Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Religion and the Origin of Science Fiction

Where does science fiction come from? Since it is a form of art, and since it does touch many people, then it must necessarily touch something that was created long ago, when mankind came to be.

The origin of science fiction must necessarily start at the origin of mankind and not at the origin of modern technology (like electricity) or even ancient technology (like agriculture).

So where was science fiction when we came down from the trees?

Religion as Science

Some evolutionists have argued that religion is science without the scientific method. Religion, faith, beliefs, and superstition are all based on explanations of the world we live in. If you’re a caveman whose father is deathly sick, and after you happen to hit the wall three times or close your eyes and pray or tear your hair out, he gets better, you might assume that the events are connected. You would not test this theory as you would a scientific theory because you would not risk your father’s life.

If two months later your mother gets sick, you perform the same ritual, and it works, then your theory was right. If she dies, then perhaps you knocked on the wrong place on the wall or maybe you didn’t pray hard enough or maybe you didn’t tear out enough of your hair. You will find a malleable explanation that fits both instances rather than discard the original proposition as false.

If you’re a caveman who steals from his friend then almost gets hit by lightning, you might decide that the two events are connected. You would not test that theory, scientifically, to see if it would happen again or if the events were unrelated, because you would be afraid to be hit by lightning.

In trying to explain why there is rain or thunder, why there is a famine, a draught, a hurricane, a tsunami, or why people get sick or die, theories explaining these events are formed in our heads. When enough theories are formed, a belief system is created, what physicists call a ‘Theory of Everything’. Sooner or later a person believing strongly enough in this theory and persuasive enough to draw other people in creates followers and believers in this theory of how the universe works. From there on, rules are created that apply to the believers, and the road from there to organized religion is clear.

As a side note, this means that any life-form on earth or in space whose intelligence would be advanced enough to create science and overcome nature would also develop religion. In fact, it would develop religion first.

The Emotions of Religion

But religion also carries with it a few extras that science does not. It carries with it a few emotions that are easily classifiable.

It allays fears – Religion allays fear of death, as much as possible, by telling us that death isn’t the end and that there is something good afterwards. It also allays fears during hard time, telling us that things will be better or that god has a plan, etc.

A feeling of unity – Many religions provide its community a feeling of togetherness that can’t usually be found in other communities. Everyone knows everyone else is likeminded. Everyone gathers in the same place at certain times to celebrate the same things. A feeling of unity is a powerful thing, and both democracy and science stay away from them.

A feeling of the divine – When you believe in certain gods, you feel like you can touch something that is beyond you and above you. For a few short instances, you feel what true grandness must feel like. It’s a feeling of majesty, of a grand plan, and of your place in the universe.

Science Fiction and Divinity

A large part of science fiction and its allure is the feeling it gives, that grander things are possible, that majesty bigger than what we know exists. Technology we haven’t dreamt of, races the likes of which we’ve never seen, mysteries we haven’t conceived of, societies more advanced than our own that are now dead - all these things hint at things that are bigger than us, at a majesty to a universe of which we are but a cog. Many stories are based on a grand plan to the universe. It could be that laws of physics are introduced or supposed that make us see a more logical Theory of Everything. An alien race or advanced technology may give us a hint of things grander than ourselves.

A good chunk of science fiction tunes into that basic human feeling that existed when we came down from the trees, the feeling of majesty, of awe, of things greater than what we know, of a big plan that might exist - things that are found through science... and religion.

Science fiction comes from religion. And religion comes from science.


ZZ said...

I disagree. Random coincidences of hitting a wall and having your father get better might be common enough to make people believe in some vague concept like "luck" or "fate" (which are universal to all cultures regardless of religion), but you wouldn't have enough corroborating coincidences to come up with a specific god named Yahweh or Zeus or Allah and to come up with all the backstory and history behind it. If you want to be an atheist, fine, but you're going to have to come up with something betther than this if you want to convince anybody.

yonatan said...

Guy Hasson, Where are you?

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