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Scientists’Responsibility for the Results of their Experiments

Scienceis credited with making our lives very comfortable and enjoyable.Until recently, scientists, research institutions as well asgovernment agencies had their self-regulation system that was simplybased on ethical principles to warrant integrity of research process.Scientists have been conducting experiments that have led to newdiscoveries that have positive influences to the world. For instance,science is robustly employed in the research and development ofweaponry. However, other experiments conducted by scientists have hadnegative results. In the weaponry case, for example, the developmentof nuclear weapons and its wrong use led to the loss of many lives ofinnocent people. This raises an issue that elicits serious debateamong many people. The debate is on whether or not scientists shouldbear responsibility for the results of their experiment and morespecifically for experiments that yield negative impacts. This essaywill examine the writings by Mary Shelley and James Watson, titledFrankenstein and Double Helix, and use them as a basis for discussionon whether or not scientists should be held responsible for theresults of their experiments.

of Frankenstein

MaryShelley’s novel, Frankenstein, starts with an account of anexplorer Robert Walton who finds Victor Frankenstein floating on anice flow. The novel has a series of letters written by Walton to hissister and telling the tragic story of Victor. Victor grew up inGeneva, Switzerland. His mother died due to scarlet fever while hisadopted sister also falls ill but recovers. His passion for sciencedrove him into earning a place in the University of Ingolstadt wherehe devises a plan and manages to reanimate a dead body. He feelsguilty about the monstrosity he has created that he runs away. Whenthe Frankenstein monster finds out who he is and why he is rejectedby mankind, he plots to seek revenge on the family of his creator.Victor had refused to create a female companion for the monsteragainst the bargain he had made with the monster. Victor decides tomarry Elizabeth, but on the wedding date the monster enters herchambers and strangles her. Victor then decides to seek revenge bykilling the monster. Eventually, Victor dies in his pursuit of themonster.

of Double Helix

The&quotDouble Helix&quot by Watson is a scientific memoir that isdifferent from many scientific writings. In this reading, Watsondescribes the period before and after the renowned letter to Naturepaper that was about a probable structure of DNA. Watson is frank inhis writing, and he does not scrimp on the details. He writes of howhe joined a team of scientists in Cambridge, England at the CavendishLaboratory to start research on the DNA and more specifically itsstructure. The Double Helix has a sequential format through thetwenty-nine short chapters that cover the duration of the years 1951to 1953. The book presents science as a messy and confused butcollegiate enterprise whereby any advance depends on the achievementof other people and ultimately rewards only winners. The bookpresents Crick and Watson as the two people that were bound to bewinners. This memoir is an excellent first person account that showsthe excitement and compulsion of scientific pursuits and resentmentof the attendants and the awkwardness and fear of not being the firstto obtain results.

Analysisof how Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein shows the relationship betweenscientists and their experiments

Asstated in the introduction, the debate on whether or not scientistsshould be held responsible for their creations has been stronglydiscussed. Mary Shelley`s novel excellently shed light on the ethicaland moral aspect of scientific experiments. I believe that scientistsshould be held accountable if the results of their experiments havenegative impacts. In the case of Victor Frankenstein, most peopleincluding me would argue that the real monster is the scientisthimself. He was the one that created this monster without carefulconsiderations of the possible outcomes of his experiment.Considering the world of science at victor’s era, issues aboutmedical experimentation and theories of life about animalcules wereconsidered to challenge the basic principles of life. Hence in goingahead with the creation, Victor was challenging what the society sawas inconceivable. The negative outcome of his experiments should,therefore, be his responsibility.

FromShelley`s novel, it is very clear that Victor Frankenstein did notwant any responsibility for the mistakes he had done. This can befirst seen when he creates the monster and later realizes that he hasno provisions for taking care of it. He does not take responsibilityby doing something to rectify this situation but instead runs away indisgust and fear. He cannot bear the guilt in his conscience andseeks consolation in a tavern near the university. Another incidencethat shows how Victor did not take responsibility for the negativeconsequence of his creation is when the monster strangled hisbrother. The death of victor’s brother, William, was pinned ontheir housekeeper, Justine Moritz. Justine takes the blame and goesinto the gallows willingly (Shelley 92). Victor does not want peopleto know that it is his creation that strangled his brother and in sodoing condemns the innocent housekeeper. Again he runs away to Genevato seek solace (Shelley 82).

Theissue of Victor Frankenstein not taking responsibility for hiscreation does not end here. When he goes to Geneva at the mountains,the monster pursues him with a proposition. The monster wants Victorto create it a mate for companionship. The monster was very lonelyand wanted a mate who was a monster like him (Shelley 174). At first,Victor refused but after listening to the monster`s plea decided tocreate a female mate. The monster was persuasive and very eloquentwhich softens Victor’s stance of not creating another monster. Thisshows that Victor had not learned about taking responsibility for hiscreations. His first monster was already causing problems in thesociety, but Victor was still willing to create another one. Victorretreats to the desolate islands of Orkneys where he begins work onthe female monster. One night as he is working, he notices themonster staring at the proceedings with an evil grin which scares him(Shelley 203). He is terrified by the results of his work anddestroys his work and dumps the body parts in the lake. Thisincidence shows that Victor has taken responsibility of hisexperiment and has done something to rectify his mistakes. However,it is not enough to atone for his initial mistake for creating thefirst monster.

Iwould like to think that what drove Victor Frankenstein to create amonster was his grief over the death of his mother which happened ashe prepared to join the University of Ingolstadt. That was where hegot his motivation to venture into this scientific field. He wantedto reanimate a human being from corpses so that he would not have toendure the pain of losing a person that he loved one again.Therefore, I believe that by going ahead with the experiment, he lethis emotions and fears cloud his judgment. From the above discussion,it can be seen that there was no point when Victor tookresponsibility for the outcome of his experiment. Even afterrealizing that the monster was an evil creation he does not informthe necessary authorities nor does he choose to confront the monster.He chooses the cowardly way out which is to run away .His attempts tokill the monster are not out of taking responsibility for his messbut only because of the grief he had of the killing of his wife-to-beby the monster. We can clearly see that Victor Frankenstein does nottake responsibility for the results of his experiments.

Analysisof how James Watson’s Double Helix shows the relationship betweenscientists and their experiments

Inthe case of the reading by James Watson, it is also clear thatscientists are so engrossed in trying to find the solution to theproblem that they are attempting to solve that they do not payattention to the broad consequences of their work. In the book, wesee that the scientists in the Cavendish laboratory were pushingthemselves to get the structure of DNA before other scientists did.This raises a major issue which is a scientist’s claim to a line ofresearch started by another scientist. In the road to the discoveryof the structure of the DNA, Watson and Crick had to use work ofother scientists without their consent which sparked controversy.This shows how important results and recognition are to them. Theytake their success in the experiments so seriously but have lessconcern about their consequences. According to the account of Watson,scientists are greatly concerned with getting recognition for theirdiscoveries. They do not pause from their work to consider all thepossible consequences of their work. The memoir also shows that thescientists are dull and narrow-minded.

Unlikethe case of Frankenstein, this experiment had positive consequencesand the two lead scientists involved are regarded as heroes till now.James Watson’s book is also considered as one of the greatest booksever written in the field of science. However, I believe that thescientists discussed in the book were not pleased and would havewanted it not to be published. The book presented an unfavorablepicture of scientists. It invaded their privacy and insulted some oftheir behaviors. For instance, Watson harshly critiqued RosalindFranklin and Wilkins whose experiments they relied on the research.Wilkins and Rosalind did experiments on X-ray crystallography. Thebook portrays Rosalind in an unfriendly and cold manner (Watson 21).Apart from this portrayal of scientists in a bad light, the bookgives a good account on the discovery of the structure of the DNA.This discovery has been very useful in the biology industry with manyimportant genetic modifications.


Thisessay has shown how it is important for scientists to takeresponsibility for the results of their experiment. The essay startedwith elaborate summaries of the two readings used in showing why itis necessary for scientists to take responsibility for their work. Inthe first case, the experiment by Victor Frankenstein had negativeresults, and the essay has shown how he avoided taking responsibilityfor his mistake and its consequences which were death of severalpeople. The second reading has an experiment with a positive result,and the essay has shown how the scientists took credit for theirdiscovery. This shows that scientists would be happy to takeresponsibility for the results of their experiments if they arepositive but would rather distance themselves from their work if ithas negative results. I believe that it is crucial to have some formof written morals or laws that would govern how scientists relate tothe results their experiments. Scientific research and experimentsshould be governed.This would ensure that they take the necessaryprecautions before embarking on an experiment.


Shelley,Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein:The 1818 Text.WW Norton, 1996.

Watson,James D. &quotThe double helix.&quot London:Weidenfeld and Nicolson(1997).

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