Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thoughts for Science

Another subject that has come up a lot this semester is the fact that quite rapidly, that which was once science fiction is quickly becoming actual science. Perhaps not as fast as some authors rashly predicted, but genetic alterations, robots, and cryonics are now a thing of the present even if they aren't yet mainstream. The result has been mass opposition and endless debates over the morality of things like stem-cell research and cloning, and a significant conservative backlash to some of the paths science is taking. Now, whether or you or I personally agree with this that or the other, I think that I can safely say that opposition of any kind, whether they end up being right or not, is in fact a good thing. It is good for people to argue against and reasonably debate the things that many scientists are doing. Why do I say this is a good thing? Because whether or not cryonics or cloning is morally wrong, scientists must sometimes be made to stop and consider the moral implications of what they are doing. And that will only happen if people offer arguments against them. So whether stem cell research ends up saving countless millions of lives or is simply the first step down a long slippery slope ending in human beings as crops (or both), I am just glad that people are stopping to consider the ramifications and proceed cautiously. I think Ian Malcolm put it best in a Sci-Fi movie about the dangers of rashly cloning long extinct dinosaurs..."Yeah well, your scientists were so focused on whether they could, they never stopped to think if they should!"

Strange Bedfellows

Something that has always been on my mind, throughout freshman year in my FDR class, through science classes and religion classes a like, is this odd relationship that science and religion have. There are two schools of thought on this. One of which is that science and religion can't really co-exist, the other is that well, they can. Throughout the study of science fiction, i haven't had this question come up. Why ? Because the science fiction I've seen/read has moved past this question. I'm finding it really interesting to explore the ways in which God, or this higher power is manifest in various things I've watched or seen that are sci-fi, and that's the topic that my paper is exploring...

Till Later.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Evil may be stronger than good...

Science + Religion Today has an interesting article on the physiological effects of good and evil. Since the notion of good vs. evil pervaded much of the course I thought that this was worth sharing!
Performing good deeds (or just thinking about doing them) helps us perform better on tests of physical endurance and willpower, new research suggests. But doing evil things make us even stronger.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Matrix Alternate Ending

If you think about it Neo was faced with a false dichotomy. When, in reality, he had three or more choices. Now why didn't I think of that!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Arguments Against Immortality

IO9 has once again posted something that connects with recent discussions in class, this time offering four arguments against immortality.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ethics on the Island

I am writing my paper on morality and ethical issues raised on LOST. Unfortunately I'll have to finish this paper before the series ends, so some of my theories may end up being wrong...but by and large so far LOST has maintained that the lines between good and evil are not clearly drawn. There are some decisions made by the characters that are flat out perceived as wrong on the show (such as Ben's sacrifice of his daughter for the greater good, or Sayid's attempt to kill Ben as a child to prevent him from committing atrocities later in life). However, a significant portion of my paper is going to be on the simple inability to distinguish the good from the bad on the Island, much as real life is like. I have been pleasantly surprised to find this theme ongoing with every new episode that airs, since the "good" side fighting against the supposedly evil monster nevertheless do a number of things that cannot be seen as right by any means (such as the sacrifice of innocent bystanders). It appears that LOST is attempting to capture the human condition and the confusion that occurs when you aren't sure if you're fighting for the right side. This makes alot of sense to me...after all, the evil of someone like Hitler is purely hindsight, since at the time he was followed by millions of people, many of which were good people. But, as was famously pointed out, the best lie is the one that is 99% true. I am very very curious to find out who, if anyone, holds the key to the whole truth in LOST.

Is Creativity Valuable?

If we lived in a future in which we all had the same or similar capacities to do all tasks (i.e. being able to download languages at will, able to do complex math mentally, able to lift heavy objects...etc.), I would like to think that jobs would be divvied out according to who had a passion for which job. Even if person A and person B are "equally qualified" to be editors, for example, if person A is more excited about editing, then it seems that he/she is best for the job b/c of the likelihood of creative ideas arising from that passion. Person A and person B might have identical GPAs, the same schooling, the same test scores...etc., but person A seems slightly more qualified to me b/c of wanting to apply the essence of his/her being to the workplace. That is what makes individuals unique--creativity.

It should be mentioned that by creativity, I am not referring to artistic ability necessarily. I think some people excel in creativity in developing sports strategies(think about how Butler was able to take on Duke), engineering (practical solutions to practical problems [maybe why a bridge is collapsing or why a certain computer command is ineffective] often arise b/c of a creative mind), teaching (being the first person to make learning fun for a student)...etc. I think creativity is something essential to being human. Maybe it is expressed in varying degrees in different people, but more often than not, I think that people who claim to have no creativity in anything simply haven't discovered their strengths yet.

I worry that creativity is undervalued these days, though, b/c as a nation, as an economy, we're more concerned about gross domestic product, not just in goods but in people. We want babies to be "Baby Einsteins" b/c we want them to be get have a head-start in school and thus a head-start in the job market. After all, why else do we go to school anymore except to be on the track to a career? People always say that there are serious problems w/ the school system, the economy...etc., but I think that ultimately if people are affirmed for their individualities--the areas in which they are creative and therefore unique--we might fix some of those problems.

Legal Limits

One of the questions brought up today in class is whether there should be legal limits to advancing, improving, and extending humans and their life. One example was if it should be legal to replace someone's heart simply because it would make them a better athlete, or make them stronger. I do think that there needs to be some type of regulation to control these types of actions. If one is allowed to infinitely enhance themselves or others, then things would no doubt get out of control. What would be stopping people from creating "superhumans"? I feel that our humanity would suffer greatly. While I personally hope that we do not reach a point where we need these certain laws to prevent these things from happening, certain laws would definitely be necessary to regulate enhancing a human's life.

Extended Life

What if one day technology allowed us to live a longer life?

Would this be a good thing? In my opinion this would not be good. As mentioned in a blog before mine, no one wants to die. But dying, I believe is what is best for all of humanity. This is because many problems would stem from living longer lives. For instance just to name a few (I can think a lot!): over population, decreased natural resources, increased disease, increased antibiotic resistance, and increased poverty (or division b/n 3 social classes).

My main concern is towards humanity. If people are able to live longer, yes they do in fact get to cheat death for a little bit longer, but the repercussions of this longer life span might actually wipe out humanity at a faster rate. If the world runs out of resources or disease runs rampant, then more people are going to be wiped out faster than anyone can reproduce.

Ironically, the attempt to extend humanity would ultimately wipe it out.

Technology, Humans, and the Future

Interesting topic we're discussing right now in class.... Technology can certainly make life better for humans. The topic at hand is replacing organic/biological systems in the body such as the kidney, liver, etc, with man-made ones... This certainly would fix a lot of health problems, however this raises a lot of serious ethical issues as well... At what point during the process of replacing organs does one cease to be human ?

Think about it for a second. You look like a regular human being. You think like a regular human being. But you have all mechanical 'innards.' So, are you really human ? What happens to the soul, the essence of what it means to be human ?

When I think about being human, I think about our 'mortality.' At some point, we must cease to exist. It's part of being human. It must occur in the natural order of things. Supplementing humans with artificial cells and organs would disrupt this 'natural' order of things, thereby supplanting the core essence of what it means to be human...

Limits on Life?

Today, we've discussed living for hundreds of years. Would we really want to live that long? Someone mentioned the current overpopulation problem we have in the world. I would imagine that it would continue to be a problem if we lived for hundreds of years instead of just living for 70-80 years. But what would we really need in order to live so much longer than we do now? Would we need some type of physical regeneration capability? How will we fight off cancer or other diseases? Could our economy survive if we lived longer? Would we have enough natural resources to sustain our growing society? This topic really makes me think. No one wants to die, but what if dying is what is best for us?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Repo men

I don’t know how many people have seen the new movie Repo Men but it brings up some really interesting points that we have been talking about in class. At the very end the movie it revealed that main character is actually died for more than half of the movie. It turns out that the main character was put into a dream like state after losing significant amount of his brain. This man is really against technology but is forced in to state because his friend feels bad for accidentally killing him. The question is how bad is it if this man has no clue what is going on? He is happy in this dream like state but if he knew the truth he would be very angry. Some people might think that this man might be better off in dream like state than died but I do not agree because he would never have gone along with this in life. However I do not have anything against people if technology was possible who might choose to go into this dream like state. I believe that people should be able to choose their own path of death.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I'm going to out myself as a complete nerd here, but oh well. I am an avid player of an MMORPG (massively multi-player online role playing game for all you non-nerds) called World of Warcraft (or WoW for short). In WoW, and I am sure other MMOs as well, the issue of what is real already has started to come up, although not to the extreme that we discussed in reference to the Matrix. When talking in game or on forums and blogs that discuss WoW we use the term IRL (in real life) to indicated when we are talking about something that happens outside of game. For example a common use of this might be that a person's character is female but they tell you that they are male IRL (for some reason this usually doesn't happen the other way around though). However I often wonder how experiences in WoW are not "real." Now obviously the pictures on the screen are simulated and I did not actually just single handedly defeat 5 nefarious conspirators in the physical world. However the people I regularly have contact with either through text or voice chat are real people. I put real time, effort, and even research into playing the game and achieving the things that I want to achieve. I have both negative and positive experiences that produce real emotions. In that sense playing an MMO in a virtual space is real, just like playing a board game is real. However where I do think the line can get blurry at points is when people put too much importance on events that happen in game. People get genuinely outraged when something they don't like happens to them in game. They seem to think that this will somehow affect their everyday lives. That is where I think the danger lies in virtual reality. As we develop technology that enables us to experience these things in a more immersive manner I think that it will be harder and harder to distinguish between what really matters in the "real world" and what happens in the virtual one.

Sentient Beings

What defines a sentient being? What makes something or someone real or unreal?

Popular films such as The Matrix and I, Robot explore these topics. However, just watching the film only skims the surface. One has to dip into the film and explore these topics more in depth.

The definition of sentient is

having the power of perception by the senses; conscious.
characterized by sensation and consciousness.

Both of these definitions can apply to The Matrix and I, Robot. For example all the humans that are unknowingly following the matrix are conscious and perceive sensations. Just as the proitronic robots in I, Robot are conscious and can follow their own wills.

Knowing this, does that classify the humans within the matrix and the proitronic robots as sentient beings? If so, do we have to redefine the definition of sentient to make the adjective only apply to us, humans, or when the times comes will we have to broaden the term and open our minds to the possibility that a machine we created can become a living, "breathing", sentient being?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Old School SciFi

As I research my final term paper, I realize how science fiction is not a modern concept. Most people think "Science Fiction" and associate it with the ScyFy channel, Star Trek, Star Wars, and aliens. But science fiction writing dates back into the 1800s. I am rereading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for my term paper and although the language definitely gives the time period away, the story itself is timeless and indistinguishable from the science fiction films conjured in the past 50yrs. Can anyone give me more examples of early science fiction writing or maybe your favorite science fiction writing and why it's worth reading?

Post-Human Humans, Star Trek ?

A lot of futuristic things I come across tend to be a bit scary... including things from the 1950s.. I mean, back then, people thought we would be driving in space cars, and wearing clothing that looks like it's straight out of the Jetsons... of course, none of this stuff ever came true.

And, like I thought after I read the first paragraph of Monday's reading, I was a bit unnerved. To think that Earth would one day become a society of advanced people that essentially created 're-creations' of their former ancestors to see what they're like is rather disturbing..

Let's think about this, and the philosophy of the mind for a second... If they were created, could we accept them as sentient beings ? Would they have the memories of our former selves, and the feelings that go along with them ? Are the computers that are being discussed powerful enough to do that ?

I don't feel that we'll get that far... Nor do I think we need to... Why, you might ask ? Well, if we create our former selves, we might run into the problem we see in the Star Trek episode, where Cmdr. Data's 'right to choose' is being discussed. Lt Cmdr Riker seems to think that the gentleman who wants to take Data away has ulterior motives (ultimately attributing them to slavery...)

What could become of these 'former selves' ? Could we use them to influence the future ? to change the course of history ? What if the 'post-humans' decide to conjur up the founding fathers of our country ? This is something that has enormous implications to everyone, everywhere...

Friday, April 16, 2010

What religion could look like

To expand upon what I said in class, I have a vision in my head of what the distant future might be like. Admittedly this vision depends upon a host of technological and social variables that I cannot begin to predict, but I'm going to go with it anyway. In my imaginary future humanity has begun a large scale colonization project, planting new communities on dozens of different planets. I imagine that human culture in general, as far as we have shared culture from planet to planet through shared ideas or media, will be largely secular, perhaps with a vague notion of spirituality. This of course assumes no alien religious influence. However I think that there could be places, or even whole planets, where people from a particular religious group decide to live in community together. Perhaps some would completely renounce the larger, secular culture, but I think that others would simply see it as a way to live in community with each other and put their ideals into practice. In all likely hood I have this vision because I am Mennonite and finding our own little planet to live together in community seems like something that Mennonites would be all over. Now the question becomes, would I want to live there? In many ways I think it would be nice, however living with nothing but Mennos might make me want to pull my hair out eventually. I think that if technology allowed for widespread media, communication, and relatively easy travel from planet to planet I would definitely want to live there. However, if technology was such that we were very isolated I think I would think twice about it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A definite intersection of Sci-fi and Religion....

A Bulba! Pillows and all....

Although this clip involves five of the possibly least informed and obnoxious people (The View, and Heidi Montag)...I think that it exhibits the relevance, and contentiousness of religion in modern society. I think it also shows the varying opinions and shifting role of religion, particularly in schools.

Some thoughts on LOST

Here are a couple of things I noticed after watching last nights episode:

Hugo was the 1st person who met MIB to speak before MIB did. I am not exactly sure what this means, but everyone who let MIB speak first did not fare to well.

We know nothing about Desmond's childhood and we don't know anything about his parents. We know a little bit about every ones family or childhood, but not Desmond's. It would be nice to have an episode that looks at his early childhood.

Since when is trusting Michael a good idea?? He murdered Libby and Ana Lucia, but all of the sudden Hugo has his full confidence in what Michael is telling him. I am just very skeptical of Michael as he has appeared again out of nowhere and he has always made his own self-interests happen at the expense of others.

Desmond seems to be the most confident man in the world in both the Original timeline and the flash-side ways timeline. Everything he is doing seems to be crystal clear and makes sense to him and I think that is because he can see the connection between both time lines and is the messenger between the two. As you all probably suspect, Desmond is going to play a huge role down the stretch here.

Desmond probably hit Locke in the FST because to experience the original timeline you must experience a near death experience or to feel love. Locke has now had his near death experience and now he will probably be taken to Jack's hospital where he will be the doctor that takes care of Locke. Desmond's goal in the FST seems to be to connect everyone in the FST to themselves in the OT.

I am so glad Desmond is back in the mix, he is such an intriguing and interesting character.

See ya in another life brother.

C&T...and religion

I have to say that I am excited to have read some non-Christian religious sci-fi at last (although, I suppose if you count Orson Scott Card...). It seems that most of the short stories we've read up until this point have come out of a largely Christian-informed tradition, even though the authors themselves might not have been religious. I thought "On Venus, Have We Got a Rabbi" was playfully satiric. There's a mix of asking serious questions about preserving tradition amid societal and technological changes and also the Jewish tradition of arguing over an issue in order to seek clarity. The latter is treated somewhat humorously in this story b/c of the idea of "brown lumpy pillows" w/ grey tentacles wishing to be Jewish.

Well, this got me thinking about change and tradition w/in my own faith in the future. Orthodoxy is a faith that is very resistant to change...and that's putting it lightly. There is controversy in Bulgaria even now about whether or not a bishop should be in his position until his death or whether he is allowed retirement. There is controversy in some American churches as to whether or not guide dogs should be allowed in church for blind parishioners (there is a church canon that declares dogs "unclean"). But I often wonder if Orthodoxy has changed as little as it has claimed. Is it just a front that it puts up in order to maintain stability? If Orthodoxy were to change at all, I think it would continue to deny that it had changed. There is a joke in Orthodox communities-- A layperson asks, "How many Orthodox bishops does it take to change a lightbulb?" And a church father responds, flabberghasted, "Change?!"

If I foresee any changes w/in the Orthodox church in the near or far future, it would be a breaking down of ethnic boundaries. As of rigt now we have defined Bulgarian, Romanian, Antiochian, Russian, Coptic, Greek, Ukrainian, Ethiopian, Macedonian...etc. Personally, I hope for greater and more profound changes w/in the church, particularly a movement toward the acceptance of "spiritual" individuals over "religious" individuals, b/c the latter seems to emphasize rules and dogma over individuals and their varied needs. I will end w/ a favorite quote of mine--"Religion is for people afraid of going to Hell. Spirituality is for those who have already been there."

Exploring Topics

Today I begin research for my term paper. However, where should I start?

Over the period of this course many topics have arisen. Such as Lost (which I am literally lost in, I have never seen an episode and feel as if it is too late to jump on the bandwagon of faithful watchers), Star Trek again a topic that I am not up to date on, and various Sci Fi t.v. shows that have been cancelled despite their faithful followers tuning in every weeknight to get his or her fix.

With so many topics that I am unfamiliar with, picking a topic might prove to be difficult. However the broad arena of Science fiction allows me to have room to explore. Which brings me to a possible topic. Since I am very uneducated in the field of science fiction, perhaps I can write about how, despite the fact I am not a faithful follower, I still know a handful of information about cult shows such as Star Trek and Star Wars. This reminds me of the article that was about Star Trek's impact on the general populace. I could explore how one show that preaches a positive future for humankind can become bigger than the tv that shows it every Monday night.

I need your help though. If Star Trek or Star Wars has impacted you or a friend in any way, share the impact with me! This way, I can explore how one show can be considered to be beacon light for a large mass of people.

Monday, April 12, 2010


While discussing Prometheus in class today, I had a hard time getting the thought of this cartoon from my childhood out of my head. Yes, it really isn't related to Prometheus in the manner in which we're discussing him, but I still think some might get a kick out of this.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


In reading article about the balance between the force I came to thinking about the whole concept of good and evil. In Star Wars Darth Vader brings balance to the force because the good were getting to powerful and in fact they were starting to become a bit corrupt. There is no way to not have good without evil. If there was no evil there would be nothing to compare good to. I have always like movie more when there is not happy ending. Movies where nobody wins have I always appeal to me more than when good always triumph because it is more realistic. It is easier in Star Wars movies to identify with the Darth Vader because he was innocent in the beginning of it. If you think about it the Jedi were using him because they know how powerful he was going to become not because they wanted to help him. In fact they tell him to forget about his mother and move on. We see a turn in him when his own mother dies which is not that surprising because his mother just died and they are telling him to suppress his feelings. My question is how can Jedi protect people if they have no human feeling. This brings me to earlier conversation in class that we had about robots and we decided that robots cannot have souls because they have no feelings. If a Jedi as no real feelings do they have souls?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Worship and Faith

Hi All,

On the subject of worship, what is worship, and who/what is deserving of said worship, I'd like to offer my $0.02 as well, and bring in one of my favorite [protestant] theologians, Paul Tillich as well.

Worship to me is an indescribable act. Ok, so that might be a little anti-climatic, no ? Alright, I'll attempt to describe why I feel it is so indescribable. Worship is not only a physical, but a mental, emotional, spiritual act or process which one shows or professes his undying/unfailing allegiance or faith towards a supreme being, or figure, or thing. It is indescribable, because the act for each person is different. What may be worship to one person may not necessarily be 'worship' to the next, even though it is. Worship, just like the American landscape is diverse. Through the spirituous AME churches of the south, to the orthodox nature of some churches in the Mid-West, to the charismatic worship of some in the western/coastal region. Its style varies greatly, even among different parishes of the same denomination. Contemporary/Charismatic/Traditional versions of the same Sunday service can be found at a lot of churches.

But worship need not occur always in a church. Worship is also a way to glorify something or someone. Some do this at home in private, in small groups, or with just another person. Worship can even be the act of planting flowers or trees. This can serve as a testament to the beauty of nature, the spirit of God, which is manifest in this plant, or tree, or flower.

Worship is a vessel by which we show our faith. Our ultimate faith in this person, or thing which we have summarily deemed worthy of our worship. But, this begs the question, what is faith ? When people often mention faith, they say things like, " I have faith in you, I have faith in the system, I have faith it will work." However, to use the term 'faith' in such a manner only dilutes it from is most beautiful context, that which describes the ultimate concern of a person. This is the way Tillich describes it in his book, "The Dynamics of Faith." He suggests that it is wrong to have 'faith (ultimate concern) in corporeal objects, or mere objects of mortal nature. That which is deserving of your faith, your ultimate concern is that 'higher power' in which we place our trust, our faith. It is that thing which demands from us our complete allegiance, our entire being, and our unfailing love.

It is for this reason, that no celebrity, or person, or thing is deserving of worship, but God, and God alone. For we can only truly worship the things we have true faith in, and the only thing we can truly have faith in is God.

On Venus, Have We Got A Rabbi

I just came across this radio program in which William Tenn reads his story (which we'll be reading for next Wednesday) "On Venus, Have We Got a Rabbi."

Cricket Metaphor

Do you think that the benevolent cricket would be any more worshipable if it were immortal?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

SG-1 and worship

Worship for me is hard to define. I am not very religious person so I never been a member of any organized religious group. When reading the article about the little people in twilight zone I instantly identified with the little people and not either group of astronauts. I identified with little people because I do not think I could really demand worship from anyone and I think if I was to worship something the reason might be more out of fear than actual love. When Craig starts to demand worship from the aliens it remained me of another show called Stargate SG-1. In the final season of Stargate there is a race of being called the Ori this particular race is more advanced than any of the humanoids on planet that SG-1 has explore before. However SG-1 chooses not to worship the Ori because the team knows the origin of the Ori and knows that they were once humanoids. Even though the Ori could easily kill any race that SG-1 has encounter they refuses to worship them because they were once beings similar to them. The Ori have ascended to a new level of concession that is only attainable to a few. Another group similar to the Ori is the ancients who come from the same origin of the Ori but do not really care about humans in the slightest. One thing that I have always wondered is what would if SG-1 do if they were to in counter a being that has been there since the test of time? SG -1 never bows down to the beings that pretend to be Gods because there is always a scientific explanation to how those beings got there. However would SG-1 bow down to being that had no origin that was always there and that knows everything or would they continue to look for scientific explanation or simply chose to ignore it?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A not-so benevolent demi-god...

OK, this one ties into today's discussion. Also, fans of Lost or Watchmen will probably find this amusing. Enjoy!


To Worship or Not to Worship?

That is the question...

Who or What is worthy of worship? Can worship be "falsely" assigned?

According to our discussion in class, in some cases worship can be misplaced, meaning that humans could wrongly worship a power. For example in the Twilight episode we watched as a psychopath tried to rule through terror and abuse.

This brings up another question. Can worship, done out of fear, really be defined as worship?

I believe that this form of worship is insincere and cannot fall under the category of the faithful. For someone to truly worship I believe that he or she or it actually needs to feel some sort of devotion. Throughout history there have been times when rulers have reigned with an iron fist. Man kind has fallen under these leaders for self preservation, but secretly there are rebellions. This example illustrates my point. While on the surface the population seemingly obeys, there is really dissension in their private lives.

Which brings me to my conclusion and definition:
Worship: The devotion one "shows" in the privacy of their mind.

I chose to define worship in this way, because people can show actions that are contradictory to what they are actually thinking. However the thoughts that play in the mind are usually the true feelings of that individual and therefore are the purest forms of an individuals beliefs.

Lost is starting to all make sense!

I was hoping for it sooner rather than later, but now all the flashbacks, flash-forwards, and present-flashes(?) are really beginning to make sense! Lost is beginning to reveal that it has been dealing not just with whether time travel is feasible or not, but jumping right into the question of if it's right or even desirable. still, they aren't approaching the question from a moral standpoint at all. rather, it seems to be a question of destiny and asking if there's a life we are supposed to lead and a future we are supposed to have. Which of course is now raising the question in this final season...what happens when we try to change our destiny? Challenging our destiny is of course usually portrayed as a good thing in media such as Star Wars where destiny is a future that should be fought against and changed. Lost, however, is approaching this negatively...this alternate timeline that they created to try and prevent everything horrible (i.e. ever even crashing on the island) from ever happening to them seems to be against the natural order of the universe. It's not yet clear how changing their present is going to impact the characters, but by and large they seem to be making the same choices they made the first time around. At this point I am really hoping for a clear statement from the creators of Lost. It doesn't have to make sense to everyone, but I just want the show to conclude by offering some clear vision that will leave viewers with an added dimension of perspective and at the very least something to ponder. I'll be ticked if it just cuts to a black screen (or a white one) :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Robots and Aliens: Star Trek vs. Star Wars

Something interesting came to mind after watching the clip about Cmdr. Data on Star Trek the other day. I noticed that there was a good deal of controversy around his 'right to choose', and whether he possessed the ability to do so. It seems as if the creators of Star Trek deliberately chose to debate this subject, possibly hoping to project into the future the decision it came to when the show was written. Perhaps they saw something we didn't, I don't know.

However, what I do know is what happens in Star-Trek is something that people like Capt. Picard were trying to avoid. We see many R2D2's and mech-droids of all kinds serving in all kinds of positions, and ostensibly under human or 'sentient' being control. It does not seem to pose a problem at all for the people in Star Wars, so why does it have to be a big deal in Star Trek ?

Although Star Wars is interfused with religious intertitles (e.g. "Light/Dark" The Force/Dark Side), I feel it does not attempt to address such political or relevant issues that Star Trek attempts. I feel that's one of the reasons that makes Star Trek for me more appealing than Star Wars.

Some thoughts on the afterlife...

We talked today about whether immortality is something to be desired or if death would in fact be something that true immortals would envy. I honestly feel that a story such as Card's comes about from a generation of over-stimulated people constantly seeking the next new thing, which i would argue will make you bored (and addicted to 10 different things) before you hit 30, much less 150. I tend to view immortality more the way Tolkien presents it in his books (sorry for the non-sci-fi reference). In the Lord of the Rings, if they arent killed prematurely the race of Elves can live forever in joy and harmony with nature and are portrayed as the wisest of creatures in Middle Earth. So yes, in my present state and in this world i would certainly not want to live forever, and I fully sympathize with elderly people who often say it is their time to go. I do however hope for an eternity of peace and harmony where time, if it exists at all, is a joy...rather than a drag of constantly searching for the next new thing to entertain me.

Friday, April 2, 2010

How Would the Discovery of Alien Life Affect an Eastern Religion?

This article at Science + Religion Today seemed like it would be of interest to you. It looks at how an Eastern religion might respond to the discovery of extraterrestrial life.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Robot Passover

Here's a video which seems doubly-appropriate because it came to my attention at Passover time, and when we've been discussing robots and artificial intelligence in class. So I wish a happy Passover to all who celebrate it - human or not!

HT Thoughts In A Haystack

Monday, March 29, 2010

What is a Soul?

I have never really felt like I understood what exactly people meant when they said soul. If I had to define it I would say that your soul is just your internal sense of self, your own sense of who you are or the you that you are in your head. defines a soul in many different ways, but here are the ways that I find the most relevant.
1.the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part.
2. the spiritual part of humans regarded in its moral aspect, or as believed to survive death and be subject to happiness or misery in a life to come: arguing the immortality of the soul.
3. the disembodied spirit of a deceased person: He feared the soul of the deceased would haunt him.
4. the emotional part of human nature; the seat of the feelings or sentiments.
5. a human being; person.
I think these definitions help to clarify my own position. A soul is not your human body, but your mental existence. It your sense of individuality, humanity and self. Some of the definitions include ideas about the afterlife and assume that your essence or soul will survive your body's death. In regards to robots and their potential rights I can image a robot with the self awareness and personality that would make me think that it does have a soul and deserves rights. However I don't know that I would be able to believe that a man made being's essence or soul would live on after it was destroyed or shut down. If a robot can't have a soul that lives on after system shutdown then presumably we don't have to worry about robot conversion. If we ever do reach I time when robots are given rights and recognized as sentient I think that it may bring about questioning of the widely held belief in life after death. After all, if robots can seem human to people, but we deny that they can have some sort of afterlife what makes us so sure that we will have an afterlife?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

If we look within our own human history alot of groups have fought to gain rights. Whether it be for their religion, sex, race, or ethnicity all people want is to be treated equally. We humans understand this human want to gain equality but what if things/objects wanted to gain equal rights, such as animals, plants, and the earth? We have humans who are fighting for the fair treatment of animals and the planet, but we never look at this as a form of gaining equality. Is equality the same as fair treatment?

Friday, March 26, 2010


Our class discussion today put me in mind of Star Trek: Voyager and the character Seven-of-Nine. Is she human? She was as a child, but then assimilation into the Borg did something to her that causes her to function in many "automated" ways that are sort of Vulcan-like and Data-like at the same time. Does she have a soul? How might it have been affected by the Borg?

Artificial Intelligence & Racism

After discussing the idea of artificial intelligence, I was left with a lot more questions.

(I’ll call them robots for the sake of space in this blog posting.)

Do robots have rights? Would we add constitutional amendments guaranteeing them rights? Would it take years for robots to gain equal rights like it did for African-Americans and women?

What happens if the robots are faced with racism? Would it even be considered racism if someone discriminated against the robots? Would the robots be considered a new race or would they be considered an offshoot of the human race since we would be their creators?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Second Life

I’m not sure how many people have heard about second life but some interesting things have happened on it. Second life is where you have your own little avatar and basically live in a digital world. In class we briefly talked about if something happens virtually world if it has the same meaning. For example in second life there was one particular avatar that mess up the system and went around raping other avatars. I’m not sure what entire happened to the person who went around raping other people’s avatar but I do know that they were at least going to charge this person with criminal matters. People whose avatars were raped were damaged from the incident since the avatars represented who they were as people. Some people might look at that and think it absurd but these avatars were part of these people’s identities and they felt that the person was attacking them personally. If someone had some type of religious ceremony with their avatar people might not think that it is worth anything. However the avatar represents who these people are and sometimes people are more willing to be themselves in these virtual realties than they are in really life.

Vanguard, laggard or relic? The possible futures of higher education after the Epistemic Revolution

Okay, it's heavy on academic speak. However, it does tangentially address that which was brought up in Wednesday's class.

The early twenty–first century networked information economy has generated new communicative fields and literacies, and new forms of knowledge production, sociality and creative expression. The emergence of decentralized techno–fields, such as Facebook, Twitter, Second Life and virtual gaming communities, on teaching, learning, institutional hierarchies and sources of authority, presents both problems and opportunities. This article claims that the current moment represents an Epistemic Break in the Academy, and this piece traces some of how this is so. In doing so, we argue that as educational products and experiences contend with other multi–mediated forms of communication, significantly more attention must be paid to the aesthetic, functional and emotional elements of multimedia design creation and modification of course materials, as these materials vie for the attention of Digital Natives. The conclusion suggests both practices and policies needed for higher education to successfully compete for student attention in the current media intensive environment.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Do cylons have human feelings?

I personally think that if robots are able to grow and mature that should be given the same right as humans. One of my favorite science fiction shows of all time is the new Battlestar Galactica. In the show there are cylons which are not your typical robots. The cyclons believe in God in fact they believe in the one true God. One reason that cyclons stick out to me as being human is their ability to change between the same models of cyclons. In the show the number six model have many different unique personalities. One of them is Caprica she originally starts off by being a key part to destroying the majority of the human race. However throughout the series we see her start to not only love humans but to become protective of them. In one episode one of the six models kills a human because this particular human kept killing her again and again for no given reason. Every time she felt pain and had the memory of her death she did not forget it and her death became part of how she was. Another cyclons that is key character in this show is Athena. Athena is one of the number 8 models. Athena goes against her kind in order to be with the person who she loves this being is human. She was originally supposed to just mate with this person and move on. However she eventually tells Helo everything and they escape and these two characters are probably the most stable couple in the entire show. If we are made human by the ability to chose and feel for others it is clear that cylons are able to do this.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Human vs. Automated Sainthood

Presumably, a seminary would like a mechanism like Gus because it is programmed to answer questions which they cannot from a theologically sound perspective. However, St. Augustine was, in life, human. Though he was a man of extraordinary intelligence, he was not governed by purely logical beliefs. He made mistakes but his rational decisions also had human emotion behind them, I imagine. This is because he was sentient, which Wikipedia defines as “the ability to feel or perceive subjectively.”

We, as people, would probably be subjective even if we never knew our parents. There are certain foods we dislike, for example, no matter what we grow up eating. A computer (or any machine, I think) only gains subjectivity from being programmed in that way, and therefore I think it is not sentient. As the programmer Holtz says, “It’s programmed from Augustine’s work. And what we know about his life” (6-7). In other words, the computer is programmed subjectively based on scholarly guesses about the person of Augustine based on some evidence in his work and, presumably, writings about him. However, that means that Gus is programmed according to someone else’s subjectivity. He has no original subjectivity of his own. This reliance upon another being to attain a personality seems to me to make Gus only a shadow of another person’s opinions.

I think, in some ways (but not all) that Gus's insights on dogma are less valuable than the original saint's because he abides by the hard-and-fast rules of his programming. Saints are venerated on Earth because they lived virtuous lives, which we recognize as being a difficult thing to do. If a computer is programmed to be virtuous naturally, then where is the struggle in that? Where is the depth of experience of suffering? Where is the wisdom in a computer? But on the other hand, I imagine a machine like Gus might be useful with which to have an argument to understand one's self better.

But then again, this might only seem that way to me because I have not yet encountered a technology which stretches my theory of sentience.

Gus come to life

The scary thing is, the idea of a program like Gus is not very far fetched at all. Honestly, all you would need would be a computer with a couple zetabytes of memory (you've all heard of terabytes being 1000 gigabytes? yeah those numbers keep getting bigger and already exist). In fact, I would say the only thing preventing such a thing is broadband and capitalism. The computer would have to have unlimited access to the internet and have enough broadband to analyze all aspects of human trafficking on the internet. That of course would cost alot of money for web hosting, but the technology is already there. And what would we make of this computer? hypothetically with that kind of info it could very well understand humanity better than any one person could. Our brains have the capacity to learn something every second for over 900,000 years before it would begin to fill up...a wonder of nature that was once thought to be forever unequalled. not for long, it's entirely feasible to make a computer with similar properties now. The only problem I have with the story of Gus is that I think no matter how human-like we make machines, we are never going to consider them so like us that we feel the need to have a funeral for their processors and intel chips...*made in taiwan* stamped on the back and everything

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Madness & Monty Python’s Life of Karl

So…my first thought was of “Life of Brian.” My second thought was about what a marvelously thought-provoking story this was! And I'm sorry I write long posts...I am an English major, after all. >_<

The lines of reality and fiction are very blurry in this story, both in terms of his dialogues with Monica and Karl’s seeming descent into madness. The overlap of fiction and reality seems parallel to how Christianity might fit into our contemporary society. Extremes exist within it even now: on one hand, there are scholastic logicians like St. Gregory Palamas, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas…etc. which people still read and contemplate, and on the other hand there are fanatics, perhaps not unlike the Essenes in the story, prone to insanity because of their intense rituals. This leads to discussion of an issue that any modern follower of an ancient faith must face—should a person believe in the spirit of a holy text versus the letter of a holy text? Where Karl seems on a quest to uncover what the spirit of Christianity means (which is particularly interesting in light of his Jewish descent), Monica wants to dismiss his quest entirely because she relies on the letter, the facts of the historical circumstances under which Christianity developed. Karl’s struggle between the two appears to drive him into madness. My question is this: does Karl’s insanity make his journey any less valid?
It is interesting that Monica, the paragon of logic, is the one who tempts her husband in the wilderness in a parallel of Satan and Jesus. In some ways, Monica seems to fill the role of a temptress not unlike medieval depictions of Eve. It seems that Moorcock is almost making logic out to be a dark and negative force through her character, and yet Karl seems to need her antagonism. He cannot have an honest dialogue about theology with himself. He needs to struggle with her logic. However, Karl imagines the dialogue with his wife to be peppered with value judgments. In Karl’s mind, Monica says, “Okay, Karl, carve your own crutches. Just think what you could have been if you’d have come to terms with yourself” (82). Karl is pinning his own misgivings about himself onto his mental image of her. He imagines her to be disappointed with him on the basis that he lacks logic in his choices. Karl is on a quest for meaning, however, and he argues that logic cannot provide that for him.

When Karl is described as a madman in part IV, it is difficult to know whether or not he is actually mad or whether he simply appears that way to the Romans and the Essenes. He may have gone mad as a result of his mental conversation with Monica, or he may only be described as a madman because he has abandoned his dependence on logic and reason which, in fact, is a criterion for being labeled as crazy, according to Webster’s dictionary (“unreasonableness”). After all, the Romans in the Bible spoke to Jesus as though he were a madman. As Moorcock informs the reader, “Every other man you met claimed to be spreading the message of their god” (85). And furthermore, Moorcock points out the Essene’s perspective on Karl, “He could be a wandering prophet or he could be possessed by devils. It was often hard to tell” (86). That is the heart of the matter, really. A modern reader (and for that matter, a modern writer) will care about whether or not the Messiah is mentally sound. I think that quite possibly, to Jews of that time and place, perhaps it did not matter. Many cultures have dubbed the mad or the epileptic of their tribes as spiritual leaders. Native Americans smoked peyote before receiving visions, those who convulse or go into trancelike states are believed to be having spiritual experiences in a variety of African religions and also in Creole Voodoo, which grew out of those traditions. In Western Christianity, particularly after the Protestant Reformation, there was, of course, a great backlash against “Catholic” mystical practices, which eventually led to negative responses toward visions and epilepsy, climaxing in the Salem Witch Trials in New England.

Monica’s distinction between Western philosophy and Eastern thought is appropriate in the story, because where Western thought would care about the sanity of the Messiah, Eastern thought might adopt a both/and policy toward mental health—yes, the Messiah might be mad, but that makes him no less valid as the Messiah. However, when Karl meets Jesus, and he perceives him to be madder than himself (and rejected even by his parents), Moorcock begins referring to him as “the prophet” (90). Perhaps he had abandoned logic before, but he regains it with despair after he meets Jesus and sees that he is a “congenital imbecile,” unable to utter anything beyond his own name (91). Madness is redefined in the story at this point.

The way the story ends seems to ultimately condemn Karl’s faith in something greater than himself. Moorcock, though he led readers on a journey through Karl’s struggling with faith and logic, ultimately chose Monica’s answer, even though he persistently describes her as cold and harsh. Perhaps Moorcock wishes to believe as Karl does, but is ultimately afraid that Monica’s answer is the truth. In any case, madness is a convenient way to explore alternative viewpoints, because it is as though it excuses everything. People are not held responsible for their actions when they are mad. Perhaps Moorcock is suggesting that Karl was mad from the beginning, to even believe in the possibility of truth behind Christianity.

Monday, March 15, 2010

LOST and Religion

In the Bible Isaac and Rebekah had twin sons named: Jacob and Esau. Jacob and Esau were the 1st pair of twins and according to Genesis 25:21-26 they were fighting in the womb. Jacob and Esau were famous for starting the tribes of nations.

In Lost Jacob and his Nemesis (Flocke, MIB, Esau, etc. I will refer to him as Esau) represent the fighting between the biblical versions of these characters. Right now Jacob and Esau are trying to gain as many followers as possible to create their own tribes. Possible setting up a battle between the two in the end. This also intersects religiously with the concept of good vs. evil. Jacob being good and Esau being evil (obviously).

It also, which I recently realized intersects with the Taoist concept of balance. This concept consists of light balancing out dark, evil balancing out good, etc., but when one of these sides are eliminated, the balance is lost and chaos breaks loose. With the death of Jacob (good) there is now nothing to balance out Esau (evil). That is why Jacob is in hot pursuit of a candidate which are currently: Jack, Sayid, Hurley, Sawyer, one of the Kwon's. As of right now it looks like neither Sayid nor Sawyer will be candidates for the good as they have sided with Esau. That leaves Jack, Hurley, and Sun or Jin. Jack is definitely the favorite to take over for Jacob because one, Jack has been a leader throughout the whole show. Two, Jack and Locke have balanced each other out throughout every season (Man of science vs. man of faith).

I cannot wait to see the rest of the season and how all of this plays out.

7 Kids Guaranteed to become Trekkies


I thought some of you might get a laugh out of this. Someone sent me this. Some are actually quite amusing.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bishop Zarcon Alexis, Diocese of Scoprite V

Well, I honestly forgot about the Science Fiction short story until Sunday, when I re-looked at the syllabus. I thought it was going to be difficult to write a short story, and that I would just put in enough effort to get it done.

So, I just sat down at a computer and started writing whatever popped into my head. I'm about half way done with my story, and never would I have imaged in my mind the intricacies in my story. The general basis of my story: It's in the future, and the Catholic Church is facing a shortage of priests in some areas of the world. Earth has already established friendly relations a while back with the people of Scoprite V. The Catholic Church has decided to pioneer an effort to eangelise these people, but also to look into establishing a seminary here on Earth, to ordain Scopritians to become priests to not only tend to flocks on Earth, but Scoprite V as well. However, this presents a few problems. One being, people not being very accepting of these beings. (They are very human-like, with a few differences.) Also, some people are reluctant to be ministered to by a flock of 'alien priests', for some believe they are not considered 'God's Creatures'

Throughout the rest of the story, I try to grasp these problems, and search for an inclusiveness for these Scopritians, and how Earth comes to grips with such a situation.

I find the process of just sitting down writing it bits and pieces at a time very gratifying and somewhat cathartic, because it's like the story is unfolding before me, and I can take it wherever I want."

In essence, it allows me to take a break from my regular static academic pursuits, and let my creative genius (what little I have) explore the "what if" and have some fun.

How Star Trek Should Have Ended

For your amusement...

HT SF Signal

Monday, March 1, 2010


In a previous class that I took a group of students, not including me, had to visit a community of scientologists and then make a classroom presentation on them. They tried hard to as fair as possible, but frankly it was clear that they were a bit freaked out be the whole experience. They mentioned the auditing and anti- mind altering drug stance that was spoken about in the presentation, but they didn't mention Xenu at all so his existence was news to me. I decided I wanted to know a bit more about him and I'm going to share what I have found. (Beware, dubious internet sources may have been used) Apparently the Church of Scientology attempts to cover up the story of Xenu thus probably why the group in my previous class didn't mention him. Knowledge of this story is reserved for those who have reached a high level called Clear. The story goes that Xenu's planets were very overpopulated so with the help of psychiatrists (!) he lured people together, knocked them unconscious, and then froze them in such a way that their souls were captured. He then takes them to Earth and proceeds to blow them all up, but while thier bodies die thier souls remain. Xenu then rounds up these souls and essentially forces them to watch a 36 day long movie which brain washes them making them forget who they are and implants all sorts of false beliefs including all of the world's religions. Eventually Xenu's intergalactic buddies catch up with him and lock him in a mountain. An interesting little factoid is that apparently reading the Xenu story without first completing the appropriate courses and levels (and paying the appropriate amounts of money) will cause pneumonia. So if anyone reading this starts to get sick, I'm sorry. Reading this story kind of makes me sad I'm not a scientologist, this story is so awesomely epic that I wish I could believe it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sample Short Story

Hi everyone! I thought I'd share with you a short story I wrote a few years ago and never published, in case it helps provide inspiration for your own stories you are currently working on. I posted it at Exploring Our Matrix. Your comments and criticisms are welcome!

Is Tom Cruise an Accurate Representation?

I agree that Tom Cruise's image is not what most religions would want to be representing them. I agree that his image can be overbearing, but I do not think that a religion should be discredited because of the image or actions of a single follower. Tom Cruise is just one scientologist and I am sure that not all scientologists carry themselves in the same manner as Tom. I am sure there are examples of people in other religions who are not "good" representations of what the religion stands for. Religions should not be judged by the actions or perception of one follower and who are we to judge a person anyways.

Scientology Endorsements

Today in class we talked about the fairly new religion of Scientology. I do not know a lot about Scientology. However whenever I hear about the religion I cannot help but to think about Tom Cruise. I believe that his celebrity overshadows the religion. I also feel that his endorsement makes me less likely to believe in the values of Scientology. I feel that some of the famous believers in Scientology make the religion less credible, because to me it feels like they are just trying a new "trend". Sort of like they try on the latest label for the red carpet. Maybe this is just me misunderstanding celebrities, but I am always skeptical of endorsements made by celebrities. Do celebrities really believe what they are saying, how much are they getting paid for making these statements, or when the cameras are off do they continue to live what they are preaching to the mass media? These are the thoughts that run through my mind when I hear Tom Cruise talk about Scientology. I am sure now that you are thinking about these theories as well.

Whatever your opinions on the theories are, I am sure that you have failed to notice one thing. Scientology. By having celebrities represent the religion, viewers are distracted by the celebrity and the ethics behind the endorsement. Try to watch the following clip with detachment. Try to forget that the narrator/host is Tom Cruise. Try to focus on the core values of Scientology that are presented. Let me know how this attempt goes. Maybe you will succeed, but I find myself criticizing and second guessing a lot of the topics he presents.

What is a true fan

One thing that I kept wondering is how big of a star trek fan do you have to be for it to be considered a religious obsession. The reason I ask this is some people who say they are religious do not even go to church on Sunday and actually only go to service around the holidays. Some of these star trek fan have been to more conventions in year than some people who have been to church in year. I mean to be considered a star trek fan do you have to seen every episode like these people. Also do you have to like every single part of star trek to be considered a true fan? People who are religious have different sects that match up with their beliefs. I wonder if this true of star trek are there some fans that only like the first series and say rest horrible or are there some fan that only like next generation? If there are different sects of star trek fandom than I think it is a lot more similar to religion then I thought. I wish Icould have seen people in the video how did not like every part about star trek and only liked one series.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Scientology: Religion, Philosophy, or Cult?

After exploring I find its concepts interesting in it's deviations from other religions and yet it's use of other religions taxonomy and icons. For the only major religion constructed in the 20th century, at first glance the home page suggests a branch of Christianity with the cross in the title, use of the words "Church", and "God." Although later "God" is replaced with "Supreme Being," my first impression of this "new" religion was not of difference but of assimilation of many religions into one. The biggest difference between "conventional" religions and Scientology would be the focus or center of their religion. In Scientology, the center of the religion is the individual (Dynamic One), then family (Two), then society (Three), then species (Four), then the "Circle of Life" (Five), then the relationship of all living beings with nature (Six), then spiritual wellness (Seven), and finally Infinity (Dynamic Eight--the relationship with the "Supreme Being" and a sense of identity within the cosmos). "God" is last priority but the end goal. In other religions, the deity is the focus and man, family, and society conforms to the "wishes" of the deity. The views of scientologist can be seen in many current religions like Hinduism and Buddhism along with the current practices of psychology. The biggest question I have with Scientology: Cult or Religion? The foundation of this religion is based on other religions, scientific acceptable norms, and science FICTION novels written for to criticize current social times and entertain the readers. Maybe I should start a religion based on Star Wars? (Or is Star Wars and Star Trek already a religion?) Or even better, I'll start a religion based on another genre like comedies...laughter is the root to all happiness. When can you consider a philosophy about life a religion? Needless to say, although I believe in some of the Buddhist and Hindi views, responsibility for good works, and individual freedom...I'm still a skeptic due to its origin in entertainment...

Journey Beyond Star Trek

I thought I'd share the link to the clip from my presentation in case someone wanted it.

Star Trek & Religion vs. Spirituality

I found this handy dandy article published by a writer for Smithsonian magazine about Star Trek as a religion. It quotes several of the articles we've read in class about Star Trek, actually.

The comparison of Star Trek to a religion doesn't seem as convincing to me as the comparison of Star Trek with a worldview or even a spirituality. It seems a number of people in the U.S., at least, describe themselves as being more spiritual than religious, which is understandable, since spirituality tends to be more open-ended than religion, which often has a defined structure. While Star Trek does have a structure within its own world (and indeed, various religions), no one tries to force a worldview on another. At least, no protagonist does. These are the ideals touted by Gene Roddenberry, imbued in his baby.

The community of Star Trek fandom often centers around these ideals, as illustrated by the Trekkies excerpts and various articles we've read in class. The way a person keeps these ideals, however, is up to him or her; people are not penalized for failing to keep Star Trek ideals or shunned across the board for it (perhaps certain individuals might behave that way, but not the entire body of fandom). Also, Star Trek fandom lends itself to a symbiotic relationship w/ a variety of other, terrestrial religious beliefs. Unless Star Trek directly conflicts w/ a set of religious beliefs (and even then, I can only think of a few...perhaps some Menonites might object to the reliance upon technology?), it seems that Star Trek is capable of enhancing a person's understanding of his or her faith. It's like reading the Church Fathers to better understand the Bible, or the Talmud to better understand the Torah.

As a humanist, Gene Roddenberry had a deep belief in the goodness of humanity and all of which it might be capable. I see no reason why reinforcement of the goodness of man should not be a supplementary message to a religious path. I am not saying that Gene Roddenberry is a prophet. If he is, I don't think he represents the "Church of Trek." But every now and then, I have met people in my life who make me want to be a better person. I think Gene Roddenberry was trying to inspire people to be the best they could be w/o giving them a dogmatic code. What could be more spiritual than that?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Computer Exorcisms

Given the problems on Monday I thought that this tool might prove useful.
Use this page to exorcise random demons from your computer. You will be assisted by shamans from various societies.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Force is with Us!

The following link is to a toy that should be massed produced by toy companies everywhere!!!

Although the concept of this toy is hysterical, it can be said that there is deep symbolism behind the Force's meaning and that correlations can be drawn with faith.

This post is going to be short and sweet and to the point:
The Force is like Faith because to have both you have to look inside yourself and find what you believe. Only through personal reflection can you discover your moral foundations.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Klingon Woman

Thought some people might want to see an image of the look that apparently has quite an appeal in Star Trek fandom, especially among woman according to the reading. Quite a snarky attitude in those Klingon's that's for sure...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Religion and Culture

In much of science fiction, especially stories that are told in the distant future and contain multiple alien cultures, the primary unit of social organization is the planet and not the nation. In these visions of the future this results in an entire planet becoming a cohesive culture which includes a more or less unified planetary religion. Likewise there is little variation amongst a particular alien race, all aliens from planet X think, behave, and believe the same way. I wonder if this is plausible. Just based on our own experience it seems like it is not possible to unite an entire planet under one shared culture. However, globalization has already spread ideas and material culture around the world so that we have much more in common with a person on the other side of the globe than we would have in the past. It seems likely that this trend will continue and that this process would be hastened if we suddenly found ourselves as one race among many. We might start to think of ourselves as being from planet Earth instead of from the United States, Brazil, or Turkey. Supposing this happens what would be the effect on religion? Would religions meld together to create something completely different, would we have fierce religious battles, or maybe religion would simply fade even more into the background, making it an even more private affair than it already is.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Religion or Science do we have to choose one or the other?

In class yesterday we were asked which characters in the story we felt the most connection. While at first glance I didn’t really identify with any of the characters after looking it over again I have to say identify more with the aliens themselves. I don’t mean to say that I feel like a frog like creature or that I’m going to go around crucifying people just to see miracles. The aliens in this story only really have two options they either have to fully believe in science or fully believe in religion. Garth the man of science in this story does not allow the creatures any room to have more than one belief. He tells them to always use the scientific method and the scientific method always bring about the right answer. In a way he is blind towards science since everything can be explained by it and he can find all of the answers by using the scientific method. This is no more different than the priest who can find all of his answer by looking at religious readings. The man of religion in this story does not allow any room for science. The aliens in this society are put in to the age old debate of science vs. religion. Instead of being allowed to experience both they are force to choose between one or the other. At times people in our own society might feel this way that cannot be religious and scientific at the same time. However, if the aliens were allowed to choose between what they wanted to do they might not have killed the priest? Instead of pushing their beliefs both characters should have found out more about the alien creature culture than assume that their human culture would even be able to relate to the alien creature.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Outsiders Looking In

Today in class we talked about how both the outsiders in Harry Harrison's "The Streets of Ashkelon" are unable to really connect with the alien society.

I feel as if this concept always applies when one visits a foreign land or culture. Can one ever really go into a new culture with a completely open and unbiased mind? Or will the native customs and mannerisms always stay with one throughout his or her life? In the case of the short story, Father Mark takes a patronizing approach to the amphibians on the planet. However, I have to question why he takes this approach...why does he feel that his intelligence is superior to the alien's? Father Mark holds the belief that he must educate the aliens with the word of God, but he never leaves any opening for them to decline his belief. Obviously other cultures hold different beliefs, but who decides one belief or moral is right over another? On the other hand, Garth, the other main character of the story takes a disconneccted approach to the aliens. At first I thought Garth was respecting the beliefs of the aliens. However, the reality is that Garth does not even attempt to learn from the aliens. He sets himself apart and does not acclimate himself to the native customs, because he believes that his standard of living is superior. Garth and Father Mark butt heads, but in reality they are exactly alike. Both of the men need to realize that they need to learn from the alien culture, as much as they need to teach the aliens.

I feel that this concept would be good for society. Everyone always seems to be trying to trump one another. When there is no need. People should listen to one another and share as much as they recieve. Only through this method can any foreigner really benefit from visiting another society.

All Dogs Go to Heaven

After Monday's discussion about souls and their nature, I was reminded of a fake church feud that popped up on the internet a couple years ago. Click here for the link.

We talked today a lot about human souls and one person even mentioned that interfering with other humans is considered bad because the human soul is considered bad because the human soul is considered sacred, but what about other forms of life? In the story that we read, the fire balloons are on a on a higher plane of physical existence than humans, but they seem to have souls.

What do people think of non-humans having souls? In Eastern religions (esp. Hinduism), other living creatures on earth are assumed to have soul, and reincarnation allows for those souls to go to other physical bodies at the start of a new life cycle. Christianity can be vague about this sometime, with one camp saying that all living things have souls, and the other saying that only humans due and we're tasked with "having dominion over" all living all living creatures."

The church feud in question focuses on whether or not dogs can go to heaven. One church believes so; the other doesn't. Thoughts?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Failure in Prime Directive

Do we humans have such low self-esteem that we cannot imagine future contact w/ aliens w/o our screwing it up by the impositions of capitalism and/or religious fervor? Well, of course we can, b/c we have Star Trek. But it does seem that sci-fi set in the very near future has a cynical view of mankind. I am sure this only bothers me b/c I am a pessimist, and I want the literature I read to prove me wrong about my own species rather than reinforce my deepest fears.

Nevertheless, I think that both religion and science are at fault in the story of Fr. Mark and Garth. Both forgot a key policy in dealings w/ alien peoples--the prime directive. Fr. Mark obviously sought to share a specific worldview/universeview w/ the people of Ashkelon, but in so doing, failed to explain the workings of his theology beyond a literal reading and also introduced the concept of a painful death to the Weskerians. Garth, however, is as much at fault for intruding on the lives of the Weskerians. In Garth's exchange w/ Singh, we learn that he has "been in more jails than cathouses...exploiting this aboriginal pesthole" (179). First of all, Garth clearly associates with people who look down upon the Weskerians (perhaps non-humans in general) and furthermore know that he is a dishonest person prone to law-breaking. With these things in mind, Garth has just as much potential to introduce harmful knowledge to the Weskerians as Fr. Mark. Conveniently for Garth, the cleric just happened to get there first. After all, Garth slams a door in the faces of the Weskerians and snaps unkindly at Itin for his childlike, literal way of interpreting his statements.

Father Mark may be misguided, but at least he is kind to the Weskerians. His mistake, of course, is a failure to engage in more logical-process dialogue w/ the Weskerians and failing to take their literal approach to texts into account (let alone the ethical problem of evangelism in itself). I did not feel that Fr. Mark deserved his unhappy end in the story, but nor did I feel that Garth deserved to escape the planet scott-free. Both were very much at fault.

Alien Eden

I could not help but that todays reading, "The Streets of Ashkelon”, bore an uncanny resemblance to the preface of Avatar. The idea of innocent, often depicted as "tribal", natives living in a virtual paradise seems to be a common theme in literature critiquing our cultural trends. This however seems to have created its own cultural swing. Harrison's short story, published in 1962, seems in many ways to be pointing towards religion as the corrupter of innocence. This trend falls in line with the general sentiment of the original Star Trek and many other works of science fiction being published and aired at that time. To my eye however, it appears that the pendulum has swung back and now we have movies such as Avatar and District 9 etching a view that seems to depict progress has the great destroyer. In these movies, enterprising scientists are in essence thwarted by the progressive notion of capitalism, and capitalism is basically depicted as greed. But see, I think the problem here is that religion and science are often at odds with each other, even though they are both harmless in their basic form. It is only when you use one or the other as a means to achieve an end based in greed that either ideology has its innocence corrupted. The textbook example of extremism in either are rooted in greed...religion's blemish of the Crusades was a war for territory and wealth much more than for religion. The nameless atrocities of Joseph Stalin's self-proclaimed atheistic and scientific state were merely attempts by him to consolidate his power. This is why I find the storyline of Avatar to be much more plausible than that of “The Streets of Ashkelon”...I don't think religion, or science for that matter, would have robbed an oblivious alien of its innocence. However, I do think if you taught the aliens to care for no one but themselves than you might indeed corrupt them.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Religious Affiliation of Superheroes

GakuseiDon left a comment on my blog with a link to this fantastic, fascinating and apparently comprehensive list of the religious affiliations of superheroes. I think this will certainly give our class things to talk about!

Star Trek Fandom as a Religious Phenomenon?

The blog TheoFantastique has quite a lot of useful and interesting stuff in connection with the themes of this class, but today there is a post that is specifically on a topic we'll be looking at later in the semester: Star Trek Fandom as a Religious Phenomenon.

"Fire Balloons" & Agnosticism

I really liked "Fire Balloons" also. I had kind of wanted to write my own sci-fi short story about something like that--a missionary to another planet who is him/herself completely transformed by the inhabitants of the planet. But now I've got to come up w/ something different, b/c there's no topping Ray Bradbury. I was interested by some of the information presented about him by the other xerox as well, how in his later years, he thought he would have made a good minister despite his Agnosticism. I once read a bumper sticker that read "Agnosticism: I don't know and neither do you." While perhaps a little heavy-handed, I thought it had a fair point to make about not having empirical evidence about the truth of one faith over another (or none at all). I think what Bradbury seems to really get at in his short story is the importance of asking questions and being open to truth, no matter how it expresses itself (even as non-humanoid glowing orbs, as he suggests). Perhaps that is the mark of a good minister/priest/sheikh/guru/rabbi/imam/leader of any kind: not being afraid to ask questions, and most of all, not being afraid to be wrong, or at least not right in the way you thought before. That was one thing I thought Bradbury achieved brilliantly through making his alien life forms into orbs. That small detail already put his audience in a frame of mind in which they didn't know how to relate to the aliens at all, since their "bodies" were nothing like human bodies. In Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets, Mr. Weasley tells his daughter Ginny, "Don't trust anything if you can't see where it keeps it's brain." That certainly does not end up being the case in "Fire Balloons," b/c more important than brains, perhaps, they seem to exist as eternal, transcendent souls (wisdom over knowledge, as it were). Again, any of our human knowledge about life forms is challenged by Bradbury's story, and we are as astonished as his two missionary characters by the story's outcome.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Aliens look like...

I just finished reading the Fire Balloons story and it got me thinking. In the story the aliens are floating blue orbs, but when we think about aliens we tend to imagine just a stranger version of us. However it seems entirely possible that if alien life forms do exist they might not resemble humans at all. They may be piles of purple ooze, orange flying squirrels, or invertebrate sea creatures. Appearances aside they may have other significant differences, they could have only 1 sex or three or more sexes, they might not communicate verbally, their family and social structures may be entirely different from ours. If we did encounter aliens who where so completely different from ourselves in appearance and practice that we might even have trouble recognizing them as intelligent beings I think that this would significantly change the way we think about them in the context of religion. I would imagine that it would be significantly harder to work up enthusiasm to convert piles of gelatinous ooze than it would be to convert a aliens with a more humanoid appearance. Ideally the urge to convert would stem from real concern for a beings soul/well being but those feelings are largely dependent on being able to identify with a person, something that might be hard to do if aliens are indeed alien to us in every way.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Junot Diaz

I don't know if anyone went to the VWS last night, but Junot Diaz was the speaker. Besides the fact that he is amazing, as a person and a writer, his book "The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" reminds me of this class. If any of you are real sci fi fans you'd love it and those of you who could not care less about sci'd love it too! The main character, Oscar, is an overweight nerdy dominican-american boy who is obsessed with all things sci fi. There were so many references to comic books, movies, tv shows, and books of the science fiction genre. From the Watchmen to Dr. Who to LOTR to Dune the references are endless. Diaz also was asked last night if, since he knew so much about sci fi (enough to put in a million references and write entire passages in what called "nerdish") and he said that his next book, whenever he got around to it, would be science fiction a few years in the future in a city like new york+mexico city that mysteriously gets destroyed and a girl who lost her parents in that city tries to piece together what happened by talking to witnesses etc and he said, although that doesnt sound completely science fiction, there would be characters who see the future, who are telepathic, among other things. Anyways, I just thought it was interesting and I really really recommend Diaz's work especially Oscar Wao--but it does have some swearing and mature content so if that offends, I would not recommend reading it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jesus Gone Bad

This past weekend I embarked on the journey to watch the first 3 episodes of Star Wars. Unfortunately, due to the continuous exertion demanded from the hours of entertainment, my DVD player overheated and my quest was postponed. After the purchase of a new DVD player, I have endured the 3 episodes of the "Pre-trilogy" and have made many interesting connections between young Anakin Skywalker and Jesus.

[in case the video does not embed,

Many people are familiar with the video clip i posted above from Mel Gibson's The Passion. Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane on the night before His arrest. We see He is very much capable of human emotion, but does not let it consume Him. He asks God to spare Him from His fate if possible, but if it is not possible, than let God's will be done. Satan senses His moment of weakness and encourages Him to stray from God's will. In the end, Jesus is not swayed, rejects Satan, and willfully walks from the garden towards His eminent death.

It is said in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus was tempted three times in the dessert after fasting for 40 days and 40 nights. The first temptation played on Jesus' humanity and hunger. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread" (Matthew 4: 3). The second temptation implored Jesus to test God. The devil took him to the holy city and on the highest point of the temple he said, "If you are the Son of God throw yourself down. For it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone'" (Matthew 4: 5, 6). The third and final temptation plays to humanly greed and power. The devil took him to a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world and said, "All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me." To all these temptations, Jesus resists. He denies his humanly thoughts, emotions, and wants to obey God and follow his will.

But what if He did not reject Satan? What if on the peak of the great mountain He said to Satan, "OK, I'll rule the world and worship you." ? What if Jesus fell from grace and embraced the Dark Side?

In a way, the Star Wars saga is answering these questions. Anakin Skywalker is Jesus and Darth Vader is Jesus fallen from God's grace.
Many similarities between the story of Jesus and Anakin has led me to this conclusion. First and foremost, both were immaculate conceptions. Jesus, Son of God, was created from the Holy Spirit. Anakin, Son of the Metachlorians, was created from the Force. Both men spent their adolescents engulfed in their "religion." Jesus studied the scriptures while Anakin trained in the Jedi arts. Anakin becomes a very powerful Jedi and Jesus, referred many times as Rabbi, becomes the pentacle of his own religion: Christianity.
A more straightforward comparison is that of Darth Sidious and Satan. The Sith Lord is the evil master of the dark side. He is manipulating and persuasive. As chancellor Palpitine, he manipulates the Senate and as Darth Sidious he manipulates his apprentices. In pertaining to biblical texts. Darth Sidious exploits Anakin's human emotions and his lack of control over them. He offers Anakin the power to save his wife, Padme from dying in childbirth, in return for pledging his allegiance to the Dark Side, and consequently Darth Sidious. This can be seen as symbolism of Satan's temptations offered to Jesus in the desert and in the garden. However, unlike Jesus, Anakin cannot control his human emotions and gives into his desires and makes a deal with the devil. So, what if Jesus conceded to the third temptation in the dessert?
If Anakin is Jesus, Darth Vader is Jesus gone bad.