Science Fiction Part 4

Sins, Souls, and Sentience

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Sci Fi the Series

The Eternal God
Free Will and a Blue Box
Calvinism and Vincent
Faith of Dragons
Sins, Souls, and Sentience
Daughters and Gifts

Any story written by a human will naturally draw from the human condition. It's no wonder than many unintentionally showcase the universality of sin. Is abortion wrong? A scene from Star Trek holds a helpful metaphor. And...does your sin ever scare you? It should...

Secret Sin

Dev and I were watching some documentaries on the making of Harry Potter the other night. When John Hurt, who played Ollivander the wand maker, came on, I stuck my hand up my shirt and made as if a small alien was clawing its way out of my gut. Dev giggled. Who can watch John Hurt without seeing his character on Alien (Or Spaceballs, for that matter — "Oh, no. Not again!") impersonate an eggshell? He had been part of a ship's crew that landed on another planet. He and some others went to investigate and found a room filled with egg-looking things. One of the eggs opened and a creature attacked his face. His crewmates took him back to the ship, and the creature eventually fell off, dead. He recovered, and seemed fine, until dinner when an alien larva, which had been deposited inside him to incubate, burst from his chest and ran around, killing almost all the crew.

Metaphors abound. First, he voluntarily walked into a place he knew nothing about, just to check it out. He realized it was probably dangerous, but he thought he could handle it. He was attacked, in a violent, obvious, harmful way. But after dealing with it, he felt fine. He seemed fine. He didn't realize that the secret attack was just beginning. It was now inside him, eating him from the inside out. And when it escaped to the surface, it violently threatened those around him.

Sin is the same way. We walk into temptation, thinking we have a handle on things. The first time we go down, we resolve to take care of it, not let it become a problem. But sin hides where no one can see it. We don't admit we have this dark, awful thing inside; we keep it a secret. Often, it's only when it's consumed us that others find out. That's when our sin lashes out at the ones we love.

The Bible says the same thing. Numbers 32:23 says, " sure your sin will find you out." And Jesus says, "For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light" (Luke 8:17). Granted, by "come to light," it doesn't always mean "burst from your chest and run around the room killing people." But hidden sin can cause just as much damage.

Is abortion wrong?

The most logical argument I ever heard against abortion was from an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. "The Measure of a Man" aired during the second season, in February, 1989. Data is a highly complex android, seemingly capable of independent thought, although not emotion. A scientist wants to take him apart, study him, and put him back together. Data, understanding the risks, refuses, and considers resigning from Starfleet. The scientist, however, points out that as a non-sentient being, Data is property of Starfleet, not an independent individual. It is not morally wrong to disassemble a machine.

The situation goes to trial. Data's friends and co-workers argue for his side. Others argue for the scientific advances that could come from studying Data. Picard points out that Data meets two of the three criteria given to define "sentient life" — he is intelligent and self-aware. The judge sums up the quandary:
It sits there looking at me; and I don't know what it is. This case has dealt with metaphysics — with questions best left to saints and philosophers. I am neither competent nor qualified to answer those. But I've got to make a ruling, to try to speak to the future. Is Data a machine? Yes. Is he the property of Starfleet? No. We have all been dancing around the basic issue: does Data have a soul? I don't know that he has. I don't know that I have. But I have got to give him the freedom to explore that question himself. It is the ruling of this court that Lieutenant Commander Data has the freedom to choose.
Quick rabbit-trail. Are you aware of why murder is even a big deal? It didn't start with the Ten Commandments. Murder is actually the first law God gave mankind with a punishment — and He gave it way back in Genesis 9:5-6. (The command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge was given to Adam and Eve, not mankind.) And murder is the first recorded crime that God punished after Eden, even further back in Genesis 4:1-15. Murder, the unjust taking of another's life (as opposed to "killing"), has been wrong since the beginning.

The question here is, like the judge pointed out, is the being in question a person? Does "murder" apply? Fetuses certainly have very limited intelligence and no self-awareness. But the same can be said for infants. So when does an embryo gain a soul? The answer is: we have no idea. We don't know when cells become life, although we know that God is intimately involved in the process (Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:13-16). In addition, God required the same punishment for the malicious death of an unborn baby as He did for an adult (Exodus 21:22-25). And so, if for no other reason, I have to stand behind the conservative ruling of the judge and err on the side of caution. We shouldn't take that risk.

Next: The difference between nuturing our daughters and controlling them.

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Published 10-26-11