Friday, 21 February 2014

The Danellians III

Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006); The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991).

The Danellian in the first story of Time Patrol and the one in the last chapter of The Shield Of Time are simply different. The first is a frightening, merciless, blazing shape whereas the second is a benign humanoid. Presumably, the latter has adopted human form to reassure Everard and Wanda.

S/he says:

"'Has the universe therefore brought forth sentience, in order to protect and give purpose to its own existence? That is not an answerable question.'" (ST, p. 435)

I think that the question is answerable and that the answer is no. Only a sentient being can perform an action in order to achieve a purpose. The sun does not shine in order to bring forth life on Earth, although it does have that effect. It follows that the bringing forth of sentience cannot have been an action performed in order to protect existence. Still less can it have been in order to give purpose. That would mean that its purpose was to give purpose. Thus, purpose would have preexisted purpose. However, sentience, once it is in existence, has purposes.

The Danellian tells the two Patrol agents that they are among those who guard reality. Thus, they are Guardians not only of Time but also of Reality: "'...the Patrol is the stabilizing element...'" (ibid.), counteracting chaos. We see the Patrol operating only on a Terrestrial scale whereas this description implies a role of cosmic significance.


  1. This reminds me a bit of the strong anthropic principle, that the laws of the universe necessarily had to be such as to enable the emergence of intelligent life, which I am not inclined to believe (although how can one be sure of the answer?). I have no problem with the weak anthropic principle, that if the laws of physics were not such as to make intelligent life possible we wouldn't be here to make observations.

    Regards, Nicholas

  2. Nicholas,
    I agree: the weak anthropic principle!