Captain Kirk’s Dereliction of Duty or, Why Mr. Faust Has Found Himself Adrift Among the Aisles in the Church of Modern Science
By Nito Gnoci
Science Fiction is the dominant genre in the world today, especially if we include science fiction’s annoying younger brother, the superhero industry. Think of all those sci-fi movies and TV shows blessed by the most august and tiresome authority figures. (Al Gore is a big Star Trek fan.)
Science Fiction has also been derelict in its duty.
Who does Science Fiction serve? Sci-Fi is a significant buttress propping up the established church of Scientism. Sci-Fi flatters both rightist and leftist elites: square-jarred heroes battle alien savages along the outer space frontier while proclaiming anti-religious and anti-natalist platitudes.
As an avid reader of the genre, I have come up with a list of the major shortcomings of the genre:
1) Aliens: Sci-Fi stories often involve contact with numerous alien civilizations. In 1950 Enrico Fermi, in conversation with his colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, famously asked “Where is everybody?” (Meaning: If alien civilizations exist why haven’t we heard from them?) I don’t think the question has received a satisfactory answer. It is unlikely other technologically advanced civilizations exist within our galaxy. If they existed they would have already explored the galaxy, a process which takes only some hundreds of thousands of years, which is a mere moment in geologic time.
2) Bad predictions: Sci-Fi often features time travel or routine intergalactic travel.? Instead of dubious scenarios that involve debating with Socrates or zooming to the Andromeda Galaxy for the weekend, Sci-Fi should focus on less speculative but still astonishing advances in medical, communication, and computer technology. Sci-Fi readies us for a future that will never come, and too often assumes the future will mirror the past, an assumption both unrealistic and unimaginative. After all, what is the starship Enterprise but a British or American colonial gunboat?
3) Genocide: What is it with science fiction and fantasies of mass extermination? It’s troubling how often Sci-Fi's Superior Beings engage in mass murder. Super geniuses, often with great intentions and well thought out justifications, find it necessary to commit genocide – eliminate all those inferior superstitious childlike barbarians. Influential authors like Olaf Stapledon (see Last and First Men) and Arthur C. Clarke (see Childhood’s End) seem sympathetic to this kind of mass extermination.
4) Inadequate examination of the threat posed by technocracy: Does advanced technology concentrate power in technocratic elites? What will happen to the masses as robotic technology progresses and they are no longer needed to man the factories and fight the wars of the plutocrats? Does scientism/materialism lead to dehumanization and despair? If man is just a sack of chemicals, the random product of an indifferent universe, why should he possess dignity or rights? Will a hedonistic society of abundance destroy itself? What further drama will accompany the rise of Faustian man?
5) Women: Has Sci-Fi really thought about the status of women in a technologically advanced civilization? In the future will wombs be needed to procreate and will mammary glands be needed to nurture? If wombs and mammary glands are unnecessary isn’t the male body more functional? Will a technologically advanced society eliminate the female sex? ?
6) Virtual reality: Sci-Fi’s materialists/atheists are more easily lost in the hyperreal house of mirrors known as modern skepticism. Materialists lack access to or even awareness of a being who knows the absolute Truth. If our universe is considered accidental and deficient man will be more inclined to find refuge in a virtual universe of his own making. If man considers himself less than the Imago Dei he may feel incompetent to discern what’s lacking in a virtual world.
So how about science fiction that prefers challenging our elites to groveling before them? Science fiction that doesn’t defer to the conventional unconventionalities of postmodernist philosopher Jean Baudrillard or cosmologist Carl Sagan? Science fiction that isn’t misinformed by simple-minded positivism? Science fiction that is more comprehensive when identifying the dangers we’ll face in the future? Science fiction that is less “masculinist” (if I may coin a phrase)? Science fiction that prepares us for a future that will actually come to pass?
I'm sorry to disrupt services at the Church of Scientism, unsettling all those wizened IT billionaires and their minions worshipping like so many mantises with their broods, but it has to be done.
[Ed. Note: The views expressed by the writers for "The Catholic Imagination and You" are not necessarily shared by CatholicFiciton.net.]
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