Friday, November 13, 2015

Tim Wetherell's Clockwork Universe sculpture
 at Questacon, Canberra, Australia (2009)
For my presentation, I had the task of discussing Isaac Newton in the context in which he was referenced in Marshall McLuhan’s book The Medium is the Massage. Near the end of the book, McLuhan references the “Newtonian” God and universe, which refers to an analogy attributed to Newton of the clockwork universe. McLuhan states that “The Newtonian God — the God who made a clock-like universe, wound it, and withdrew — died a long time ago.” Astrophysicist Paul Davies in God and the New Physics (1983) aptly explains the analogy:

                “…the universe is like a giant clockwork, unwinding along a rigid, predetermined pathway towards an unalterable final state. The course of every atom is presumed to be legislated and decided in advance, laid down since the beginning of time.”

I believe McLuhan’s intended message in this passage is this: what was previously dubbed as “metaphysical” or “mystical” or “the work of God” can now be observed, explained, and understood due to the development of modern technology. That which was mysterious has now been demystified now that we have the tools to do so. Newton’s views of the universe no longer apply to our modern society as they are based on ideas from the past, from before our modern world existed. No matter how hard we may try to revive his ideas, we cannot. Our ideas are different and our methods of doing have changed from those of the past.

No comments:

Post a Comment