Let’s focus on what I think is the most significant part of the Star Diaries collection: the 21st voyage. Clearly, this is Lem’s Summa Theologica for a technological age. First, we have to be clear. This is not a traditional “science vs. theology” conflict. There is no such conflict. The idea that science and faith are diametrically opposed is, as Brian Fellows (aka Tracy Morgan) says: IT’S JUST CRAZY. And second, Lem is just plain funny.
Set aside the multiplicity of definitions of religion and religiosity and settle on this. Religious thought is the logical process of reasoning in light of an incomplete informational data set. Let’s lay aside Godel’s theorem and all the other information theoretic constructs were familiar with. There are just some things we just don’t know. What’s human consciousness? What is the source of our feeling of self-awareness or just plain self? Why is there an apparent order to the universe? Why can’t there be just plain nothing – the most-symmetric state!
So there’s no conflict between religious and scientific thought. They just cover different domains. But technology throws a whole bunch of new stuff into the mix. For example, many church dogma hold that an immortal “soul” (whatever that is) is engendered at conception. Well, suppose you could “reverse generate” a being – take it from its adult form back to a sperm and egg pair and then return those two parts to their original separate states. Where did the “immortal soul” go?
But there are two basic boundary conditions in all this: whatever we come up with, it can’t violate our basic perception of the universe (a rose is a rose is a rose…) and it can’t be contradictory. So either the soul (if there is a soul) is immortal, or it isn’t!
In the voyage in question, Lem’s hero – Ijon Tichy ( I, John Cheeky) – lands on a distant planet and encounters a group called “ the Demolition Friars.” This is a religious sect whose members are robots. Turns out that for a while, many years in the planets past, there were arguments and violent out-breaks over religious belief. And every time one side looked like it was winning, some technological advance would give the advantage to the other. This is just like the issue of the immortal soul in light of “reverse generation.”
So the planet’s inhabitants thought these problems were just so complex and the answers so, ultimately, trivial that they handed them over to machines (such as the Demolition Friars.) The friars realized that the problem, at its base, was not solvable. But also, they realized, that based on the construct of physical beings, chemical (or other physical manipulations) were always possible. You could take a pill that would make you a devout catholic or another pill that would make you an atheist.
And in the end, the Friars came up with the ultimate “faith bomb.” A procedure so powerful (chemical, surgical, verbal, whatever) that its recipient would “believe.” They would see the internal logic of the universe, realize without doubt, the spiritual nature of the universe, the immortality of the soul, the existence of God (whatever that is) and see into the ultimate mystery with perfect clarity. And, what’s more, the process would be irreversible. It couldn’t be undone - once a believer, always a believer. WOW!
But the friars refused to pull the trigger. They would not deploy their “best shot.” They, themselves, would remain to “sit among fossilized rats in this maze of dried up sewers.” But they would not deprive their fellow beings freedom of choice… whatever that is.
What an incredible story! This is clearly the best “theology” to come out of the last 2000 years.
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0816492832
- ISBN-13: 978-0816492831
- Package Dimensions: 21.1 x 14 x 3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 454 g
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