October 19, 2023

This Post is Old!

The post you are reading is years old and may not represent my current views. I started blogging around the time I first began to study philosophy, age 17. In my view, the point of philosophy is to expose our beliefs to rational scrutiny so we can revise them and get better beliefs that are more likely to be true. That's what I've been up to all these years, and this blog has been part of that process. For my latest thoughts, please see the front page.

Philosophy and Science Fiction, Unit 4: Religion and Spirituality

At long last, the reading recommendations for the fourth and final unit of my Philosophy and Science Fiction class!

The task for this unit is to analyze a work of science fiction that raises questions about the appropriateness of religious attitudes (e.g., worship).

Required Reading

Week 1: Appropriate Objects of Religious AttitudesAsimov, The Last Question" (1956)
De Cruz, "Mathematical Revelations" (2021)
"Scientists Speculate Universe May Be Simulation After 'Trial Version Expired' Appears Across Sky," The Onion (2022)
Sobel, Logic and Theism (2004), ch. 1
Week 2: Appropriate Subjects of Religious AttitudesSilverberg, "Good News From the Vatican" (1971) Jha, "Pope's astronomer says he would baptise an alien if it asked him," The Guardian (2010)
Ikhwân al-Safâ’, The Case of the Animals (c. 970), chs. 1 and 30
Pawl, "Exploring Theological Zoology" (2019)
Week 3: Evil and HiddennessChiang, "Hell Is the Absence of God" (2001)Metcalf, "The Problem of Evil" (2014)
Bayless, "Divine Hiddenness" (2016)
Schellenberg, "Does Divine Hiddenness Justify Atheism?" (2004)
Week 4: Do Religious Attitudes Need Objects?Le Guin, "Solitude" (1994)Xunzi, "A Discussion of Heaven" and "A Discussion of Rites" (3rd cent. BCE)
Selections from Wittgenstein, "Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough" (c. 1948)

Additional Scifi Recommendations

C. S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet (1938)

Dr. Elwin Ransom, a philologist (linguist) is abducted and taken to the planet Malacandra. The people there worship a god known as 'Maleldil the Young'. Is Maleldil an appropriate object of religious attitudes? How does this alien religion relate to Dr. Ransom's own Christian beliefs?

Jacqueline Susann, Yargo: A Love Story (written c. 1953; published 1979)

A young woman is abducted by aliens and taken to the planet Yargo, which is ruled by a God-king known only as 'the Yargo'. Is the Yargo an appropriate object of religious attitudes?

Content advisory: sexual violence

Arthur C. Clarke, "The Star" (1955)

A Jesuit astrophysicist is on his way home from an interstellar voyage to investigate the remains of a star system destroyed by a supernova. He finds his faith deeply shaken by what he has learned.

Poul Anderson, "Goat Song" (1972)

In the distant future, a god-like computer, SUM, promises humans immortality. The personalities of the deceased are stored in SUM. One day, when the time is right, SUM promises that all will be resurrected. But can SUM be trusted?

Note: this story is a re-telling of the Greek myth of Orpheus.

Octavia Butler, Parable series (1993–1998)

In the year 2024, Lauren Olamina is a survivor in a dystopian future California. She is also the founder of a new religious movement called 'Earthseed'. Olamina preaches that "God is change." What does she mean by this? Could change be an appropriate object of religious attitudes?

Content advisory: sexual violence; child abuse; suicide

Brian Stableford, "Mortimer Gray's History of Death" (1995)

As a young man, Mortimer Gray nearly died in a sailing accident. In a future in which disease, cancer, and even aging have been eliminated, he was deeply marked by this brush with death, and spent the next several centuries writing a massive, multi-volume History of Death. Gray interprets the rise of the world religions as an important phase in humanity's war against death.

N. K. Jemisin, "The Brides of Heaven" (2007), reprinted in How Long 'til Black Future Month? (2018)

Plans to found a Muslim space colony are disrupted when a malfunction of the suspended animation apparatus kills everyone in the men's chamber. The all-female colony aims to build a life for themselves and practice their faith on a faraway planet.

Cixin Liu, Taking Care of Gods (2012)

An alien spaceship arrives at earth. Its inhabitants call themselves "the god civilization" and announce that they have created the human race for one purpose: to care for them in their old age.

Sofia Samatar, "The New Book of the Dead" (2021)

In the near future, the godmachines promise to help humans become gods after death, in the name of Thoth, God of Science.

Posted by Kenny at October 19, 2023 9:08 AM
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