Thursday, August 19, 2004

Tim's Technological Touche

From Tim Enloe's Societas Christiana:
I find it especially interesting that Clarke was somewhat close to Lewis and Tolkien. Clarke is well known in science fiction circles for coining what has come to be called "Clarke's Law"--the naturalistic maxim that "Any sufficiently advanced technology will appear as magic to the unenlightened." This radical reduction of reality is interesting because Lewis and Tolkien as Christians seemed to have no trouble integrating the natural and the supernatural without said reductionism (e.g., Uncle Andrew's rings; Gandalf's staff and the the Rings of Power). One can amusingly imagine Clarke arriving at, say, Rivendell and being lectured by Elrond on the real truth of reality: "Any sufficiently advanced magic will appear as mere technology to the darkness of unbelief."

I think I'll steal that. "Any real magic will appear as technology to the unenlightened." I've thought Clarke's maxim interesting since his best novel, Childhood's End, relies exclusively on "magic" to fulfill human destiny. So I think Tim's post touches on another very interesting subject, the toxic effect materialists and athiests have on science.

If there's no magic, then man's need for it will be invested in his technology. (And isn't it interesting, that according to athiestic materialists, we "evolved" by natural selection to need something which doesn't really exist?). Instead of "de-mystifying" knowledge of the universe, the application of Clarke's maxim inevitably "mystifies" science as the praxis of pantheism, the belief that the universe is a solipsism. Or as Babylon5's Delenn and G'Kar kept telling us -- "we are the universe trying to understand itself." Once that's done, the death of individuality -- which requires the ability to distinguish between "I" and "thou" -- is not far behind. So it's not surprising that Childhood's End culminates with the death of human personality by the incorporation of man into the Overmind.

An indispensable part of knowing the difference between God and a chromosome is knowing God. A belief system like Clarke's, which prizes ignorance on that subject, doesn't end up de-mythologizing God. It ends up divinizing genetics, or psychology, or philosophy, sex, or anything else that inspires an overwhelming personal experience. People can inspire those experience too -- pop stars, the latest and greatest fuhrer, terrorists -- just about anyone can be a mysterium tremendens if the horizon of popular expectations is low enough. And why shouldn't it be low, very low indeed? If we are the universe trying to understand itself, the universe must be a very stupid thing.

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