Teaching Evolution Through Science Fiction
By Jerry Bergman
(Investigator 67, 1999 July)
A review of the content and development of the literary genre called
science fiction was completed. The theory of evolution was found to be
extremely influential in both the early and current writings of most
science fiction writers. Many prominent science fiction authors, for
example, H. G. Wells, Arthur L. Clark, Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov,
were openly concerned with propagating evolutionism philosophy. Much
science fiction literature openly presents a world view which is in
direct contrast to the Judea-Christian cosmology. The implications of
its influence are also discussed.
'Darwin's theory of evolution created a revolution not just in biology,
but in our entire concept of man and his place in the universe.'1
This has been profoundly reflected in the area of literature, and
evolutionary theory has had a more profound influence on science
fiction than on any other literary form.2 This is largely because the
theory of evolution has had a tremendous influence on the natural and
physical sciences, and most science fiction is a product of scientists,
or at least individuals keenly interested in science. Science fiction
is dominated by stories about a universe without God and where life
appears and develops as the natural order of things. Millions of
Americans regularly read science fiction works and are influenced by
the ideas that they advocate. In the 1980s nearly one out of four
fiction works was in the science fiction-fantasy category.3 Research on
socialization and child development finds that our belief structure
highly influences our explanation and conclusions concerning our
world-view. When it was accepted by most Westerners that humans and all
life were direct creations by God, it was believed that if other worlds
existed and had life, they were also created by God and were part of
His plan. This world-view argues against the belief that intelligent
beings from other planets evolved separately or apart from God.
The acceptance of evolution indicated that if life evolved on earth, it
could likewise have evolved elsewhere. It was speculated this life
could currently be either at a 'lower' or a 'higher' level than
humankind, (or it may even be of an entirely different kind, such as
non-carbon molecule based. If many kinds and types of life exist
elsewhere in the universe, many science fiction themes become a real
possibility. Exobiologists such as Carl Sagan and others now
postulate that it is highly probable that life exists in many far off
places in the universe.4 The influence of science fiction has been
noted by Clarke:
'It will come as no surprise to readers that science fiction was the
main agent in spreading ideas about coming things. What began with
Jules Verne and reached greater heights with H. G. Wells is now a
universal model for writing — dreaming, hoping and fearing — about the
The theory of evolution also has had a dramatic effect on the religious
beliefs of scientists and science writers, and this is often vividly
reflected in their writings. As Suderman notes:
'"The most striking fact in the intellectual history of the last third
of the nineteenth century", says Merle Curti, "was the blow to the
historic Doctrine of Supernaturalism by new developments in the
biologi¬cal and physical sciences." The greatest threat from the
sciences came with the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species
(1859), which, to use Andrew D. White's phrase, "had come into the
theological world like a plough into an anthill." Darwin's theory
called into question the existence of God, but, just as important
and more difficult for traditional Christianity to absorb was its
challenge to supernaturalism with its assumption of an order of
existence beyond nature and of a divine creator who stands outside of
and above these laws.'6
Rubinsky and Wiseman put it more directly as follows:
'Science fiction began with another characteristic. It offered a new
view of man. Up until Darwin, man had seen himself as a finished being,
already completed, made in God's image. Historical man. But with
Darwin's writings, time began to stretch. Historical time wasn't
enough. Now there was human time, geological time, cosmic time. There
has always been a gap between serious literature and popular fiction.
That gap widened after the Industrial Revolution, but one type of
writing — the apocalyptic school — transformed itself and jumped
from the religious and academic camp into the new fiction.'7
THE DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENCE FICTION
The beginning of science fiction is generally attributed to the
nineteenth century work of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. According to
The Encyclopedia Britannica early science fiction included literary
works in which modem technology and scientific discovery were crucial
to the story line:
'Depending upon the author's purpose, the degree to which the science
element is fictionalized may range from a careful and informed
extrapolation from known facts and principles to the most far fetched
and flatly contradictory of speculations. What remains constant
throughout the imaginative spectrum is the appearance of plausibility,
stemming from an at least surface allegiance to the attitudes, methods,
and terminology of science.'8
Most of this literary genre was at first called science novels or
scientific romances. Science fiction as a separate classification of
literature dates back to only about 1926 when Hugo Gemsback founded
Amazing Stories Magazine to specialize in literature that he called
scientifiction.9 Gemsback, who originated the term science
fiction, was wildly successful and was soon widely imitated. The
science fiction world has covered many, if not most, major scientific
innovations long before they were on the possibility drawing boards.10
Not unexpectedly, surveys have shown that many practising
scientists themselves enjoy science fiction literature, often more so
than any other type. And science fiction also serves another role, as
'I think it is fair to say that a majority of the world's leading
scientists today were first turned on to their subjects by reading
Herbert George Wells (his pen name was H. G. Wells) was modern
England's most prolific author and the father of modern science
fiction.12 Born in 1866 in Bromley, Kent, he spent most of his life
working as a writer. His works were best sellers for years, and are
still sold in many editions (the current English language Books in
Print lists scores of his works in print). His orientation toward
evolution is indicated by the fact that he studied science under Thomas
Henry Huxley, one of history's most staunch defenders and apologists
for evolution, who is today called Darwin's bulldog. Wells' science
degree, a B.Sc. from London University (first class in zoology, second
in geology) prepared him for a life of teaching, research and
writing.13 After graduation, he began not only teaching, but working on
a biology textbook which was published in 1893. He soon contracted
tuberculosis which prevented him from becoming a teacher, but he could
still write, and continued full time in this area until he died.
Wells published his first article in 1891, an essay in Fortnightly
Review which was the first of many in this magazine. His first full
length science fiction book was The Time Machine, published in 1895.
Wells openly stated that his work was written to influence people's
views in various areas, one of which was evolution.14 In his words,
'The artificial factor in man is made and modified by two chief
influences. The greatest of these is suggestion, and particularly
the suggestion of example. With this tradition is inseparably
interwoven. The second is his reasoned conclusions from additions to
his individual knowledge, either through instruction or experience. The
artificial factor in a man, therefore, may evidently be deliberately
affected by a sufficiently intelligent exterior agent in a number
of ways: by example deliberately set; by the fictitious example of the
stage and novel; by sound or unsound presentations of facts, or
sound or fallacious arguments derived from facts, even, it may be, by
emotionally propounded precepts.'15
In 1896 he published the article 'Human evolution: an artificial
process', in Fortnightly Review. In his view the origin of life was
purely by atheistic naturalism:
'...there are no elements in living matter which are not found in its
lifeless environment; that the energy by which life is operated is not
any mysterious "vital force", but is the same energy, as physiologists
have abundantly demonstrated, by which the simplest physical and
chemical transformations are worked; and that the chemical compounds
found in living bodies and as yet unsynthesized seem to differ only in
their complexity from those we can already put together in test-tubes
and those that exist as not-living matter. The one distinguishing
feature of living matter is its capacity for self-reproduction. But the
chemist can tell us of numerous chemical reactions which, given proper
conditions, are self-continuing in the same way; the only difference is
that the chemical transformations of life can reproduce themselves
over a wider range of outer conditions than can any of those lifeless
To advance his own views on naturalism and atheism, Wells, as did many
other evolution apologists at this time, selected certain elements from
evolution theory and rejected others. For example, he often
treated the less privileged very sympathetically in his writings — and
showed enormous feeling for many of the 'inferior' social groups which
the eugenics advocates were determined to control or even wipe out.
This may have to do with Wells' family and social background: his
father was a poor shopkeeper, and his mother a maid servant and
housekeeper. Wells himself had to struggle to earn his degrees,
and his rise from poverty to fame and prominence was largely by his own
considerable effort. He did believe, in harmony with the Social
Darwinists, that social compassion had slowed down human
'Even if we suppose that he has undergone such an alteration, it
cannot be proceeding in the present civilized state. The most striking
feature of our civilization is its careful preservation of all the
human lives that are born to it — the halt, the blind, the deaf and
dumb, the ferocious, the atavistic; the wheat and tares not only grow
together, but are impartially sheltered from destruction. These grow to
maturity and pair under such complex and artificial circumstances
that even a determinate Sexual Selection can scarcely be operating.
Holding the generally accepted views of variation, we must suppose
as many human beings are born below the average in any particular as
above it, and that, therefore, until our civilization changes
fundamentally, the intrinsic average man will remain the same.'17
In many of his works, such as The Time Machine, both evolution and the
implications of the theory for society are major themes.18-20 The major
character in this novel is the 'time traveller', who in his journeys to
the future discovered that the people there had decidedly non-muscular
'soft rounded figures' because natural selection was no longer taking
place, allowing the weak to thrive. Wells defines natural selection as
'selection by death'.21 As he explains, in this future time, selection
for strength no longer existed because the world then was peaceful and
secure, and all persons were adequately taken care of. This allowed the
weak to thrive, and in time all became weak. They were not only weak of
body, but also weak of mind — and consequently they could not
concentrate very well, and also tired very quickly. This nation of
people that behaved very much like children was the result of a world
that was peaceful and secure.
In contrast to this inferior race, a subterranean species called'
morlocks' were far superior — they were quick of mind, physically fast
and strong, but also cruel. These 'small apelike creatures' were
descendants of humans who evolved into creatures that could survive in
the underworld. Their world was not one of peace and security, nor did
they evidently preserve the weak: evolution was still operating on
them.22 Why they evolved into a more monkey-like appearance is
baffling: it would seem that Wells would have served his purpose better
by hypothesizing the evolution of a superior body beyond modern humans
to represent future evolution.
When the time traveller travelled even farther into the future, he
discovered that the people then were all vegetarians because the
higher animals had become extinct. A very real concern in biology today
is not that many insects, bacteria, platyhelminths, nematoda, and other
lower animal groups will become extinct, but that many so-called
higher level animals will be lost forever in the near future. To
prevent this, multi-million dollar efforts are now being expended to
save the panda, various types of bears, elephants, whales, many
primates, and countless other animals. The time traveller then
realized that he was at 'the sunset of humanity'. After exploring this
world of the future dated 802,701, he learned that most of its people
were apathetic to his cries of concern about their own future.
He did make one friend in this future world, a young girl named Weena
whom he rescued from drowning. Weena became the time traveller's friend
and guide, helping him to understand their society. While exploring one
of the ruins of the past civilizations around him (one of 'the great
civilizations which mankind's society evolved into') he encountered the
morlocks. The evolutionary superior morlocks, the time traveller soon
perceived, were after his life. To survive, he realized that he must
locate his time machine and escape from their world. Back in his time
machine, he went even farther forward in time to when the Earth ceased
rotating. In this world he 'landed' on a deserted beach on which the
only animals he saw were a flying animal resembling a huge white
butterfly and some crab-like monsters. Travelling forward again, and
halting at 30 million years from the time when he first left his
laboratory, he saw the cooling earth was now filled with an
all-pervasive deathly stillness. This future, one that evolu¬tion
still predicts will occur, so horrified the time traveller that he
zoomed backwards in time.
Some speculate that Wells' point in this story is that humans all too
often live as if we and the earth will somehow improve forever on our
own. His major point is, since we can do much to determine our future,
it behooves us to direct and control our evolution so that our future
will be better. The future can be greatly improved by using the laws of
evolution for our advantage and to mitigate the effects of the laws
that work against our best interest. Another point implied in this
novel was that the individual does not matter, only the species (the
race) matters. While in the year 802,701, the time traveller had
inadvertently left a fire burning in a previous campsite which started
the forest on fire, killing between 30 and 40 morlocks (presumably the
weaker ones) while he watched. This incident was not necessary to the
main theme of the story, and Wells' purpose for using it is not clear.
Was he showing that natural selection was still affecting even the
moriocks at this late date? Wells did teach that evolution, for humans
at least, did not always have to be cruel:
'This view, in fact reconciles a scientific faith in evolution with
optimism. The attainment of an unstable and transitory perfection
only through innumerable generations of suffering and
"elimination" is not necessarily the destiny of humanity. If what is
here advanced is true, in Education lies the possible salvation of
mankind from misery and sin. We may hope to come out of the valley of
Death, become emancipated from the Calanistic deity of Natural
Selection, before the end of the pilgrimage. We need not clamor for the
Systematic Massacre of the Unfit, nor fear that degeneration is
the inevitable consequence of security.'23
Literature, even that which sells widely, influences certain
classes of people more than others. In Wells' case, the better educated
followed his work more closely, and his influence on the less educated
was much less.24 H. G. Wells, in spite of his enormous success as a
writer, was defeated twice as a Labor Party candidate for parliament.
As Magill noted,
'although he sacrificed art to propaganda in much of his work, he spoke
with eloquence and conviction to a world in crisis. Only at the end of
his life did he feel that he had failed in his efforts to improve human
society by thought and word.'25
He may feel that he failed, but science fiction historian Pohl concluded that
'...Wells wrote consequential science fiction, the kind of story that
did not turn out to be just a dream at the end but changed the world
Wells not only conveyed evolutionary ideas in his writings, but he was
a tireless campaigner for the theory and against Christianity.27 His
one-million word Outline of History, written in 1920 and revised in
1931, is primarily an apologist work for evolution and against
religion. This work was soon followed by The Science of Life, which was
again heavily oriented towards arguing for the validity of evolutionary
theory. In 1926 the well-known Catholic writer, Hilaire Belloc, wrote a
book entitled A Companion to Mr Wells' Outline of History, wherein he
tried to respond to what he felt was Wells' horribly distorted picture
of the history of Christianity and his inept attempt to defend
Darwinism."28 Wells retorted with Mr Belloc Objects to the Outline of
History, in which he scathingly denounced Belloc, calling him an
ignorant sub-man, stating that he 'knows scarcely anything of museums
or laboratories or the spirit and methods of research.'29,30 One
of Belloc's primary objections to Wells' work was the theory of
ruthless natural selection. As Wilson noted, Belloc knew that,
'the writing of history was not a mere compilation of facts so much as
it was the presentation of those facts in order to substantiate a point
of view. And Wells' point of view, in Belloc's eyes, was simply wrong.
Above all, it was wrong in the extent to which it distorted and
assailed the Christian orthodoxies. Wells was a simple Darwinian. He
did not believe in the Fall of Man. He believed that, through
enterprise and aggression, the human race had dragged and fought its
way out of the jungle by a process of natural selection. It was
hampered in its progress onwards and upwards by the absurdities of
religion; and no religion was more absurd or misleading in the whole
Outline than the religion founded upon the Twelve Apostles with Jesus
Christ as the chief
Wells takes pains to defend evolution, and calls Belloc dishonest and
lacking in intelligence to object to this worldview. Many of the
arguments that Wells advocated in this work have since been shown by
the scientific community to be untenable. For example, he argued that
ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, that the evidence of our
evolutionary past is found in our body in such structures as the
gill slits, our fish heart and kidneys, and our reptilian skull and
Not to be outdone, Belloc responded in 1927 with Mr Belloc Still
Objects to Mr Wells' Outline of History. In it he listed and quoted
many eminent continental professors of biology (Bateson, Driesch,
Dennert, Dwight, Morgan, LeDantec, Nageli, Korchinsky and Cope), all
who had rejected Darwinism and especially the extreme natural selection
that Darwin advocated.32 Belloc also indulged in some name-calling of
his own and ignored some of Wells' arguments, but did successfully
challenge Wells in several areas. So far as I know, Wells did not break
the trilogy of books thus far produced by the two authors. Wilson
concludes that the debate,
'...merely showed that Belloc and Wells inhabited different universes.
From this distance, one cannot say that either of them emerged from the
contest victorious. Belloc perhaps crowingly spotted a few more howlers
in The Outline of History than Wells managed to pick out of his
antagonist's commentary. That is not to say that the controversy was
not important. A modern, sensual, secular-minded man had been
confronted with the ancient orthodoxies. Belloc thought he knew what
Wells was talking about. Wells certainly had no understanding of
Belloc's position. For all he Learnt from the quarrel, it might have
been conducted in two different languages'.33
It should be added that Wells also lived his beliefs. On the book jacket of his 1984 autobiography is said:
'''I have never been abLe to discover whether my interest in sex is
more than normaL," Wells muses at the beginning of this memoir. Despite
a Long and happy marriage to Amy Catherine ("Jane") Wells, Wells was
dissatisfied, and reached for outside sexual experience after coming to
a modus vivendi with his wife. What happened thereafter forms the
substance of this book: his passionate love affair with Amber Reeves,
which created a scandal that rocked pre-World War I London when
Amber insisted on conceiving and bearing his child; his
light-hearted relationship with the clever and amusing "Little e",
the Grafin von Arnim, author of Elizabeth and her German Garden; his
decade-Long and ultimately unhappy liaison with Rebecca West. (West,
too, bore Wells a child.) ...' 34
And Wells' attitude toward conventional morality is shown in his own words:
'One day we found in a copy of The Times we had brought with us, a
letter from Mrs Humphrey Ward denouncing the moral tone of the younger
generation, apropos of a rising young writer, Rebecca West, and, having
read it aloud, we decided we had to do something about it. So we
stripped ourselves under the trees as though there was no one in the
world but ourselves, and made love all over Mrs Humphrey Ward. And when
we had dressed again we lit a match and burnt her. The Times flared
indignantly and subsided and wriggled burning and went black and
brittle and broke into fragments that flew away.'35
THE NOVEL FRANKENSTEN
Another excellent example of the influence of the new science, both
evolution and biology in general on literature, is the novel
Frankenstein. Written by Mary Goodwin Shelley and first published in
1817, her theme was the morality of applying science to life and what
can go wrong.
Although often not regarded as science fiction, this work is the best
extant candidate for the honor of the first true science fiction story.
Even the word Frankenstein has become a vocabulary noun, understood by
virtually all persons as a monster. The story is about Robert Walton,
an explorer, and Victor Frankenstein, a scientist. Frankenstein was a
bright young man from a good family in Geneva who showed great promise
in the natural sciences. After studying at the university in
Ingolstadt, he mastered the field of natural science to the extent that
he stumbled upon the secret of creating life — and he could not rest
until he tried out his new knowledge. Using the information that he had
learned in college and also that which he discovered through his own
research, he fashioned an eight foot monster partly from the bodies of
corpses, and then endowed his creation with life.
Unfortunately, it did not .have all of the traits that one would desire
— its face looked horrible, and when Frankenstein realized what his
monster was actually like, the horror of his actions caused him to come
down with 'brain fever'. Victor's best friend, Henry Clerval, came down
from Geneva to stay with him and help nurse him through his illness.
Victor was so grief stricken because of the monster which he had
created that he was not able to tell anyone, not even Clerval, about
it. At this time Victor's brother, William, was murdered, and Victor's
servant Justine was charged and later found guilty of the crime.
Justine had no motive or reason, nor evidently the ability to carry out
the crime, and the only evidence was a miniature from William's neck
that was found in her pocket. To help him deal emotionally with these
tragic events, Victor went hiking up the mountainous countryside. There
he again met the monster that he had created, who demanded that he
listen to his predicament. The monster related that after he left
Victor's chambers, everyone he met screamed and ran away because of his
grotesque appearance. Finally finding shelter in an abandoned hovel, he
remained there during the daylight, and by the cover of night sought
berries for food. Through observation, he slowly learned the ways of
the people around him. Needing friendship (after all, he was a human,
albeit a monster) he again ventured out to try his luck. His repeated
failure caused him to become bitter towards all humans. It was he, the
monster, that killed William, not Justine and he then explained how
Justine got possession of the miniature: he saw Justine in the hut, and
then slid the miniature into her pocket.
The monster then demanded that Victor fashion a mate for him who would
give him love and companionship. If Victor agreed, the monster promised
to take his mate to the wilds of South America to never again be seen
by mankind. But, if Victor refused, the monster threatened to kill at
random. Victor felt that the only solution was to acquiesce to the
monster's demands. He began fashioning a female monster mate — but
never completed it, realizing as he worked that they would mate and
spawn a whole race of monsters. When Victor destroyed his work, the
monster, watching at the window, became angered and forced his way into
the house. The monster then vowed to carry out his promise and taunt
both Victor and the human race — later killing Victor's bride,
Elizabeth. Victor then determined that he would spend the rest of
his life searching for the monster until he was killed. Victor never
achieved this goal — he died in the frozen north in the midst of his
search. The monster then related to Walton that Victor's was the
greater crime — he created a man without love, friend or soul, and
deserved his punishment. The monster then vanished, never to be heard
from again. The story concludes on the note that humans may learn
how to create physical life, but only God can create life with the
This story contains much insight relative to the responsibility
that we as humans have for our creations. Highly abstract when it was
written, the account raised issues that are now a real concern. Genetic
engineering is on the horizon as a routine procedure, and the ethics
involved are enormous. Differences exist — the Frankenstein monster was
an adult fashioned out of body parts, and genetic engineering is used
to merely alter the genes in a germ cell — nonetheless, both concerns
deal with the problems of altering life in the image of mankind. This
is obvious from the titles of books about DNA research that deal with
genetic manipulation such as June Goodfield's Playing God: The Genetic
Engineering and the Manipulation of Life, Leroy Augenstein's, Come Let
Us Play God, Ted Howard and Jeremy Rifken's Who Should Play God?: The
Artificial Creation of Life and What It Means for the Future of the
Human Race and Gordon Rattray Taylor's The Biological Time Bomb, all
which discuss the creation of life and related topics.36-39 Later
science fiction writers were more open about evolution's influence in
exploring these concerns. David H. Keller, Pohl noted, wrote many
'Perhaps his most famous story was The Revolt of the Pedestrians, which
told of a future time when generations of automobile driving had
caused the legs of the human race to wither away; [but in the story] an
aberrant young man, atavistically born with legs complete, leads a
movement to go back to the good old days.'40
THE NEW VIEW OF OUR WORLD AND SCIENCE FICTION
It was not until the Renaissance in the fifteenth century that mankind
began to seriously comprehend the concept that our earth was part of a
solar system family of planets. One of the first researchers to
scientifically defend a sun-centered system with the then known
planets travelling around it in circular orbits was Nicholas
Copernicus. After the publishing of his On the Revolution of Heavenly
Bodies in 1543, the universe as we know it first began to be
understood. Men such as Galileo and Kepler, though they did not agree
with Copernicus in some areas, expounded the heliocentric view.
This view was not totally new, and actually was postulated centuries
previously by Eratosthenes, Aristarchus and others, but most people,
even most learned men, did not fully accept the heliocentric view of
the universe until the early 1600s.41
The concept of a heliocentric solar system carried with it the
realization that the earth was a globe which was far larger than
previously thought. Although since at least Plato's time, a few
thinkers had correctly addressed the shape and even the approximate
size of the earth (Eratosthenes' estimate was close) most of the
ancients entertained a view of the universe vastly different from our
modem day picture. After these discoveries, it was reasoned that
the solar system must be considerably larger than the ancients had
assumed. Only in Copernicus' day was it generally realized that the
planets were not just a few miles away from the earth's ground surface
as historically assumed by many. Its size was not fully
comprehended until the early 1900s when Pluto was discovered.
Researchers in the 1700s also discerned that the other planets were in
some ways much like the earth, another revolutionary idea:
'In a century and a half, from Copernicus to Newton, man's image of the
universe had been totally transformed. It was a far larger
universe, far more complex, and far more remote from the earth.'42
Along with the modern realization that there were other 'worlds' far
away from the earth came the possibility that living beings may exist
on these planets. This in itself did not influence a belief in the view
that many strange worlds existed (which is a common topic of science
fiction) for one important reason: until the turn of the century, it
was almost universally believed that God had directly created humans
and all life. Hence, if life existed on other planets, God must also
have created it. Thus, the life there must be similar to that on earth.
Because God was believed to have been a loving heavenly Father, it was
incomprehensible that He would create physical creatures on other
planets which were grotesque, cruel, or naturally malicious towards the
earth, as not uncommonly represented in much earlier science fiction.
The increasing acceptance of the evolutionary theory in the middle of
the 1800s, spurred on by such workers as Darwin, Huxley, Haeckel and
others, popularized the belief that, just as life on the earth evolved
on its own, life could also have developed on other planets, depending
on the surrounding environmental conditions. Humans and animals were no
longer seen as the product of an intelligent designer with a loving
purpose, but as a result of natural law, chance and the brutal forces
of competition which occurred in the impersonal natural world. As
'...most who believe in life in outer space suppose it on the theory of
evolution. An evolutionist would reason: If life evolved after millions
of years on this planet, why couldn't it have done so elsewhere in the
Much science fiction had meaning only when it was believed that both
other large earth-like planets and other solar systems existed. Except
for God, angels, devils or other beings which were spiritual and
therefore did not need to travel in material machines, few persons
believed beings from other planets existed. As Sagan and Leonard state,
the world as many people who lived at the dawn of history saw it or
understood it, 'was a small patch of land bounded by distant hills and
perhaps by the blue line of the sea.'44 Of course, it is difficult to
discern exactly how most ancients perceived the universe. Many common
people and scholars alike viewed the universe as nothing more than what
it appeared to be from earth: the planets were merely stars that moved
faster, and the stars themselves were assumed to be fairly small
objects which hung in the sky not too far away from the earth. The
enormous size of the universe was not fully understood until this
century and, even in the last few decades, our view of its vastness and
complexity has been revolutionized.
Literature, especially science fiction, served to give the common
person this new view of a Godless cosmos and life that springs forth by
natural laws.45 One of the first popular works about life from other
planets was H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds, which told of the story of
grotesque creatures with tremendous powers that came to earth from
Mars.46 These monsters were eventually destroyed, but not by human
power. The Martians lacked immunity to earth's bacteria, and thus were
'slain by the humblest things ... upon this earth.' This book, although
science fiction, clearly conveys the possibility of life on other
Planets. From Wells' major interest in college, biology and evolution,
he reasoned that if life evolved by natural law on the earth, it
likewise could have evolved in the same way on other planets. This view
played an important part in many of his novels, and the evolutionary
hypothesis in many is obvious.47
The belief that living beings inhabited other planets became accepted
to the extent that a 1938 fictional radio dramatization of War of the
Worlds by Orson Wells was mistakenly understood by many listeners as a
genuine news report. The broadcast claimed that a meteor which had
landed near Princeton, New Jersey proved to be hollow and monsters from
Mars soon emerged from it. Armed with horrible death ray guns, they
slew all of the humans which they came across as they marched toward
New York. The result of this broadcast was that, as one newspaper
stated, America 'was convulsed by panic and hysteria.' Hundreds of
doctors and nurses called their local hospitals to volunteer their
services, men in the armed forces offered their help, and city
officials began to work out mass evacuation plans.48 Some people
actually poisoned them- selves, preferring to die by their own-hands
than from the Martian ray guns.49
Because this scare was nationwide, the furor was not due to local
population peculiarities: meetings were held in many places in America
and Canada to formulate a defense plan. This incident conveys the fact
that many people then had a strong belief in the possibility of
intelligent life on other worlds — and that it could be malicious, and
very harmful to the people on earth. A number of other stories about
space travel soon became popular. Many featured odd, often malicious
creatures from other planets, such as those in the Buck Rogers and
Flash Gordon books and, later, in their television series. Star Trek,
first broadcast in 1966, is stilI popular in 1992 with a cult
following, and the sixth Star Trek motion picture opened in December
A review of prominent modem science fiction writers today, especially
Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Arthur L. Clark, L. Sprague de Camp, L. Ron
Hubbard and Ray Bradbury, also reveals that they make many very
definite statements in their writings relative to their religious
beliefs. They are unequivocally opposed to the idea of a Creator
God and have extensively expressed their often vehement opposition to
this world-view. Many are extremely supportive of an atheistic, or
at least the non-theistic world-view, and essentially espouse the
views of evolution as proposed by Charles Darwin and others.50 This
viewpoint, as openly expressed in most of their writings, includes both
a hostility towards the Judeo-Christian worldview and strong
support for the evolutionary world-view. As Belloc said in 1927, the
'popular materialists' desperately rely on a denial of a Creator
God to support their lifestyle.51 The result was the acceptance of
views such as Wells' belief that, 'it is a fact that most men find
monogamy ... so far "unnatural" as to be a restraint.'52 And In
his own life Wells was openly sexually promiscuous and flaunted it.53
THE SCIENCE OF EXOBIOLOGY
With the realization that the universe is much larger than previously
supposed, many secular writers' imaginations were freed to create
bizarre worlds within the huge unknown expanse that lay outside of the
earth.54 Motion pictures with multi-million dollar budgets such as
Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Wars, E.T., Star Trek, and
others continue to popularize the idea of naturalism and
consequently that life exists in many places in the universe. Star
Trek's creator, Gene Roddenberry, was openly anti-religion and a
self-proclaimed 'secular humanist' who often used his show to
teach ideas about religion and values.55
There is as yet no clear evidence of any planets other than those in
our solar system, so it is an interesting state of affairs that a whole
'science' has developed to study something for which no empirical proof
yet exists." As Abell concluded concerning the hypotheses of
'It would be hard not to find a scientist who would not be terribly
excited if such hard evidence could be found; for what could be a more
monumental discovery than proof of life beyond the earth?'57
Although estimates vary widely, A. G. Cameron concluded that about
100,000 planets exist within our galaxy that could currently sustain
some form of life. If life can evolve of its own accord by chance and
natural law, then life could exist in places in the universe where
conditions are favorable. Drake estimates that
'there may be 10 million extraterrestrial technical societies within
our solar neighborhood capable of radio communication beyond their own
While the question of life on other planets is still speculation
based on a number of hypotheses and assumptions, many scientists
feel that it is inevitable that life must exist in some of the many
places that they speculate are hospitable to it. They reason that,
because life evolved on the earth, this indicates that whatever
occurrences caused it to exist here could also cause it to exist
somewhere else. Although some scientists are optimistic as to the
possibility of life existing elsewhere because of their belief
structure, this conclusion is based solely on faith in evolution and on
many tenuous assumptions, not empirical evidence.59 There is much that
we do not know for sure, and many surprises likely exist in the
universe, but at this point non-sun planets and other solar systems are
still unconfirmed, at best only 'planet-like bodies' have been
indicated circling around pulsars, an impossible condition for life."60
A large number of young people are introduced, or at least influenced,
to enter a science career by reading science fiction, and many young
people who plan on a science career regularly read science fiction.61
Although they realize that these works are not true, they nonetheless
convey impressions and world-views which no doubt influence a
young person's perception of reality. It is a means of indoctrination
which is rarely balanced by reading literature critical of the
viewpoints taken in science fiction. This is a concern because, as Pohl
notes, its early
'...readers included a great many of that period's crop of young or
about-to-be scientists; the magazines sold best near college
campuses. But overwhelmingly the typical reader was a boy of about
15; some of the readers were even under ten.'62
One's beliefs develop from a variety of sources, not only factual
knowledge, and science fiction is an important means of influencing
many Americans and others around the world to develop a world-view
which is contrary to the belief that an all-loving and wise Creator
deliberately fashioned the universe for rational purposes, and part of
this universe is human beings which also have a purpose in God's scheme
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38. Howard, T. and Rifken, J., 1977. Who Should Play
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41. Sagan, C., and Leonard, J. N., 1972. Planets, Time-Life Books, New York, New York.
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