The Worship of Science
In the early 19th Century Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. 50 years later Jules Verne wrote numerous
best-sellers predicting travel under the sea, in the air -- even space travel. Also helicopters, television and
What happened? How did Shelley's prophecy of scientific and technological doom give way to Verne's
paean to science & technology?
For one thing, after the scientific revolution gave rise to the industrial and technological revolutions, there
was tremendous transformation in every sphere of human life as the industrial revolution progressed.
In 1818 the Dickensian miseries of the earlier Industrial Revolution still loomed large. Injustice, illness,
child labour, poverty and mortality. In 1818 Shelley hadn't yet seen how, after 1850, developments in
steamships, railroads, internal combustion and electrical power generation began bringing about great
improvements in peoples’ standards of living, life expectancy -- and tremendous optimism concerning
science and technology.
By 1865, Verne could see how steel, electricity, the internal combustion engine, the telegraph, the
telephone and railroads were transforming human life and Western society as a whole.
But there was something else. Something deeper than mere optimism about science & technology.
Something without which there could have been no scientific and industrial revolutions. No optimism
about science & technology in the first place. Beneath peoples’ ways of living and being, the ways of