Kakos' 6th Hour

Reactions and comments from my sixth hour Honors American Literature class.


My favorite place in the world to be is underwater. My second favorite place is the front of a classroom.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Drawing Electricity from the Sky

Examine Benjamin West's painting, Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky (1805). You may access this painting via the following link: http://www.frankelec.com/west_fullsize.htm. You can also find the painting on page 87 of your yellow American Literature book. After spending a few moments with the painting, please respond to one or more of the following questions:

1. What do you think the artist is trying to achieve in this painting? Consider the sometimes clashing roles of science and religion and how they function in this painting.
2. What are your reactions to the elements of this painting? Do you think science and religion can work side by side? Does one dominate the other?
3. What do you think Benjamin Franklin thought of this portrait of himself?


Blogger Aubry P. said...

I think that Benjamin Franklin would not have liked this picture. He was an egotistical man and the fact that someone thought he did not discover electricity on his own would have enfuriated him. I think that artist is trying to show that people are guided by a higher power and the people that are very into science are usually the ones denouncing religion.

7:21 PM  
Blogger Alexandra H said...

I think the artist was trying to convey that Benjamin Franklin didn't discover electricity on his own and he didn't do any of the things he is famous for on his own. The artist is trying to show that the angels of God helped him to discover things and invent what he did. Science and religion do clash, but in this photo, the angels are behind Franklin so it is like he doesn't know they are helping him.

7:59 PM  
Blogger ryanp said...

I do not think that science and religion can work side by side because religion is based on beliefs and ideals that are not proven to be true. Science is almost the complete opposite because it is all about realistic solutions and it is all based on facts. I think that science dominates religion because in today's society everything is based off of facts and things that can be proven. With different religions there are too many possibilities and there are not enough facts to support the conclusions.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Hannah S said...

I agree with the people above me saying that the author was trying to show that Benjamin Franklin did not do all the things he said he did by himself. The author is trying to show that God is behind all things in one way or another, even if we do not know it. I also agree with Ryan in that science and religion cannot work together because of the different beliefs, even though in this painting, they are working together, between Benjamin's science of electricity and God's angels helping him.

9:01 PM  
Blogger brian k said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Olivia C. said...

I like Aubrey's comment as it suggests that Benjamin Franklin may have viewed this picture and felt the artist was trying to present the idea that he was only able to unearth electricity with the help of a celestial force. Because of my religious views, I do believe that science and religion work side by side and that one without the other seems quite implausible. Neither aspect is dominant as I believe that science plays a large role in all aspects of every-day life; however, without a celestial force assisting our actions on Earth, it seems that many scientific discoveries would also become implausible as it would be difficult to understand why things function and continue to work in such a manner. As some what of a side note, the red cloak Benjamin wears is quite significant as it largely resembles the red cloak often worn by Jesus Christ in artistic renditions of Him. Any thoughts on the significance of the red cloak?

9:05 PM  
Blogger brian k said...

This picture does not portray Benjamin Franklin in a manner of excellence. He is being shown as the risk taker of science and, therefore, almost demeaning other scientists who won't take risks. There are scientists in the background who are shown to be just playing with toys while Benjamin is doing all the hard work. Without other scientists, Benjamin would have had a very hard time accomplishing what he accomplished.


9:06 PM  
Blogger nicci c said...

I don't think that religion and science can work together. They each have opposite beliefs and faiths leading to a lot of conflict between the two. Religions rely on something supernatural and science puts their trust into fact. I beleive that in this painting, the artist is trying to show that though Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity, he was guided by something else.

9:30 PM  
Blogger anam said...

I think that in the picture it is trying to show that although science is often shown as trying to prove a lack of faith, that supernatural powers have invented the sciences that have often tested religion. In the picture, Benjamin Franklin is shown holding onto his kite, but there is a force of angels behind him that are helping him fly his kite. Maybe the picture is trying to show that because of the supernatural, Benjamin Franklin's discovery of electricity was possible. The supernatural provided the storm that allowed the kite and lightning to show electricity was available. The picture is a powerful image that is trying to portray that even though religion and science try to disprove one another, many times they can go hand in hand with one another.

9:45 PM  
Blogger Logan J said...

This image is difficult to pin down one interpretation for. As I look at it, I see the angelic figures doing the work and Franklin almost barging in to take the key. This painting, in my opinion, is trying to suggest that religion and divine beings are responsible for all things significant, yet science and other more tangible ideas step in to take responsibility for them.

10:31 PM  
Blogger Michelle S said...

I viewed this painting in a slightly different way from those before me. My first thought was that Benjamin Franklin was being portrayed as G-d, drawing the electricity from the key with the angels working around him. So perhaps olivia c. was right, maybe the red cloak does make him seem like Jesus. Depending on the view of the painter, this could mock or admire Franklin; perhaps he is doubting the claim that Franklin found electricity on his own, or maybe he is trying to reconcile science and religion.

Fundamentally, science and religion cannot work together. Religion is by nature a set of beliefs and morals, while science is comprised of observations and physical evidence. However, being humans, it is possible to reconcile the two. What we observe we may attribute to certain religious beliefs. The problem is when one human attributes something different to the same observation.

10:43 PM  
Blogger corey c said...

I do not believe that science and religion can work side by side. Sceince is based on facts, the "if___then's" but religion is based on faith. You cannot have faith while in the midst of questioning your entire existence. For example we are studying evolution in biology right now. This is probably one of the best examples of religion and science not working together. Science often does not have the answers to all of our questions, and will never have the answers to the very most importan ones. The most important questions are those that change us, that have nothing to do with the physical world but focus on spiritual things, the things that really matter. Although science is important we must understand it is not what we base our lives on. I think the painting is trying to say that we must see science through the viewpoint of faith. We must see the work of God in what we do, and especially in science. That is why it shows Franklin looking away from the angels, he does not realize the true source of discovery, which is God.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Thomas_N said...

I think that this painting of Ben Franklin is trying to depict the religious side of his discovery of electricity. Science and religion in my opinion can not coexist very well since today's society is based on facts and most people need evidence to believe things. Since science has been proven to be real and have evidence to support it will be harder for religion to maintain its following. In many third world countries religion is still a huge part of life but countries that have modernized and become industrialized have gone more to the science type of lifestyle.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Amy O. said...

I think that Benjamin West's painting conveys view of Franklin as a god-like hero of outer worldly realms. This might have been a depiction of how the Franklin viewed himself. He is the central focus, the main theme of the painting, with all this miraculous power (electricity) in his hand, aided in his noble work by divine help. The painting shows an interesting combination of faith/belief in science and fact (also rationalism)with a religious background. The irony presented in this painting shows cherubims exulting in the glory of technology and science, while angels themselves are obviously not scientific beings themselves.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Andie R said...

I think the artist is trying to achieve a balance between science and religion. The supporters of Franklin would be anxious to secure his ideas a place in society, and they would be desperate to save his work from religious scrutiny. If the religioius leaders had denounced his work as atheist or satanist, then his career would not have progressed very far. However, if they got out the word that he was a religious man and God was supporting and helping along his discoveries, then the inventions could be blended into society. They could not afford for such a huge discovery to be contested by the powerful religious leaders who had political power.

12:55 PM  
Blogger matt l said...

I think this picture illustrates the ego of Ben Franklin. THe artist makes it look like Franklin only discovered electricity because he got help from an outside source. This ties in with science and religion because the are so contradicting. THey cannot work together because science is factual and religion is based on beliefs. It's kinda like the whole Darwin theory of evolution and how it opposes Christianity.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Alexaaaaa said...

I strongly disagree with the statement that science and religion can peacefully exist together because neither of the sides would accept the other without the other first submitting to ensure that it would not be persecuted by the other. In the case of creation versus evolution, for example, the church dominated learning and severely supressed science, so supporters of science rose up violently. Afterwards, evolution dominated and religion was removed from the classroom. At no time were the two equal in this struggle. These people lived in a different world, true, but many of the comments above state either that science is a product of religion or that science has been forced to live in the shadow of religion. If these opinions are so ingrained into society that they can be spotted so easily, religion and science will not find common ground in my lifetime.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Christine D said...

Unlike many posts before this, I agree with Olivia and think that science and religion can work hand in hand. I understand that one is fact and the other is faith, and that creates contradictions, however i disagree. When taken to extremes, the two can not work together, but extremes are uncommon. Look around our world, how many people worship in some way or another, but still trust science to better their lives, throuch medicine and electricity?

5:44 PM  
Blogger LindsayS said...

I also agree that science and religion can work hand in hand. That is protrayed in the painting and in everyday life, we have people who are scientists and people who are ministers, rabbi's, ect. all living together in one community. I think everyone needs facts and beliefs, that you cannot survive on one or the other.

6:10 PM  
Blogger allison n said...

I think it's hard for religion and science to work well side by side but in small proportions. I think that this painting shows just that. Ben Franklin had faith that this method would give him electricity. His faith is the angels holding the string of the kite. I think you need some elements of religion to truly excel in science. You need to be able to believe in what you cannot see, and have the curiosity religion produces. As goes the other way around with needing science in religion.

4:26 PM  
Blogger brianc said...

I think that this painting showed Ben Franklin marveling over his creations and standing in awe of what he was able to create. I believe that he was proud of what he was able to do but the angels in the background are viewing his creations as nothing more than toys. It seems as though science and religion can't work side by side very well and they off set each other in some senses.

7:37 PM  

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