Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Science fiction story

I'm sure this is not terribly original, but here's my story.

One day, spaceships appear in the sky.  Appearing on every television screen, radio, and pool of water, the ships broadcast the following message to everyone:

"Greetings, citizens of Earth! We are a race of life forms so vastly superior to you that our ways cannot be understood by your puny human brains. We also possess knowledge of morality that is advanced far beyond your own understanding and cannot be refuted by any of your Earth philosophers.

"According to our high moral standards, which we cannot explain to you, you all deserve to die the most painful deaths imaginable.  We shall now execute this sentence. Your insides will be melted, and your eyes will explode in their sockets. Your children and spousal units will be vaporized before your eyes. Your planet will then be incinerated.

"However, our laws also require mercy, and therefore you will have one chance to save your own miserable lives. If you become our slaves and do as we say from now on, you will be transported to another planet and allowed to survive. However, your unrepentant family members will still remain behind and be destroyed."

I don't know about you, but I've seen this movie many times. It involves the entire human race justifiably uniting to fight off the alien menace. Depending on what kind of movie it is, either we're victorious or everybody dies for nothing.

Now the question I have is: How is this scenario any less outrageous if you rename the alien beings "God"?


  1. You left out the part where the aliens claim to have created our planet and all life on it, which gives them the right to vaporize us and inhale to fumes to get a buzz.

  2. I concur, that need to be added.

  3. Oh, and the aliens need to tell us that they represent the purest of purity and the loviest of love.

    In this story, do we sneeze on them or pour water on them?

  4. It reminds me of that Simpsons episode when Homer goes into space, and TV anchorman Kent Brockman mistakes ordinary ants for giant ants form outer space, and offers his collaboration to enslave the human race (clip here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Rc3Lm4D12I). It is funny, as I always thought that Brockman looked a bit like a preacher. In any state of invasion, there are collaborators. Which probably explains the existence of fundamentalists.

  5. I think we transmit a virus to their central computer using Mac OS 7.

  6. Oh... or we recruit kids to a battle school and then proceed to train them for years, then trick them into commanding an invasion fleet while they believe they are playing a video game.

  7. I was always partial to the Mac idea because of the utter absurdity of it.

    The way you really handle aliens though is by trapping them in an airlock on your escape pod, then jettison them into space and finally kick on the engines when they are hanging onto the backside of the thrusters.

  8. No no, the right way to handle them is to fly your ship through a magnetic mine field, then fly on a collision course with the alien ship, and swerve out of the way at the last minute so that they fly into the mines trailing behind you.

  9. Wow Kazim, I'm very impressed by your knowledge of sci-fi trivia. For 10 points, can anyone name he is referring to with the mines? I feel like I might be the only one who knows that reference.

  10. Kazim, I'm going to sound stupid, but where is that one from? I know I've seen it, I just can't figure it out.

    Or you could just smash the race the atom bomb and the element of surprise because they thought you'd be ignorant sword swinging barbarians and are instead are a race of ignorant tank driving barbarians.

    If you can guess where that one is from based on my crappy description, I'll give you a no prize.

  11. AtheistUnderMask, I'd tell you what it's from, but it sounds like Archaneus wants to make a contest of it, so I'll let someone else try first. As a hint, this speaks much more to my knowledge of comedy than sci-fi.

    I don't know your reference, but I'm going to take a wild guess that it's Battlefield Earth?

  12. Let's not forget the classic Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man". In the memorable words of Lloyd Bochner, "IT'S A COOK BOOK!"

    It would be intersting if an advance alien civilization came to Earth and started seeking converts for their religion. You would probably get quite a few humans converting as long as the requirements weren't all that extensive. Just like the indigenous people who encountered Europeans, they would be thinking "Well, their religion must be true, since they are so much more advanced and powerful than us."

  13. Hey, there IS a movie about this! Guess which one the "Alien man" is: http://headdibs.blogspot.com/2009/04/banana-man-vs-alien-man.html

  14. @Archaneus

    I had to look it up because it was bothering me. I knew I had seen it and now it seems obvious. I will let others guess though.

  15. Oh, don't trouble yourself, I'll do the reveal. It's from Galaxy Quest:

    General Sarris: "You fool! You fail to realize that with your armor gone, my ship will tear through yours like tissue paper!"
    Jason Nesmith: "And what you fail to realize is that MY ship is dragging mines!"

    Ahh, Galaxy Quest. IMHO, it is the very best Star Trek movie. ;)

  16. Dammit I know this one.... ack what is it... it's on the tip of my brain but my brain wants to say star trek but I that would be to easy. I can almost see the damn scene in my head. They come up with the plan after being hit by one or something right? And of course the spaceship never thinks 'oh gee they have all our bombs following them and now they'll hit us' or something like that... I'm not going to google!

    some one guess it so it stops burning!

  17. I curse you in the name of the Great Bunny who tells me I have to find the answer on my own insteading of Him giving it to me cause that wouldn't be fair.

  18. Kazim said, "Ahh, Galaxy Quest. IMHO, it is the very best Star Trek movie. ;)"

    You know my first thought was it was a Star Trek movie, but after you said it was a comedy I looked up Galaxy Quest on Wikipedia.

  19. Let's see...have we given up all our weapons before the aliens have come? If so, all we need is a board with a nail in it.

  20. Reading those comments, I am wondering if all atheists are/were Star Trek fans...

  21. Reading those comments, I am wondering if all atheists are/were Star Trek fans...

  22. Urg, Kazim. Battlefield Earth? I watched that movie with commentary by Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy and it was just barely watchable even with the MST3K guys.

    No, it's from Harry Turtledove's World War series, where aliens called The Race invade Earth during World War II, thinking we were a bunch of sword swinging barbarians because of images a probe sent back from the year 1200 CE (or around there).

    GALAXY QUEST! I knew I've seen that before! That movie was awesome.

  23. If you add a little anal probing you get the Catholic church...

  24. Goodbye, and thanks for all the fish!

  25. What I've always wondered is, don't the aliens have anything better to do? If they're that superior to the puny human race with better tech, morals, and everything else, what gain is there in coming all the way across the galaxy here to this little planet way out in the corner of ass just to screw with humanity?

    Substitute God for the aliens and the question still remains in my mind. What makes us so special to warrant that kind of attention?
    Pretty petty to get so riled up about such an insignificant blob of beings....

  26. We know that the aliens have interstellar-travel technology, as well as advanced weapons, so presumably they can mine their own asteroids for any minerals they need and not have to schlep them from Earth, and robot factories to build anything they can design.

    So the obvious question is, WTF do they want human slaves for? Is it perhaps a status symbol in their culture to maintain an expensive, unreliable, and fragile work force?

  27. Kazim:
    I think we transmit a virus to their central computer using Mac OS 7.

    Dan Simmons once did a wonderful deconstruction of the idiocy in "Independence Day" by using an analogy similar to yours.

    In his version, the US needs to invade a tiny Pacific atoll for whatever reason. But instead of lobbing cruise missiles over the horizon, they bring in the 7th fleet and land it on the beach of the atoll. To coordinate the attack, they use the islanders' smoke-signal system against them. I think the islanders eventually brought out a WWI-era boat and attacked the admiral's command ship.

  28. @Kazim-I know Roddenberry was, and it certainly shows in the series, although it gets sometimes inconsistent (the Vulcans have a soul, Qs are virtually gods, although not benevolent ones, and didn't the TOS crew met the Gods of Olympus or something?). I was just observing. I wonder if it simply illustrates that most atheists came to atheism through science. I must be an exception, as I came to atheism through literature. Oh, and I grew out of Star Trek ages ago.

  29. Guillaume: "Oh, and I grew out of Star Trek ages ago."

    Hey, Guillaume!

  30. All this talk of magnetic mines reminds me of the scene from Val Kilmer's 'Top Secret'.

    He throws the lever on the magnetic mine and it drags an entire submarine from the Straits of Gibraltar straight into the lab.

    Props for the alien metaphor Kazim. I'll have to use it in the future.

  31. @AmberKatt-Sorry, but I couldn't get through the technobabble, the recycled plots and the inconsistencies anymore. I am not saying that the franchise was (is?) all bad, I still think there were some brilliant episodes, I still appreciate them when I see them on reruns, but I ceased to be a trekkie. Call me an apostate...;-)

    Anyway, back on topic (sort of), anybody else noticed that renonwned atheist sci-fi writers like HG Wells and George Orwell often had their works totally twisted by theists when they get adapted, or simply when their works are used as an argument? Orwell especially receives a terrible treatment: his 1984 was a strong disavow or religion and faith and yet conservative Christians often mention Big Brother or 1984 when they try to picture a Godless society. They fail to see that Oceania is actually a place where God (as Big Brother is a de facto deity) is ever present, worship is the perfect form of repression and moral, ethic or empathy are because of this dead.

  32. I think what most people miss is that Orwell seemingly didn't see the difference between worshiping the martyr Jesus and worshiping the martyred severed head of old major.

    Remember only the guilty have fear of Old Major.

  33. I think sci-fi writers and in some cases fans are more likely to be atheists because they can imagine seemingly fantastic things without a God behind it.

    take Star Trek for instance, since there are entities like Qs or other god like aliens, that puts even MORE doubt on the claims of christ or muhhamid since all of their 'miracles' could have been alien technology or Q pranks.

  34. I know Roddenberry was, and it certainly shows in the series, although it gets sometimes inconsistent

    Guillaume, Star Trek TOS had an episode that took place on a planet with a Roman Empire type society with 20th century technology. There were a persecuted group called Children of the Sun, until the end, when Lt. Uhura makes the connection and tells Kirk they're really Children of the Son, in that they are Jesus worshippers, to which Kirk responds by musing rhapsodically, "Imagine, being there when it happened."

  35. @Ing-I agree, but even ST had moments when they felt into the paranormal (a huge mistake when it happened). I am thinking especially of the last episodes of DS9 when Ghul Dukhat freed the Pa Rays (spelling?) using spells/witchcraft. Granted, you could have rationalized it, as they usually do when a phenomenon is seemingly of supernatural nature, but they did not. It was a slap in the face of the whole premisse of Star Trek (and it really bugged me).

  36. @Guillame
    It was the Pah Wraiths. (Think, wraith as in ghost). That is one of the problems of Star Trek. They have the Q-coninuum, which is basically a race of gods, and the prophets, and then dismiss them as just other species from some other dimension.

    George Smith wrote that the word supernatural is, by definition, an oxymoron, because, if such powers existed, they would either have a mechanism, or be a law of nature. Either way, they wouldn't be considered "magic".

    I think it is interesting because it really raises a question of "So, he's immortal and can do magic...He's still a prick. Why should we worship him?"

    DS9's problem is that they portrayed federation employees (with the exception of Sisco), taking that attitude toward the "wormhole aliens", and bajorans treating them as gods. It was as if they were saying "Might makes right for Bajorans", and that's ok. It's just another worldview.

  37. @Thomas-There were some interesting ethical questions raise in ST about all-powerful beings, which are rarely benevolent (even the Prophets were pictured at the beginning as indifferent towards everyone, at best). But nevertheless, the atheist/naturalist atitude St had was messed up big time in the latest seasons of DS9: not only did the Prophets became some kind of benevolent deus ex machina (literally), but Dukhat did use magic/witchcraft to free the Pah Wraiths. They plainly threw in the irrational, probably because it was more convenient plot-wise.

  38. Which in my opinion is why DS9 failed in its rivalry to Babylon 5. B5 despite having semingly supernatural events and beings...really portayed all of them as natural phenomina. The Vorlons were basically the premise by which all stories of gods came from, telepathy is treated as just a relatively newly discovered natural phenomena, and there's never really any true gods that show up at all...

    The closest was the Halloween episode (written by Neil Gaiman) which was more just a Twilightzone WTF was that, episode than any real statement on the afterlife.

    The main conflict also ended with mortals telling the God races to piss off and let them control their own destiny.

  39. @Ing-I did prefer Babylon 5 to DS9 for many reasons, including the one you mentioned. It was also more fun.

    I am such a geek.

  40. B5 was a much better series than DS9.

    My only criticism of DS9 was the stuff about "soul catchers", and the parts where they imply that evolution is a ladder that eventually leads us to evolve into beings of pure energy. Most scifi takes the approach that evolution is basically Santa Clause, (it will eventually give you everything you want). That is about as fallacious as you can get.

    Of course, I say that in the same way one can say "I liked Tolkien, but Hobbits aren't real". Suspend disbelief and it is still an excellent series.

  41. "and the parts where they imply that evolution is a ladder that eventually leads us to evolve into beings of pure energy. "

    This always bothered me to. But I and my friends reconciled it with the "fanon" that the Vorlons and future human's "energy forms" are just that they've advanced so much technologically that they've formed symbiotic merging with nanites to give them abilities that appear to be supernatural.

    Hence, we saw the Vorlon's true form of the energy dragon cloud as a swarm of airborn nanobots.

    So I guess you can say that we reconcile the show with reality and science rather than taking a literal fundamentalist interpretation ;)

  42. Sorry for the double post but had another thought.

    The souls in B5 and other sci-fi fantasy like Buffy or the like, never bothered me as much as the Hollywood evolution since neither show really actually implies that the souls they use are manufactored or created. They're typically treated as a preternatural yet natural (I know contradictory) phenomina that is just part of the universe. They're also never really well defined which I like since it isn't proclaiming any one religion 'right'. B5 souls seem to be just psychic imprints of the person's memories, which interestingly the last episode of season 4 showed could be recreated by a computer simulation. Buffy and Angel seem to just have it as some vague energy that may or may not even be part of the person's identity. The soul in buffy seems to be a semi 'physical' entity yet it works more like the poetic soul. Vampires don't loose their identity they're the same person and still have qualities that might be defined as human, but they have a diminished ability to empathize and moralize (ie lost their soul). Buffy then of course muddies the waters MORE by having things that SHOULD be souless being nice and morally upright folk.

  43. @ing,
    Well, I am a strict scifi fundamentalist. :)

    I personally view scifi as fantasy with a different motif. I suppose the Hollywood evolution thing bugs me, because it is a misinterpreted portrayal of a poorly understood scientific concept.

    As for the soul catchers, and similar concepts, such as life energy, I suppose I would have suspended disbelief a little further, had the episodes/movies involving them not sucked.

    Arbitrary, and inconsistent? Yes, I suppose it is.


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