domingo, 8 de diciembre de 2013

The Scientific Revolution and The Death of Nature By Carolyn Merchant

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Joseph Wright of Derby painted An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump  in 1768.  In Wright’s painting, a pet cockatoo has been removed from a cage (shown in the upper right corner) and placed in a bell jar from which the air is evacuated. The experimenter’s hand is placed near the stopcock, and he holds the power to halt the evacuation and return air to the jar to revive the bird. A old man stares at a human skull, contemplating death. A young girl covers her eyes to avoid viewing the impending horror, while a second girl stares anxiously upward and a woman, unable to watch, gazes at the face of another man who views the experiment directly. As Yaakov Garb has pointed out, the men and women have different responses. The women are stereotypically emotional, looking in horror at the bell jar, hiding their eyes, or looking at the men, thereby experiencing the results vicariously. The men, on the other hand, control the outcome via the stopcock, stare directly at the experiment with open curiosity, or contemplate the larger philosophical meaning of death. The men “witness” a scientific truth, the women “experience” a dying bird. The painter has forced social norms about male and female scientific responses to nature onto the audience. The experiment reflects the goals of Francis Bacon’s method. A question is asked of nature, a controlled experiment is devised, and the results are witnessed and evaluated for their truth content. Whether a particular experiment reflects the torture of nature (or the mere “pestering” of nature) must be left to the individual to decide.
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