Science fiction and Theology

I am not into the apocalypse or particularity into Science fiction, but science fiction serves as a window on people’s metaphysical and religious ideas.  For example, UFO’s went from friendly to menacing. Or science went from a brave new world to the potential cause of world wide destruction, then to new age. And now science is seen as limited.  Here is something about this year’s sci-fi that came my way. [I will get back to another post on Novak by week’s end.]
Is mysticism overtaking science in sci-fi?

That the human intellect can be copied like software, but the human soul is conserved or copy-protected or some such.
That seeking after technology is a misguided pursuit that can only lead to the destruction of the human race.

That moving or dividing the soul requires alchemical symbols inscribed on metal tokens.

Fallacies of the movie 2012:

2. That it is possible—indeed, inevitable—for all of this water to be released in a single cataclysmic event.

3. That “hard” sciences like geology, climatology, planetology, astronomy and physics are, in some way, incapable of foreseeing the disaster, or of comprehending it when it happens.

4. That pre-Columbian Toltec priests, along with certain Renaissance scholars (specifically French pharmacist Michel de Nostredame and Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci) did somehow have access to this knowledge, by a mechanism we no longer understand, enabling them to predict the exact date of the end of the world.

I do not remember which religion source linked to this source. But it offers the following observations that show a current distrust of science and experts. My question is how this is playing itself out in current visions of Judiasm? Jewish apocalypse? and the Jewish attitude toward science?

6 responses to “Science fiction and Theology

  1. First of all the idea of reality itself as unreal is as you know all over the place, Braudlliard, Deluze. The computer, the games played on the computer and the merger of telephony and the internet is changing people’s deep perceptions of the topology of the world. I think it is no less significant that the change from a feudal world to an early modern capitalist world.

    Now Jews being older and having a ton of Torah and tradition to schlep along are late adapters. On the skeptic blogs we are redoing logical positivism of the 30’s. But when this finally appears it will be a very positive force, because it will destroy the idea of hard reality, one correct true description corrsponding with the facts, and open up the possibility of seeing religious ideas as virtual or maybe as possible parallel worlds. When the idea of virtual Judaism merges with the Holocaust we have this romantic, uncanny new space of the living dead as found in Agamben and many others. Don’t sell your pre-Raphelite paintings.

  2. Do you think the skeptics will create an idea of virtual Judiasm? Why do you think they will create a vision of Judiasm as simulacra?
    From your point of view, what is gained by the idea of unreality applied to religion over, lets say, Rawls?
    What happens to ton of tradition in your virtual Judiasm?
    Dont you think that the skeptics will just treat the tradition as the Matrix, and to glad to be free?
    This Agamben connection is great and connects to what you did not post on the Fackenheim post. Can you develop it?

  3. I think it’s easy to convince charedim that Daas Torah requires some form of post modernism of the Rorty sort. I mean if they are going to deny evolution and scientific discoveries they don’t like, and they are going to deny historicism, where can they go other than saying gedolim create reality. Skeptics OTOH are so farbissen they have a very hard conception of the real. They didn’t come all this way to fall back into an enchanted magical world, even if pleasure inducing. Besides MO is all about everybody being on the same page, scientists, Jews, etc. If they would allow multiple pages they would have nothing left to talk about. (See the charedi blog Not Brisk on 10/15 and continuing on to 10/18, especially the comments of ChaimB in response to me. http://briskyeshivish.blogspot.com/).

    The virtual reality idea is not an ethical theory. It is designed to handle issues arising from the DH and evolution. It can be married to any theory of the good or the right. I’ve only read early Agamben on the Holocaust survivors, I can’t say I’ve worked my way through this very provocative thinker. What I can say is the idea of neshamot that continue to influence people, wander in our midst as it were, has as a source not only in Derrida’s book on specters, but also Agamben. One more thing…I think the horror genre is of much more consequence going forward than science fiction. My impressions come from reading left-left blogs on music, politics, and culture.

    • I think it’s easy to convince charedim that Daas Torah requires some form of post modernism of the Rorty sort. Skeptics OTOH are so farbissen they have a very hard conception of the real.
      I think you are committing a pre and post fallacy. Looking at the Haredi blog you commented on- he had no idea of what you were talking about and even what he was arguing. He was just ignorant and uneducated. That is not postmodern. You are confusing pre-rational with post-rational.
      Now back to skeptics- why would they like a virtual religion? I dont see the connection.

  4. I we are talking about a virtual Judiasm.

    There is a book that just came out this month called SimChurch, which argues for a virtual Church- Virtual Christianity.
    http://simchurch.com/

    It has generated a lively debate among Evangelicals and the author of the book responded. Lots of comments.

    http://www.outofur.com/archives/2009/10/in_defense_of_v.html

    http://www.outofur.com/archives/2009/10/why_virtual_chu.html

  5. I believe you underestimate the crowd on the NB site. ChaimB on the 10/15 post said “Evanston, instead of Kuhn I used Barthes to arrive at essentially the same idea you describe as a postmodernist approach.
    http://divreichaim.blogspot.com/2009/06/ask-wrong-question-get-wrong-answer.html
    I think these problems are easier to deal with using a constructivist theory of truth, with the definition truths molded by what experts (gedolim) define as opposed to what social convention defines. Science is no more than a consensus of a different set of experts re: how to interpret evidence. Different set of experts, different construct of reality. The paradigms of Torah truth and scientific truth are constantly in flux, rendering questions like why believing in a heliocentric universe was kefira in 1600 but not today moot.” He makes this point at greater length on his blog, DivreiChaim.

    Look, how do we actually decide both practice and historical biblical reality within the mesorah? Answer by looking into the canonical books. That is what we do, not digging for artifacts and reading books in the Wellhausen tradition. What is looking into these books…these midrashim, biblical or Talmudic or kabbalistic but choosing different imaginary realities. Button 1= 50 plagues, button 3 = 250 plagues. Button Rashi= X , click on button Zohar and we end up with reality Y.

    By skeptics I mean Orthoprax and former Orthodox who make a point of showing that Orthodoxy has no coherent rationale. As I said, and you might have misunderstood me , these guys are common sense realists and will never accept either postmodernism or virtual reality. They however are not the problem…they either like the tradition or not, and they can do amateur epistemolgy until they collect social security.Who cares? Secular people are not skeptics in the above sense. They are people far away from yiddishkeit, not ff’s kibbitzing at charedim.

    I believe the idea of the virtual reality of Torah will work because at some point as we move to the left the quest becomes a desire for spirituality, even if the specifics are not clear. We know ” Sinai as reality, suck it up” will not work. What will work is spirituality as inwardness, spirituality as body consciousness, spirituality as a decentering of the world, as a way of undoing the reifications of capitalism (vakm”l ), poured into Jewish vessels. I am with Bronfman in his recent debate with Wertheimer, and I think this circle of ideas might be able to be part of a theology of the future.

    The Evangelical discussions are about virtual churches. I understand those who say you need to stand in a tzibur next to a body. I am talking about virtual Torah. We aren’t standing next to the body of Moshe Rabeinu on any theology.

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