Sci-fi and the human condition

OK, so I’m not ironing.

Instead, I’m watching my favorite sci-fi series: Stargate SG-1. And I think one of the best episodes of the entire series “New Ground” from season 3.

One of the best things about science fiction is that it allows us mere humans to examine ourselves and our own thoughts in a way that isn’t quite so threatening to us than if we were confronted straight to our faces.

“New Ground” is a great episode as it does somewhat touch on a topic that has been the heart of much of the “culture war” that conservative Christians have with the “secular world”.

Faith v Science

To cut to the chase, in NG we see a couple of scientists who are at an archaelogical dig and discover the Stargate. One is open to new learning (the origins of his people), the other is so stubbornly closed-minded (only trusting the Book of Nefertum and the beliefs of her people). When the SGC gates successfully and sends through a MALP, both of them are fearful but only one, Nyan, takes a leap of faith (pardon the term) and engages the SGC in conversation through the MALP.

SG-1 ends up gating through and are subsequently captured by the Bedrossian military after one of the scientists (Mallin) runs back to get help after they meet SG-1. Why so? Because the Bedrossians believe that they were created by their “god” (who apparently is a Goa’uld called Nefertum, under-System Lord to the now dead Ra) on the planet itself, and on their continent, Bedrosia.

Their rivals, the Optricans, believe that they were brought to the planet by aliens through a portal (i.e. the Stargate). Nefertum has since gone AWOL leaving the Bedrossians and the Optricans, a second continent on this planet, to themselves. And lo’ and behold, a clash of ideologies emerges.

Now that SG-1 emerges, the Bedrossian military who have arrived on the scene (led by their jackass commander, Rigar) believe that SG-1 has been sent there by the Optricans as a hoax. Rigar, in all his short-sightedness, thinks their story is BS and plans to kill them. Even when General Hammond gets the gate tech to redial and try to communicate with the now captured SG-1, Rigar still thinks it is all a hoax set up by the Optricans. No questioning, just blind faith that is oblivious to what is taking place in front of his face (the “swoosh” of the gate and the wormhole forming). Cutting off his nose to spite his face, if you want to call it that.

The contrast between Nyan and Rigar is fascinating as it captures the ideological warfare that exists within Christianity of the 21st century to a tea over the issue of evolution v creation. Nyan is one who is a believer of his faith, but does not have a blind abstract faith that is unquestioning. He is searching for truth that is backed up with evidence. Rigar’s faith is blind acceptance of what the Book of Nefertum contains, even though the evidence before him is clear.

One remains entrenched in his own worldview, suspicious of any other viewpoints that are contradictory. One seeks to broaden his worldview by what facts he encounters.

It sounds very much like creationism v evolution. Ken Ham v Dawkins. Rigar exemplifies both Ham and Dawkins. All their worst parts. The only thing that saves Dawkins in my books is the fact that he is entertaining when he speaks and challenges preconceptions. And that he is a distinguished scientist. Ham, every time I’ve heard him speak, launches into a diatribe against non-YEC’ers.

Nyan offers the glimmer of hope that one can still believe while still admitting that he may be wrong on things. And willing to change and adapt his beliefs to the world he exists in, in the here and now. Nyan embodies the middle ground, the via media.

A place occupied, in Christian terms, by those who still confess that “I believe in One God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things seen and unseen” (to quote from the Nicene-Constantinoplean Creed). But who accepts that God himself may have created the world and all in it but still remains behind the scenes and is actively and continually guiding the development of the creatures he created. Including mankind (or humankind). A position which does requires faith but which also accepts what advances have been made in human knowledge gained in the scientific endeavor.

The God who uses evolution as a tool by which he continually tinkers with that he created in the beginning and called good. You could call that evolution by divine selection playing out as “natural selection”? (ba-doom-ching, lame attempt at a pun-ny joke)

Sure we like to have fun and not think about the hard questions of life: our origins and meaning of life, airy-fairy stuff. Sci-fi like this episode of SG-1 enriches the world apart from being just a fantastical way of leaving it. The stories it tells can be profound in helping us understand the human condition. And propelling us forward to improve the human condition.

[Yoda voice]
Learn, we must from stories told. From texts, read we must learn also. There is, truth to find from faith seeking understanding. Hmmmhh.
[/Yoda voice]

+ 1740hrs


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