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How Upending Its Hidden Assumptions Can Deepen Your Read Of Science Fiction
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a425couple
2018-11-01 14:41:32 UTC
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How Upending Its Hidden Assumptions Can Deepen Your Read Of Science Fiction

Which foundational ideas, assumptions, and seemingly-semantic debates
mold how we interpret our world in relation to science and faith?

By Zachary Porcu
NOVEMBER 1, 2018
Many people will complain about problems while also complaining about
solutions. I see this in conversations all the time when people begin
discussing something they take seriously.

Say you’re having such a conversation, and you try to make a fine
distinction between two very similar points on which much of the
conversations hangs. Likely as not, your interlocutor will become
irritated and dismiss your distinction as semantics. Or say you see some
deeper issue underneath the surface of the main topic and you insist
that there is more beneath the surface. If you bring it up and try to
really focus on it, you will probably be told that you are overanalyzing.

Ironically, however, the ability to analyze precisely, identify
underlying assumptions, and make careful distinctions is precisely what
you gain when you get a real education. Indeed, many very educated
people––Dorothy Sayers and John Henry Newman, to give two famous
examples––have remarked that the ability to make clear distinctions is
almost the definition of what it means to be educated.

It’s easy to see why: without such abilities, you simply aren’t able to
get beyond the level of ramming generalizations at one another until
someone gives up. And if the modern person is not equipped for it, then
tracing the subtle track of a discussion to get at the real core of the
argument is bound to be a dizzying endeavor. No wonder he complains of
semantics––he really has no idea how to navigate such a discussion.

Indeed, these abilities have an almost ubiquitous relevance in modern
life, although some cases are more obvious than others. Naturally, being
able to analyze effectively, make careful distinctions, and get at the
deep assumptions of things are all invaluable for confronting the truly
overwhelming amount of information we are exposed to daily. But
something we often overlook is entertainment, which contains its own
kinds of deeper assumptions, although they are usually hidden to one
degree or another.

Science Fiction Lacks Religiosity, But Why?

Consider science fiction which, like all genres, has its own share of
standard tropes and themes. One of the main themes in science fiction is
the status of technology, and you’ll notice a frequent assumption that
technology will constantly grow more and more sophisticated over time;
more precisely, the assumption is about a certain idea of progression.

When people encounter alien cultures in science fiction, they’re usually
on some sort of a spectrum of more or less technologically––and,
therefore, intellectually––sophisticated. It’s very common, in these
situations, that more primitive cultures have “religion” while more
advanced cultures have dispensed with it. There’s no inherent reason
that intellectual sophistication and religion should be mutually
exclusive, but much of the time in science fiction, they are.

We see it, for example, in Star Trek. Less sophisticated cultures have
more primitive beliefs about the universe, and as they get more
sophisticated, they discard those beliefs. The assumption underneath
that is that religion is just an inferior or more crude form of science,
and that the primary reason we don’t believe in Zeus anymore is that we
now know where lightning really comes from.

Far from being more than a little insulting to the remarkable
sophistication of the belief systems of ancient peoples, we now get to
the heart of the matter: there is, at the bottom of our faith in
technological progress, the assumption that science is the best (or the
only real) source for truth. Is this a good assumption? Well, it turns
out that the root of this assumption is a failure to make a clear
distinction between different types of knowledge.

Sound semantic? Read on.

Does Something Have To Be Verifiable To Be True?

Science is very useful, but it’s often misunderstood. The scientific
method is, at heart, about verification and demonstrability. This means
if you and I have a dispute about the nature of something, say, the
temperature at which water boils, we could conduct a simple experiment
in the kitchen to verify this fact.

If I had been insisting that water boils at 50 degrees Celsius, you
would be able to demonstrate my error. If I complained that there was
some fluke in the experiment and that you simply got lucky, we could do
the experiment over and over again until my error was clear.

This ability to test things with experiments and produce data that can
be verified over and over again (then demonstrated to others) is what
makes the scientific method so powerful. So powerful, in fact, that we
as a culture often romanticize it and equivocate this one sort of
knowledge––the kind that is verifiable or demonstrable––with all
knowledge. We assume that if something can’t be verified by testing,
then it isn’t true, or that we should be very skeptical about it. But
this is our failure to make a good distinction.

The reality is that the verifiable or the demonstrable is only one
category of knowledge, and we believe all sorts of things that we can
neither verify nor demonstrate. Take the existence of the material world
itself: we can’t verify that it is real rather than an illusion. How
about the existence of the past? The universe could have been created
five minutes ago with the appearance of age and all our memories implanted.

What about the existence of other minds? What if you’re the only person
in the world, and the rest of us are soulless automata made to have the
appearance of consciousness? None of these can be demonstrated, either
for or against. That is, there is no way to verify the existence of the
material world, other minds, or the past. Yet we are all rational in
believing these things, and we don’t criticize each other for holding
such “unscientific” views.

Or take something less weighty than these thought experiments. There are
so many things you know about yourself, your friends, your spouse, and
your children that you can’t even begin to verify or prove to anyone
else, but which you have a real sense of and can rightly say that you know.

If you think about all the other kinds of known things, like beliefs on
the basis of authority or aesthetic experience, for example, you see
that there are many kinds of knowledge. Most of them aren’t verifiable
or demonstrable, but we can still be considered reasonable people if we
believe in them. The idea that all knowledge has to be verifiable or
demonstrable is just an assertion, and in fact goes against our daily,
lived experience.

What If Things Were Different?

So we see that this little distinction between different kinds of
knowledge is the basis of a series of layered assumptions that
ultimately manifests itself in the science fiction trope of what
historians now call the “myth of progress,” which affects how other
civilizations are presented in the genre. One stone changes the course
of a river, and it is the same way with these deeply buried intellectual
assumptions. But what if things were different?

In C.S. Lewis’ celebrated Space Trilogy, he self-consciously writes
science fiction stories in which he plays with these foundational ideas,
using a medieval cosmology and classical principles about knowledge
rather than the secular or modern ones we see so often. The result is a
fascinating story with a wildly different take on alien life, space
travel, and man’s relationship to the universe. This weekend I’ll be
presenting an extended look at these themes at the Washington D.C.
conference Doxacon.

This brings us back to the original theme, education. Traditional
education may be lackluster, but this is all the more reason that
conferences like Doxacon are so important. They are the perfect places
to continue sharpening our educational tools. Doxacon’s focus is “faith
and fandoms,” an ambitious aim that seeks to examine science fiction,
fantasy, superhero, horror, and other geek and pop culture genres with
the sophisticated intellectual lens of classical Christian education.

Conferences like these are some of the emerging places where thoughtful
people are meeting to delve into the deeper ideas and hidden assumptions
that are all around us. For these ideas are certainly there, informing
and shaping the way we see the world, and the less aware we are and the
fewer tools we have to engage them, the more thoroughly we’ll be under
the power of such unseen forces.


Zachary teaches church history at the Catholic University of America in
Washington D.C. His research interests include Eastern Patristic
theology, the pedagogy of ideas in Western culture, and the problems
posed by secularism in modernity.

analysis discourse discussion Doxacon education epistemology knowledge
philosophy sci-fi science science fiction thinking
Copyright © 2018 The Federalist, a wholly independent division of FDRLST
Media, All Rights Reserved.
h***@gmail.com
2018-11-05 11:54:00 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by a425couple
from
https://thefederalist.com/2018/11/01/upending-hidden-assumptions-can-deepen-read-science-fiction/
How Upending Its Hidden Assumptions Can Deepen Your Read Of Science Fiction
Which foundational ideas, assumptions, and seemingly-semantic debates
mold how we interpret our world in relation to science and faith?
By Zachary Porcu
NOVEMBER 1, 2018
Many people will complain about problems while also complaining about
solutions. I see this in conversations all the time when people begin
discussing something they take seriously.
Say you’re having such a conversation, and you try to make a fine
distinction between two very similar points on which much of the
conversations hangs. Likely as not, your interlocutor will become
irritated and dismiss your distinction as semantics.
Or perhaps the author thinks he sees fine differences and other people disagree with him?
Post by a425couple
Or say you see some
deeper issue underneath the surface of the main topic and you insist
that there is more beneath the surface. If you bring it up and try to
really focus on it, you will probably be told that you are overanalyzing.
Or maybe the author is prone to seeing things that aren't there?
Post by a425couple
Ironically, however, the ability to analyze precisely, identify
underlying assumptions, and make careful distinctions is precisely what
you gain when you get a real education. Indeed, many very educated
people––Dorothy Sayers and John Henry Newman, to give two famous
examples––have remarked that the ability to make clear distinctions is
almost the definition of what it means to be educated.
Where real education is something the author thinks helps boost his argument...
Post by a425couple
It’s easy to see why: without such abilities, you simply aren’t able to
get beyond the level of ramming generalizations at one another until
someone gives up. And if the modern person is not equipped for it, then
tracing the subtle track of a discussion to get at the real core of the
argument is bound to be a dizzying endeavor. No wonder he complains of
semantics––he really has no idea how to navigate such a discussion.
Assuming the conclusion...
Post by a425couple
Indeed, these abilities have an almost ubiquitous relevance in modern
life, although some cases are more obvious than others. Naturally, being
able to analyze effectively, make careful distinctions, and get at the
deep assumptions of things are all invaluable for confronting the truly
overwhelming amount of information we are exposed to daily. But
something we often overlook is entertainment, which contains its own
kinds of deeper assumptions, although they are usually hidden to one
degree or another.
Science Fiction Lacks Religiosity, But Why?
Consider science fiction which, like all genres, has its own share of
standard tropes and themes. One of the main themes in science fiction is
the status of technology, and you’ll notice a frequent assumption that
technology will constantly grow more and more sophisticated over time;
more precisely, the assumption is about a certain idea of progression.
When people encounter alien cultures in science fiction, they’re usually
on some sort of a spectrum of more or less technologically––and,
therefore, intellectually––sophisticated. It’s very common, in these
situations, that more primitive cultures have “religion” while more
advanced cultures have dispensed with it. There’s no inherent reason
that intellectual sophistication and religion should be mutually
exclusive, but much of the time in science fiction, they are.
We see it, for example, in Star Trek. Less sophisticated cultures have
more primitive beliefs about the universe, and as they get more
sophisticated, they discard those beliefs. The assumption underneath
that is that religion is just an inferior or more crude form of science,
and that the primary reason we don’t believe in Zeus anymore is that we
now know where lightning really comes from.
When religions make claims that are proven to be bullshit it's hard to see why people wouldn't reconsider them..
e.g. animals being born with different color due to the fencing changing changing.
multiples of every animal fitting onto a small ship where rain fell and covered every mountain in the world...
Not to mention problems within the book itself (2 different orders for creation to occur, 1 story that had weird shit happening when Jesus was born but the other writers didn't consider that worth commenting on, obviously angelic choirs were old hat...
Post by a425couple
Far from being more than a little insulting to the remarkable
sophistication of the belief systems of ancient peoples, we now get to
the heart of the matter: there is, at the bottom of our faith in
technological progress, the assumption that science is the best (or the
only real) source for truth. Is this a good assumption? Well, it turns
out that the root of this assumption is a failure to make a clear
distinction between different types of knowledge.
Which strangely enough the author has to try and do to justify his job...
Post by a425couple
Sound semantic? Read on.
Sounds like stretching.
Post by a425couple
Does Something Have To Be Verifiable To Be True?
Science is very useful, but it’s often misunderstood. The scientific
method is, at heart, about verification and demonstrability. This means
if you and I have a dispute about the nature of something, say, the
temperature at which water boils, we could conduct a simple experiment
in the kitchen to verify this fact.
If I had been insisting that water boils at 50 degrees Celsius, you
would be able to demonstrate my error. If I complained that there was
some fluke in the experiment and that you simply got lucky, we could do
the experiment over and over again until my error was clear.
This ability to test things with experiments and produce data that can
be verified over and over again (then demonstrated to others) is what
makes the scientific method so powerful. So powerful, in fact, that we
as a culture often romanticize it and equivocate this one sort of
knowledge––the kind that is verifiable or demonstrable––with all
knowledge. We assume that if something can’t be verified by testing,
then it isn’t true, or that we should be very skeptical about it. But
this is our failure to make a good distinction.
The reality is that the verifiable or the demonstrable is only one
category of knowledge, and we believe all sorts of things that we can
neither verify nor demonstrate. Take the existence of the material world
itself: we can’t verify that it is real rather than an illusion. How
about the existence of the past? The universe could have been created
five minutes ago with the appearance of age and all our memories implanted.
What about the existence of other minds? What if you’re the only person
in the world, and the rest of us are soulless automata made to have the
appearance of consciousness? None of these can be demonstrated, either
for or against. That is, there is no way to verify the existence of the
material world, other minds, or the past. Yet we are all rational in
believing these things, and we don’t criticize each other for holding
such “unscientific” views.
He might want to consider Occam's Razor here.
All of the cases he's burbling about
(the world is an illusion, extremely recent creationism, solipsism) require a lot more assumptions so there would need to be more evidence in favor of them than the other possibility.
Post by a425couple
Or take something less weighty than these thought experiments. There are
so many things you know about yourself, your friends, your spouse, and
your children that you can’t even begin to verify or prove to anyone
else, but which you have a real sense of and can rightly say that you know.
And he he tries to ignore the distinction between know and believe.
Post by a425couple
If you think about all the other kinds of known things, like beliefs on
the basis of authority or aesthetic experience, for example, you see
that there are many kinds of knowledge.
Again, confusing belief and knowledge.
Post by a425couple
Most of them aren’t verifiable
or demonstrable, but we can still be considered reasonable people if we
believe in them. The idea that all knowledge has to be verifiable or
demonstrable is just an assertion, and in fact goes against our daily,
lived experience.
However if a religion makes particular claims and those claims are found to be wrong does that not argue strongly against the basis of the religion?
Post by a425couple
What If Things Were Different?
So we see that this little distinction between different kinds of
knowledge is the basis of a series of layered assumptions that
ultimately manifests itself in the science fiction trope of what
historians now call the “myth of progress,” which affects how other
civilizations are presented in the genre.
Argument from authority combined with what seems to be either a misunderstanding of the term "the myth of progress" or deliberately misrepresenting it.
Post by a425couple
One stone changes the course
of a river, and it is the same way with these deeply buried intellectual
assumptions. But what if things were different?
In C.S. Lewis’ celebrated Space Trilogy, he self-consciously writes
science fiction stories in which he plays with these foundational ideas,
using a medieval cosmology and classical principles about knowledge
rather than the secular or modern ones we see so often. The result is a
fascinating story with a wildly different take on alien life, space
travel, and man’s relationship to the universe.
Which can be done without religion.
Post by a425couple
This weekend I’ll be
presenting an extended look at these themes at the Washington D.C.
conference Doxacon.
This brings us back to the original theme, education. Traditional
education may be lackluster, but this is all the more reason that
conferences like Doxacon are so important. They are the perfect places
to continue sharpening our educational tools. Doxacon’s focus is “faith
and fandoms,” an ambitious aim that seeks to examine science fiction,
fantasy, superhero, horror, and other geek and pop culture genres with
the sophisticated intellectual lens of classical Christian education.
Angels dancing on the head of a pin man confronts problems by putting all who disagree with him to the sword to let Gawd sort them out.
Post by a425couple
Conferences like these are some of the emerging places where thoughtful
people are meeting to delve into the deeper ideas and hidden assumptions
that are all around us.
and forming circles where they convince themselves that their religion is true and anybody who doesn't agree with it is just wrong and badly educated.
Post by a425couple
For these ideas are certainly there, informing
and shaping the way we see the world, and the less aware we are and the
fewer tools we have to engage them, the more thoroughly we’ll be under
the power of such unseen forces.
Amusing when he wants to promote the unseen force of God...
Post by a425couple
Zachary teaches church history at the Catholic University of America in
Washington D.C. His research interests include Eastern Patristic
theology, the pedagogy of ideas in Western culture, and the problems
posed by secularism in modernity.
so he's not at all biased...
Post by a425couple
analysis discourse discussion Doxacon education epistemology knowledge
philosophy sci-fi science science fiction thinking
"Mana and Meaning: Theology and Teleology in Magic: The Gathering"
Post by a425couple
Copyright © 2018 The Federalist, a wholly independent division of FDRLST
Media, All Rights Reserved.
David Johnston
2018-11-05 17:02:23 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by a425couple
from
https://thefederalist.com/2018/11/01/upending-hidden-assumptions-can-deepen-read-science-fiction/
How Upending Its Hidden Assumptions Can Deepen Your Read Of Science Fiction
Which foundational ideas, assumptions, and seemingly-semantic debates
mold how we interpret our world in relation to science and faith?
By Zachary Porcu
NOVEMBER 1, 2018
Many people will complain about problems while also complaining about
solutions. I see this in conversations all the time when people begin
discussing something they take seriously.
Say you’re having such a conversation, and you try to make a fine
distinction between two very similar points on which much of the
conversations hangs. Likely as not, your interlocutor will become
irritated and dismiss your distinction as semantics. Or say you see some
deeper issue underneath the surface of the main topic and you insist
that there is more beneath the surface. If you bring it up and try to
really focus on it, you will probably be told that you are overanalyzing.
Ironically, however, the ability to analyze precisely, identify
underlying assumptions, and make careful distinctions is precisely what
you gain when you get a real education. Indeed, many very educated
people––Dorothy Sayers and John Henry Newman, to give two famous
examples––have remarked that the ability to make clear distinctions is
almost the definition of what it means to be educated.
It’s easy to see why: without such abilities, you simply aren’t able to
get beyond the level of ramming generalizations at one another until
someone gives up. And if the modern person is not equipped for it, then
tracing the subtle track of a discussion to get at the real core of the
argument is bound to be a dizzying endeavor. No wonder he complains of
semantics––he really has no idea how to navigate such a discussion.
Indeed, these abilities have an almost ubiquitous relevance in modern
life, although some cases are more obvious than others. Naturally, being
able to analyze effectively, make careful distinctions, and get at the
deep assumptions of things are all invaluable for confronting the truly
overwhelming amount of information we are exposed to daily. But
something we often overlook is entertainment, which contains its own
kinds of deeper assumptions, although they are usually hidden to one
degree or another.
Science Fiction Lacks Religiosity, But Why?
Ah. So here we have a person who just told us how important an education is when discussing the details of a subject. He will now proceed to discuss science fiction without knowing anything about Simak, Herbert, Blish, or Clarke and without even paying attention to Lucas.
Post by a425couple
Consider science fiction which, like all genres, has its own share of
standard tropes and themes. One of the main themes in science fiction is
the status of technology, and you’ll notice a frequent assumption that
technology will constantly grow more and more sophisticated over time;
more precisely, the assumption is about a certain idea of progression.
When people encounter alien cultures in science fiction, they’re usually
on some sort of a spectrum of more or less technologically––and,
therefore, intellectually––sophisticated.
I'd say that it's usually false that science fiction portrays the less technologically advanced species as less intellectually sophisticated.

It’s very common, in these
Post by a425couple
situations, that more primitive cultures have “religion” while more
advanced cultures have dispensed with it. There’s no inherent reason
that intellectual sophistication and religion should be mutually
exclusive, but much of the time in science fiction, they are.
We see it, for example, in Star Trek.
<sigh> He's watched Star Trek. Clearly he is an authority on science fiction.

Less sophisticated cultures have
Post by a425couple
more primitive beliefs about the universe, and as they get more
sophisticated, they discard those beliefs. The assumption underneath
that is that religion is just an inferior or more crude form of science,
and that the primary reason we don’t believe in Zeus anymore is that we
now know where lightning really comes from.
It does rather discourage belief in specific storm gods.
Post by a425couple
Far from being more than a little insulting to the remarkable
sophistication of the belief systems of ancient peoples, we now get to
the heart of the matter: there is, at the bottom of our faith in
technological progress, the assumption that science is the best (or the
only real) source for truth. Is this a good assumption? Well, it turns
out that the root of this assumption is a failure to make a clear
distinction between different types of knowledge.
Sound semantic? Read on.
No. It doesn't sound semantic. It sounds dishonest. It sounds like
you are going to be telling us that things that aren't knowledge are
knowledge.
Post by a425couple
Does Something Have To Be Verifiable To Be True?
No. But it does have to be falsifiable to be knowledge. There's lots of
true things that we can't know.
Post by a425couple
Science is very useful, but it’s often misunderstood. The scientific
method is, at heart, about verification and demonstrability. This means
if you and I have a dispute about the nature of something, say, the
temperature at which water boils, we could conduct a simple experiment
in the kitchen to verify this fact.
If I had been insisting that water boils at 50 degrees Celsius, you
would be able to demonstrate my error. If I complained that there was
some fluke in the experiment and that you simply got lucky, we could do
the experiment over and over again until my error was clear.
This ability to test things with experiments and produce data that can
be verified over and over again (then demonstrated to others) is what
makes the scientific method so powerful. So powerful, in fact, that we
as a culture often romanticize it and equivocate this one sort of
knowledge––the kind that is verifiable or demonstrable––with all
knowledge. We assume that if something can’t be verified by testing,
then it isn’t true, or that we should be very skeptical about it. But
this is our failure to make a good distinction.
The reality is that the verifiable or the demonstrable is only one
category of knowledge, and we believe all sorts of things thfat we can
neither verify nor demonstrate. Take the existence of the material world
itself: we can’t verify that it is real rather than an illusion.
Actually we "verify" that it is real every time we interact with it and it
reacts as if it was real.

How
Post by a425couple
about the existence of the past? The universe could have been created
five minutes ago with the appearance of age and all our memories implanted.
That however would make it no less real for practical purposes. The distinction betwee\=]p0-azAFGHJKL;'
\]=-9Q1
Post by a425couple
What about the existence of other minds? What if you’re the only person
in the world, and the rest of us are soulless automata made to have the
appearance of consciousness?
To create such an appearance would require other minds.

None of these can be demonstrated, either
Post by a425couple
for or against. That is, there is no way to verify the existence of the
material world, other minds, or the past. Yet we are all rational in
believing these things, and we don’t criticize each other for holding
such “unscientific” views.
Or take something less weighty than these thought experiments. There are
so many things you know about yourself, your friends, your spouse, and
your children that you can’t even begin to verify or prove to anyone
else, but which you have a real sense of and can rightly say that you know.
No, I can't.
Post by a425couple
If you think about all the other kinds of known things, like beliefs on
the basis of authority or aesthetic experience, for example, you see
that there are many kinds of knowledge. Most of them aren’t verifiable
or demonstrable, but we can still be considered reasonable people if we
believe in them.
The idea that all knowledge has to be verifiable or
Post by a425couple
demonstrable is just an assertion, and in fact goes against our daily,
lived experience.
What If Things Were Different?
So we see that this little distinction between different kinds of
knowledge is the basis of a series of layered assumptions that
ultimately manifests itself in the science fiction trope of what
historians now call the “myth of progress,” which affects how other
civilizations are presented in the genre. One stone changes the course
of a river, and it is the same way with these deeply buried intellectual
assumptions. But what if things were different?
In C.S. Lewis’ celebrated Space Trilogy, he self-consciously writes
science fiction stories in which he plays with these foundational ideas,
using a medieval cosmology and classical principles about knowledge
rather than the secular or modern ones we see so often. The result is a
fascinating story with a wildly different take on alien life, space
travel, and man’s relationship to the universe. This weekend I’ll be
presenting an extended look at these themes at the Washington D.C.
conference Doxacon.
This brings us back to the original theme, education. Traditional
education may be lackluster, but this is all the more reason that
conferences like Doxacon are so important. They are the perfect places
to continue sharpening our educational tools. Doxacon’s focus is “faith
and fandoms,” an ambitious aim that seeks to examine science fiction,
fantasy, superhero, horror, and other geek and pop culture genres with
the sophisticated intellectual lens of classical Christian education.
Conferences like these are some of the emerging places where thoughtful
people are meeting to delve into the deeper ideas and hidden assumptions
that are all around us. For these ideas are certainly there, informing
and shaping the way we see the world, and the less aware we are and the
fewer tools we have to engage them, the more thoroughly we’ll be under
the power of such unseen forces.
Zachary teaches church history at the Catholic University of America in
Washington D.C. His research interests include Eastern Patristic
theology, the pedagogy of ideas in Western culture, and the problems
posed by secularism in modernity.
analysis discourse discussion Doxacon education epistemology knowledge
philosophy sci-fi science science fiction thinking
Copyright © 2018 The Federalist, a wholly independent division of FDRLST
Media, All Rights Reserved.=-q1
David Johnston
2018-11-05 17:28:45 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by a425couple
from
https://thefederalist.com/2018/11/01/upending-hidden-assumptions-can-deepen-read-science-fiction/
How Upending Its Hidden Assumptions Can Deepen Your Read Of Science Fiction
Which foundational ideas, assumptions, and seemingly-semantic debates
mold how we interpret our world in relation to science and faith?
By Zachary Porcu
NOVEMBER 1, 2018
Many people will complain about problems while also complaining about
solutions. I see this in conversations all the time when people begin
discussing something they take seriously.
Say you’re having such a conversation, and you try to make a fine
distinction between two very similar points on which much of the
conversations hangs. Likely as not, your interlocutor will become
irritated and dismiss your distinction as semantics. Or say you see some
deeper issue underneath the surface of the main topic and you insist
that there is more beneath the surface. If you bring it up and try to
really focus on it, you will probably be told that you are overanalyzing.
Ironically, however, the ability to analyze precisely, identify
underlying assumptions, and make careful distinctions is precisely what
you gain when you get a real education. Indeed, many very educated
people––Dorothy Sayers and John Henry Newman, to give two famous
examples––have remarked that the ability to make clear distinctions is
almost the definition of what it means to be educated.
It’s easy to see why: without such abilities, you simply aren’t able to
get beyond the level of ramming generalizations at one another until
someone gives up. And if the modern person is not equipped for it, then
tracing the subtle track of a discussion to get at the real core of the
argument is bound to be a dizzying endeavor. No wonder he complains of
semantics––he really has no idea how to navigate such a discussion.
Indeed, these abilities have an almost ubiquitous relevance in modern
life, although some cases are more obvious than others. Naturally, being
able to analyze effectively, make careful distinctions, and get at the
deep assumptions of things are all invaluable for confronting the truly
overwhelming amount of information we are exposed to daily. But
something we often overlook is entertainment, which contains its own
kinds of deeper assumptions, although they are usually hidden to one
degree or another.
Science Fiction Lacks Religiosity, But Why?
Ah. He begins with a discussion of how important it is to be educated in order to discuss a subject with sophistication and then proceeds to discuss science fiction without being familiar with Simak, Blish, Herbert and Clarke. I mean Asimov was a card-carrying atheist and he still wrote a science fiction story that ended with "Let There Be LIght!"
Post by a425couple
Consider science fiction which, like all genres, has its own share of
standard tropes and themes. One of the main themes in science fiction is
the status of technology, and you’ll notice a frequent assumption that
technology will constantly grow more and more sophisticated over time;
more precisely, the assumption is about a certain idea of progression.
When people encounter alien cultures in science fiction, they’re usually
on some sort of a spectrum of more or less technologically––and,
therefore, intellectually––sophisticated.
An equation that isn't actually all that common in science fiction. Less technologically advanced cultures are usually portrayed as having people every bit as smarter or smarter than their interstellar visitors.

It’s very common, in these
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situations, that more primitive cultures have “religion” while more
advanced cultures have dispensed with it. There’s no inherent reason
that intellectual sophistication and religion should be mutually
exclusive, but much of the time in science fiction, they are.
We see it, for example, in Star Trek.
Ah. He has watched Star Trek. Therefore he is obviously deeply
knowledgeable about science fiction. He's done his research.

Less sophisticated cultures have
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more primitive beliefs about the universe, and as they get more
sophisticated, they discard those beliefs. The assumption underneath
that is that religion is just an inferior or more crude form of science,
and that the primary reason we don’t believe in Zeus anymore is that we
now know where lightning really comes from.
Far from being more than a little insulting to the remarkable
sophistication of the belief systems of ancient peoples, we now get to
the heart of the matter: there is, at the bottom of our faith in
technological progress, the assumption that science is the best (or the
only real) source for truth. Is this a good assumption? Well, it turns
out that the root of this assumption is a failure to make a clear
distinction between different types of knowledge.
Sound semantic? Read on.
No. It sounds dishonest. It sounds as if you are about to try to sell me a bill of goods.
Post by a425couple
Does Something Have To Be Verifiable To Be True?
Science is very useful, but it’s often misunderstood. The scientific
method is, at heart, about verification and demonstrability. This means
if you and I have a dispute about the nature of something, say, the
temperature at which water boils, we could conduct a simple experiment
in the kitchen to verify this fact.
If I had been insisting that water boils at 50 degrees Celsius, you
would be able to demonstrate my error. If I complained that there was
some fluke in the experiment and that you simply got lucky, we could do
the experiment over and over again until my error was clear.
This ability to test things with experiments and produce data that can
be verified over and over again (then demonstrated to others) is what
makes the scientific method so powerful. So powerful, in fact, that we
as a culture often romanticize it and equivocate this one sort of
knowledge––the kind that is verifiable or demonstrable––with all
knowledge. We assume that if something can’t be verified by testing,
then it isn’t true, or that we should be very skeptical about it. But
this is our failure to make a good distinction.
The reality is that the verifiable or the demonstrable is only one
category of knowledge, and we believe all sorts of things that we can
neither verify nor demonstrate. Take the existence of the material world
itself: we can’t verify that it is real rather than an illusion.
We verify it every time we interact with it and it reacts as if it is real.

How
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about the existence of the past? The universe could have been created
five minutes ago with the appearance of age and all our memories implanted.
Which would still make those things real.
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What about the existence of other minds? What if you’re the only person
in the world, and the rest of us are soulless automata made to have the
appearance of consciousness?
Such a simulation would require other minds to provide the necessary instructions to the automata.

None of these can be demonstrated, either
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for or against. That is, there is no way to verify the existence of the
material world, other minds, or the past.
Actually all those things can be demonstrated as well as anything can. In fact they include everything so that's true by definition.

Yet we are all rational in
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believing these things, and we don’t criticize each other for holding
such “unscientific” views.
Because they aren't unscientific. The application of Occam's Razor is the core assumption of the scientific method.
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Or take something less weighty than these thought experiments. There are
so many things you know about yourself, your friends, your spouse, and
your children that you can’t even begin to verify or prove to anyone
else, but which you have a real sense of and can rightly say that you know.
No, I can't.
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If you think about all the other kinds of known things, like beliefs on
the basis of authority or aesthetic experience, for example, you see
that there are many kinds of knowledge. Most of them aren’t verifiable
or demonstrable, but we can still be considered reasonable people if we
believe in them.
Because opinions are like assholes. Everyone has them. That doesn't make them "knowledge".

The idea that all knowledge has to be verifiable or
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demonstrable is just an assertion, and in fact goes against our daily,
lived experience.
No. It doesn't.
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What If Things Were Different?
So we see that this little distinction between different kinds of
knowledge is the basis of a series of layered assumptions that
ultimately manifests itself in the science fiction trope of what
historians now call the “myth of progress,” which affects how other
civilizations are presented in the genre. One stone changes the course
of a river, and it is the same way with these deeply buried intellectual
assumptions. But what if things were different?
In C.S. Lewis’ celebrated Space Trilogy,
The Space Trilogy is about the worst thing C.S. Lewis ever wrote.

he self-consciously writes
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science fiction stories in which he plays with these foundational ideas,
using a medieval cosmology and classical principles about knowledge
rather than the secular or modern ones we see so often. The result is a
fascinating story with a wildly different take on alien life, space
travel, and man’s relationship to the universe.
This weekend I’ll be
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presenting an extended look at these themes at the Washington D.C.
conference Doxacon.
And in doing so will you demonstrate knowledge of science fiction that goes deeper than the oeuvre of Gene Roddenberry?
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