Category Archives: Science

Lovecraftian Ecosystems – Introduction

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Hey everyone – it has been a while since I posted anything.  In fact, the last time I posted was during the NecronomiCon back in August 2019. This year has been crazy with all of the Harmful Algal Blooms I have had to deal with over the summer and fall as part of my job as a Limnologist / Environmental Consultant. While the blooms are slooooowly dissipating, I have a little free time to start posting again on Lovecraftian Science. I will try to make these posts fairly routine (maybe twice a month) and to do that they may be brief. Also, working on finishing up Volume 3 of the Journal of Lovecraftian Science now that the summer is over. Again, I apologize to everyone who has contributed to the Kickstarter for the additional delays.  Please be patient; I am hoping to ship them out before the end of this year.

I was fortunate enough to give two presentation at the NecronomiCon in August 2019. The first talk was on Lovecraftian Ecosystems so the next series of posts will be on this subject. This first post is a discussion on history of the term of ecosystem.

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The formal definition of an ecosystem is “…a community of organisms and their physical environment interacting as an ecological unit” (Lincoln, et. al. 1988).  The word “ecosystem” was first defined by British Ecologist Arthur Tansley in 1935 and was first used to describe the transfer of material between organisms and their environment.  Again, in 1935 Tansley defined the ecosystem as:

…the whole system (in the sense of physics) including not only the organism-complex, but also the whole complex of physical factors forming what we call the environment of the biome – the habitat factors in the widest sense (from McIntosh, 1985).

Picture2                             Examples of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems

However, it was G. Evelyn Hutchinson who re-defined the concept of ecosystem to be more quantitative in nature.  In fact, it was Hutchinson and his post-doctoral associate Raymond Lindeman who moved ecology from a descriptive “soft science” of the 18th / 19th to more of a quantitative “hard science” of the 20th century. Instead of merely identifying species and describing their life cycles and interactions, math and statistics could be used with models to construct experiments to predict how organisms interact and react in their environment and among themselves.  Hutchinson and Lindeman were limnologists (the sub-discipline of ecology I study / practice) and so many of these ideas were first initiated in focusing on the biogeochemistry and the transfer of energy among trophic levels in lake ecosystems. In a sense, it was logical for ecosystem science to begin with lakes since they appear to be very clearly defined and bounded ecosystems (as will be discussed later this distinct boundary is not the case).

Picture4                                                                         Photograph of a young G. Evelyn Hutchinson

Prior to Lovecraft’s time, the “hard sciences” were thought of as astronomy, physics and chemistry, while biology and ecology were “softer “sciences that focused primarily on descriptions.  This hierarchical view of the sciences was developed and promoted by the French philosopher and writer Isidore Marie Auguste Francois Xavier Comte (1798 – 1857). Comte stated that astronomy was the most general of the sciences, followed by (in hierarchical order) physics, chemistry, biology and sociology. I’m sure Lovecraft would have agreed with this hierarchy of the sciences, with astronomy being the hardest or “most pure.”

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A hard science is typically described as one where controlled experiments can be constructed and performed to test hypotheses, with the use of math and statistics. In turn, the results of the experiments can be used to make testable predictions about the natural world. Over the last two hundred years we have seen the softer sciences utilize a more quantitative, scientific approach and this is particularly the case for biology, including the sub-discipline of ecology.

Ironically, it was the quantitative aspects of astronomy and chemistry that kept him from pursuing a career in either field. As Joshi has cited in, I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft (Joshi, 2013), Lovecraft stated:

In studies I was not bad – except for mathematics, which repelled and exhausted me. I passed in these subjects – but just about that. Or rather, it was algebra which formed the bugbear. Geometry was not so bad. But the whole thing disappointed me bitterly, for I was then intending to pursue astronomy as a career, and of course advanced astronomy is simply a mass of mathematics. That was the first major set-back I ever received – the first time I was ever brought up short against a consciousness of my own limitations. It was clear to me that I hadn’t brains enough to be an astronomer – and that was a pill I couldn’t swallow with equanimity.

This is from a letter Lovecraft wrote to Robert E. Howard, dated 25-29 March 1933.

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While the term “ecosystem” was first coined and used in the scientific literature in the early 20th century, it was not widely used in popular culture at the time. Thus, it is not surprising that I could not find the word in any of Lovecraft’s stories or other writings. However, while he did not use the word, many of his stories include several of the ideas and concepts associated with ecosystems and that is what we will review over the next set of blogs. Next time we will talk about the ecosystem-based alterations associated with his tale “The Colour Out of Space.” Thank you – Fred.

NecronomiCon – 2019

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Hello everyone!  I know it has been a while since an article has been posted (in fact I believe the last post was in January); work has been insane over the last year, particularly over the summer thanks to Harmful Algal Blooms.  However, I wanted to give an update on a few things.  First, the NecronomiCon 2019 begins in only a few days!  Just wanted give you my schedule – looking forward to seeing and meeting everyone!

On Saturday, 9 – 10:15 am, I am on a panel called “WE ARE NOT ONE THING: COLONIES, HIVES, COLLECTIVES AND COMPOSITES.” I will specifically be providing input on clonal organisms and the evolutionary advantage of such colonies.

I am also the Session Chair for the Armitage Symposium: Lovecraftian Grimoires: East & West, which will be on Saturday, 3:00 – 4:15 pm

I am also giving a presentation as part of the Armitage Symposium: Polar Myths & the Old Ones. My presentation is called “The Lackey / Fifer Hypothesis: The Weakness of the Old Ones.” This session is on Sunday, 10:30 – 11:45 am.

Finally, I will be giving an Academic Talk on Lovecraftian Ecosystems on Sunday, 1:30 – 2:45 pm.

Also want to mention that we will be completing Volume 3 of The Journal of Lovecraftian Science after the NecronomiCon and will be shipping out hard copies in the early fall.  I want to thank all of the supporters of our Kickstarter for Volume 3 and apologize for the delays in getting this tome to you.  By the way, we will also have copies of Volumes 1 and 2 of the Journal on sale at the NecronomiCon if you are interested in purchasing a copy.

Thank you and looking forward to seeing and talking to everyone in Providence, Rhode Island in a few days!

Rhan-Tegoth

 

Journal of Lovecraftian Science, Volume 3 – Funded!

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With a little more than a day to go we hit the threshold where we will be adding a chapter and illustration on “The Curse of Yig,” one of several of Lovecraft’s revision tales in “The Journal of Lovecraftian Science, Volume 3.” In addition to the Journal we are also offering a chapbook on the ecosystem of Lovecraft’s Venus in “In the Walls of Eryx.” Shown below is an early illustration for that tale by Steve Maschuck, who will be providing all illustrations. If you are still interested in the Kickstarter there is about a day left and it can be found at https://www.kickstarter.com/…/journal-of-lovecraftian-scien…. Again, thank you to everyone who has contributed! Fred.

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Update on the Kickstarter for the Journal of Lovecraftian Science, Volume 3

Journal of Lovecraftian Science, Volume 3

Hey everyone – we just put a Kickstarter on-line for a 3rd volume of the Journal of Lovecraftian Science.  The theme of this volume will be Lovecraft’s revision tales.  A set of seven revision tales will be included in this issue.  In addition, if a specific threshold goal is reached an additional tale, “The Curse of Yig” co-written with Zealia Bishop, will be added to this volume of the Journal.

throne A draft illustration of the cover of The Journal of Lovecraftian Science, Volume 3 by Steve Maschuck

In addition to the third volume, a chapbook will be produced that discusses the ecosystem of Lovecraft’s Venus in the tale “In the Walls of Eryx” co-written with Kenneth J. Sterling.  The chapbook will describe the endemic flora and fauna of the Lovecraftian Venus and how ecosystems processes operate very differently relative to Earth.

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Early illustration of “In the Walls of Eryx” by Steve Maschuck

If you are interested in the 3rd volume and this chapbook, please check out our Kickstarter at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1081353216/journal-of-lovecraftian-science-volume-three?ref=user_menu

Thank you for your time – Fred.

Lovecraft’s Annual Report on Astronomy, 1904

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As we have previously discussed from 1906 to 1918 Lovecraft’s writings focused heavily on astronomy.  He produced a number of articles and documents on astronomical observations, which were frequently published in newspapers such as the Providence Evening News and the Ashville [N.C.] Gazette-News.  Additionally, Lovecraft produced reports on the subject but much of this material has never been published and has been lost.  However, Necronomicon Press just printed 250 copies of a facsimile reproduction of Lovecraft’s The Annual Report on the Science of Astronomy, 1904.  The document includes notes as well as several illustrations by Lovecraft; some of these illustrations are shown below.  If you are interested this subject, I strongly recommend you purchase one since they printed only 250 copies.

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Stephen Hawking’s Ideas in a Lovecraftian Cosmos

Yuri Milner And Stephen Hawking Announce Breakthrough Starshot, A New Space Exploration Initiative

On the 14th of March 2018 we lost one of the greatest scientists of the late 20th / early 21st century – Stephen Hawking.  He was a theoretical physicist, cosmologist and popularizer of science to general audiences, and in spite of being diagnosed and suffering from a slow-progressing form of the motor neuron disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), he led a full and productive life, working on exploring the mysteries of our universe and even beyond.  In this article we discuss how some of Hawking’s work was referenced and discussed in past articles here at Lovecraftian Science. A subsequent article will review some of Hawking’s work and how it can be used to better understand the Lovecraftian Cosmos.

In Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zann” we hypothesized that Zann had somehow made a connection to a parallel Universe with his music. In the book The Grand Design, written by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, the quantum origins of the multiverse, including our Universe, is essentially composed of a Wave Function. This concept is based on Hawking’s idea of applying quantum mechanics to the entire universe or at least at the origins of the universe.  Other physicists such as Richard Feynman identified that a particle in motion does not have a specific or unique endpoint (Hawking and Mlodinow, 2012).  Thus, the endpoint is not “etched in stone.” Rather, there are varying probabilities of what that endpoint will be and while some endpoints will have substantially higher probabilities over others, all possible endpoints need to be considered. Consider applying this concept to the entire universe and beyond.

zann Illustration of “The Music of Erich Zann” by Andrew Brosnatch for Weird Tales.

At the sub-atomic level, this haze of quantum probabilities is reality.  In contrast, at larger universal scales the quantum reality does not have to be taken into account.  However, at the origin of the universe, when it was as small as a billion-trillion-trillionth of a centimeter, quantum forces dominated. Stephen Hawking’s Wave Function hypothesis of the Universe examines the birth of the universe from a quantum perspective so that there are an infinite number of all possible universes; we happen live in a universe that had a high probability of being stable enough to support life.  More than likely most of these universes do not have the specific “mix” of physical properties to support and sustain life; at least life as we define it.

The proposed set or network of theories that support the multiverse concept is called M-theory. Each theory explains certain physical phenomenon within a given range of scale.  When these scales overlap, different theories agree.  However, when the scales do not overlap, different theories describe certain phenomenon (e.g. Newtonian mechanics describing the influence of gravity on a planetary scale vs. quantum mechanics describing sub-atomic interactions).   Thus, given this proposed network of theories, M-theory allows for the existence of different universes with different laws of nature (e.g. the charge of the electron, the actual strength of gravity).

M-Theory_2880x1920-2880x1920 M-Theory is a set of theory that are inter-linked; the strength of these links are based on the scale being observed.

Linking Hawking’s Wave Function hypothesis with M-theory, if the generation of the multiverse was associated with a quantum reality, then these universes are not separated in the sense of space-time but in a “quantum wave function.” In other words, parallel universes are co-spatial; that is, they are separated by quantum properties rather than space-time properties (The Layman’s Guide to Quantum Reality by J.D. Lovil, 2017).  Thus, other universes are not billions of light years away or in the distant past or future. Instead, they exist and are woven into our very existence. The link or connection between or among universes may not be through wormholes or time travel but through weak gravitational interactions among the universes. In turn, gravitational dark matter and/or dark energy may be the key to other universes and the Old Ones.

wavefunction                                                              Illustration of S. Hawking’s Wave Function hypothesis of universe generation.

The music of Erich Zann may have been generating micro-scale gravity waves of a very specific disturbance within space-time to link our universe with another. Or, as Lovecraft’s story suggests, Zann’s music prevented beings from another universe from entering ours. Somehow, sometime in Zann’s life he could have been exposed to a situation where it was revealed to him that others from another universe are attempting to entering ours through gravitational waves. The music he plays may disrupt the wave generation just enough to prevent access. That is an extremely heavy burden on one person; preventing an inter-universal invasion from extra-dimensional beings.

La musica di Erich Zann- AlexScibilia                     The Music of Erich Zann by Alex Scibilia.

Next time we will discuss in a little more detail how others such as the Old Ones may have access to our universe and why they are so different from us. Thank you – Fred.

Lovecraftian Scientists: The Scientists in “The Colour Out of Space” or also known as Scientists Behaving Badly

Colour_IgorVitkovskly The Colour by Igor Vitkovskly

Crawford Tillinghast was a vengeful mad scientist, while Herbert West was cool and calculating, willing to use anyone as a test subject for his reanimation experiments.  However, of the Lovecraftian scientists reviewed to date, the scientists in “The Colour Out of Space” are probably the most dangerous. Instead of being individual “mad scientists” the scientists in “The Colour Out of Space” are elitists and do not have that critical, open minded attitude required in science. Put another way by Carl Sagan, “It pays to keep an open mind but not so open your brains fall out.”

In “The Colour Out of Space” a meteor falls to Earth, landing on farmland owned by Nahum Gardner. Nahum and his wife bring three professors from Miskatonic University to the farm to examine the meteor the day after it arrives. Nahum said the meteor shrank in size and in spite of having some physical evidence to back this claim (“It had shrunk, Nahum said as he pointed out the big brownish mound above the ripped earth and charred grass near the archaic well-sweep in his front yard…”) the professors simply stated “…stones do not shrink.” Thus, the professors would not even entertain or consider the idea that Nahum may be correct, even with the supporting evidence.

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The professors collect a sample of the meteor and place it in a pail since it is still generating heat almost a day after it landed on the farm.  Even when Ammi Pierce’s wife notes that the fragment appears to be burning and getting smaller in the pail, the professors still think nothing of the claim that the meteor is shrinking. Their response to Ms. Pierce’s observation of the shrinking sample was “…perhaps they had taken less than they thought.” This total disregard to observations made by non-scientists is a form of professional elitism that is more extreme than that of the protagonist in “Beyond the Walls of Sleep.”

The professors take the sample back to Miskatonic University to run a series of physical and chemical tests with very baffling results. I have reviewed the science behind these tests in previous articles reviewing the “The Colour Out of Space,” so such matters are not discussed here. After the strange results of their tests on the meteorite sample, the three scientists return to the Gardner Farm and visit the impact site once again. Now they final admit that the meteorite is shrinking, noting that its diameter was not barely five feet even though the previous day it was seven feet.

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When the scientists collect another sample, they gouge more deeply into the meteorite and uncover a strange globule that has the same strange colour found when they heated and placed the first sample under a spectroscope. One of the professors hits the globule with a hammer and it bursts with a “nervous little pop.” Nothing visible was emitted and no other globules were found in the meteorite. The scientist take the second sample to the laboratories at Miskatonic, run some more tests but still could not identify the exact composition of the sample and “…at the end of the tests the college scientists were forced to own that they could not place it. It was nothing of this earth, but a piece of the great outside; and as such dowered with outside properties and obedient to outside laws.”

IMG_2687                                                 An illustration of some of the chemical tests run by the Miskatonic University scientists in the Necronomicon Press (2015) chapbook of “The Colour Out of Space.” Illustration by Jason C. Eckhardt

By the third visit, after an evening thunderstorm, none of the meteorite was left – it completely vanished. At this point the scientists just give up and lose interest, which shocks me. Any other scientist that I know would have at least sampled the surrounding soil and test it to see if it emitted the same strange colour as the meteorite. This would have at least supported the hypothesis that the meteorite somehow contaminated the soil with some type of volatile compound, which may also contaminate the associated groundwater. However, after all of the direct physical evidence disappeared so did the Miskatonic scientists.

Even in the following spring when some of the locals brought to their attention that the skunk-cabbages (Symplocarpus foetidus) were exhibiting some abnormal growth and possessed some strange colours, the scientists’ response was, “The plants were certainly odd, but all skunk-cabbages are more or less odd in shape and odour and hue. Perhaps some mineral element from the stone had entered the soil, but it would soon be washed away.” Really? Skunk-cabbage is a strange looking plant that is foul-smelling and is one of the first plants to be observed leafing out near streams and in wetlands in late winter / early spring. However, it does not emit a strange colour. None of the scientists from Miskatonic hypothesized that the meteorite may have contaminated the soil and groundwater, after hearing about the skunk-cabbage emitting a strange colour?

Skunk Cabbage                    Skunk-cabbages emerging from the ground in early spring

I find the absence of any measurable degree of curiosity by the Miskatonic scientists to be absolutely stunning. The meteor hit the Gardner Farm in June so the student body was home for the summer. By spring, classes were back in session. Is it possible that the scientists had a passing interest in the meteorite because they had more time on their hands over the summer months but once the academic year began this interest waned? If true, find this explanation sad to say the least.

The scientists continued to express their lack of scientific curiosity through the rest of the story, and part of this can be attributed to an “ivory tower” attitude that the reports coming from the Gardner Farm was just superstitious folklore. Even toward the end of the tale when an investigation team was assembled to inspect the farm, none of the Miskatonic scientists were involved. The team comprised of Ammi Pierce (neighbor of the Gardner’s), three police officers, the County coroner, a medical examiner and the veterinarian who treated the Gardner animals. Were the Miskatonic scientists so ineffective in their past dealings with the meteorite and its impacts that no one even bothered to ask them to join the investigation?

the_colour_out_of_space_by_verreaux-d59u4pb The Colour Out of Space by Verreaux (www.deivantart.com)

Finally, when samples of the residual dust left on the farm was taken to Miskatonic University, it gave off the same colorimetric spectrum observed under the spectroscope as the meteorite samples. This supported the idea of some ecological contamination. I completely understand that ecosystem ecology was in its infancy in the early 20th century, but this is some pretty compelling data to support the idea that the mortality associated with the farm was directly attributed to the meteorite and the idea that any mineral element would simply be washed away as being incorrect. Thus, it is surprising to me that there is no additional sampling or concern over more widespread contamination.

To conclude, I find the scientists in “The Colour Out of Space” to be the worst in their profession, at least within the tales of Lovecraft. They have a very disparaging attitude toward non-scientists, possess no natural scientific curiosity and were extremely ineffective in terms of providing any sort of construction guidance over the occurrences at the farm. The Miskatonic scientists were confronted with something outside of our reality or at least within the realm of our understanding of physical / chemical laws and instead of trying to understand it they simply gave up when back to grading papers. Such a lack of curiosity and concern over the environment or individuals can lead to variety of problems such as the spread of invasive species or the contamination of drinking water. Thus, I find the three scientists from Miskatonic University in Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space” to the be most dangerous of all of his scientists.

untitled2                   Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space” by Asahi Superdry (http://www.deviantart.com)

Next time we are going to begin a detailed, chapter by chapter review of the science associated with At the Mountains of Madness, where some Miskatonic University scientists are shown in a better light. Thank you and Happy New Year! Fred

Lovecraftian Scientists: The Downfall of Dr. Herbert West

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As the protagonist suggested in “From Beyond,” a scientist should be a “frigid and impersonal investigator…” While Crawford Tillinghast did not exhibit these traits as a scientist, this certainly described Herbert West, at least in the initial chapters of H.P. Lovecraft’s story “Herbert West – Reanimator.” Initially West is your typically cold scientist, closely following the rigors of the Scientific Method. However, as the story proceeds, West’s fanatical pursuit of knowledge is only exacerbated and pushed to the extreme. West started his experiments with animals and then moves to human cadavers. Each experiment with a human corpse revealed that the body must be very fresh with little or no decay.

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West’s obsession with conquering death and need for a fresh body eventually led to him actually murdering someone – a salesman traveling to Bolton Worsted Mills. West killed and the preserved the salesman with an embalming fluid and waited for his friend to return to inject his reanimation serum. When the salesman was revived, it was obvious from his reaction that West murdered him.  Although West’s general philosophic perspective was consistently described as that of an absolute mechanistic materialist, this was still a major shift in his scientific endeavors.  While his extreme materialism may have fostered his general amoral attitude toward life and humanity, West was always grounded in the Scientific Method and that the ultimate goal of the reanimation serum is to bring people back to life. This jump from a scientist working with biological material that happens to come along his way, to one who actively produces the needed biological material is Lovecraft’s example of what happens when a scientist is the “frigid and impersonal investigator…” completely devoid of any humanity, compassion or empathy.

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Herbert West used the embryonic cells of an exotic reptile in his experiments (illustration by Steve Maschuck)

Once West murdered to produce is needed biological material, even his foundation grounded in the Scientific Method began to erode. Toward the end of the story West goes into full “mad scientist” mode, thinking up “what if” scenarios in his mind.  While his use of some embryonic cell material from an exotic reptile had some potential promise to function as stem cells, he wasted this in his mad experiments.  The puffy reptilian cell matter sounded like it could function as undifferentiated stem cells and may have had great applications in repairing nerve damage, producing skin grafts for burn victims and possibly even re-growing lost limbs. However, playing with his discovery like a morbid little child, West experimented on body parts with no regard for the ethics or morality of such actions. It reminds one of Dr. Ian Malcolm’s quote from Jurassic Park shown below.

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Obviously toward the end of “Herbert West Reanimator” all of West’s experiments catch up with him. Like Dr. Frankenstein or the Elder Things West was excited to create but did not care to deal with the responsibility of being the creator of such life. In the case of the Elder Things, the shoggoths were essentially biological tools that were created for specific functions. However, once the shoggoths began to attain consciousness, the Elder Things did not want the responsibility of coming to terms with this in a mature manner. In the case of West and Frankenstein it was the act of creation that was so exciting. The created being was merely an annoying by-product. In West’s case we see where a completely uncaring, amoral, mechanistic, materialistic attitude can result in a mad scientist. However, the mad scientist of Herbert West seems to be on the opposite end of the spectrum when compared to the passionate and vengeful mad scientist of Crawford Tillinghast.

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Experiments on parts

Next time we will discuss another type of scientist in Lovecraft’s tales – the group of scientists who conducted the initial investigations in “The Colour Out of Space.” Thank you – Fred.

Lovecraftian Scientists: Cold and Calculating Mechanistic Materialist Dr. Herbert West

herbert_west_mscorley.blogspot.com Herbert West (from http://www.mscorley.blogspot.com)

In the previous article we suggested that Crawford Tillinghast from H.P. Lovecraft’s tale “From Beyond” was a disciple of Hugh S.R. Elliot ‘s modern philosophy of mechanistic materialism. However, Elliot also served as a mentor to one of Lovecraft’s most notorious scientists – Dr. Herbert West.

In “From Beyond” the protagonist explicitly states that Tillinghast should never has studied science and philosophy since these “…things should be left to the frigid and impersonal investigator…” Indeed, when he failed Tillinghast was described as being solitary and melancholy and when he succeeded he became a vengeful, stereotypically “mad scientist.” The phase, “they laughed at me at the university but I’ll show him!” certainly comes to mind when Tillinghast invites one of his few friends to his home.

herbert_west_the_reanimator_by_ozzkrol-d9f6hop Herbert West, the Reanimator by Ozzkrol (www.deviantart.com)

In sharp contrast to the wide emotions of Tillinghast, Herbert West is described more as a frigid and impersonal investigator. In fact, West was probably too much of a frigid and impersonal investigator, caring little for what species was being used for his experiments. While his experiments started with rabbits and guinea-pigs, he quickly moved to cats and dogs and then monkeys before his first human trails. Whatever species West was working on, he treated them all the same – biological resources to test his animating solutions. Thus, West appears to be on the opposite end of a spectrum of personalities for Lovecraftian Scientist, yet both are conveyed as highly negative and enough dangerous. Tillinghast’s emotions got the better of him, apparently whether he succeeds or fails. In sharp contrast, West was cold and completely clinical in his experimentation, which at first seems like this is exactly what Lovecraft perceives as what makes for a good scientist. However, West obviously takes his clinical approach way too far, which is exacerbated by the fact that he is a medical doctor. As we will discuss in the next article on Herbert West, his scientific attitude and behavior substantially changes through the course of events in “Herbert West – Reanimator.”

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As previously indicated, Herbert West was a disciple of Hugh S.R. Elliot ‘s modern philosophy of mechanistic materialism, even more so than was Crawford Tillinghast. There are a number of instances throughout “Herbert West – Reanimator” where Elliot’s third principle of the denial of any form of existence that cannot be described in terms of matter or motion is being restated. In other words, everything in existence can be described under the laws of physics and chemistry. Some supporting evidence for this can be found in passages such as:

“His (Herbert West’s) views, which were widely ridiculed by the faculty and his fellow-students, hinged on the essentially mechanistic nature of life; and concerned means for operating the organic machinery of mankind by calculated chemical action after the failure of natural processes.”

“Holding with Haeckel that all life is a chemical and physical process, and that the so-called “soul” is a myth…”

“West was a materialist, believing in no soul and attributing all the workings of consciousness to bodily phenomena; consequently, he looked for no revelation of hideous secrets from gulfs and caverns beyond death’s barrier.”

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These passages confirm that West’s philosophical outlook and scientific endeavors were firmly rooted in Elliot’s mechanistic materialism and his cold and calculating methods of experimentation where justified in his mind with the idea that the soul does not exist and everything in reality can be explained through physics and chemistry. While not explicitly stated, such an attitude justified West’s experiments and disregard for potential moral dilemmas associated with his work. This attitude has been seen in other scientists.

While Colin Clive’s Dr. Frankenstein (in the 1932 movie) was emotionally volatile, similar to Crawford Tillinghast, Peter Cushing’s Dr. Frankenstein (of the Hammer Films) was more like Herbert West. Cushing’s Frankenstein was very cool and calculating in those films. He did not care who he affected, harmed or even killed as long as he had the raw biological resources he needed for his experiments. Anytime an assistant expressed concerns or questions over the morality of the situation, Cushing’s Frankenstein justified it by emphasizing that his work may help millions and may even overcome death. Herbert West, particularly in the Stuart Gordon “Reanimator” films used a similar augment of justification whenever something got out of control.

206a7b5d6249395f70cefa5c953e625f                                               Peter Cushing at Dr. Frankenstein

Another comparison to Herbert West is David the android in the “Prometheus” and “Alien: Covenant” films. Soon after his creation David realizes that humans are a flawed species and he may even harbor some resentment over how most humans treat him. A large part of this was how humans would remind him he did not have a soul or was not “a real boy.” However, David’s response was typically, you will die, I will not. Being an android David was very cool and calculating so when he made it his goal of creating the perfect organism in “Alien: Covenant” he did not care who he used in his experiments. Even Elizabeth Shaw, the one human who shows some degree of kindness to David and even gave him a second chance, was used as biological material in his alien experiments. In “Alien: Covenant” David wipes out an entire alien species just to run his experiments with the biological material found in “Prometheus.” Finally, in one part of the film a character asks David what he believes in and his answer is “creation.” Thus, David is similar to both Herbert West and Cushing’s Frankenstein, but is probably the most extreme example, of a scientist following Elliot’s mechanistic materialism to the point where all that matters is physics and chemistry. The results of the experiments and progress toward the ultimate goal is all that counts. In a sense, David is the direct by-product of mechanistic materialism.

alien-covenant-footage-description-begs-question-if-david-has-soul-13 The android David from “Prometheus”

While Herbert West was a mechanistic materialist his behavior and personality does become more erratic through the tale. This will be discussed in greater detail in the next article. Thank you – Fred.

covenantshaw1 One of David’s test subjects, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (from Alien Covenant)