Heinlein quote
Posted: 13 March 2007 10:38 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I am listening to Eugene Burger (Magic and Mystery) on your PoI show and it called to mind a Heinlein quote.  I am a fan of the science fiction writer R.A. Heinlein.  He writes in a manner that appears to be very humanist.  One of my favorite lines from his book "Time Enough for Love" (I think that is the book) is the idea that "any sufficiently advanced technology appears as magic".  In which ever book it was, he sets up a world in which the people of the world are ruled by the priestly class who perform miracles, but it turns out the miracles are all smoke and mirrors.  So this world uses technology that most of the populace doesn’t understand to ensnare and rule them.  I don’t think that happens to us on earth (other than examples of crying madonnas) and that is good.  But that is the danger that can occur in a state ruled by religion rather than reason.  Just a thought.

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Posted: 13 March 2007 12:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Sally, I think you’re right that Heinlein said it first, and it was also said by Capt. Picard (Startrek TNG) when he was explaining their advanced technology to the woman who led a pre-industrial tribe of people (pre-Vulcans) on a world being covertly studied by federation scientists.  As I recall, the scientists had a malfunction which showed their existence, and the people assumed they were gods.

Occam

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Posted: 13 March 2007 05:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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On Heinlein, it may be tough to call him a humanist.  I am a fairly avid science fiction reader (read 125 such novels since 1999 - its my major hobby), but I have not been able to get into Heinlein.  Some call him one of the greatest sci fi authors after Asimov, Clarke and Bradbury, and this may be so, but politically, he was all over the place.  Early on, he seemed to be a humanist and an atheist and perhaps a libertarian-socialist.  Later on he lost the socialism and became a libertarian-capitalist.  He may have been socially liberal in his feminism and sexuality wise, and did write some novels which intrigued the left such as Stranger in a Strange Land, but he was also quite militaristic (Starship Troopers) and almost as individualistic as Ayn Rand.  I’d say Heinlein was an amazing thinker and writer, but not really a humanist.

PS:  The science/technology/magic quote is about religion and atheism and maybe naturalism, but not humanism, as those qualities are only part of what humanism is.

As for Star Trek, it was far more based on humanistic ideals as it was created by a humanist (Roddenberry).  Most of the messages on all the Star Trek series’ were about science, atheism/agnosticism, tolerance, diversity, equality, anti-homphobia, anti-racism, peace, critical thinking, democracy and a money-less, post-economic society.  One could say there was a touch of hierarchy in that there was a world government and the President of Earth, but that was very leftist in the 60’s (certainly for TV) when Trek’s culture was formulated.

People always bring up the military uniforms, ships and organization of Star Fleet, but I remind them of what Roddenberry was doing (and no one would change after he died because of continuity issues)... First, Roddenberry had to get this on television which was fairly conservative in the mid-60’s.  He decided that with the military undertones, he can both “get away” with the leftist ideas in the content/storylines of the show, and also show that a military did not have to act as we were at the time in Viet Nam. 

Also, the wars and conflicts with alien races were not meant to be about a truly humanisitic future populated with advanced alien cultures (as 23rd and 24th Century Human culture was argued to be in Trek), but instead, the aliens were often (not always) supposed to represent cultures or dangerous ideas of 20th century Earth.  The Klingons were warlike and were supposed to represent Imperial Japan or Stalinist Russia, and other races were Nazi-like such as the Cardassians, and the Ferengi were market capitalists, the Borg represented what could happen if we misuse technology as well as become a “Brave New World” with a “hive” mindset and lost our individuality alltogether… While other races were so overly individualistic that their societies broke down for lack of common ground and mutual cooperation…  Etc, etc, etc.

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Barry F. Seidman
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Posted: 28 March 2007 03:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I always thought that quote “any sufficiently advanced technology appears as magic” came from Arthur C. Clarke.  I think I’ve even heard it refered to as “Clarke’s Law”.

Be that as it may, the important thing to remember is that it doesn’t work in reverse.  Just because you can imagine some effect that appears to be magic, there is no logical reason to think that some alien race therefore has the technology to do it.

As for Barry’s comment:  I am a long-time Trekkie (not a “Trekker”, which as far as I’m concerned is a Trekkie who takes himself way too seriously).  We could talk about that for hours and hours….

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Posted: 28 March 2007 07:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Interesting, advocatus.  Based on these posts I’ll come up with a law of my own.

Jerry’s Law:  Good ideas have many parents.

(And, I’ll bet that someone said it before me.)  smile

Occam

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Posted: 06 July 2007 06:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I am currently re-reading “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” - by Robert Heinlien.

Professor de la Paz describes himself as a Anarchist individualist.

He describes his beliefs as follows:
“A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame ... as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world…aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure.”
...
“I will accept any rules that you feel are necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break themn, I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”

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“Life is a Blur of Republicans and Meat” - Zippy

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Posted: 06 July 2007 09:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
 
  Arthur C. Clarke, “Profiles of The Future”, 1961 (Clarke’s third law)
http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Arthur_C._Clarke/

psik

PS - It appears his 3rd Law is much better known than the first and second.

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Fiziks is Fundamental

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