
-- From Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

There are many ways to interpret this sentiment, particularly as it reflects Frankenstein's character in the novel. My first instinct, after smiling at the first sentence, was to note the conceit in the last as a general commentary on scientists. Have scientists always believed themselves superior to pursuers of other subjects? Because this attitude still resonates today -- physicists being among the most susceptible to this mode of thought.

N.B. Mary Shelley was 19 when she wrote Frankenstein. 19! What were you doing when you were 19? I'm sure I wasn't writing a literary masterpiece. What genius!

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