Religion is to God as Sci-fi is to Science

Discussion in 'Critical Discussions Among Proponents and Skeptics' started by Limbo, Jul 21, 2014.

  1. Limbo

    Limbo New

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    I would like to discuss with skeptics and proponents alike why I think that religion is to God as Sci-fi is to science. It will touch on critical analysis of religion, science fiction, comic books, and of course the paranormal.

    I made a thread of the same title on JREF, but the thread got hacked to pieces by mods and hecklers, and I was suspended by mods who are in my opinion very biased, who I think were offended and threatened by my claims. I found that very few JREFers were up to the task of understanding where I am coming from. There was really only one opponent I found worthy of debating. The others were idiots.

    I have a higher opinion of the skeptics here, and so I would like to start that conversation over. Plus, I have no reason to think the mods here have it in for me, like they do at JREF.

    There is a fascinating, mostly secret history to the sci-fi/comic book genre and it directly involves the paranormal, just as the paranormal is directly involved with religion. It has to do with the paranormal experiences of many great sci-fi and comic book authors, and it has to do with UFO phenomena.

    Sci-fi/comic books inspire us, and sometimes that inspiration influences science. We write sci-fi, and sci-fi writes us. Our secular culture has a modern mythologem - ET. Stories about it are the domain of sci-fi and comic books.

    It can be shown that the great iconic sci-fi of our culture -for example Dune, Star Wars, Stranger in a Strange Land to name a few- contain within them the monomyth skeletal structure. This same structure is found throughout world religion and myth.

    Since the skeptic population here is low, I'm not sure of any of you would be interested in this kind of discussion. If not, that's ok.

    So, I can show that sci-fi / comic books is a modern secular mythology. The mythologem is in the ET.

    I can show that the paranormal has strongly influenced that mythology through the experiences of authors and readers alike, as it does throughout the rest of world religion and myth.

    I can show that this mythology influences science, which ties the process of science in to the influences of the paranormal.

    Any takers?
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
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  2. Xissy

    Xissy New

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    I don't want to discuss that as I have never thought about it. But I am looking forward to reading your ideas :)
     
  3. Obiwan

    Obiwan Member

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    Maybe sci fi is derived from religion and is a substitute for it?
     
  4. Limbo

    Limbo New

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    OK, I'll flesh it out a bit. Critical analysis of world religion and myth has found that there is a skeletal structure that they all share called the monomyth. Sci-fi and comic books share that structure, partly because many authors have paranormal experiences, and partly because many authors draw on world religion and myth for ideas.

    The monomyth is rooted deep in the past, in the psychological process of development that shamans endure, and part of that process is the paranormal. People still endure that psychological process - including authors. It's from that inner process that myth and religion gets it's structure.
     
  5. Arouet

    Arouet Member

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    Although its been awhile, I was an avid fantasy - and to a lesser extent - sci-fi fan for many years, though I'm probably not going to remember much specifics.

    I took a quick look at the JREF thread and I think part of the problem is that you jumped right into analyzing various sci-fi stories and fitting them into your model. But that's moving a bit too quickly. Before we do that I think we have to spend a bit more time on precisely figuring out what the precise hypothesis you're advancing is and how we would test it. We need to examine what the premises are leading to what conclusion and whether other premises would lead to the same place. I think Myriad in particular zeroed in on some of the important issues.

    If your point is that there are familiar archtypes that appeal to us in our fiction then I don't think you're going to get much argument there - any fan of fiction is going to quickly see the patterns, and those patterns also exist I think in various religious myths. The problem, I think is where you go from there, and in particular how and why you've zeroed in on the shaman as particular relevant rather than an early example of one of these archtypes - and more what should we conclude from that, even if the shaman can be identified as the earliest known version of that archtype? Are you trying to suggest that the preservation of interest and emotional attachment to that archtype indicates some sort of truth about what has been claimed about shaman's? Or is it simply tracing the routes of the interest in this archtype and noting the anthropological roots of a very attractive figure for people?

    For example: we could explore whether our attraction to religious mythical characters such as Hercules, Moses and Jesus and our attraction to purely fictional characters such as superheroes and various sci-fi fantasy heroes derive from a common source (such as a lengthy human history that has repeated the archtypes over and over in various forms in various communities). But I think there is a logical gap missing if we're going to extrapolate that to any point about underlying nature of the universe. Also: I think there may be some logical gaps if somehow you were arguing that our "worship" of these characters as fans has similarities to religious worship and that therefore if we consider hero-worship of these sci-fi/fantasy heros positive we should also consider the accompanying religious worship positive (I'm not quite sure if that's what you were arguing though some of your posts seemed to imply that but that's another reason I think you need to tighten up your premises and conclusions as the posts went in a few different directions and there might be some points I agree with you and some I don't.
     
  6. MysticG

    MysticG New

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    If you haven't already read it, I would recommend Mutants & Mystics by Dr. Jeff Kripal. He shows that many of the authors of comics and Sci-Fi have experienced the paranormal themselves, and that their experiences have shaped their writing.

    From the description:
    Kripal was also interviewed on Skeptiko episode 176 in 2012. A quote from the interview:
    I thought it was a great read. I find mythology and the paranormal both fascinating in general, and I am also a fan of Joseph Campbell's take on the Monomyth. I am looking forward to hearing more of your ideas Limbo, particularly the aspect about how mythology has influenced science.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
  7. Limbo

    Limbo New

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    That's ok. I'm a fan too.

    Of course. How else can I demonstrate my model? Demonstration and explanation is the only way. Then you counter with a demonstration and explanation of your own model. But of course JREFers couldn't do that, because their only model is 'it's just enterainment because we say so'.

    Myriad was the only worthy opponent in the thread. I asked Steve to send him a PM asking him to come here to continue the conversation.

    I addressed the issues he raised, and am waiting for his next move.

    You'd be surprised how much JREFers can argue about anything that they think might somehow undermine their position. Or maybe you wouldn't.

    That's not the problem. The problem is, so few skeptics really know anything about shamanism. They don't care about primitive superstitious witch-doctors and their mumbo-jumbo.

    I'm not really sure what you're asking, sorry. I'm trying to suggest, among other things, that sci-fi and comic books would not exist without the psychological process of development that shamans (and mystics) endure, and neither would science. That process is mirrored in sci-fi comics and myth.

    There are dots to be connected, sure. And they will be.

    The logical gaps you percieve are there because of the way that our culture has no fully-functional mythologies, only dysfunctional ones. The functions that mythology performs for a culture are divvied up between the old and the new mythological systems.
     
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  8. Limbo

    Limbo New

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    Yup, I've read it and a few of his other books.

    Yup, I've also read a lot of Campbell and other mythology experts. It's very difficult discussing that kind of thing with skeptics, who generally seem to feel that critical study of mythology is unworthy of their attention.

    Examples of sci-fi influencing technology are many. Tying sci-fi to myth is easy. Scientists grow up reading sci-fi and comic books, they are inspired, and then they become scientists and pursue their inspirations through science practices.

    Monks, mystics, priests grow up immersed in their cultural myths too, and they are inspired, and then they enter a monastery and pursue their inspirations through mysticism practices. It's the same process but in radically different cultural contexts with different methods and emphasis.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
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  9. chuck.drake

    chuck.drake Guest

    Limbo:

    Would you include the following as mythologies:

    1. The gestalt of the UFO/Alien abduction phenomena.
    2. The gestalt of the ideas/stories/experiences surrounding survival after physical death and the afterlife.
    3. The gestalt of the cryptid phenomena.

    Thanks.
     
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  10. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Proposition: Religion is to God as Sci-fi is to science

    I disagree. There might be something that is to science as religion is to God, but if so, IMO it isn't sci-fi.

    Sci-fi is a genre of literature that no sane adult accepts as a literal representation of reality, though, like much other literature, it may contain elements of metaphorical/allegorical truth, and considerable power. The Matrix films, for example, construct a universe which IMO presents deep insights that mirror existential experiences we all have: for example, that of being self- or other- indoctrinated with a certain view of the world that we are convinced is true. Despite that, now and then we all experience glitches in the Matrix that we find somewhat disturbing. We mostly prefer to ignore them or explain them away so as to keep our matrices intact. It is as if we prefer to remain inside our pods being fed and protected, experiencing ertsatz reality, rather than to burst out of them like Neo and confront the universe as it actually is.

    Literature has always helped us to understand ourselves and the universe better, whatever genre one cares to mention. It does other things too, of course, such as providing a world of imagination in which we can become absorbed and entertained for a while; but we do not accept literature as literally true, whatever metaphorical/allegorical truth value it might contain.

    We may, however, not regard scripture as literature: we may take it literally as historical fact. Which is a pity, because there can be much utility in the metaphorical/allegorical truth of literature, and much inutility in supposed historical "fact" that might actually be fictitious constructed narrative.

    I think the same thing is to God as it is to science: namely, fictitious narrative taken as fact. This can, and frequently does, make men mad. OTOH, Literature taken as literature (sometimes replete with valuable albeit non-literal truth)--be that science fiction or any other genre--can engender sanity.

    Science, in its purest sense, is the investigation of whatever might actually be the case. There is no place for fictitious narrative mistaken as fact, though there may be a place for narrative taken consciously as metaphor. To take an example, it is incorrect to state as a fact that Dark Matter exists. It is more correct to say that, according to existing models, it's as if there is something we could represent as being Dark Matter that accounts for certain cosmic anomalies (e.g. the speed of rotation of galaxies). But of course, it might not be Dark Matter. It might be that something else accounts for observations. Perish the thought, it could be that standard cosmological models are incorrect, and that gravity plays a much lesser role than thought.

    However, scientists, just as do religionists, go wrong when they mistake constructed narrative for literal truth. There's much less of a problem with either when they take their narratives non-literally: when they're consciously aware that they don't know the facts of reality, and that their constructs are only tentative representations of facts, or tentative ways of understanding reality.

    I say, long live science fiction: there's a vital and indispensable place for it (and literature in general) in human affairs. As to allegory/metaphor in particular, there's a vital and indispensable place for it in trying to understand reality, whether that's the Source of All (God), or the details of the ways in which It works (science). In a sense, there is nothing but metaphor, myth and allegory in our understandings of reality: nothing but literature taken as literature, and nothing at all that can be taken as absolute fact. We all live as characters in some kind of Matrix of our own construction.
     
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  11. Limbo

    Limbo New

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    Those, I would call living myths that are part of a greater mythos. They are real experiences, and the experiences inform the greater whole that they are part of. In turn other people are influenced by it, which shapes their subsequent experiences.
     
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  12. chuck.drake

    chuck.drake Guest

    So they form a kind of experiential bleeding edge. Of course these are only the most titillating of the "living myths" whose more mundane brothers might include the gestalt of monetary economics, or the gestalt of politics, or the gestalt of information, or the gestalt of concepts.
     
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  13. Arouet

    Arouet Member

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    My point was that I think you need to provide more details to zero in on what exactly your hypothesis is before embarking on any analysis. If we're going to have the conversation here, I'd want to bring it back to first principles first: what exactly is the argument being made, what are the premises we're trying to confirm, does the logical argument flow and are there alternative explanations?

    Well, I was trying to get more information clarifying your position.

    Again, I'm trying to focus on what your position is, not the positions of various posters in the JREF thread. If you just want to have a skeptic-bashing discussion then I guess count me out. I was trying to address your topic, bringing it back to first principles, trying to figure out what your basic argument is and how we can address it.

    Right: if all you are trying to do is trace the history of our interest in that archtype then the shaman would play a role as would any figures that pre-dated the shaman as well as those that followed. That's interesting from a historical point of view but I'm not sure why we should consider it important as a practical matter.

    It seemed that you were trying to make more than a historical point though?

    Again: I was just trying to zero in on your what your argument was there.

    What I meant by logical gaps is that you didn't set out your premises and conclusion in your posts: I wasn't sure if you were making that point or not, but if you were you have to fill in some of the gaps before we can really evaluate your argument. There might not have been those gaps because you may not have actually been making that argument which is why I asked for clarification.

    My suggestion: forget about the JREF thread. Set out your hypothesis and argument and and then we can evaluate it. The way the original thread went was sort of scattergun and it isn't clear to me what your precise argument is.
     
  14. Limbo

    Limbo New

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    Hi Michael.

    I'm not suggesting that anyone is taking it literally. I don't think anyone believes that Luke Skywalker really is in a galaxy far, far away. However, ET is a big part of sci-fi, and many people believe ET is out there. Oh, maybe not exactly how Hollywood depicts it, but that's ok.

    A scientist doesn't need to take the sci-fi and comics they read as a kid as a literal representation of reality in order to develop technology when they grow up that is inspired by them.

    Well, I don't know that we all experience glitches. Many do, sure. And some of us find ourselves outside of time and space looking in, as Neo found himself outside of the Matrix looking in. When that happens to someone in this culture, they might draw on The Matrix as a metaphor to express that mystical experience. They might see strong parallels between their own experiences and the monomyth structure that shines through The Matrix, because that structure and the psychological process of shamanic awakening are the same. That makes The Matrix a mystical metaphor, which has influenced 'simulation theory'. Whether there is any validity to simulation theory is I think is beside the point.

    Agreed.

    The same could be said about mysticism. But mysticism goes one step further and becomes the art of union with reality.

    I agree, I love sci-fi, comics, fantasy.
     
  15. Limbo

    Limbo New

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    If you are having trouble zeroing in I'll keep providing details, of course.

    Something happened to us deep in the past that enabled us to develop the capacity for symbolic thought, which enabled mythology. Mythology performs functions for society, and without that, we would be living in caves and trees and flinging poo at each other.

    Whatever it is that happened, it resulted in a pattern of psychological development that is unique to some people - shamans. They have a kind of psychological ordeal, a crack-up, and when they recover they are the shaman of the tribe. They are the myth makers, the artists, and the ones who use their newfound psychic abilities to benefit the tribe.

    The myths they make reflect the psychological ordeal that they undergo as they become shamans. The ordeal is the same for shamans the world over, and so myths are very similar in structure the world over. From there, religion has gradually evolved. That structure can be detected in world religion and myth, it's called the monomyth.

    Fast forward to today, where we find that modern folk are still undergoing that ordeal. Space-age shamans write space-age stories that reflect the ordeal of shamanic awakening, and so those stories inevitably contain the same skeletal 'monomyth' structure as the ancient myths. The same 'hero journey' with the same psychological archetypes. Since these archetypes are found in world religion and myth, they are from a 'collective unconscious'. Hence the phrase archetypes of the collective unconscious.

    Does that help you to zero in?
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
  16. It sounds interesting, but I feel like only after seeing the full culmination of your thoughts will I really understand how the pieces fit.

    I am admittedly most curious about the paranormal experiences/influences of SF & Fantasy authors, in the various mediums (comics/books/cinema).
     
  17. Limbo

    Limbo New

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    Off the top of my head, here are a few noteables. Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, Jack Kirby, Grant Morrison, George Lucas, Alan Moore. I'll see if I can dig up some more examples.

    Hey MysticG, do you remember any others from Mutants & Mystics?
     
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  18. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Nor did I mean to suggest that you were suggesting it.
    Maybe, in a general and rather vague way.
    "Glitches" metaphorically refers to holes or inconsistencies in one's world view. So for some materialists, for example, consciousness poses a problem, so they posit it's just an illusion. I think everybody has glitches like that and hand-waves them away. I don't disagree with the general force of your analysis of the Matrix.
    Strictly speaking, I don't think there's any difference between mysticism and science where both are properly conducted: they should both be trying to find out what is the case, albeit perhaps from different perspectives that we might call subjective and objective. Both can be abused; we see things that could be classed, for example, as incomprehensible doctrines on the one side, and scientism on the other. In both, there is the tendency to literalise the metaphorical.
     
  19. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    With this, I very largely concur. However, I do still disagree with your proposition as originally stated; I don't think it reflects what you actually mean.
     
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  20. MysticG

    MysticG New

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    I don't remember any others off the top of my head. A lot of them were comic book related, and I am not familiar with most of the names in comics. I am a fan of Philip K Dick, and if you read his novel Valis, he puts a lot of his mystical experience into the book. He also wrote something called "Exegesis", which I haven't read yet, but it is a collection of his personal notes detailing his experience. He essentially became a modern day gnostic after his experience. I remember one striking veridical element from his experience, where he was told that his son had some rare life-threatening disease with no outer symptoms. He took his son to the doctor and it was confirmed as true, which saved his son's life.

    Also, I learned recently that Frank Herbert was friends with Alan Watts. If you read Dune, some of the characters actually say things that are very similar to things Watts said. In fact, Herbert seems to draw on multiple spiritual traditions in building Dune's mythology, which might not be noticed if the reader isn't familiar with them. I didn't notice them the first time I read it when I was younger. There is actually a lot of wisdom in those books.
     
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