In the great fantasies of science fiction, the professor is almost always the central figure. That is natural, since the object is to tell a human story. There are very few science fiction stories in which the great professor is not the central figure, or at least one of the most important characters. The layman writer worships the great scientist as a superman. And scientists, writing scientifically, have been more than willing to go along. The scientists' descriptions of themselves are either hypercritical or very flattering, one or the other. Recently they have been extremely critical. Of course, they are the only ones who could be so, and science fiction is the only place they could get away with it. Some quite eminent scientists have been writing some scathing science fiction, in which they show up scientists. A layman couldn't do a thing like that; it would just be sour grapes. And where else could these men unburden themselves with impunity, except by putting their speeches in the mouths of other people, in fiction? That is very safe.
That is an interesting trend of our times. As Thomas Kuhn has recently shown, the history of science is actually fiction, deliberately contrived to make science look good.1 The history of science itself is the foundation of science fiction. If every problem in science has a scientific solution (that follows the Miletian school), then God isn't wanted in any solution. The original idea is that we can't bring God into the laboratory, we can't weigh him, we can't use him, so let's leave him out. He exists and all that, but we can't use him in our calculations. And before you know it, any problem can be solved without him, so he becomes an impediment: he becomes just so much useless baggage.
Science fiction uniformly describes life in worlds in which science is king—meaning the scientist is king. In this kind of world the dream of the Sophist is fulfilled, a world in which there is no room for any but one kind of thinking. This is the "one world" of John Dewey, which he carried to its logical conclusion. Richard McKenna, a scientist writing science fiction, recently said, "I am as positivistic a scientist as you will find. The students blush and hate me, but it is for their own good. Science is the only safe game, and it's safe only if kept pure."2 The speaker here is, of all things, a geologist, whose business is to reconstruct the past; that is why he likes to write science fiction. Indeed, need we say that any reconstruction of the past is 100 percent pure imagination.
Speak of keeping science pure! Science fiction writers console the Western World by saying that everything happened before; they console the Western World with the image of the superscientist, who has become the figure of science fiction but never lived in real life, we find out now. He is calm, aloof, dedicated, unswayed, incorruptible, self-effacing, magisterial. Science is a superman, said Huxley; as far above the savage as the savage is above a blade of grass. Compare that with Claude Levi-Strauss's book, La Pensée sauvage (The Savage Mind), which shows that it is a lucky anthropologist who can even equal the savages of many a tribe for sheer intellectual power and knowledge.3 Yet the great science fiction by scientists deals with this theme, and the question is Should scientists rule the universe? Who else?
In Eric Temple Bell's The Ultimate Catalyst,4 the pure-minded scientist does terrible things to a wicked dictator. This is all right, because he takes the scientific view. As an idealist, the scientist is a necessary enemy of all bad people. This is the Baconian image of the pure scientist. Another well-publicized story called "The Gostec and the Doshes," by J. M. Brewer, starts this way (and this is deadpan—he is quite serious): "Woleshensky [the great scientist] smiled indulgently. He towered in his chair as though in the infinite kindness of his vast mind there were room to understand and overlook all the foolish little foibles of all the weak little beings that call themselves men. A mathematical physicist lives in vast spaces." To him, human beings and their affairs do not loom very important. He is dead serious—we have a sort of superman here.5 The nearest thing to him is the figure of Rutherford, as he is worshipfully described by C. P. Snow:
The tone of science at Cambridge in 1932 was the tone of Rutherford. Magniloquently boastful, creatively confident, generous, argumentative, and full of hope. Science and Rutherford were on top of the world. Worldly success, he loved every minute of it: flattery, titles, the company of the high official world. He was also superbly and magnificently vain, as well as wise, and he enjoyed his own personality.6
Here if ever, is the great, lovable scientist of science fiction. What more could one ask for than science on such a level? "He enjoyed a life of miraculous success," says Snow. But then, something strange follows. "But I am sure that even quite late in life he felt stabs of sickening insecurity." This is strange—"sickening insecurity" in this man, of all men.
Snow goes on to talk about other great Cambridge scientists. He says:
Does anyone really imagine that Bertrand Russell, G. H. Hardy, Rutherford, Blackett, and the rest were bemused by cheerfulness as they faced their own individual state? In the crowd, great—they were the leaders; they were top men; they were worshipped. But, by themselves, they believed with the same certainty that they believed in Rutherford's atom that they were going, after this mortal life, into annihilation. Against this they had only to offer the nature of scientific activity: its complete success on its own terms. It itself is a source of happiness. But it's whistling in the dark, when they're alone.
He gives some very interesting sketches of the very odd way these people behave.
Only scientists dare criticize scientists as demigods, and then only in science fiction, as we mentioned before. J. B. S. Haldane, the great British biologist, in "The Gold Makers," the only science fiction story he ever wrote, shows that science as a key to power and gain is likely to become a pawn to clever and unscrupulous men, that the scientist really isn't ruling the roost at all, that he will be victimized, just as sure as anything, and be used as a tool. This becomes a theme of much science fiction, of course.7 Julian Huxley (the biologist), in the only science fiction he ever wrote, a story called "The Tissue-Culture King," used the theme of the superiority of the scientist over ordinary people; with this superiority the scientist has the right to meddle with all forms of life, including human.8 In an article in the Saturday Evening Post, a scientist says: "We scientists have a right to play God." This is said by, of all things, an anthropologist.9 One has a right to play God, or play Hamlet, or play the organ before the world only if one has the capacity to do so. So the question is, Just how godlike is this man's capacity? Many stories by scientists explode this myth of our great capacity, which we pretend to have by hiding behind our specialties.
James McConnell, a psychologist, wrote a story, a very good one, called "Learning Theory." It received a lot of comment. A human scientist, a psychologist, thinks he's pretty hot stuff; but there is a much smarter psychologist from the planet Uranus, who studies our human psychologist just as a bug under glass because as a man from the outer planet, he is so much more intelligent.10 That's precisely the hypothesis. If we're the ones who know the answers, if we're the clever ones, the superior ones, we can cut up anybody we want. The psychologist from outer space puts the human psychologist in a maze situation that humiliates him, drives him crazy—which is what happens to poor rats when they are put in mazes. He removes the food from him, and so forth, just as you would treat a rat. What is more, and this is the irony of the story, this wise, wise man from the other planet completely misinterprets the behavior of the animal from earth. Of course the psychologist doesn't impute intelligence to the creature, or anything respectable; but he does have a theory to explain why the man in the maze does what he does. So the victim knows what it is like. Does a scientist have the right to play God? Yes. If one scientist is superior to another, he has the right to play God with the other one. But everybody knows a little bit about science; so where do we draw the line?
It is here that science fiction performs a useful function. We can carry the themes to their logical conclusions, to their ad absurdum, bearing in mind what they lead to. "In the Nobel Prize Winners," W. J. Gordon presents a very amusing story on this theme. On visiting a super research center, he explains, "If his picture of industrial research was true, what an indictment! . . . [The staff] never call each other anything but 'Doctor,' and they have an agreement about not showing each other up."11 That is how scientists get away with projecting the image of superman: they agree that nobody will damage that image with the public. In Gordon's story, the character Dr. Fairly says, "The person they wanted to get rid of is the only man in the lab who really pushes his nose right down there and produces [the person who is running the laboratory]. But he isn't a guild member, no Ph.D., so they dared attack him. . . . The people were nice and clean in their lab smocks, very serious and busy-busy. . . . Over each door was the group name: Operations Research, Physics, Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering—the works!" Hurlbet, the manager of the thing, says,
"We keep the strains pure here—and you know what happened to the collie. Its nose got sharper and its head thinner till its brains were pushed out through its ears. A terrible, terrible thing. But what can I do? They've all got families to support. . . . The minute they're in a jam, my people scream for fancy instruments and tools, big enough to hide behind. . . . Don't laugh, . . . that's how we get the big government research jobs. Monumental cyclotrons and well-behaved, competent people to use them. God save us from competence! Isn't there one nut around? . . . [The board] asked me why I didn't have any great men around, . . . so I hired Cole and Hart, the Nobel Prize winners." I pointed out that Cole and Hart hadn't published anything in twenty years. "Of course not," said Hurlbet. "But look here. This lab is funded from the Defense Department—almost all of it, that is. You must show competence—not brillance. . . . Their degrees must appear on a laundry list of people who will make up the task force. The Defense Department loves the expression 'task force.' They eat it up. . . . Those two old Nobel-O-Rama gentlemen have put me over the top on contracts more than once. [It's the] Star system."12
In other words, he's telling us that the great scientists aren't all they're cracked up to be.
Norbert Weiner, in his story called "The Brain," points out that man's moral weakness is man's undoing.13 The story is about a great brain surgeon who operates on a criminal who has offended him grievously. The man's brain was his moral weakness. He cuts his brain, making him incapable of the clever judgments necessary to carry out his criminal activities. Because of the brain, the criminal had been very smart. Does the doctor have a right to do that? If we become dependent on scientists, we are at their mercy. The doctor, as he is about to operate, says he doesn't like the idea at all: "It's an ugly business—I don't like it. Sometimes it cuts out a man's conscience, and pretty nearly every time it does eerie things to his judgment and personal balance." It is dangerous.
The writer says we feel free to exploit or destroy all other forms of life as we think fit. In contrast, we human beings act as if other living species, animals and plants exist only for our convenience. We feel free to exploit or destroy them as we see fit. It is true that some sentimental laymen have moral qualms about vivisection, but no orthodox scientist would ever have any hesitation about an experiment involving mere animals. Do we have the right to play god?
There is a terrible story by H. G. Wells—the only one that ever kept me awake, because I was a little kid when I read it in The Island of Doctor Moreau—in which the very same thing happens. He cuts up animals and makes terrible creatures of them.14 In another story by Fred Hoyle, called "The Black Cloud," we read: "It isn't so much the volume of talk that surprises me [among the scientists]. It's the number of mistakes they've made, how often things have turned out differently to what they've expected."15 Hoyle mustn't let the outsiders in on that sort of thing, but it takes a scientist to get away with something like that. In the story called "The Miracle of the Broom Closet," Norbert Weiner brings in a little religion, which may have a very upsetting effect. He says, as a personal testimony, "In a long career extending over 40 years and three continents, I have never met the ideal scientist."16 "To upset [a] scientific experiment at all requires a very small miracle indeed, and with a devout and faithful servant praying to Saint Sebastian in the direct presence of his arrows, what can one expect?" he explains.17 These men are cutting quite near the edge. The scientist is not the tremendous, magisterial, powerful, and masterful image that was projected in the early science fiction.
And John R. Pierce, another scientist, an experimental psychologist, in a famous story called "John Sze's Future" (one of those "after the holocaust" stories), wrote: "In the world that the experimental psychologists had pulled together from the chaos of nuclear destruction, no one cared to speak the obscenity that physics had become."18 Physics had become a dirty word, and because physical scientists were taboo, they were hiding under rocks and bridges. The only people who were really respected were psychologists, who were God. (I don't know how ironic Pierce intends this.) He relates,
After the atomic blowup, . . . the experimental [psychology] men brought the remnants of the human race together. They founded our civilization; they evolved our culture. [No place for God in all this.] We live in a world in which orthodox scientists [a strange thing to say] refuse to see, or seeing, refuse to believe, that which is before their very eyes, . . . [that] a future that the openminded, the perceptive among us, have already foreseen, [is at hand].19
This is the way scientists talked about religion a very short time ago. Now it is the orthodox scientists whom Pierce jumps on, who refuse to see that which is before their very eyes. The dead hand of scientific orthodoxy cannot long delay the coming future. The dead hand of what? Scientific orthodoxy. The antidote to science is more science, but it is my science, Pierce insists. Get rid of those awful physicists; they are going to destroy us.
At the dawn of Western science, Heraclitus pointed out very clearly what many science fiction writers are now discovering: If the scientist is a faulty instrument—he is a human being after all—he will make mistakes, and the world he gives will be his own after all. The great scientist is not doing what he thinks he is doing—getting outside of the smoke-filled room. He is in it; that is when he is taking his measurements. We ring the changes on the same old bells, and every time we hit on a new combination, we gleefully announce that we have discovered a whole new set of bells. It sounds like it, but after a time, we begin to see that it is the same old belfry.
In his portrayal of the great mathematician G. H. Hardy, C. P. Snow says, "He could not endure having his photograph taken. . . . He would not have any looking glass in his rooms, not even a shaving mirror. When he went to a hotel, his first action was to cover all the looking-glasses with towels. . . . [Of] all mechanical contrivances including fountain pens, he had a deep distrust. . . . He [the great scientist] had a morbid suspicion of mechanical gadgets (he never used a watch), in particular of the telephone."20 He hated all gadgets. His autobiography is "witty and sharp with intellectual high spirits: But it is also, in an understated stoical fashion, a passionate lament for creative powers that used to be and that will never come again." It is a book of such haunting sadness, because Hardy realizes "with the finality of truth, that he is absolutely finished."21 Here again, we see these strangely acting men.
Notably, science fiction worships efficiency; it would promote in us bumbling amateurs the notion of the superiority of the scientific way over all other ways; the scientist doesn't guess, he knows. The scientific mind is direct, clear, intense, trenchant, clean; it is unhampered by any defects of wishful or mythical thinking, recognizes only facts, sees things always and only as they are. There are still people who talk that way: There is no assignment that science could not carry out. But who gives the assignments? This may be the point.
Nevertheless, the preoccupation with ways and means is another thing that science fiction has been helpful in explaining. Where does science lead us? Many years ago, the Edinburgh geographer Alfred McKinder (his student was Haushofer, Hitler's advisor) wrote a book on his geopolitics; it contains a marvelous section on ways and means. He claims the Germans always lose the war because they are so scientific. They know all about ways and means; they have everything figured out with the slide rule, everything to the sixth decimal place. They know just how it is. But they don't know exactly what they're after—they have just a vague idea of world conquest, so they always lose the war. By contrast, the British bungle along, and they really do bungle. Yet they conquered half the world with a mere task force, a mere token force, mere bluff, because they knew what they wanted. If you know what you want, you can always get it, McKinder argued. Bungle toward it, and you'll get it in the end. But if you just bog down in ways and means, you'll never get it. Science, he says, is preoccupation with ways and means, and, ironically, science fiction has been first to point that out.22
Recently (1969) in the Christian Science Monitor, W. H. Pickering, the director of the Jet Propulsion Lab at Caltech, said, "We are building communication systems very close to the ultimate you can ever get." We "can use more power, . . . [but] we are near the ultimate in performance."23 Ultimate is a strong word. What happens to unending perfectability when we are already near the ultimate? Then comes the realization that perfectability lies in another direction, in another dimension. So "it's not a question of how difficult such exploration is." Ways and means isn't the problem. We'll always get the gadget if we know what we want.24 He speaks of going even beyond the planets to the stars, the ultimate in human achievement, according to science fiction. But that isn't achievement at all, he explains. The question is whether or not what we're doing is worthwhile. The question is not the question of business, industry, and the military, as McKinder points out, but how to get a particular thing done. But what is it we are after, after all?
When William Morris's student rushed to him with the breathless news that the cable to India had been completed, Morris asked, "Young man, what message will it bear?" When Einstein heard that the atom bomb really worked, he grabbed his head and said, "Oy vey!" (Oh my, this is terrible!) He wasn't thrilled at all. Ted Serious today is causing a terrific rumpus everywhere; he's this guy who, when he gets drunk, can project images on film—sometimes he can't, sometimes he can. He has been tested—it seems that he can do it, all right. But the mere fact that he makes images appear on film is considered a wonder, and it is. But what images? Nobody cares.
British investigators, says Sir Oliver Lodge, are very firmly believed to receive spirit messages.25 But what messages? Idiot gibberings and scribblings. The world makes a major measure over whether Joseph Smith really saw angels, possessed gold plates, or translated Egyptian, but they could not care less about what the angels, the plates, and the papyri have to say. For our age, the message is the medium, because we've run out of messages. A wise German scientist, writing very recently in a journal (which someone subscribed to for me some years ago, and is pretty good for popular people like me), called Kosmos, wrote a very good leading editorial. The theme is that nothing could be more foolish than for science to do or make something simply because it hasn't been done before and can be done now. A few years ago, this would have been thought rank heresy. But why do we need to make all these things? The important thing is, we know we can do it now. But why bother? It is like the hunter who has reached such a height of proficiency he now uses blanks, or doesn't use shells at all—he's not interested. It is really not sporting anymore, as long as he knows it can be done. A cobalt bomb can be made, but is that any reason for making it? We used to think, Oh yes, think of the wonderful things we can do.
This going forward without knowing where we're going, unable to think of any other goal but more power and more gain, and more gain for more power, is the way of insanity. Many stories point this out. From Tales of Ecstasy, then, science fiction quickly turned to Tales of Terror. Is there nothing in between? No, there isn't. Snow's scientists, great scientists, are manic depressive. They're either on top of the wave, or they're in the dumps, desperately haunted men, because you are either going somewhere, or you are going nowhere. If nowhere, no matter how great your eminence, how loud the shouting, it is but a brief, pathetic interlude, "One Moment in Annihilation's Waste. [You're not going anywhere.] One Moment, of the Well of Life to taste—the Stars are setting and the Caravan, starts for the Dawn of Nothing—Oh, make haste!"26
Groff Conklin, in his collection of works by great scientists, observes,
Scientists, on the whole are far too enthralled with their scientific work to want to go off on sidetrails that involve plot, characterization, and all that. . . . [But they have taken to writing science fiction for one reason: terror. They want to warn us. They want] to express moral or ethical points of view on science and its possible misuse. It is unfortunate that the stories . . . have been thought of by their readers as fantasies produced by great minds . . . rather than as the strong and pertinent warnings that they are on the dangers to certain applications of science or technology. It is also too bad that these men, once they have written their fictionalized danger signals, then ceased story writing entirely perhaps because they felt defeated by the lack of impact of their first efforts at education through fiction.27
The scientists think it their duty to the public, so they try their hand at it, but for some reason the stories don't cause the flurry they might, and so they fall over. But Conklin observes, "Almost all scientists who have dabbled in science fiction are modern scientists of the past twenty-five years [written in 1962]."28 Then we have a little book that contains at least 75 percent of the science fiction written in English—by scientists. They're now writing to warn us. Science fiction has failed in the greatest promise of comfort and joy. Even the science fiction of H. G. Wells becomes fascinating only when he turns his attention to the sinister and appalling. The scientist becomes the mad scientist before you know it, as in The War of the Worlds and The Island of Doctor Moreau.29 If science fiction can show us no convincing glories ahead, at least it can give us the comfort and warning, and it's a dismal message.
If John Jacob Astor could only think of aliens as inferior and dangerous, something to be met with guns, then combat is the theme; and of course it has remained that with Tarzan, and Doc Savage, and all the rest.30 The alien is called the Bug-eyed Monster, or BEM, in the school of science fiction writing, and it has the greatest appeal to adolescents; it once dominated the pulps. We are told it is now spurned by the better class of science fiction writers, but we mustn't believe it. The BEMs are in there as much as ever.
Thus, beginning with a great scientist of godlike knowledge and uprightness as central character, science fiction soon discovered chinks in the armor and ended up in very short order with the sinister figure of the mad scientist, either making a Frankenstein monster he can't control or deliberately perverting his knowledge for power. The mad scientist became a stock figure of the great scientist. He passed away because he was altogether too fantastic, anyway.
A new book, The Year 2000, by Herman Kahn and Anthony Wiener, according to a reviewer, points out thousands of ways in which the world can go wrong, and the very few ways in which it can go right. The chances of its going right are extremely remote, according to these authors.31 After all, how many wrong answers are there to a problem? As many as you want. But how many right ones? Very few. There are thousands of ways, the science people point out to us now, in which the world can go wrong, and only one way it can go right; there is the gospel.
Here are some of the new stories by scientists with the end-of-the-world theme: in "Pilot Lights of the Apocalypse" (notice the common borrowing of biblical themes) by Ridenour, the military controls the push buttons and brings absolute disaster.32 The militarists have the technique, they have the power, they have the ways and means within their control by pushing the button; but they don't really know what's going on. They don't know what's beyond that, or what it is going to lead to. Another story, by scientist Chandler Davis, is called "Last Year's Grave Undug," and is also an after-the-holocaust story, in which the patrioteers have liquidated each other. The United States invaded itself; everybody had haunting fears that everybody else wasn't what he should be, and so they wiped each other out.33 A story by Leo Szilard (the famous Hungarian all-around genius who died recently) called "Report on Grand Central Terminal," features the deserted earth: everything is wiped out, because the earth divided into two factions (Shiz and Coriantumr), who extinguished each other.34 Another by Chandler Davis, called "Adrift on the Policy Level," poses the question What can science do? He says that science is the hard way—a matter of power and salesmanship,35 the same thing you deal with when you're up against a corporation. Personality is the principal asset of (rather than the path of becoming) scientists. The world of science is ruled by rhetoric; it is not the hardware that is important, but who controls it. The salesman is the one on top, Davis says.
"Nobody Bothers Gus," by Algis Budrys, is an alienation story in which the human race is described as homo nondescriptus.36 The story deals with the idea of why humanity exists. If we don't know why, what's all the use of all these fancy, magnificent, shiny cities, materials, and everything else? The story concludes, What purpose did homo nondescriptus serve, and where was he going? We don't know.
And in "The Prize of Peril," Robert Sheckley, the most cynical and amusing of the present authors, tells a terrible story of total degeneration of society expressed in a TV gimmick in which scientists fight and exterminate each other.37 In a story by Damon Knight, "The Handler," the look is everything.38 Isaac Asimov, who dabbles in all sorts of things and writes a great deal of science fiction, features, in a story called "Dreaming Is a Private Thing," daydreaming as a highly paid profession. People have become too lazy to dream on their own, so specialists daydream; tracks are made, to be sold all around the country so people can have somebody to daydream for them.39 Morganson, a psychologist, writes in "Coming-of-Age-Day" of a compulsory sex gadget.40 Lafferty in "Slow Tuesday Night" manipulates time ad absurdum.41 These are all depressing stories.
An important theme is the victory of the robot—the ultimate in automation, regimentation, specialization, efficiency, and exploitation. The robot works for everybody. The robot does not, however, overpower suddenly. Humanity surrenders its functions gradually and willingly to the machine; this we read in countless robot stories—the favorite theme. The machine can move into a vacuum only after we have moved out; as soon as we have turned ourselves into robots, then we can be replaced by robots. When men use hardware to control the world, its resources, and other men, the hardware brings about destruction. Mormon 8 seems appropriate: "For behold, ye do love your . . . substance . . . more than ye love the poor" (Mormon 8:37). We love our expensive hardware, as described by Mormon, more than we esteem the inexpensive "live software." With what result? Again, the old science fiction theme—destruction: "Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh" (Mormon 8:41)—because you love your hardware, your substance, more than you love people.
Much is being written about the surrender to the specialization, to despiritualization. Martin Greenberg attributes the beginning of the robot to "R.U.R.," Rustem's Universal Robots, a play by Karel Capek. The robot is a creature that does work for a highly specialized job and nothing else; he becomes the worker, and then the thinker, and maybe even the feeler.42 This is the favorite theme of stories today—robots that may have feelings. Do they or don't they? Greenburg explains, "The 'growth' of the robot continues until he ultimately achieves acceptance as an entity by his creators. The final phase in the inevitable ascent of 'man's servant,' is reached when man has disappeared and only a robotic civilization remains. A new cycle has begun, . . . when man is re-created by the beings he himself gave birth to."43 Thus the machine takes the place not only of man, but of God. So we replace ourselves completely by robots; we do it ourselves. Nowadays, this is old stuff, or at least we are getting used to it. The Sutro Museum in San Francisco has a great collection of nineteenth-century clockwork people, just as impressive as real people, and they do all sorts of things. It is hard for us today to imagine the effect of clockwork man on eighteenth-century thinking, but it was great. Not only great but horrible. Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffman's The Sandman tells a story of a doll named Olympia,44 just a pretty doll, but she was run by machinery. The doll became a monster as soon as it was accepted as a living thing. It is the same thing with the Golem: the Golem is just a machine that works; but when people regard the Golem as a personality, it becomes a horrible object.45 The same theme occurs in the tales of Edgar Allen Poe, in Oscar Wilde's writings, and of course in Frankenstein. The monster is not a monster because of size. It doesn't have to be terrible-looking—the doll of Olympia was a beautiful object. It became a very terrible thing when people took it seriously.
Writing in the Science Journal in 1968, the editor says, There's no danger of machine personality devaluing human beings or that man "will suffer a loss of innocence if he comes to understand his own mental workings." The real danger, which is very serious, is "the programming of people to behave like computers."46 Then he cites the case at the University of Michigan: students were conditioned to react to mere numbers with intense anxiety and other emotions, and to have programmed dreams. He continues, "If I were a parent of one of these students, I should be raising hell. . . . I am shocked that [the University of Michigan] tolerated this."47
In contrast, there is the case of the well-known Egyptian story. In the court of a pharaoh in the Old Kingdom, more than forty-five years ago, was a magician who performed the favorite trick of Egyptian scientists, namely replacing the head of a decapitated goose or duck so that the bird could give a couple of quacks. It can actually be done and was considered a great thing. Someone in the court asked the magician whether the same could be done with a man, and the magician said it could. It was suggested that the act be tried on a criminal who was sentenced to be decapitated anyway, but the magician talked the pharaoh into abandoning the idea. He said that a man may have been condemned to death for crime, but it was his prerogative to die with dignity, to pay the price and no more.48 Human beings are not to be subjected to this sort of thing, to be stooges for clever lab demonstrations. We've come a long way from the Old Kingdom of Egypt, where pharaoh refused to let a condemned criminal serve as an experimental animal, to where this man says we have the right to play God and cut up anybody we feel like.
In Asimov's very popular story "Lenny," Susan Calvin says to Peter, "What's the use, you said, of a robot that was not designed for any job? Now I ask you—what's the use of a robot designed for only one job? It begins and ends in the same place." Lenny accidentally gets programmed the wrong way and begins to have human feelings.49 This is the point. Asimov continues, "An industry tells us what it needs; a computer designs the brain; machinery forms the robot; and there it is, complete and done." But the same industry also wants the same type of man, one reliable as the robot to do certain things and nothing else.50 And this is the theme, of course, of much thinking and writing; we just take the robot's place.
There are now (1968) 60,000 computers in the world (40,000 in the United States, 3,000 in the United Kingdom), all built within the last decade. Zera Colburn, who is hexadactylous (six fingers on both hands), extracted the cube root of 413,993,348,677 in five seconds: needless to say, in his head. Here is a real science fiction figure, a physical and mental freak. Is the world any better off because of him? (I don't mean to speak disrespectfully.) Socrates asks at the beginning of his famous discourse, "If every athlete in the world could run twice as fast as he does, lift twice as heavy a weight, jump twice as far, hit twice as hard, would the world be the least bit better off?" The world doesn't exist for specialists.
A favorite theme is the superior efficiency of the robot built by other robots, so programmed that any mistakes or malfunctions are automatically corrected. Machines are becoming more and more human, more refined, more complicated, more sensitive in their reactions, until they may even begin to feel emotions. Robert Bloch's story "Almost Human" is a good example of that. With human emotions and human sensibilities—human temper and tantrums, human fears and misgivings, and all the rest—come human fallibility; they are the very stuff of which human fallibility is made.51 "Computers usually work with much greater accuracy than the human brain," says N. S. Sutherland, a British computer expert, "but if any element in a computer becomes faulty, then catastrophic errors occur."52 A very good but terrifying story on this theme by Ron Goulart is called "Terminal." The robots get old, their relays wear out, wires get disconnected, and so forth, and then all hell breaks loose.53 This is the point. But, says Sutherland, "in contrast to this, except in pathological conditions, the brain does not break down completely and, although much information processing is done rather inaccurately [to say the least], the result is almost never complete nonsense,"54 whereas if one thing goes wrong with a machine the result is complete nonsense. In other words, the machine, while it functions, is an idiot savant (a person who can do fantastic things, but just those, and do them very well.) But if something goes wrong, as things do go wrong, in the material as well as the spiritual world, all is lost.
Incidentally, a whole issue of the Science Journal is devoted to intelligent machines; the editor writes, "I believe diversity is rewarding in itself and deplore the way in which the world is tending to a single universal culture, . . . [which used to be thought a great blessing; when I was in high school, this was the thing they looked forward to—a great, universal single culture, and not even a very admirable one.] I regard respect for life as the touchstone of ethics." Then he notes the 240 species of animals now threatened with extinction.55 The gospel applies here too, because "God has commanded that all forms of life should multiply and fulfill the measure of their creation, that every form of life might have joy therein." How very different this is from coming out and saying, "You just specialize and do this, or do that."
Another award goes to Jack Vance, who wrote an exciting story, but the usual thing: "The Mechs of Revolt." Although it is a new story, you would think it was written forty years ago. The Mech-brain (that is, the mechanical man) is from another world (though we've made Mech-brains work for us here). The Mech-brain falls shortest in its lack of emotional color: one Mech is precisely like another. They serve us efficiently because they think nothing about their condition. They neither loved us nor hated us, nor do they now. Why did they revolt? For a familiar reason. The answer is just as unoriginal as the question: because they do not like to be serving somebody else all the time, and because the world is too small for two races, one exploits the other. And this is supposed to be original science fiction.
One of my children has the psychology book Psychology: The Science of Behavior, by A. A. Branca. On the flyleaf and covers are three photographs of a rat in a box.56 (Never mind that the poor rat is almost certainly crazy, driven insane by the ways of science. A good recent article on that subject claims that these animals are not living under normal conditions, and they soon lose their balance; a creature in a maze is not a normal creature at all.) In the inky tracks that show the rat's wanderings in the box, our school children are told, are a sure index to the workings of the mind. The genius of behaviorism was to discover that overt behavior is the only kind we can study; therefore, to all intents and purposes, overt behavior is the complete disclosure of the mind at work. It is the story of the lost keys. We look in a certain place, not because we think we lost them there, but because conditions for looking there are much more convenient and comfortable than elsewhere. We search for the mind in a rat maze because it is easy to make mazes and put rats in them. But psychology, being the science of behavior, is the equivalent to religion being the study of bells and steeples, or patriotism being the study of firecrackers. Only the external aspects of the thing can be studied. Therefore, for the sake of convenience, we assume that only the external aspects exist, and of course this leads to trouble.
A big issue today, being discussed a great deal, is Do computers think? I won't go into that, but recently a German science journal, in an editorial, asked the question (which has started a furor), "Does a tea-strainer think?" A tea-strainer has one simple task to perform, and it is a task that requires making a decision. It must remove the leaves from the tea and let the liquid pass through. In this act of selectivity, the editor points out, the tea-strainer does just what a computer does. So if a computer thinks, so does a tea-strainer. The response from the readers, many of them scientists, was spirited. Most of the contributors vigorously defended the proposition that a tea-strainer does think. Some felt that the effect of this doctrine was not to exalt the tea-strainer as a thinker, but to debase the mind of man as an automaton. Others replied heatedly that that simply showed their pride, arrogance, and pigheadedness. They would not admit that a tea-strainer thinketh as a man thinketh because they didn't want to believe it.
Marvin Minsky, an electrical engineer at MIT, says, "Our pious skeptics told us that machines could never sense things. Now that machines can see [he doesn't put see in quotes, he just assumes that machines see] complex shapes, our skeptics tell us that we can never know that they sense things. Do not be bullied by authoritative pronouncements about what machines will never do. Such statements are based on pride, not fact."57 How neatly the issue is drawn here. André Maurois actually wrote a science fiction story, based on the stubborn insistence of scientist friends of his who observed the social instinct behavior of insects and animals and maintained that the creatures do not think.58 They admit that insect and animal behavior shows all the outward signs of intelligence and that they sometimes display amazing problem-solving capacities. Scientists admit that, but they insist that no intelligence whatever is involved, taking the position of Bertrand Russell that "animals behave in a manner showing the rightness of views of the man who observes them," not the animal itself.59 The rightness of their behavior and the correctness of their response is appreciated by the beholder, but the actors themselves are completely unaware of what they are doing.
These same scientists who unhesitatingly and emphatically insist that animals do not think, in spite of the clear thought patterns implied in their behavior, insist just as unhesitatingly and emphatically that machines do think, because of the thought patterns implied by their behavior. The electric eye that opens the door for you at the supermarket is able to think. In the best Watsonian sense, it gives a useful, sensible response to a definite stimulus. And what is thought, but a matter of response to stimulus? But the dog, who gives you a resentful, guilty look and scurries out of your way at the supermarket, doesn't think at all. He seems to be aware he's not welcome in the store, but that's only your impression of the way he behaves. So the electric eye, which opens the door, is thinking, but the dog has no thought at all. The question is just a matter of opinion and interpretation.
Exactly the same sort of yea and nay was reached with the argument of the stars. The Sophists said, "Look, the stars are just moving up there; that proves there's no God." Aristotle looked at the same stars moving and said, "That proves there is a God. I don't need any more argument." The very same evidence, but two different conclusions. And it is the same way here. You see a response to a stimulus; that proves thought, because it was an intelligent response. The tea-strainer took out the tea leaves, as it is supposed to.
"There's a real possibility," writes Sutherland, "that we may one day be able to design a machine that is more intelligent than ourselves, . . . a species of superior intelligence to replace ourselves as lords of the Earth. The species could also of course be morally much superior to ourselves."60 Here we see the enormity—or rather perversion—of a misconception. According to the early Christian idea of the ancient law of liberty, a gadget programmed in a way that avoided any behavior that might be called immoral would not be a morally superior being at all. When Simon Magus asked Peter, "Could not God have made us all good so that we could not do anything else but be virtuous?"61 (Satan wanted to program everybody to be virtuous and nothing else; St. Augustine later asked the same question in anguish), Peter replied,
That's a foolish question, for if he made us unchangeably and immovably inclined to good, we wouldn't really be good at all, since we couldn't really be anything else. And it would be no merit on our part that we were good, nor could we be given credit for doing what we did by necessity of nature. How can you call any act good that is not performed intentionally?62
Of course that is the answer to this idea that we could make a machine morally superior to ourselves because we program it not to do certain naughty things. Would you call that a moral machine? What an enormous gulf between this type of thinking and the gospel!
Incidentally, in the same issue in which Minsky let out that blast about our pride, an article by J. N. Holmes says, "As recently as April of this year Professor D. B. Fry of University College, London, said he thought [a machine which can understand normal, fluent, human speech] might never be possible."63 A crew has been working on that a long time. And talking about Aldous, the machine at the University of Texas which reacts, which seems to have emotions, which reacts with fear, anger or attraction, reminds us (and this should be emphasized, but it is diligently deemphasized by most of us) that Aldous is only a model of personality, not the thing itself. Thus when I speak of Aldous's fear, I refer to a numerical variable in the program that takes on different forms to represent different degrees of fear. The model or computer does not feel (and Aldous underlines that) any more than a molecular model of plastic balls and wooden dowels will enter into a real chemical combination. The introspection routine in Aldous can report on certain of its states because it was constructed to do so. It is not a pipeline to some ghostly inner world of the computer. This argument goes on, as a theme of many science fiction stories today.
Frank George, who is in charge of the program in England for computers, says, All this simulates emotion, "sometimes deceptively like the real thing. . . . If you build imitation human responses into a machine, then you've cheated; you haven't done anything really interesting, however practical."64 It is precisely this dissimulation that is the satanic part of the machine. So we want to watch that we don't get programmed.
The basic characteristic of science fiction is its unoriginality. It is, as Judith Merril says, a commentary on present conditions, what will happen if things continue in the same course they are now in.65 As such, it can perform a valuable critical function. The stock themes of science fiction are "the wonderful journey," including time travel; "the wonderful invention," including the time machine; "the end of the world," especially today, after the atom bomb, after the holocaust; then the beginning of the new world; "big and little," we mentioned before—mere size; "the conquest"—the war of the worlds, galactic empires; strange visitors, including the Bug-Eyed Monsters, and including visitors better than people on our world. "The duel" is a great favorite today—the magnificent fighting machines dueling to the last survivor, lights out. Other great themes today include "the breakdown" of the machine, including the revolt of the robots; "strange worlds," usually pure description, far-future or far away in distance, and man coping with the challenge of strange environments; "boy meets girl" (humanity is the same in all environments); "man meets rival"; and "alienation."
Every one of these themes is biblical; and often the authors use biblical terms in their titles, showing where the titles came from. Science fiction writers, with the advantages of modern science, presume to describe and interpret more accurately than the scriptures, and the result is rather pathetic. Brian Wilson Aldiss, who is editing the stuff in the latest anthologies, claims that writers are running out of ideas; they have nothing to offer anymore. The once-daring assumptions are no longer daring; they are clichés. Originally, science fiction had bold and imaginative thinking behind them; now they merely annihilate thinking.66 In the last issue of Kosmos (the journal I get—but don't think I'm quite the scientist just because I get a German science journal), the leading article by Professor Werner Braunbek, was entitled "1968 brachte keine Revolutionen in der Physik."67 Compared with 1957, 1958, and 1960, it was quite barren. Aldiss goes on:
In the science fiction we are getting today, we can't find any good stuff. The decay of language that always goes hand in hand with the decay of ideas is what we find. There is no science here, no imagination. Spaceship tales, robot tales, invention tales, these old themes roll forth, clad in dead language. Guys still fight over the last oxygen cylinder on Mars. The great big, wonderful world of Western technology is rolling on, but nothing is being done about it.
Isn't it because the great big, wonderful world of Western technology itself is plainly going nowhere? Science fiction, after all, is simply reacting to the emptiness of the material it depends on. The antics of Tarzan and Fu Manchu are almost perfectly representative of the type of science fiction appearing in the contemporary catalogs: the super-brain and super-brawn of man outcalculates, outwits, outcomputes hordes of robots and other monsters, mechanical or organic, and it is all on the level of naked power, right out of the worlds of the Djins of the 1001 Nights. Isn't that the world we live in already? This is the science fiction that appeals to us most; so we get the apocalyptic stories. No matter how negative science fiction has become, it still can't be original. The worst you can think of happening has already happened.
It really does seem that the effect of every major scientific discovery has been to make men lose their balance, giving them a sense of dependence on anything but themselves. A wonderful passage from Socrates says, "When I was a kid and went to school, science knew all the answers. We knew that the brain was the center of everything, and we were on top of the world. We were just too cocky for anything." Plutarch talks about the same thing. He says the new physics taught people "to despise all the superstitious fears which the awe-inspiring signs in the heavens arouse in the minds of those who are ignorant of the real cause of things."68 From then on, the Sophists carried the ball as ardent debunkers of all that was not science. The Milesian school claimed again and again to have discovered the basic principles and elements of all existence. In launching the program of modern science, Bacon announced that if he could just enjoy one season of uninterrupted work he would be able to embrace all knowledge in a single system. Newton's discoveries were held to answer all the essential problems of cosmology for all times. By a simple rule of thumb, Darwin explained forever the origin of all forms of life. Freud, by a single stroke, solved all our psychological problems. Grimm's law explained the nature of all languages. The computers finally can solve all problems of any kind. As Whitehead reminds us, it seems with every breakthrough that this is the immediate response. It's always the same old story: "Now at last we have certitude!"69 Even though we had it before, again and again and again, and it turned out to be wrong—no, at last we do have it. The most wonderful machines have already been invented long ago. We think of computers as intelligent entities because we're not used to living with them. That is all. When a punched card or magnetized tape is stored away, we think of it as memory, because of the novelty of the thing. We don't think a book remembers, even when it can be arranged to be opened automatically at a given item of information by pressing a button, like an address finder. Isn't that memory? No, we say, that isn't memory at all. We've been living with that. But once upon a time people thought it was. There was a time when people thought the book was actually a thinking machine; it would think for you. They thought it such a miracle they couldn't get over it. It took them a long time to get used to it. And then they realized that the book wasn't actually thinking or remembering. It was just you operating it. Yet those who didn't understand how it worked really believed that the written page was a thinking, living entity, just as we now think that the computer has a memory.
Plato (in talking about the Egyptians) tells a wonderful story about this. When Hermes, who was Thoth in Egyptian, discovered writing, he went to Ammon, the father of the gods, in great excitement. "I have discovered a device that will infinitely project the power of the human mind—writing." Of course, it is a tremendous invention; it beats anything else one can imagine. But Hermes was wrong, as Ammon immediately pointed out. Writing will not aid men's mental powers, Ammon said, but cripple them. It will seriously damage both their power to think and to remember.70
In the end, no gadget makes us better off. This may sound strange, but if we think of it, the purpose of every gadget is to liquidate itself. As it is improved more and more, it becomes progressively reduced in size, complexity, cost, and rarity, until in the end the best transportation is that which requires no gadget at all. Gigantic transformers, cables, wheels, rails, enormous computers filling whole buildings, ponderous weapons, monstrous machines—all those belong to the essentially barbaric world.
The ultimate achievement is to do what we want to do without depending on gadgets. The best gadget is no gadget. There are some stories on that. But on this idea of futility, the hero, in a story by Chad Oliver, says, "I sometimes think there's nothing as dull as constant, everlasting change. . . . The devil of it is, there's just plain nothing new under the sun, to coin an inspired phrase."71 There's nothing behind the door, just more of the same. That's what the writers are telling us now. Fritz Leiber, who has written a lot of junk, writes a story called "Marianna" whose closing line is, "Annihilation brings unutterable relief."72 This idea, a favorite theme of Heinlein, is that when we've solved all our problems, when we've licked the biological problems, when we've even solved the problems of death, then what do we do? We sit round bored to tears, yearning for death, because we have nothing to live for anyway. Without the gospel, life is completely hollow.
There are more stories on this theme. In one called "Traveller's Rest," by David Masson, there is a perennial war going on all the time. Ordinary people bother little about the war; their spare mental energies are spent in a vast selection of play and ploys: making, representing, creating, relishing, criticizing, theorizing, discussing, arranging, organizing, cooperating. That sounds like living. But it is all busywork, meaningless in the end, futile.73 In a story by Arthur C. Clarke, who has written much, called "At the End of the Orbit,"74 the theme is clear. Boy meets girl in a sputnik background. In one by William Morrison, called "A Feast of Demons," people can make themselves get younger and older all they want;75 it is terrible, because nobody dies. Our old friend Isaac Asimov comes back again in the story "The Eyes Do More Than See."76 The main character, Ames, hopes to manipulate matter before the assembled energy beings who have so drearily waited over the eons for something new. He flees back across the galaxies on the energy track of Brock, back to the endless doom of life. The energy beings can no longer weep for the fragile beauty of the bodies they had once given them a trillion years ago. The worlds lose all significance; there is nothing behind the door. We go back to "the endless doom of life," doomed to more of the same. So when we go out in space, what do we find? Just more of the same we find here, and it is not as good. What a disillusionment.
The splendors and high hopes soon shot their bolt and fizzled, because they had nowhere to go. Science without religion, like philosophy without religion, has nothing to feed on. "All [true] science," says Karl Popper, "is cosmology";77 and all cosmology is eschatology: "It is my contention that any branch of human thought without religion soon withers and dies of anemia." In the symposium "Life in Other Worlds," sponsored by the Seagram Whiskey Company,78 such scientists as G. B. Kistiakowsky, Donald N. Michael, Harlow Shapley, Otto Struve, and Arnold Toynbee went out of their way to show something that had nothing to do with the case, namely that the existence of life on other worlds is at last the definite, final proof that we need to rule God out of the picture. The immediate effect of scientific discovery was a sense of emancipation; we are now on our own. At last man can throw off the shackles of the past. God was all right for our ancestors, but we certainly don't need him in our calculations. Man is, at last, the master. A great deal of scientific experience, as well as science fiction, has shown that that is the way to madness.
So science fiction is a faith-promoting discipline after all. It is a wasteland, a heap of slag, as far as the eye can see—joyless, endless, monotonous, repetitive, empty but cluttered, a haunted universe. When we think that the project started out as a joyful and confident search for the best world or worlds the human mind could conceive and bring into existence, and after generations of untrammeled and soaring imagination, this desolate city dump is what we have come up with—well, it shows how far we can get without the gospel.
My time is up, and I should be entertaining questions, but I have some ancient texts that beat all science fiction hollow. I will read a sample of each: the Berlin Manuscript (Kephalaia),79 the newly discovered Apocryphon of Abraham,80 some from the Clementine Recognitions,81 and one from the Ginza, that is, early Christian Mandaean.82 Some of these are very good, and they are good science fiction, too. I keep the translation quite literal, as literal as possible, but of course I load the dice all along, you can well imagine. The Lord is talking to the apostles, in a very early Christian document (first or early second century): "This earth is littered with remnants of other worlds which have been mixed up in earth fire in places where it is still impossible for plants to take root." There are desolate places on the earth—forms and stages of creation. "But what about the material that is still out there in orbit?" the apostles ask the Lord. He replies, "They still surround the earth in the sky, but they are not brought down into the common crucible." The word used is trench—there exists a sort of circulating trench; and as matter is required, it is drawn off from this, being purified by the circular motion. Further, "It's first poured down upon the earth, and then swept together and thrown into a pit, a sort of crucible. This is so that the fumes [this is a passage nobody understands] can mount up and mingle with yet more elements which are to descend"—in some kind of feedback process. Then he says, "There are space waters out there, too, but they have to be purified of certain poisoned elements of outer darkness."
The idea that things coming from outer space are poisoned and must be decontaminated before they can be used in this earth recurs constantly in these old documents. Great advantage came to the earth when these fragments, or vehicles, were scrapped in the heavens. They were turned into junk, because they were the remnants of other worlds, to be used again. They were swept up from earth and cast out to circulate among the worlds in various disposal areas, where they would follow certain laws that would get them in motion again.
The Father emptied the three vehicles or vessels; the word used here means elements—namely, water, dark heavy matter, and fire—necessary heavenly ingredients used in all these processes.83 He empties them together in dumps at the edge of the firmament, or else pours them out upon the earth. After that, they will be swept away from the earth to some other place. Each is a deposit of stuff being poured out in a particular place, where it is to be kept until it will be needed, again clothed with the forms—the three forms of wind, water, and fire—which are the three great forces of metamorphosis and erosion that make a world when they are used in a solid body; then, the father says, we start making a world with it.
This is how the earth was established. The sons of light came down in ships and purified the light and removed the slag from the apporoia—the scum that is poured off is the slag, the stuff that melts. It is taken to a dump, where there are five types of depositories, from which five elements come as they are necessarily used, some being used more than others.
What we call elements, however, is the energy which is in all things. In the womb of the earth the elements are gathered, fused, and poured out. It is an amazing picture of a physical process of creation, of which we get dim visions. Of course you may protest, "That is certainly a mess"; and it certainly is. But it is the sort of thing Isaac Asimov gives, and is as good as any science fiction you get today, considering its date.
Here is an interesting description from the Apocalypse of Abraham. Abraham is taken on a wonderful journey (just as much science fiction begins with the wonderful journey). The whole field of testamentary literature and testaments has seen many discoveries recently, and we learn that any prophet you can name, and any apostle, has a testament; and that testament always ends with a great trip, a guided tour through the universe. The prophet or apostle usually gets in a vessel of some sort, in which he travels around, inspecting things). Guided by an angel, Abraham passes with violent winds to heaven above the firmament. He sees an indescribably mighty light, and within the light there is a vast, seething fire; and within the fire is a great host of moving, changing forms—moving within each other—of mighty forms that exchange with each other and constantly change their forms, as they go and come and alter themselves. They seem to call out to each other, in strange, confused noises.84
Abraham asks the angel, "What is this all about? Why have you brought me here? I can't see anything. I don't know what is going on. I've become weak. I think I am out of my mind." The angel answers, "Stay close to me and don't be afraid." The angel is beginning to shake, though. He himself is seeing too much. Then they are wrapped in fire and hear a voice and a mighty rushing of waters. Abraham wants to fall down on his face and worship. But there is no more earth under their feet and nothing to fall on. They're just there, suspended.85
Abraham cries out with all his voice, and the angel cries at the same time, "Oh God! Oh, thou who has brought order into this terrible confusion, into the great confusion of the universe, and hast renewed the worlds of the righteous."86 There is a power that actually can master these terrible forces whose simple contemplation is absolutely appalling. This is what the great Catholic scholar, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a paleontologist who just died, says: man is the most refined being there is. He is much more complicated, in chemistry and everything else; he is far more complicated than a star, even a giant star, or a star system, or a galaxy. This must be the end product of the thing—to be organized and controlled, to be able to carry on like this, with all these terrible forces unleashed all around. This appalling performance is the story of Abraham, who sees it all and says there is a God who can actually bring a world out of such chaos where the righteous can dwell. This is quite an idea.
In one of the very early Christian writings, the Clementine Recognitions (the earliest Christian writing we have after the New Testament), we learn the legitimate questions that interested the early Christians, questions to which the church would ordinarily say, "You're not supposed to ask that."87 Clement said he had been to the university, and the professors couldn't answer his questions; the only person who could answer them was Peter. Clement's questions were "Is there a preexistence? Is there life after death? If we live after, will we remember this life? Why don't we remember the premortal existence? When was the world created? What existed before that? If the world was created, will it pass away? And then what? Will we feel things we cannot feel now?" Clement says he could not shake from his mind the immortalitatis cupido, the desire to go on living. It was such questions, he said, that led him to seek the true light.88 Notice these are primarily scientific questions, but they are actually the basic religious questions, too. The scientists say this doesn't have anything to do with religion; we say that it does.
Clement complained that the Doctors could not give him any answers, only a lot of clever talk, but nothing else. When he was young, the pagan philosophers had scared him out of his wits with stories of hellfire. That came from pagan schools; Clement never learned that hellfire from the Christians. Finally he went to Palestine, where he met Peter at a conference of the church. When he put these questions to Peter straight, he got his answers. "Is the soul mortal or immortal? Was the world created? Why? Can it be dissolved? Will another world take its place? Will there be something better after it? Or will there be anything at all after this world?" Then Peter explained to him how it is, adding that it is important to find answers to these things. The important questions are, first of all, what came first? What was the immediate, direct cause of anything, if anything? By whom, through whom, and for whom were things created? Of one, two, or many substances? How many substances are there? Did these substances themselves come out of nothing, or out of something? Is there any virtue? The answers that Peter gives to these legitimate questions are very interesting.89
Here's an interesting theme from the early Mandaean Christian writings on other worlds. Those in other worlds move with great, almost instantaneous, speed, as quickly as human thought. In a single hour they reach a distant place. Their motion, however, is calm and effortless, like the rays of the sun passing between heaven and earth.90 The Father ordered Hibel Ziwa (Abel) to make a world and to place Adam and Eve in it. Then the three angels of glory and light would come down and instruct them and keep them company. God said to the pure Sent One, who was to lead this delegation, "Go call Adam and Eve and all their posterity, and teach them concerning everything about the king of light and the worlds of light. Be friendly with Adam, and give him company, you and the two angels that will be with you, and warn him against Satan." The three angels are also instructed to go down and teach Adam the law of chastity. Adam was also told, "We will also send helpers to those of your progeny who seek further light and knowledge from us." This was the principle given them.91
There is also a lot to say on the practice of beings visiting other worlds. The Evil One complains about it. Another version says that God sent down the Sent One to help Adam and Eve get back to his presence, where they had come from. He spread a table for them, instructing them there. And then the Evil Ones complained, saying, "The children of men have taken over the earth. They are strangers who speak the language of those three men who visited them. They have accepted the teachings of the three men, and rejected us and our own world, so they plot against us, and they say that Mandadihaya [teacher of life] is coming to give them aid and support. . . . These three men are in this world, but they are not men. They are beings of light and glory. They are trespassing on our territory. They have come to this little Enosh, this little man who is helpless and alone in the world, to instruct him and to give him an advantage over us."92 Thus, the evil beings complain.
This is the very stuff you read about in science fiction all the time, written up beautifully in these old sources, and there is much of it: ships with ropes of light, with crews clothed in light, laden with treasure; going from one world to another, the Evil Ones waylay and pirate it. In the Psalms of Thomas, a recent discovery, but a very old text, the Evil One in his ship comes out of I do not know where, and he hijacks the cargo, dividing up the treasure among the worlds over which he rules93—the galactic empire motif. He plants precious plants in those worlds, the plants he had stolen. He fixes precious stones in their firmaments, and they glory in their stolen finery. God, on finding out about it, sends a messenger to get back all the stolen things and replant the plants in their proper worlds, for which they had been intended in the first place; and all this is described in very physical terms.
Then he says, "Prepare your people to receive, reclaim, and disinfect all these things they have stolen from us, so that we can put them in the worlds for which they were designated."94 This messenger is Rezin, the son of light himself, a real person. So Rezin goes and gets the things, and puts them in the worlds where they belong.
Many Coptic documents treat these themes. Note how realistic this example is: From the place of your inheritance, the Lord explains, the sun will look like a little, tiny grain of flour; that is how far away it is from this sun. The distance between the others worlds is vast, their size is enormous, and there is a hierarchy among them. Every one of these worlds is ruled on a single pattern, however, though no two of them are alike. There is always a governing body of twelve, wherever you go. Every topos (place) has twelve rulers over each part.95 Each world, whether it is awaiting occupants—or those who have not yet found their place, who have not yet been assigned—or whether it is already occupied, is governed by the same plan. Every kingdom requires a space; so we have to go down and find a space to build a kingdom. "My father laid his hand upon my head, gave me the name of Hibbel Yabbah, and created for me a world, containing ten thousand worlds of light with 360 mighty inner Jordans, and every one of these had 360,000 Uthras, and every skina had 360,000 skinas, and every world was different." Then follow descriptions of these various things.
We read in the Manichaean Psalmbook that a thousand thousand mysteries and myriad myriad planets, each with its own mysteries, preceded this world. During Yahweh's great discussions of the new creations that were to take place, he sent down envoys to report to him how things were going. They did not send all the Uthras, nor did they teach them all the worlds, and this is the usual order; it says, "Uthra after Uthra will reach thee, will take thee by the right hand, and will show thee worlds" and dwellings and treasure houses, and so forth.
The Ascension of Isaiah describes one thing the devils don't know about. They are banished to particular places, and they are not aware of how much really goes on—they miss all the show. The devils exclaim, "We are alone, and there are none besides us." They suffer the same illusion that the human race has suffered for a long time.96
I see that the time's nearly gone, and I've almost forgotten to bear my testimony! I can't stop without that. What else is there but the gospel, brothers and sisters? If I didn't believe it, I'd jolly well have to, but I don't believe it for that reason. I believe it because it is true, and I hope we all get testimonies of the gospel. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962), 1.
2. Richard McKenna, "The Secret Place," in Brian W. Aldiss, ed., Nebula Award Stories: Number Two (New York: Pocket, 1969), 15.
3. Claude Levi-Strauss, The Savage Mind (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1962).
4. Eric T. Bell, "The Ultimate Catalyst," in Groff Conklin, ed. Great Science Fiction by Scientists (New York: Collier, 1962), 35-59.
5. Miles J. Breuer, "The Gostec and the Doshes, " in ibid., 63.
6. [Nibley cites C. P. Snow a number of times in this volume, but we have been unable to locate the source.]
7. J. B. S. Haldane, "The Gold Makers," in Conklin, ed., Great Science Fiction by Scientists, 125.
8. Julian Huxley, "The Tissue Culture King," in ibid., 147.
9. Edmund R. Leach, "We Scientists Have the Right to Play God," Saturday Evening Post (16 November 1968): 16.
10. James McConnell, "Learning Theory," in Conklin, ed., Great Science Fiction by Scientists, 227.
11. W. J. J. Gordon, "The Nobel Prize Winners," in Judith Merril, ed., The 9th Annual of the Year's Best SF (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964), 253-67.
12. Ibid., 258-59.
13. Norbert Wiener, "The Brain," in Conklin, ed., Great Science Fiction by Scientists, 299.
14. H. G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau in Seven Famous Novels by H. G. Wells (New York: Knopf, 1934), 69-157.
15. Fred Hoyle, "The Black Cloud," in Frederik Pohl, ed., The Expert Dreamers (New York: Doubleday, 1962), 149.
16. Norbert Wiener, "The Miracle of the Broom Closet," in ibid., 183.
17. Ibid., 189.
18. John R. Pierce, "John Sze's Future," in Conklin, ed., Great Science Fiction by Scientists, 260.
19. Ibid., 262, 265.
20. See the foreword by C. P. Snow, in G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology (London: Cambridge University Press, 1973), 15-16, 32, 48.
21. Ibid., 50-51.
22. Karl Haushofer, Leben und Werk (Rhein: Boldt, 1979), 483-645.
23. Interview with William H. Pickering by Robert C. Cowen, "Tantalizing Invitation to the Solar System," Christian Science Monitor (3 February 1969): 9.
25. Sir Oliver Lodge, The Survival of Man (London: Methuen, 1910), 253, 321-22, 333.
26. Omar Khayyam, Rubaiyat XXXVIII, tr. Edward Fitzgerald (Great Britain: Harrop, 1985).
27. Conklin, Great Science Fiction by Scientists, 9-10.
28. Ibid., 10-11.
29. Both The War of Worlds and The Island of Dr. Moreau are contained in H. G. Wells, Seven Famous Novels by H. G. Wells.
30. John Jacob Astor, A Journey in Other Worlds (New York: Appleton, 1898).
31. Herman Kahn and Anthony J. Wiener, The Year 2000: A Framework for Speculation on the Next Thirty-Three Years (New York: Macmillan, 1967).
32. Louis N. Ridenour, "Pilot Lights of the Apocalypse," in Conklin, ed., Great Science Fiction by Scientists, 281.
33. Chandler Davis, "Last Year's Grave Undug," in ibid., 103.
34. Leo Szilard, "Grand Central Terminal," in ibid., 291.
35. Chandler Davis, "Adrift on Policy Level," in Pohl, ed., The Expert Dreamers, 125.
36. Algis Budrys, "Nobody Bothers Gus," in Judith Merril, ed., SF: The Best of the Best (New York: Delacorte, 1967), 310.
37. Robert Sheckley, "The Prize of Peril," in ibid., 325.
38. Damon Knight, "The Handler," in ibid., 344.
39. Isaac Asimov, "Dreaming Is a Private Thing," in ibid., 398.
40. A. K. Jorgensson, "Coming-of-Age Day," in Judith Merril, ed., 11th Annual Edition The Year's Best S-F (New York: Delacorte, 1966), 53-65.
41. R. A. Lafferty, "Slow Tuesday Night," in ibid., 34-41.
42. Martin H. Greenburg, ed., The Robot and the Man (New York: Gnome, 1953), v-vii.
43. Ibid.; cf. Isaac Asimov, "The Last Question," in The Best of Isaac Asimov (New York: Doubleday, 1974), 157-69.
44. Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffman, "The Sandman," in Tales of Hoffman (Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1982).
45. Arram Davidson, "The Golem," in Merril, ed., SF The Best of the Best, 349.
46. Gordon R. Taylor, "Focus," Science Journal 4 (June 1968): 31-32.
48. See "King Cheops and the Magicians," 8, 10-9, 1, in William K. Simpson, The Literature of Ancient Egypt (London: Yale University Press, 1973), 24.
49. Isaac Asimov, "Lenny," in Pohl, ed., The Expert Dreamers, 62; reprinted in Isaac Asimov, The Rest of the Robots (New York: Doubleday, 1964), 111-26.
51. Robert Bloch, "Almost Human," Fantastic Adventures (June 1943): 185, under the pseudonym Tarleton Fiske; cf. Leo Margulies and Oscar J. Friend, eds., My Best Science Fiction Story (New York: Merlin, 1949), 66.
52. N. S. Sutherland, "Machines Like Men," Science Journal 4 (October 1968): 47.
53. R. Goulart, "Terminal," in Merril, ed., 11th Annual Edition: The Year's Best S-F, 174-83.
54. Sutherland, "Machines Like Men," 47.
55. Gordon R. Taylor, "Focus," Science Journal 4 (May 1968): 35.
56. Albert A. Branca, Psychology: The Science of Behavior (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1968).
57. Marvin Minsky, "Machines Are More Than They Seem," Science Journal 4 (October 1968): 3.
58. André Maurois, "The Earth Dwellers," in Judith Merril, ed., The Year's Best SF, 9th ed. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964), 229-51.
59. Ibid., 252.
60. Sutherland, "Machines Like Men," 48.
61. Clementine Recognitions III, 26, in PG 1:1294.
62. Ibid., in PG 1:1294-95.
63. J. N. Holmes, "Machines that Talk," Science Journal 4 (October 1968): 80.
64. Frank George, "Towards Machine Intelligence," Science Journal 4 (September 1968): 82.
65. Judith Merril, ed., SF12 (New York: Delacorte, 1968), 9-11.
66. Brian Aldiss, "Afterword: Knights of the Paper Spaceship," in Harry Harrison and Brian W. Aldiss, eds., Best SF: 1967 (New York: Berkley Medallion, 1968), 241.
67. Werner Braunbek, "1968 brachte keine Revolutionen in der Physik," Kosmos 12 (December 1968): 490-92.
68. Plutarch, Pericles VI, 1.
69. Lucien Price, "To Live Without Certitude," Atlantic Monthly 193 (March 1974): 58.
70. Plato, Phaedrus 274C-275A.
71. Chad Oliver, "The Mother of Necessity," in Conklin, ed., Great Science Fiction by Scientists, 245.
72. Fritz Leiber, "Marianna," in Merril, ed., SF: The Best of the Best, 255.
73. David Masson, "Traveller's Rest," in Merril, ed., 11th Annual Edition: The Year's Best S-F, 358-75.
74. Arthur C. Clarke, "At the End of the Orbit," in Pohl, ed., The Expert Dreamers, 1.
75. William Morrison, "A Feast of Demons," in ibid., 25.
76. Isaac Asimov, "The Eyes Do More Than See," in Merril, ed., 11th Annual Edition: The Year's Best S-F, 214-17.
77. Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations (New York: Harper and Row, 1968), 136.
78. Life in Other Worlds Symposium, sponsored by the Seagram Whiskey Company, March 1, 1961.
79. Carl Schmidt, ed, Kephalaia, 2 vols. (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1940), vol. 1.
80. Apocalypse of Abraham 15:1-17:7, in OTP 1:696-97.
81. Clementine Recognitions I, 1-14, in PG 1:1207.
82. Mark Lidzbarski, Ginza: Der Schatz oder das grosse Buch der Mandäer (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1925).
83. Psalms of the Bema CCXXII, 16-19, in C. R. C. Allberry, ed., A Manichaean Psalm Book II (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1938), 9.
84. Apocalypse of Abraham 15:3-7, in OTP 1:696.
85. Apocalypse of Abraham 16:1-17:5, in ibid., 1:696-97.
86. Apocalypse of Abraham 17:17, in ibid.,1:697.
87. Clementine Recognitions I, 1-3, 11-19, in PG 1:1207-16.
88. Ibid., I, 2, in PG 1:1207.
89. Ibid., I, 14, in PG 1:1214.
90. Cf. Lidzbarski, Ginza, 13; Ethel S. Drower, One Thousand and One Questions (Berlin: Akademie, 1960), 164, 192.
91. Lidzbarski, Ginza, 13, 42.
92. Ibid., 263-64.
93. Psalms of Thomas 3:1-15, 18-32, 35, in Allberry, A Manichaean Psalm Book II, 207-11; cf. Hugh W. Nibley, "Treasures in the Heavens: Some Early Christian Insights into the Organizing of Worlds," DJMT 8/3-4 (Autumn/Winter 1974): 76-98; reprinted in Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless (Provo: Religious Studies Center, 1978), 49-84; and CWHN 1:176, 195-96.
94. Schmidt, Kephalaia, 1:109, 111-14, 177.
95. Pistis Sophia II, 84, in Carl Schmidt, ed., Pistis Sophia (Leiden: Brill, 1978), 186-88.
96. Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah 10:11-14, in OTP 2:173.