Michael G. Zey of Montclair State University in New Jersey writes: “People want to believe that there is superior life in the universe, and that these aliens will be able to upgrade our own lives. This is a form of wish fulfillment.” This is especially true since, as the late Michael Crichton made clear, “the belief that there are other life forms in the universe is a matter of faith. There is not a single shred of evidence for any other life forms, and in forty years of searching, none has been discovered. There is absolutely no evidentiary reason to maintain this belief.” Similar to the way the “evidence” for evolution is designed to rid God from the cosmos, space exploration and the search for extraterrestrial life (SETI) are designed to make man the next best thing to a god.
“Pop-culture fiction, not academic nonfiction, is now the cutting edge of public discourse on spirituality.”
For several months I have been working on an extended project that explores the relationship of pop-culture to societal norms and worldview shifts. In addition to comic books, film, and music, I’ve been looking at science fiction and the search for extraterrestrial life. Science and science-fiction have converged on the subject for quite some time. “Nicholas of Cusa (Kues, German, 1401-1464) was a theologian who in De docta ignorantia
On Saturday, my wife and I went to see Knowing, starring Nicolas Cage, which is a strange mix of UFOlogy, panspermia, the destruction of Earth by fire (2 Pet. 3:10), the Edenic Tree of Life, and determinism vs. randomness. Cage’s character, John Koestler, is giving a lecture to his astrophysics’ class at M.I.T. when he presents the conundrum of determinism vs. randomness.1 When the class asks him what he believes, he picks randomness. “There is no grand meaning, there is no purpose.” He ends the session with “I think s**t just happens.” The perfect summary of an atheist’s worldview.
Last week, we discussed the very real (and very near) prospect of integrating “autonomous robots” into our human society and what sort of ethical questions this might raise. When technological advancement begins to infringe upon personal privacy and freedom, citizens at all levels of political persuasion begin to raise a fuss (just ask President Bush). For some reason, we have this selfish idea that our technological inventions should serve us and not the other way around. The 1986 movie, Maximum Overdrive, which was written and directed by Stephen King, takes this belief about technology and turns it on its head.
The Astronaut Farmer is a quirky film that tells the story of a Texas family man who has an insatiable longing to visit outer space. His dreams (aided by an aeronautical engineering degree) lead him to construct a rocket in his barn with the help of his fifteen-year-old son and the slightly skeptical support of his wife, Audie (Virginia Madsen).