Posted by: spacewritinguy | May 3, 2009

A Diplomat in the Space Culture War

Twenty years ago, I left the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church and set off on my own “spiritual quest” because I didn’t like what my pastor was saying about space exploration and science fiction. He was saying, more or less, that it was humanist and anti-God and that we should be concentrating on fixing life on this world rather than heading off to other ones. Hot button for me, obviously, as I’d been a space geek for nearly as long as I’d been going to church.

Over the intervening 20 years, life happened, and my spiritual quest led me through agnosticism to syncretism to outright atheism (a la Ayn Rand) and then, eventually, back to the Lutheran Church. I’m in the Wisconsin Synod this time, and I’ve been reasonably comfortable with it. However, this return does not come without some difficulties. For one thing, I occasionally find myself on the same side of the pastor who angered me so 20 years ago. Science fiction does have atheists and flat-out anti-Christians in its ranks. So does the space business. In any case, I occasionally encounter blatant hostility toward my positions, and that makes my pro-space stance more than a little challenging on occasion.

I am not anti-technology, as I’ve posted elsewhere, but I am pro-caution. I am also anti-elitist and anti-technocracy. I don’t believe that just because certain people in the country have better knowledge of science or technology that they are any more suited for leadership than someone who has superior knowledge of scripture. People are people, and people are flawed and–dare I say it?–fallen, sinful.

Then comes the argument between Evolutionism vs. Creationism, which is about as fun as listening to a long argument about abortion or liberation for pick-your-persecuted-group. I’ve been in a couple arguments like that, and it took a couple of days to settle down enough to speak civilly to other people afterward. I consider both points of view philosophical stance and claim, absolutely, agnosticism on God’s method of creating the universe. I like the idea one of my fellow church members had: rather than moving Creationism into the science department, move both Evolution and Creationism into the philosophy department and let the arguments occur there.

The thing that disturbs me most, perhaps, is that because I am a Christian, there’s an assumption that I do not have the RIGHT to speak about scientific matters if I’m going to insert my religion into the discussion. Leaving aside origin-focused science for the moment, I would not attempt to “impose my religion” on the practice of science. Science and technology POLICY? That’s another matter. When the practice of science–or technology–results in harming other people, committing blatant sins against God’s Creation, or violating the free expression of religion, then I absolutely have a right to express myself, and will do so.

As to how this affects my attitudes toward space, I do have my moments of doubt. The rest of this solar system is hostile to human life. Can we really live on other worlds, or in free space? Is travel to other stars possible in the lifetime of individual human beings? Is it desirable, or should we learn to love one another and tend our own garden here on Earth? Occasionally, even space adovcates can have a crisis of faith, and when we do, it is wise that we consider what answers we will give ourselves before standing firm in discussions with others. Philosophy matters, no matter what we do.

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