Evolution and science fiction - Part 2
The role of God
‘… immortality won’t be given us by supernatural means. We’ll have to make it ourselves and do so by physical means, by science … We will then provide immortality, which will give us time for developing our psychic evolution towards the ideal … without immortality there is no meaning in life.’1
Most science fiction literature has as its centre evolutionary humanism. Such science fiction has abandoned a belief in eternal life via Jesus Christ, but has not been able to abandon the thought that life is a mere 60–70 years on earth, and then—nothing. It is equally abhorrent to man that as a species he should never become more significant than he now is. Science Fiction authors envision a variety of means whereby man may yet rise to new greatness. For Nevil Shute, in his novel On the Beach, it is reason, the printed word, and mass education that provides the means:
‘I mean, if a couple of hundred million people all decide that their national honour requires them to drop cobalt bombs upon their neighbour, well, there’s not much that you or I can do about it. The only possible hope would have been to educate them out of their silliness.’ ‘But how could you have done that, Peter? I mean, they’d all left school’. ‘Newspapers, ’he said. ‘You could have done something with newspapers. Something might have been done with newspapers if we’d been wise enough.’2
Popular scientist and writer, the late Isaac Asimov, believed that science may yet hold the key to the preservation and gradual improvement of the race. In his ‘Foundation’ series he wrote:
Q. You quibble, Dr. Sheldon. Can the overall history of the human race be changed?
A. No. With great difficulty.3
His character, Dr. Han Sheldon, gains prophetic stature in the following conversation as science becomes elevated to a formal religion by which men plan to rebuild and preserve their universe:
‘That danger is coming. Any fool can tell a crisis when it arrives. The real service to the State is to detect it in embryo. Look, Manilo, we’re proceeding along a planned history. We know that Han Sheldon worked out the historical probabilities of the future. We know that some day we’re to rebuild the Galactic Empire. We know that it will take a thousand years or thereabouts. And we know that in that interval we will face definite crises. ’4
Arthur C. Clarke
‘Professor Molton smiled as he watched them racing towards their bright, untroubled future—the future he had helped to make. Never again, as far ahead as imagination could roam, would the human race be divided against itself.’
Similarly, Science Fiction pundit Arthur C. Clarke foresees a time when traditional religion will become quite obsolete.
‘Though it has always been obvious to any rational mind that all the world’s religious writings could not be true, the shock was nevertheless profound. Most of them were noble and inspiring—but that was not enough. Within a few days, all mankind’s multitudinous messiahs had lost their divinity. Beneath the fierce and passionless light of truth, faiths that had sustained millions for twice a thousand years vanished like morning dew. Humanity had lost its ancient gods: now it was old enough to have no need for new ones.’5
In his books, Clarke enables this to be achieved by the Overlords, mysterious visitors from outer space who take over world government. The takeover is not by force, but yet it is by power. Men submit to the Overlords fairly willingly, because they see too clearly the alternative—instant destruction. With this new one world government, men across the globe find themselves able to live in harmony with their fellow-man. Although this ‘paradise’ is achieved with the help of the Extra Terrestrial Overlords, and not by man on his own, the result is presented as a form of Utopia, a new heaven on earth in which …
‘Crime had practically vanished. It had become both unnecessary and impossible. When no-one lacks anything, there is no point in stealing. Moreover, all potential criminals knew that there could be no escape from the surveillance of the Overlords. In the early days of their rule, the Overlords had intervened so effectively on behalf of law and order that the lesson had never been forgotten.
Crimes of passion, though not quite extinct, were almost unheard of. Now that so many of its psychological problems had been removed, humanity was far saner and less irrational.6
This utopic end point is similar to a goals envisaged by Clarke in the first of the Earthlight series where …
‘Professor Molton smiled as he watched them racing towards their bright, untroubled future—the future he had helped to make. Never again, as far ahead as imagination could roam, would the human race be divided against itself.’7
Yet this heaven on earth inevitably proves to be totally unstable, as is seen in ‘Childhood’s End’, and many other books. Authors, it seems, are painfully aware that their dreams for mankind are inevitably subject to destruction. Man, it seems, cannot expect that the future will be anything but troubled and difficult. But rarely is the blame for this ever laid on man. Science Fiction writers generally do as most people do when confronted with such a problem—in true evolutionist fashion, they blame the environment, or they blame God, Fate, or Mother Nature or some other force or person who is never really defined. This is the great philosophical dilemma of evolutionary Science Fiction writers. On the one hand they accept blind, mechanistic, purposeless evolution, and yet on the other, they clutch at a belief in ideals, values and personalized forces, all of which are totally inconsistent with such a philosophy.
The majority of Science Fiction is both a rejection of the God who is the Creator/Redeemer, and a desperate quest for a purpose, a meaning, and a way out of a seemingly endless and hopeless universe in which belief in impersonal evolution is offered as a basis for and as part of the ‘only hope’ package deal salvation for mankind.
Such writers seem to want, not an Either/Or choice of world views, but a Both/And system in which Both and And are mutually exclusive. If the universe is mechanistic, there cannot be a God. If Nature is impersonal, random, and evolutionary, then it cannot be ‘Mother’ Nature, nor can it be involved in some immensely broad, ‘wider-than-our-solar-system’ plan or scheme to achieve a purpose and goal. Most Science Fiction authors reject a God who is personal enough to take men to task; neither will they accept the reality of a blind and accidental universe. Their irrational solution is to create worlds for themselves where men have become twilight gods.
Many Science Fiction writers regard God as some malevolent force. Wyndham’s book The Kraken Wakes does just this when we read:
‘I should be tempted to think that God proposed to teach me a lesson. That He was saying: ‘H’m. You think you’re so clever. Little gods yourselves with all your atom-splitting and microbe-conquering. You think you rule the world, and possibly heaven, too. Very well, you conceited little mites, there’s a lot about life and nature that you don’t know. I’ll just show you one or two new things and see how your conceit stands up to them. I have had to do it before’.8
A similar view is given in ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’:
‘It is, for instance, disquieting for a good rationalist, such as myself, to find himself wondering whether perhaps there is not some Outside Power arranging things here. When I look around the world, it does sometimes seem to hold a suggestion of a rather disorderly testing-ground. The sort of place where someone might let loose a new strain now and then, and see how it will make out in our rough and tumble. Fascinating for an inventor to watch his creations acquitting themselves, don’t you think? To discover whether this time he has produced a successful tearer-to-pieces and, too, to observe the progress of the earlier models, and see which one of them have proved really competent at making life a form of hellfor others …’9
Just how seriously readers are intended to take these views is perhaps debatable, but it certainly seems that Wyndham does not use them as arguments against a belief in God. His real purpose, it seems to me, is to suggest that whoever or whatever is in control of the universe is malevolent and machiavellian in character—a God who is simply not worthy of man. It is this basic philosophy which has given rise to one of the most totally depressing and pessimistic views on the nature of the universe—that given in the final pages of ‘Childhood’s End’. The last man on earth is portrayed as he watches and describes the final destruction of Earth and recounts his own last seconds, via a radio transmitter to the Overlord, Karellen, who himself is merely a pawn in the hand of the Overmind—the ultimate Mentor and Sustainer of the entire universe. The absolute amorality of all existence, the total absence of emotion, the paradoxical love/hate/fear/reverence for the Overmind—all of this is part of Karellen’s life as an historical recorder, a larger-than-life laboratory assistant, in the service of someone/something he cannot define. This is the final travesty of man’s opinion of God:
‘Six thousand million kilometres beyond the orbit of Pluto, Karellen sat before a suddenly darkened screen. The record was complete, the mission ended: he was homeward bound for the world he had left so long ago. The weight of centuries was upon him and a sadness that no logic could dispel. He did not mourn for Man; his sorrow was for his own race, forever barred from greatness by forces it could not overcome … yet Karellen knew, they would hold fast till the end: they would await without despair whatever destiny was theirs. They would serve the Overmind because they had no choice …’10
Many Science Fiction writers’ judgement of man upon God is that He is not worthy of human consideration and thus He is either ignored, or grossly misrepresented, so that man becomes the hero of the piece, albeit the tragic hero. Our Science Fiction age has not been guilty of being unable to find God—but of deliberately losing Him.
Evolutionist authors in their pride both refuse to and cannot conceive of the grace of the God who sees earth as the centre of His creation, and redeemed man as the chief end of His purpose in creation. Wyndhaxn wrote in his book, ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’:
‘But, as I understand it, your God is a universal God; He is God on all suns and all planets. Surely, then, He must have universal form? Would it not be a staggering vanity to imagine that He can manIfest Himself only in the form that is appropriate to this particular, not very important planet?’11
The majority of Science Fiction is both a rejection of the God who is the Creator/Redeemer, and a desperate quest for a purpose, a meaning, an end, a way out of a seemingly endless and hopeless universe in which belief in impersonal evolution is offered as a basis for and as part of the ‘only hope’ package deal salvation for mankind.
The Apostle Paul wrote about such ideas nearly 2000 years ago when he said:
‘For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four footed animals and crawling creatures … And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.’12
- Encyclopedia ot Science Fiction, p.223.
- N. Shute, On the Beach, p.223.
- I. Asimov, Foundation, Panther, London, 1953. p.25.
- Ibid. p.135.
- A. C. Clarke, Childhood’s End, Pan, London, 1954. p.63.
- Ibid. p.61.
- A. C. Clarke, Earthlight, Pan, London, 1965. p.158.
- J. Wyndham, The Kraken Wakes, Penguin, London, 1953. p.148.
- J. Wyndham, The Midwich Cuckoos. Penguin, London. p.204Â¿5.
- A. C. Clarke, Childhood’s End, p.189.
- J. Wyndham, Op.cit., p.159.
- Romans 1:21,22,23,28 (NASB).