[Response to Dr Bergman's Teaching Evolution Through Science Fiction in Investigator #67]

John H. Williams

(Investigator 69, 1999 November)

I refer to the long article in Investigator 67, by Dr Jerry Bergman.

It's an impressive piece of work written by someone with a particular axe to grind, 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 of things. " (Bergman)

He correctly describes this world-view as a "belief".

I ask if Jerry can supply evidence that the being he referred to as "Creator" and "God" (a) exists, (b) is "all-loving" and "wise", (c) "deliberately (as opposed to accidentally, one presumes) fashioned the universe". My belief is that even a bloke with seven degrees will struggle to persuade non-believers. If there were verifiable and objective evidence, why isn't it currently available? Does Jerry have special prescience or sources?

I imagine Jerry really hitting the books on this, taking over most of Investigator Magazine and having several pages of references, perhaps including the views of our multi-degree'd polymath, Dr Paul Davies. If it can be done, I reckon that Jerry can, as he's managed to convey — with extreme economy at the end of his last two Investigator articles — that he has the 'good oil' on the 'mind' of the supposed being he and others call 'God'.

I would be most surprised if his thesis was not heavily biased towards speculation because, as far as I'm aware, the Big Questions, which were debated a few years ago by Phillip Adams and Paul Davies, remain firmly in the 'there is much we don't know for sure basket'.

Regarding Jerry's ideas on science fiction, I'm unconvinced.

It seems that H G Wells, Arthur Clark et al have helped indoctrinate atheism or non-atheism and propagated "evolutionism philosophy". I contend that one does not need to be exposed to science fiction to develop skeptical views about religion in general and the specific tenets of Christianity, such as the virgin birth and the resurrection, in particular. Creationism, whether it be presented as naive and simplistic speculation, or as slick, pseudo-scientific sophistry, stretches credulity even further. However, I remain open to argument, backed by evidence other than that "the Bible tells us so".

This I know to be true: in religious homes and schools world-wide children are being indoctrinated to believe stories as 'God's truth'. Everywhere young  humans are taught to believe medieval nonsense as if it were historical fact, in my opinion a  form of child abuse. Many of the victims, as they mature and become independent learners, object, becoming understandably non-religious or anti-religion.

Sometimes the Indoctrination process is more successful and a person remains a Jehovah's Witness, for example, until he or she finds out what their cult is really  up to, and leaves. (I have been reading Jerry's articles available on The Net and  it seems that he was once a JW, then left after he realised what the cult was really like).

I refer to Diane Gholson's powerful article in Investigator 66 on the sad story of  her family while under the sway of the JWs, a "faithful slave for 43 years". "We would have given our lives if necessary ... believing we had the only truth".  Admirably, the Gholsons made amends, were disfellowshipped (an honour!) and exposed the JWs for the nasty and manipulative cult they are. This is just one example of the frightening mind control techniques used to enslave young minds and to keep 'em believing, far stronger, I'd suggest, than being a keen reader of escapist  literature of  a futuristic nature!

Dr Bergman states in his summary (p 47) that "It (science fiction) is a means of indoctrination which is rarely balanced by reading literature critical of the viewpoints taken". I ask, who would bother to write counter-indoctrinatory tracts on sci-fi stories, and who but the writers and other creationists would bother to read them? This sounds a little like the old 'give Creationism equal time with evolutionary teaching in the classroom' argument.

Would he also be critical of the massive and widespread indoctrination of children in the home and in school, often a thorough daily brainwashing designed to turn people into well-programmed believers, with little hope of "balancing critical viewpoints"? Reading science fiction may well predispose young people to favour evolutionary philosophy but the link is tenuous at best, when viewed against what I perceive as far more influential factors, such as a sound education in the sciences, particularly Biology and Geology.

Science fiction is a genre like any other. Some people like to read it and it sells. Writers, publishers and booksellers make money from it. Although some writers have predicted that which has come to be, most readers aren't believers, just as they don't believe in myriad myths that abound. I argue that doubt and scepticism were in the minds of millions of young people well before they read  any science fiction (unless of course, they have been successfully brainwashed).

I'm strongly against force-feeding young people under the guise of  'education'. They should learn about religions but be allowed to explore for themselves. I encourage young people to be skeptical, read widely, ask questions, be aware of  the stories such as in science fiction (if they're interested), but to take care about that which they come to believe.

Few on the planet are unaware of George Lucas' Star Wars, which, like other popular examples of mass culture, taps into universal archetypes. Its warrior heroes and heroines, wise old men and other archetypes have universal appeal. They are devices developed to engage the deepest parts of ourselves. That they literally do not exist is irrelevant to their power. The problem is that some will want to claim that mythical stories, such as those in the Bible, are literally so, that all should believe in them and should ensure that their young believe in them too.

In my perception the Bible contains many archetypal characters some of whom once lived such as Jesus, others for whom we have no reliable evidence that they lived but who are likely to be 'composites' such as Moses, and that "all-loving and wise" entity variously known as I Am That I Am, Jehovah-God, The Creator and God.