“amending the ways of nature”

In expert epistemology, nature was messy. Technology was the great orderer. “The real calamity in a thunderstorm,” explained William Crookes, commenting on natural unharnessed electricity, “is not that the lightning may kill a man or a cow, or set barns or stacks on fire. The real calamity consists in the weather being upset.” The practical electrician should aim at “nothing less than the control of the weather” for the sake of agricultural productivity. Practically speaking, Crookes did not wish “to reduce our rainfall in quantity, but to concentrate it in a smaller number of days, so as to be freed from a perennial drizzle.” What he called “amending the ways of Nature” justified an expert, or adversarial, relationship to it.

– Carolyn Marvin, When Old Technologies Were New p. 114

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