Saturday, 27 February 2016

Space Age Theology

In Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, Christian characters speculate about Ythrian theology and about the Universal Incarnation. In James Blish's A Case Of Conscience, a Jesuit biologist wonders whether God or Satan created the intelligent Lithians.

In Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's The Mote In God's Eye (London, 1959):

"It was [Chaplain Hardy's] job to determine if Moties were human. Horvath's scientists only wondered if they were intelligent." (p. 161)

I am not clear about how Hardy is using the word "human" here. Obviously, Moties are not of the same species as homo sapiens.

"...it was quite possible that [God] had created intelligent beings with no souls..." (ibid.)

Not in the Christian doctrine I was taught! We were told that Cartesian mind-body dualism was both revealed truth and philosophically provable.

"They might even be a form of angel..." (ibid.)

No. Angels are meant to be immaterial.

If I had Hardy to debate with, I would need first to clarify his understanding of Christian theology and secondly to articulate my disagreements with it.

Addendum: For discussion of the theology of aliens, see here and here.

13 comments:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

It's possible that what Fr. Hardy meant by trying to find out if the Moties were "human" was whether they had any understanding of good and evil.

I'm reminded of Poul Anderson's short story "The Master Key." One of the human characters in the story wondered if the Cainites, in this case the Yildivans, had souls. I also wondered if the Lugals, the slaves of Yildivans, were so degraded that they were not even slaves, but simply intelligent beasts with no souls. Really, "The Master Key" is quite an alarming story!

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
Yes, Hardy probably meant that or something like it but it needs to be made clearer in the text.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I agree on the need for clarity. And Fr. Hardy would do well to be familiar with some of the sources I used for my "God and Alien in Anderson's Technic Civilization." Esp. C.S. Lewis' essay "Religion and Rocketry."

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
I have added an addendum.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I noticed the flattering linking to my own essay. Thanks!

And Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ and Fr. Paul Mueller, SJ, book WOULD YOU BAPTIZE AN EXTRATERRESTRIAL? also comes to mind.

Sean

ndrosen said...

Kaor, Sean,

And yet, the Yildivans seem to be incapable of grasping the human concept of God -- they cannot acknowledge a master, even a mythical one -- while the Lugals seem to have some kind of religious practice (singing). So the shoe might be on the other foot, if anything.

Best Regards,
Nicholas Rosen

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Nicholas!

Thanks for your comments. You have raised difficult and hard to answer points I had not thought of.

Yes, the Yildivans seem unable to grasp the concept of a "master" as anything but an owner of Lugals.

Yes, the Lugals do seem to have some kind of "religious" feeling. What I thought was how uncannily much the relationship between Yildivans and Lugals reminded me of the similar relationship S.M. Stirling's New Race Draka have with the Homines servi. The latter seem instinctively unable to oppose the Draka and to "worship" them.

Is it possible both the Yildivans and Lugals have no souls? Can creatures so thoroughly as the Lugals be more than merely intelligent beasts? More and more I have to conclude "The Master Key" has unexpected depths in it!

Best regards, Sean

ndrosen said...

Kaor, Sean!

Nicholas van Rijn said, "Leave it to the theologians. They is paid for it." And yet ...

The Yildivans seem to be capable of making moral decisions; when they decide that humans are not, after all, feral Lugals, they recognize an obligation to behave honorably toward humans. Does this mean that they have souls? On this Earth, some animals seem to behave morally, contrary to their own interests. What does that mean? Their behavior can be observed; their interior lives can only be guessed at.

Best Regards,
Nicholas D. Rosen

Paul Shackley said...

Nicholas,
I think that moral behavior in human beings has a biological basis and thus that comparable behavior might occur in other species. First, we are social animals and therefore have collective interests transcending the selfishness/altruism dichotomy. Secondly, we are naturally selected to help others either because they bear the same genes or because they might help us in return and we experience this motivation as moral obligation, not as calculating self-interest which is what it sounds like if it is expressed in biological terms. I do not find that the word "soul" explains anything.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Nicholas!

You have raised a valid point. Yes, the Yildivans did feel an obligation to behave honorably to the humans they had attacked (thinking them another kind of feral Lugals) and tried to make amends. Perhaps it was only an accident that they seemed to have no interest in ultimate questions both on WHAT is the nature of a Yildivan and whether a God exists.

And of course "The Master Key" ends with Nicholas van Rijn declaring that too many humans are like Lugals and not enough were "wild" like Yildivans.

But the Yildivan/Lugal symbiosis should still trouble people who have read Stirling's Draka books. It reminds me far too much of the Drakensis/Homo servus relationship.

Sean

ndrosen said...

Kaor, Sean!

Somewhere, I saw someone comment on that from the other direction, that what we saw in the Dominatin was like the Yildivans and Lugals, which I think had occurred to me independently. I don't know whether Stirling was specifically inspired by "The Master Key," but he certainly knew of Anderson's works.

Best Regards,
Nicholas D. Rosen

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Nicholas!

So I was not the only one to independently see how the Yildivans and Lugals of "The Master Key" resemble Stirling's New Race Draka and Servi homines? Good!

That story does make me regret not thinking of it while writing my "Was Merseia Inspired By The Domination?" article.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
There is always room for more articles.
Paul.