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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Future of the Future

John C. Wright predicts where SF/F is heading on the basis of its primary purposes:
Like all fiction, Science Fiction is an oasis of rest amid the wasteland of mundane life, a time between toil to lift our eyes to distant mountains and wonder what is beyond them, or to lift our eyes further, to the stars, and wonder.

Unlike other fiction, which contains imaginary places and events, science fiction also contains an imaginary cosmos that operates by different rules, perhaps one where men can be invisible, or fly to the moon in antigravity spheres, or suffer an invasion by hunger and superior beings from Mars. The bridge between the real cosmos and the science fictional cosmos is the speculation, either rigorous or lax, of scientific plausibility that connects them. If you have invisible man in a science fiction story, he must perhaps walk unclothed, for example, because that is a realistic extrapolation from the unrealistic premise; or if you have invaders from Mars, they must have physiology evolved by Martian conditions, they perhaps will be swiftly poisoned by the diseases their more advanced civilization long ago abolished from their sterile world, because again this is a realistic extrapolation from an unreal premise.

Fantasy also postulates a different cosmos with different rules, but the bridge that reaches to the perilous realm of Elfland from our world is one of dream-logic. If the wicked witch says love’s first kiss will wake the sleeping beauty, only the prince who did not die on the enchanted thorns hedging the haunting castle may kiss and wake her, and not Doctor McCoy with a hypospray of stimulant. Because that is the way dream logic works, or fairy tales, or myths: the arbitrary rules of Elfland can be trespassed only with draconian retaliation, and the rewards achieved by the bold or the cunning performance of the twelve terrible tasks or the answer of the riddle of the sphinx. These are the dreamlike implications of the unreal premise, based on the rules of a realm no man has seen, but which we somehow always greet with a start of recognition.

Why do we need dreams to come from a cosmos other than this one?

I propose that while somewhere, on some dark and moonless world of inky seas beneath a blood-colored sun, some Coleopterous race of pitiless logic and soulless energy toil and travail nakedly without joy, copulate without love, live without dreams and perish without regret, their corpses left to rot where they fall, or are eaten by their larvae, that these insectiod swarms are the true heirs to this cosmos, and, unlike Man, feel no discomfort at existence here. Birth is no miracle to them and death no tragedy, because they are at home here, and their emotions exactly suit and match the contours of the world.

Not Man. We are exiles.
Wright identifies the intrinsic flaw in mainstream secular science fiction and fantasy. Rejecting, as it does, the fundamentally religious foundation of fantasy, (for Wright is incorrect and George MacDonald, not William Morris, is the father of fantasy), modern fantasy cannot serve its primary purpose because it cannot slake a thirst its writers do not even realize exists.  This is why there so often feels like something missing from even the best modern fantasy, why it is lifeless, soulless, and limited to portraying shades of grey in the place of the full color spectrum.

Mainstream science fiction is affected by these problems too, but to a much lesser extent because it has a different purpose. If fantasy is meant to provide the exile with dreams of home, science fiction is supposed to provide a technological vision of the future. The problem is that science is increasingly beyond the comprehension of the science fiction writer to grasp its implications, has settled many of the questions to which science fiction once proposed answers, (and often in a way that renders more abstract the various possibilities of wonder), and is increasingly written by writers who have no interest in technology and can't explain how their television's remote control worked, much less present a technologically credible vision of the future.  Even as less science fiction is being published, there is less and less science to be found in what purports to remain of it.

It is hard to dispute Wright's conclusion: "So look for a growth of darker fantasies in the future as the scientific world view slowly gives way to a world view that does not believe in science, nor in any over-arching narrative, nor in truth, nor in beauty, nor in virtue."

But that is neither fantasy nor science fiction.  What we are witnessing is the lingering death of two literary genres. What we are seeing is the subsumption of fantasy and science fiction by romance and horror.

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105 Comments:

Anonymous TJIC April 17, 2013 6:34 AM  

I attended a writer's chat once and got to ask Michael Swanwick a question. I asked if there was any deep symbolic reason that the dragon in his novel The Iron Dragon's Daughter was named Melanchthon - was it named after theologian Philipp Melanchthon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philipp_Melanchthon ?

He said it was, but denied that there was deep symbolism there - but then used my question as a jumping off point for a fascinating lecture on religion and fantasy.

Swanwick is, I take it, an agnostic, but he asserted that all of the best fantasy comes from Catholics and former Catholics (he's in the "former Catholic" category). His argument was that Protestants have the central premise of a personal relationship with Jesus which is largely emotional, whereas Catholics have a deep history of theology and a set of rules about a vast and invisible world. The result, he said, is that Catholics are deeply used to an invisible system that "makes sense", whereas most other groups either don't believe in an invisible world, or have faith in an invisible world that is ad hoc.

Thus, according to Swanwick, fantasies made by Catholics and former Catholics (himself, Gene Wolfe, Tolkien) have a deep unity of structure in the fantastic world that is missing from much other fantasy.

I'm sure you'd want to modify this to include exceptions for extremely analytic and rational Christians outside the Church of Rome, but I found it a fascinating premise.

Blogger IM2L844 April 17, 2013 7:14 AM  

Thus, according to Swanwick, fantasies made by Catholics and former Catholics (himself, Gene Wolfe, Tolkien) have a deep unity of structure in the fantastic world that is missing from much other fantasy.

I came away from The Sword of Truth series with the distinct impression that Terry Goodkind had permanently been emotionally scared by nuns.

Anonymous Krul April 17, 2013 7:17 AM  

It is hard to dispute Wright's conclusion: "So look for a growth of darker fantasies in the future as the scientific world view slowly gives way to a world view that does not believe in science, nor in any over-arching narrative, nor in truth, nor in beauty, nor in virtue."

I don't think he's quite correct. "Dark" fantasies are already the norm. Lacking genuine interest in science and technology, as you say, the authors are too creatively bankrupt to continue generating new fantasies, dark or otherwise. The genre will die the death of a thousand retreads, only to be resurrected when humankind rediscovers the virtues that made it possible to begin with.

Anonymous Krul April 17, 2013 7:18 AM  

IM2L844 - I came away from The Sword of Truth series with the distinct impression that Terry Goodkind had permanently been emotionally scared by nuns.

Heh.

Anonymous zen0 April 17, 2013 7:23 AM  

@ VD
What we are seeing is the subsumption of fantasy and science fiction by romance and horror.

@ Colonel Blimp, re Pat Summerall thread
If you go through but three of those videos from back when the striking thing that pops out is that actual football is being discussed almost exclusively. Only in the last 10-15 years has the "stories" and drama been added and then made the focal point. The dumbing down of America coupled with the not-so subtle brainwashing of America are made so clear by watching 70s and 80s Madden-Summerall.

Common theme: The commercialization of women's predilectations ruins everything.


Blogger IM2L844 April 17, 2013 7:24 AM  

scared and scarred

Anonymous Mudz April 17, 2013 7:26 AM  

Wright's essays are fantastic. He has a gift for inspiring narratives.

Anonymous L. Ron Nubbins April 17, 2013 7:50 AM  

Here's a word you don't here in these discussions:

Fraud. Scam.

SF is about ideas. Fantasy is about storytelling. The best also include entertainment.

At least the pulps like Baen and game-related fiction have story and entertainment.

Meanwhile, most leftist/feminist SFF is boring as shIt. How many new ideas do you ever find in leftie SF?

What do you call a product that lies about its features and benefits? The answer: a fraud.

Blogger tz April 17, 2013 7:56 AM  

We've replaced science fiction with techno-fiction. Flying cars, space ships, teleporters, without any explanation how they work, or what new physics was discovered. Asimov wrote science fact books. Jerry Pournelle wrote science columns for a Catholic magazine (twit.tv's triangulation had him on twice, both worth listening to).

I doubt the modern authors could beat me at science trivia.

Romance? There is that strange word again. To love what saccharin is to sugar? But even the trashy formula novels are better than fantasy.

Horror is the best word, but a horror without fear or excitement. Just a fade to gray.

Anonymous Miserman April 17, 2013 8:07 AM  

Even though mine is a overly simplistic view, I have always seen fantasy fiction as stories that are focused on the transcendent supernatural in the natural world and science fiction as stories that are focused on the effects of science on the human condition, for better or for worse. Horror fantasy, for me, has been the idea of stories focused on the presence of malevolence, both natural and supernatural.

So a literary future of stories focused on malevolence and emotional ego (romance) makes sense to me.

Blogger Joshua Dyal April 17, 2013 8:42 AM  

While it's true that fantasy is evolving (as it always has been) I think it's quite a leap of overstatement to say that its in a lingering death phase. From a pure numbers perspective, that's nonsense, of course, fantasy has been growing for a long time. To say that it's becoming something else is a more interesting argument, but one that I have a hard time seeing.

Sure, elements of horror and romance (as a genre) are at a noticeable high right now, but fantasy isn't just some kind of monolithic thing that can't accomodate hybrids of various stripes. What was original sword & sorcery a la Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith, if not a hybrid of Orientalism, swashbuckling, and Lovecraftian horror? What was the high fantasy of Tolkien and C. S. Lewis if not a hybrid of north European mythology and fairytales with the modern novel form?

In fact, I'd say that the evolution of fantasy is long overdue and is evidence of its continued vitality rather than it's inevitable demise. For far too long it's been content to retread Tolkien and been unable--both from the perspective of the authors and the audience--to step too far out of the radius of Tolkien's influence. The fact that it's stretching and hybridizing, and trying new things is evidence of the continued resilience of the genre. No doubt some of what it's doing will be faddish and fade away (hopefully the contemporary supernatural romance angle proves to so) but changes in the tone and scope of the genre are not evidence of decay; just evidence of continuity with the past, which always did so--until becoming semi-"frozen" in time with the success of Tolkien.

Blogger Joshua Dyal April 17, 2013 8:45 AM  

Now science fiction, on the other hand, certainly does appear to be in a lingering terminal phase. As literature, anyway. As a form of visual entertainment, it's hardly ever been more prominent. But as others have mentioned, it's more like techno-babble fiction than science fiction. There's no science involved, just the trappings of science fiction. Bat Durston would have been proud to be part of today's market in visual science fiction--TV, movies and video games.

Anonymous VD April 17, 2013 8:58 AM  

While it's true that fantasy is evolving (as it always has been) I think it's quite a leap of overstatement to say that its in a lingering death phase. From a pure numbers perspective, that's nonsense, of course, fantasy has been growing for a long time. To say that it's becoming something else is a more interesting argument, but one that I have a hard time seeing.

Look at the covers. Read the stories. Note the plotlines. The numbers are meaningless. What is growing is simply romance with the trappings of fantasy. The entire Urban Fantasy subgenre is nothing more than romance with grotesques and guns.

Anonymous dh April 17, 2013 9:02 AM  

Horror is the best word, but a horror without fear or excitement. Just a fade to gray.

This is pretty insightful. Hard to care about fictional characters living in a fictional world who have no purpose to existence. In, for example, Heinlein's world, why do we care about Rico? I don't think I remember anything explicitly mentioning religion at all, but he is motivated at first from selfishness, but then by nationalism (or, err, I guess earthism) and patriotic zeal. We care about his development and his progression into a citizen. His motivations seem crisp.

Compare to other works, like, let's say Redshirts. Why would we care about any of the characters? Who cares if they are living in a badly written TV show? We are supposed to care because of anachronistic references to pop-culture, and because the whole thing is doubly super ironic. And since the author lets us know that it's doubly super ironic, we are just supposed to go along with it. The author never presents any reason to care about what happens to Dahl, and so, we don't. Whether he dies on an away mission, or is the main character, who cares?

Blogger IM2L844 April 17, 2013 9:18 AM  

What we are seeing is the subsumption of fantasy and science fiction by romance and horror.

Everything is touched by postmodernism's continued redefinition of good vs evil.

Anonymous David of One April 17, 2013 9:21 AM  

Having just woke, no coffee yet and ... wow.

Thank You. This deserves a second or third read ... with coffee and after ... at least.

Wow, thank you.

Anonymous a_peraspera April 17, 2013 9:29 AM  

Decades ago, guys like Larry Niven, Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter wrote books with real science in them, because they knew how to do real science. I mean, Larry Niven actually knows how to calculate how much chemical fuel you would need to get your rocket to .1% of lightspeed in x number of days of thrust, and it shows in his work. Alastair Reynolds has a scene where a spaceship is traveling VERY quickly and runs up on a near-invisible obstacle left in its path by the enemy. The ship's AI has to make a split-nanosecond decision to induce sideways thrust to avoid the obstacle; any of the crew not in accelerator couches are hurled against the wall and pulped.

Now that the generation of white male engineers who sent rockets to the moon is dying off, everyone is pursuing useless liberal arts degrees...and the smartest white men seem to become lawyers and bankers, not engineers.

The "Scalzi/Resnick generation" of sci-fi writers don't put real science in their books because they don't know any science. They have to construct a world where anything can happen at whim, because they don't understand the physical laws underpinning the real world. With them it's all "Reverse the polarity on the main sensor dish" and boom the world is saved. Laughable.

Blogger JartStar April 17, 2013 9:47 AM  

Vox,

Perhaps there should be a move amongst fantasy authors to define traditional fantasy so that the reader would have a better chance at finding it rather than the latest romance called fantasy.

Anonymous The other skeptic April 17, 2013 9:58 AM  

In our present, however, the agenda is obvious and blatent.

Anonymous Anonymous April 17, 2013 10:00 AM  

"The Scalzi/Resnick generation of sci-fi writers don't put real science in their books because they don't know any science."

Blame Star Wars.

Star Wars = fantasy in space.

Plus Star Trek ...technobabble.

Blogger Nate April 17, 2013 10:06 AM  

" The entire Urban Fantasy subgenre is nothing more than romance with grotesques and guns."

Apart from MHI and Dresden Files.

Blogger Nate April 17, 2013 10:11 AM  

Roger Zelazny asked real questions with his work. For example I Am Legion attempted to deal with the problem of a world with a unified database. Modern critics today look back and see his take as quaint... mostly because the powers that be have allowed the illusion of freedom to remain intact.

Blogger Nate April 17, 2013 10:12 AM  

Where is a modern Roger Zelazny?

Anonymous Daniel April 17, 2013 10:14 AM  

I must say, your words have been on a spectacular run of late, but with them, you have proven the lie: if anyone can get away with such substance of language, the decline is not inevitable.

I'd merely point to other death points of either genre:

1941 - Fantasy. Seeds in the 1930s. The Hobbit of the 30s was relegated to children's fiction, after all. Lovecraft died, the pulps hit the paper shock.

1954 - Science Fiction - The comics code and "teen comix" boom put a nasty bullet in the head of superheroes.

1964 - Science Fiction - Although it is hard to see it, it should be noted that the SFWA was founded for a reason, once.

1970 - Fantasy - Now, I wouldn't call this period anywhere near as dire as others, but the 2nd Tolkien revival didn't get huge until the late 70s, and and I believe Sword of Shannara was the first fantasy to ever make what was then the significant NY Times bestseller list.

Commies and fascists and trends have always assaulted SF/F, at times taking credit for their respective genre's existence. Now the problem is that trendy fascist commie girls have propped up their vaginal fantasy right in the middle of the market faire.

But it isn't like tables in the temple are going to turn over by themselves...

Anonymous WCU April 17, 2013 10:19 AM  

"I propose that while somewhere, on some dark and moonless world of inky seas beneath a blood-colored sun, some Coleopterous race of pitiless logic and soulless energy toil and travail nakedly without joy, copulate without love" ...Sounds awfully close to that hideous strength to me...

Blogger The Anti-Gnostic April 17, 2013 10:26 AM  

Now that the generation of white male engineers who sent rockets to the moon is dying off, everyone is pursuing useless liberal arts degrees...and the smartest white men seem to become lawyers and bankers, not engineers.

The "Scalzi/Resnick generation" of sci-fi writers don't put real science in their books because they don't know any science. They have to construct a world where anything can happen at whim, because they don't understand the physical laws underpinning the real world. With them it's all "Reverse the polarity on the main sensor dish" and boom the world is saved. Laughable.


I'm glad I'm not the only one who's noticed this. I'd add to Vox's points by saying a good SF story turns in some way (plot, character, etc.) on a scientific or technological principle, even a speculative or fantastic principle so long as it's internally consistent. The modern authors don't know all that Dead White Guy stuff like science, logic, scientific method.

Anonymous Josh April 17, 2013 10:26 AM  

OT: rabbits gonnna rabbit:

http://www.salon.com/2013/04/16/lets_hope_the_boston_marathon_bomber_is_a_white_american/

Blogger Nate April 17, 2013 10:29 AM  

"Now that the generation of white male engineers who sent rockets to the moon is dying off"

No really! The government used to be super competent and super smart!!! Really they did! They just turned dumb later!

Blogger Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus April 17, 2013 10:30 AM  

SF is definitely working its way down the Mohs scale in recent years.

Anonymous Josh April 17, 2013 10:32 AM  

No really! The government used to be super competent and super smart!!! Really they did! They just turned dumb later!

Rivets!

Anonymous Lars Walker April 17, 2013 10:39 AM  

I like this. It helps me think about "Throne of Bones," which I'm reading now, in relation to "Game of Thrones." You aren't, frankly, as good a stylist as George R. R. Martin, but unlike him you haven't ripped your own heart out, and you don't resent your readers for having hearts of their own.

Anonymous Stickwick April 17, 2013 10:41 AM  

The problem is that science is increasingly beyond the comprehension of the science fiction writer to grasp its implications ...

Only because writers have become less inclined to try to understand it, not because science has moved beyond the realm of understanding by laypeople.

... has settled many of the questions to which science fiction once proposed answers, (and often in a way that renders more abstract the various possibilities of wonder) ...

Science has settled some of the old questions, but it has also given rise to astonishing new ones. Consider that with big bang cosmology, science has fully opened the realm of the supernatural. Moreover, science is starting to build a coherent picture of a vast intellect behind the workings of the universe, a Master Programmer that has coded a physical simulation for spiritual beings. The vast majority of people are not aware of this, because they rely on the media gatekeepers for their perception of science. The problem is that the media are no more reliable about science than they are about politics, economics, race, and culture. The gatekeepers of information are so locked into their dual sensationalist / humanist paradigm that they cannot help but present a distorted picture of what's going on in science and are themselves blind to the borderline obvious. The last fifty years of science shouldn't mark the demise of science fiction, but inspire a new direction. In that spirit, I am working on a hard sci-fi novella with a strong supernatural component. It will be scientifically rigorous, but it will (I hope) resonate with the imagination and inspire a sense of wonder.

Anonymous Josh April 17, 2013 10:48 AM  

Stickwick,

I keep hearing from people that the hardcore physics and astronomy departments have fewer atheists these days because of advances in science. Has this been your experience?

Anonymous VD April 17, 2013 10:52 AM  

Thank You. This deserves a second or third read ... with coffee and after ... at least.

I would encourage you to go to John C. Wright's page, read the whole thing, and thank him.

You aren't, frankly, as good a stylist as George R. R. Martin, but unlike him you haven't ripped your own heart out, and you don't resent your readers for having hearts of their own.

It is true. I am not. Nor, stylistically speaking, am I fit to lick the ground that Tanith Lee's bare feet have trod. Fortunately, there is more to a book than the style of its prose. I'm particularly conscious of this right now, since I am reading Infinite Jest, where there is no shortage of style, but little in the way of story or credible characters.

Given the limits of my talents, I figure that if the prose doesn't actually get in the way of the reader experiencing the story, it has done its job.

Anonymous Stilicho April 17, 2013 10:52 AM  

In that spirit, I am working on a hard sci-fi novella with a strong supernatural component. It will be scientifically rigorous, but it will (I hope) resonate with the imagination and inspire a sense of wonder.

Stickwick, there is also a wonderful non-fiction book in there as well. Sort a layman's primer on this:

Moreover, science is starting to build a coherent picture of a vast intellect behind the workings of the universe, a Master Programmer that has coded a physical simulation for spiritual beings. The vast majority of people are not aware of this, because they rely on the media gatekeepers for their perception of science.

Anonymous VryeDenker April 17, 2013 10:53 AM  

This topic comes up right in the middle of my foray into the works of Jules Verne.

What I like about each one of his books is that he took the time to explain aspects in such detail that you almost believe he actually built the Columbiad and shot himself and two friends at the moon. He also gives enough detail to make you believe you could build your own cannon and do likewise.

Anonymous Aeoli April 17, 2013 10:54 AM  

Jartstar,

You may be missing the significance of those new links in the sidebar. The demand exists. The only reason most people haven't stumbled onto the fourth-wave reactionary movements (Game and such) is that they don't know about them, except perhaps through a hostile MSM interview.

This will either explode by word of mouth or be snuffed out quickly, and I don't think TPTB can do that without sudden, massive internet censorship.

Anonymous Stilicho April 17, 2013 10:56 AM  

Not Man. We are exiles.

This. A thousand times this. This is what separates great works of fantasy from the rest; the ability to convey that sense that we are exiles in this mundane world and that our true home is in the author's world. Reading a great fantasy novel should always convey a sense of coming home.

Blogger IM2L844 April 17, 2013 10:59 AM  

Consider that with big bang cosmology, science has fully opened the realm of the supernatural.

One of my biggest pet peeves is that there are still those who steadfastly insist that refusing to accept this is the most rational position.

Blogger JartStar April 17, 2013 11:00 AM  

@Stickwick,

Sounds great, are you going to publish it or give it away?

How's the little one coming?

Blogger GF Dad April 17, 2013 11:01 AM  

"Common theme: The commercialization of women's predilectations ruins everything."

I don't know how you all feel, but a woman sports fan is the biggest turn off - sexually, intellectually and sports-wise. When asked why they like a particular team or player, their answers focus on non sequiturs like, "You've gotta pull for YOUR team! Come on, get with the program." or "He's cute." One woman I know was obsessed with getting her picture taken with each of her alma mater's football players and then posting the picture on Facebook. The final result was she only was able to get pictures with the minority players. In hindsight, I wonder if pictures were the only thing she took away from the encounters.
We have other friends, where the husbands will get together and watch the game in whatever clothes they were wearing prior to the game, but the wives dress up in team jerseys and even put on eye black. The first time I saw them I burst out laughing and mocked them for having mocked scifi and fantasy cosplayers. They're most definitely cosplayers, but without bodies of the slave girl Leias they mocked.
So yes, the femine imperative has screwed up sports and will continue. NASCAR may not survive Danica Patrick and what she brings.
Oh, and great post on the present mess we call scifi and fantasy.

Blogger Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus April 17, 2013 11:09 AM  

Stickwick said, "Only because writers have become less inclined to try to understand it, not because science has moved beyond the realm of understanding by laypeople."

Hey, as long as they know that global warming is Truth(tm), that's all they really need.

Blogger JartStar April 17, 2013 11:13 AM  

Aeoli,

I was thinking of something more formal than just linking to each others works, but perhaps a Traditional Fantasy Writers Guild.

For instance the Oil Painters of America are "Dedicated to the Preservation of Representational Art". They have a board and yearly contests. I think Vox would be perfect to put something like this together as he has the contacts, but then again he's rather busy.

Anonymous Stickwick April 17, 2013 11:18 AM  

What we are seeing is the subsumption of fantasy and science fiction by romance and horror.

I stopped reading contemporary sci-fi a long time ago, but this certainly describes the last 20 or so years of sci-fi film. If you look for sci-fi DVDs at Fry's or Best Buy, they are almost always lumped in with the horror genre. The distinction between the two is almost academic at this point.

Arguably, the watershed moment in cinematic sci-fi was Alien. Just as The Lord of the Rings inspired innumerable soulless derivatives by authors seeking to counterfeit its magic while recognizing none of what made it magical, we have filmmakers who seek to replicate the exquisite sense of fear and wonder of Alien while failing to understand what made it a masterwork of dark science fiction. In fact, they get it exactly backwards, as humanists so often do: Scott and O'Bannon used a sense of horror to tell a magnificent visual story; today's sci-fi filmmakers attempt to tell a horror story using magnificent visuals. Such a story is of limited appeal, because fundamental human nature has not changed -- we are still beings with a deep longing for mystery and the spiritual.

There is one bright point on the horizon. Physicist Kip Thorne, who is considered the greatest living authority on gravitation and relativity, has retired from his position at Caltech to pursue a filmmaking career. He authored the outstanding popular physics book, Black Holes and Time Warps, so we know he's adept at presenting rigorous science in a way that's palatable to non-scientists. Moreover, he is the physicist responsible for mainstreaming the idea of the wormhole. Thorne has just co-authored a script for a hard sci-fi movie (called Interstellar) that is going to be directed by Christopher Nolan. It involves time-travel and alternate dimensions, but from the perspective of someone who arguably understands them better than anyone else.

Anonymous Hi There April 17, 2013 11:33 AM  

"NASCAR may not survive Danica Patrick and what she brings."

Ronda Rousey...

Anonymous Stickwick April 17, 2013 11:56 AM  

I keep hearing from people that the hardcore physics and astronomy departments have fewer atheists these days because of advances in science. Has this been your experience?

Yes. Physicist Paul Davies comments in the preface to one of his books that after he wrote (IIRC) God and the New Physics, many of his colleagues confessed to him that they were either closet believers or people who at least felt a deep spiritual reverence for something akin to God. The hard atheist is, in my estimation, not nearly as common in physics/astrophysics as people think.

Stickwick, there is also a wonderful non-fiction book in there as well. Sort a layman's primer on this:

There are several books that address this topic, though not as explicitly as I've presented it. A book that incorporates all of the evidence and arguments into one concise volume is an excellent idea, and that could be in the offing. My approach is to first popularize the idea by presenting it in a narrative, pique people's interest, and then perhaps present the ideas more formally in a non-fiction format.

One of my biggest pet peeves is that there are still those who steadfastly insist that refusing to accept this is the most rational position.

It's indicative of the power of their worldview. If they value logic (and it's not clear they do even nominally anymore), then they cannot both accept big bang theory and deny the existence of the supernatural.

Sounds great, are you going to publish it or give it away?

Hadn't thought that far ahead. Probably self-publish and offer it for $2 or something.

How's the little one coming?

I think I mentioned in a previous thread that we lost our little girl in November. We are trying again. If you're so inclined, a prayer for success would be appreciated. :^)

Blogger GF Dad April 17, 2013 11:59 AM  

She looks like a younger, toned Diane Lane. This is a good thing. However, since I don't follow MMA, I can not speak to whatever long term impact she may or may not have on the sport. My thoughts regarding Patrick's impact on NASCAR are this: NASCAR's success is due to the fact that the average fan and the typical participant look alike and come from similar backgrounds. The "game" is not terribly complex and IMO, isn't terribly exciting except for things like wrecks and risky passing, unless they're at a road course. Most of the passion fans have is based upon their identification with their favorite driver(s). Patrick's looks can only carry her so far because after a while male fans will not identify with her, no matter how hot they think she is. Female fans will view her as competition. A fit, but relatively plain woman driver would have better chance of attracting female fans as they identify with her. But I fear this would eventually drive the good ole southern boys away and onto lakes and rivers and into deer stands. Rather than deal with rooting against their significant others driver, they will go their own way.

Blogger JartStar April 17, 2013 11:59 AM  

Hadn't thought that far ahead. Probably self-publish and offer it for $2 or something.

Let me know if you need a cover artist.

I think I mentioned in a previous thread that we lost our little girl in November. We are trying again. If you're so inclined, a prayer for success would be appreciated. :^)

I missed that. I am so very sorry and will pray for you.

Anonymous VD April 17, 2013 11:59 AM  

I was thinking of something more formal than just linking to each others works, but perhaps a Traditional Fantasy Writers Guild. For instance the Oil Painters of America are "Dedicated to the Preservation of Representational Art". They have a board and yearly contests. I think Vox would be perfect to put something like this together as he has the contacts, but then again he's rather busy.

The problem is that those who are strong and independent enough to survive and even thrive in an environment where the deck is stacked against them are not joiners. There are ways to surmount this, but I'm not presently in a position to do so. But, I'm doing what I can now, which is using this blog as a means of helping raise the profile of the more traditionally minded authors.

Judging by some of the emails I have received from them, this appears to be effective.

Anonymous Hermit April 17, 2013 12:00 PM  

Did someone mention rabbits?

Anonymous Stickwick April 17, 2013 12:11 PM  

Let me know if you need a cover artist.

I'm enraptured by sci-fi book covers from the 1960s. If you're interested in doing something along those lines, let's get together on this when the time comes.

Anonymous rycamor April 17, 2013 12:16 PM  

Stickwick April 17, 2013 11:56 AM

I think I mentioned in a previous thread that we lost our little girl in November. We are trying again. If you're so inclined, a prayer for success would be appreciated. :^)


Been there... sorry to hear. Definitely will pray.

Blogger Nate April 17, 2013 12:17 PM  

"Let me know if you need a cover artist."

You're supposed to me getting me a giant flaming bull with sharks and lasers dammit!

Anonymous buzzcut April 17, 2013 12:19 PM  

@Stickwick - in my prayers.

Anonymous pc geek April 17, 2013 12:22 PM  

I think I mentioned in a previous thread that we lost our little girl in November. We are trying again. If you're so inclined, a prayer for success would be appreciated. :^)

So sorry to hear that!

Consider a prayer as having been said!

Blogger JartStar April 17, 2013 12:25 PM  

I'm enraptured by sci-fi book covers from the 1960s. If you're interested in doing something along those lines, let's get together on this when the time comes.

I'm sure I can come up with something good. You can contact me at this user name at gmail Send me some examples when you get a chance.

Anonymous Anonagain April 17, 2013 12:38 PM  

How many great novels, in any genre, are written by North Koreans or Chinese?

Leftism is death of the human spirit, nihilism. The Leftist world has no future, no past, no present. It's an ideology lost in unending struggle against reality and God - hardly the inspiration for greatness.

Anonymous rycamor April 17, 2013 12:40 PM  

a_peraspera April 17, 2013 9:29 AM
Now that the generation of white male engineers who sent rockets to the moon is dying off, everyone is pursuing useless liberal arts degrees...and the smartest white men seem to become lawyers and bankers, not engineers.


Bah. It's not for lack of knowledge or inventiveness in the scientific world. It's just our popular culture has lost the capability to sit and think about anything for more than a moment or two. Compounding the problem, the science we knew from the 50s and 60s, when everyone figured the "final answer" to all the big questions was just around the corner, has gotten MUCH more complex. Many of the old straightforward assumptions have either been upended, or amended with so many odd caveats that it is enough to make the average guy's head hurt.

Personally, I find this fascinating, but I think at some point the popular culture tuned out on the fascination with science, especially when they kept on seeing pronouncements shift from decade to decade. "Coffee is good for you? But just a couple decades ago it was bad for you! And go back a couple decades more and it was good for you! Can't these guys make up their minds?"

Anonymous MendoScot April 17, 2013 1:21 PM  

we have filmmakers who seek to replicate the exquisite sense of fear and wonder of Alien while failing to understand what made it a masterwork of dark science fiction

Sigourney Weaver's nipples.

Blogger IM2L844 April 17, 2013 1:22 PM  

popular culture tuned out on the fascination with science

Hmmm. I wonder if the incessant drumbeat continuously pounding out the message that science proves beyond any reasonable doubt that humanity is nothing more than a collection of insignificant animals an on insignificant spec of dust in a vast, but ultimately meaningless multiverse has anything to do with that.

Anonymous Stickwick April 17, 2013 1:25 PM  

Thanks for the prayers, friends.

JartStar, if history is any indicator, this novella will take me a while to finish. But once it's significantly written, I'll be in contact. These covers (here, here, here, and here) are along the lines of what I'm thinking.

Anonymous Darth Toolpodicus April 17, 2013 1:25 PM  

Stickwick:

My condolences, I will keep you and your husband in prayer.

I for one look forward to seeing some genuine hard-science-informed SF that isn't garden variety clap-trap. XXXXXX by Staperus Maximus will be on the to-buy list.

One of the details I really liked about Kloos' Terms of Enlistment was that he called out his FTL drive as an Alcubierre warp bubble.

I don't have hard plans for anything like a novel, but I've definitely spent a lot of time thinking over concepts for practical limitations on ideas like warp bubble drives: nobody ever seems to pay mind to things like power sources and energy densities.

Anonymous rycamor April 17, 2013 1:42 PM  

IM2L844 April 17, 2013 1:22 PM

popular culture tuned out on the fascination with science

Hmmm. I wonder if the incessant drumbeat continuously pounding out the message that science proves beyond any reasonable doubt that humanity is nothing more than a collection of insignificant animals an on insignificant spec of dust in a vast, but ultimately meaningless multiverse has anything to do with that.


But some of that has always been with science fiction. Most sci-fi writers were evolutionists even back in the 40s and 50s. However, they at least tried to put some hope for the transcendent into their work. Remember, they were writing to a culture that, Christian or not, was bound together by a Christian moral framework. There was a lot of hearty Americanism and boyish wide-eyed wonder, and a sense of personal honor that you just don't find anymore. As Vox has said, throw out the author of the framework, and eventually the framework begins to corrupt. We live in a time when most students not only cheat on their grades, but 50% think that getting ahead in this manner is not even cheating at all.

Anonymous rycamor April 17, 2013 1:43 PM  

Stickwick, count me among the sure sales when the book comes out.

Anonymous Mike M. April 17, 2013 1:52 PM  

A lot of good SF focuses on implications of a given technology. For example, let's assume we have a Star Trek replicator. Push a button, and goods pop out.

What does this do to the definition of wealth? Especially if the replicator can create an egg-sized diamond as easily as a piece of charcoal? What does it do to the definition of crime? Maybe theft becomes a capital crime, because only a dangerously deranged or very cruel person would steal what he can replicate for free.

As for people turning away from science and engineering, I think there are several factors. First, engineering has always been a path for smart kids from the lower middle class to move up. The material is too hard for the snob school crowd to master. Second, the schools do a terrible job of teaching that there IS a scientific and engineering frontier. They teach disputed theories as established facts, instead of presenting conflicting theories and encouraging research. Third, the entertainment culture is totally ignorant of even high school science. They are pushing fantasy with a SF paint scheme, nothing more. And finally, I think we're in a slump - we need a conceptual breakthrough that will open a new technical frontier.

Which is precisely the sort of thing that good classic SF encourages.

Anonymous MoscowEast April 17, 2013 2:16 PM  

Wright's 'The Golden Age' trilogy is some of the best sci-fi I've ever read. I am less keen on his fantasy output, though it's still 4 stars out of 5. I'm pleased to see that he's returned to sci-fi and I've just ordered the first two books in his latest trilogy. They get a kicking from a few reviewers on Amazon, but so did his first trilogy (usually from assorted Lefties) so that hasn't put me off.

Anonymous daddynichol April 17, 2013 2:46 PM  

Stickwick, put me down for a copy when it's released.

Blogger Joshua Dyal April 17, 2013 3:17 PM  

Look at the covers. Read the stories. Note the plotlines. The numbers are meaningless. What is growing is simply romance with the trappings of fantasy. The entire Urban Fantasy subgenre is nothing more than romance with grotesques and guns.

That's true for the entire (almost; exceptions a la Jim Butcher exist) urban fantasy subgenre. Which has had off-the-charts growth for the last several years; also true.

That does not mean that fantasy in a non-urban fantasy subgenre hasn't also had considerable growth, both in terms of titles published and sales both. Like I said, I hope to all that's holy that the current incarnation of supernatural romance being called fantasy ends up being no more than a relatively short-lived fad, started more or less with Anita Blake and starting to collapse under its own weight by the preponderance of Stephanie Meyer. But that's not the only story out there in fantasy, which has been growing enormously even if you put filters on to ignore the effect of the supernatural romance angle.

I can't find it now, but several months ago I read an article on the publishing trends of fantasy vs. science fiction within the broader SF market that had the interesting premise, in fact, that in today's market not only has fantasy hijacked the role of sales juggernaut, but it had also hijacked the role of the "literature of ideas" from a science fiction field that had become largely "idea bankrupt."

Anonymous Daptrius April 17, 2013 4:27 PM  

I can't help but think all these standout authors are on the list for ideological reasons rather than quality reasons.

Anonymous BoysMom April 17, 2013 4:41 PM  

Daptrius, then maybe you should try reading some of them.

Anonymous Anonymous April 17, 2013 4:49 PM  

joetexx here...

I agree with perhaps 95% of Mr. Wright's essays on science fiction, fantasy, and belles lettres generally, but they do tend to wear me out. He argues from first principles and piles example atop illustrative example. By no means as prolix as say, Mencius Moldbug, and far more readable, he does seem to keep on trucking well after he's made the point.

I cannot recommend his fiction too highly.
A good introduction might be the seajoetexx here...

I agree with perhaps 95% of Mr. Wright's essays on science fiction, fantasy, and belles lettres generally, but they do tend to wear me out. He argues from first principles and piles example atop illustrative example. By no means as prolix as say, Mencius Moldbug, and far more readable, he does seem to keep on trucking well after he's made the point.

I cannot recommend his fiction too highly.
A good introduction might be the sasonal stories he posts on his wordpress blog; for example, "The Eve of All Saint's Day" for Halloween 2011 (this is a Lovecraft parody on one level, and also quite a bit more).
Or, "The Parliament of Beasts and Birds" for Easter of the present year.

Or see the Shadow giving tips on helicopter engine design toPrometheus in the second book of "War of the Dreaming".

Mr Wright has a thing for William Hope Hodgson and at times seems to be channeling him. A couple stories set in the Night Land universe are in his archive.


Anonymous Anonymous April 17, 2013 4:51 PM  

Joetexx again...

Excuse the repetition in my previous post?!

Anonymous Matthew April 17, 2013 4:52 PM  

I know it sounds impossible, but I think joetexx was sabotaged by the jealous ghost of CoComment.

Anonymous Matthew April 17, 2013 4:55 PM  

I also esteem John C. Wright as an SF writer, but he is a die-hard white knight and pedestalizer. Oddly, it was through Wright's blog that I found the nascent manosphere. He linked to an early Roosh post as an example of the desensitization of the serial seducer.

Anonymous TJIC April 17, 2013 5:30 PM  

@stilichio:

> This is what separates great works of fantasy from the rest; the ability to convey that sense that we are exiles in this mundane world

Awesomely said.

Anonymous rycamor April 17, 2013 5:32 PM  

Nate April 17, 2013 10:11 AM

Roger Zelazny asked real questions with his work. For example I Am Legion attempted to deal with the problem of a world with a unified database. Modern critics today look back and see his take as quaint... mostly because the powers that be have allowed the illusion of freedom to remain intact.


One thing I have never seen sci-fi writers talk about is the realities of managing such a large database. Let's say the average person generates (conservatively) a gigabyte or two worth of data in a year, which might be considered "of interest" for various reasons. Just for the USA alone, this works out to a 300-petabyte database. Even with the best computational equipment we have now, this is not going to be something that can be queried and yield any answer within a few seconds.

Of course, what we currently have is no unified database, but a huge haphazard collection of databases, some federated with others, some standalone, existing in all sorts of incompatible formats, with odd interchange mechanisms, each managed by a team of "personalities" who have their own quirks, peeves and predilections about how data should be handled. Thus information collection is not the imagined perfection we see in movies, where some agent gets on the phone and says "I need the phone records on citizen X correlated against credit card purchases of handbags in the San Francisco area over the last 5 years" and gets the answer back in a few keystrokes.

Of course, this is what the Fed wants you to think. The truth is, the more people who flout the system, the harder the Fed's job will be to manage the data. It's just another intimidation technique.

But it is true that every year, they are hard at work connecting more dots... of course, the more dots, the more weak points open to exploitation by hackers.

Anonymous TJIC April 17, 2013 5:33 PM  

@VD:

> The problem is that those who are strong and independent enough to survive and even thrive in an environment where the deck is stacked against them are not joiners.

Well said.

Sarah Hoyt is trying to start both a movement (the "human wave") and a guild - of some sorts.

I wish her tons of luck, but I'm not sure how well it will work, for exactly the reason you point out.

Anonymous TJIC April 17, 2013 5:38 PM  

@rycamor:

> where some agent gets on the phone and says "I need the phone records on citizen X correlated against credit card purchases of handbags in the San Francisco area over the last 5 years" and gets the answer back in a few keystrokes.

About eight years back I did some contract work for a company that was making a tool for some dark agency in DC. The tool wasn't anything dark and secret - just something to pump terabytes of data into various vendor databases so that the REAL tool could be run, which was to characterize the speed with which the candidate database engines could deal with queries across dozens of tables and huge huge numbers of rows.

The point is that in 2004 or so, the feds were already well into this project, and the question was merely "who's faster: Oracle, MSFT, or IBM?"

As a footnote, my tool was pumping every single book then in Project Gutenberg into various text fields of these databases just to fill them with enough data to make the speed characterizations somewhat valid.

Anonymous Mudz April 17, 2013 5:39 PM  

@ Daptrius

I can't help but think all these standout authors are on the list for ideological reasons rather than quality reasons.

In a sense. I think VD has stated that he's slapping them up largely because they are resisting the the nihilistic/liberal grain of SFWA, etc. They are a positive element simply in the counter-culture they could help foster.

But no doubt that's commutative with their quality as good novels.

I can attest that a least a few of those authors are in fact really good, so it's all hand-in-hand really.

Anonymous VD April 17, 2013 7:39 PM  

I can't help but think all these standout authors are on the list for ideological reasons rather than quality reasons.

They are. It has nothing to do with the quality of their books. That should be obvious from the fact that neither Umberto Eco nor Neal Stephenson are there.

Blogger Mauser April 17, 2013 7:39 PM  

What we are seeing is the subsumption of fantasy and science fiction by romance and horror.

It has happened even faster in the realm of movies and TV. Science Fiction IS horror now, only with a technological rather than supernatural origin for the beastie.

Anonymous rycamor April 17, 2013 9:12 PM  

TJIC April 17, 2013 5:38 PM

@rycamor:

> where some agent gets on the phone and says "I need the phone records on citizen X correlated against credit card purchases of handbags in the San Francisco area over the last 5 years" and gets the answer back in a few keystrokes.

About eight years back I did some contract work for a company that was making a tool for some dark agency in DC. The tool wasn't anything dark and secret - just something to pump terabytes of data into various vendor databases so that the REAL tool could be run, which was to characterize the speed with which the candidate database engines could deal with queries across dozens of tables and huge huge numbers of rows.

The point is that in 2004 or so, the feds were already well into this project, and the question was merely "who's faster: Oracle, MSFT, or IBM?"

As a footnote, my tool was pumping every single book then in Project Gutenberg into various text fields of these databases just to fill them with enough data to make the speed characterizations somewhat valid.


Yeah, but the complexity of what is really going on in the world far outstrips all the books in Project Gutenberg. I'm sure there's some pretty scary stuff being tracked and centralized, but going from terabytes to petabytes is no simple thing. I've dealt with databases with hundreds of tables and billions of rows, but still that just gets you into the "handful of terabytes" range.

A few years ago Yahoo managed a 200-terabyte database by using Hadoop as the filesystem under a modified version of PostgreSQL, but still, just the mere quantity of data doesn't tell the whole story. What kinds of things do you want to query? Complexity matters. If you want to establish patterns of behavior by making many complex join queries, a few terabytes can slow down to a crawl, and sometimes starts to look like days, if ever. Petabytes, even more so.

And once a database goes into the terabytes, clustering, partitioning, replicating... all of that stuff becomes a MASSIVE headache. The data cannot just reside on a single machine, even a supercomputer, so it becomes necessary to design overlaying systems of spreading out tables, and customized queries to deal with it, and the whole thing can become a huge beast, making it very hard to change and react with the times.

And, while our capability to manage data is increasing fast, the quantity of data generated by each human is exploding just as fast. Now in addition to credit card and bank data we have cellphone records, texts, videos (oh, how many videos...), voice chats, all of our internet URL requests (and of course They would want to comb through the text of every webpage you visit), email attachments, downloads, online movies, file transfers, geolocation records, online purchases...

You get the idea. Really each human is probably generating a terabyte a year worth of data in which all kinds of things could be hidden.

Anonymous Anonymous April 17, 2013 9:17 PM  

@matthew

"I know it sounds impossible, but I think joetexx was sabotaged by the jealous ghost of CoComment."

joetexx here..

No, just perils of ipad typing on a bus with intermittent loss of internet connection.

Blogger Rantor April 17, 2013 9:35 PM  

Great article, solid commentary and excellent discussion... Thanks Vox and Ilk

Anonymous TJIC April 17, 2013 9:38 PM  

@rycamor:

> going from terabytes to petabytes is no simple thing.

Oh, clearly. Sharding, replication - trick after trick after trick, and you're still drinking from a firehouse.

I'm agreeing that it's a problem that's getting worse every day (although it's just a problem for the fascists, it's a feature for us serfs). I'm merely arguing that the the bastards are trying hard to get us into a panopticon.

Anonymous Question April 17, 2013 10:19 PM  

Greg Egan, Ted Chiang, Charles Stross, Hannu Rajaniemi, and Vernor Vinge are all recently publishing science fiction authors that I can think of off hand (though I had to look up Hannu Rajaniemi's name) that are writing new and interesting science fiction that does embrace current technological and scientific developments. Reading Greg Egan's Diaspora in high school made me want to major in math in college just to understand what alot of it was about. Wright even mentions Peter Watts' Blindsight in his post, a very good scifi book with *gasp* vampires that is definetly engaged with modern science. The problem most of you have and Wright has since his conversion to Catholicism is that modern science is not kind to a Biblical view of the world, which is funny in Wright's case since his The Golden Age novels fall in the softer end of the transhumanist category. All of the above authors take a decidely materialistic view of human consciousness and the rest of the universe and the materialism is not just polemical it extends to every part of their stories and to every explanation they give. And contrary to what Stickwick may claim modern science is still resolutely materialist. I would guess that the decline in quality most of you see is the cutting edge science fiction incorporating more and more of the materialism inherent in modern science and the pushing of religion further and further out of the picture.

Consider that with big bang cosmology, science has fully opened the realm of the supernatural.

One of my biggest pet peeves is that there are still those who steadfastly insist that refusing to accept this is the most rational position.


This is deeply silly. If we're going to just call the supernatural whatever lies outside of modern physics, yeah every physicist will tell you the supernatural exists since the two big fundamental tested theories don't agree with each other. But that would also mean they're only an experiment away from turning the supernatural into the natural. Which now that I think about is actually how history played out, no one thinks Zeus throws lightning bolts or that you need to sacrice people to the sun god to make the sun rise.

Moreover, science is starting to build a coherent picture of a vast intellect behind the workings of the universe, a Master Programmer that has coded a physical simulation for spiritual beings. The vast majority of people are not aware of this, because they rely on the media gatekeepers for their perception of science.

Also deeply misleading. There is no scientific theory of intellectual creation, or we can't look at something and say a thinking entity did that. We do have a mathematical theory of information that is extensively used in signal processing and data compression and that can provide meaningful answers to questions like how much data is contained in a strand of DNA but unfortunately the definition of information in the theory is deeply unintuitive to someone who hasn't heard it. Using said definition you can say that a page of random gibberish has more information content than say a page of the Bible to be inflammatory for the heck of it. This has to do with the idea that the random gibberish can't be compressed and that each letter provides the maximum amount of "surprise". Random mutation of DNA would provide the maximum possible information using this metric. Of course this isn't what the common understanding of the word information is, when most people use it they mean useful knowledge or at least a recognizable pattern. Most people would say a page of random gibberish contained no information. Saying the universe contains the commonly understood idea of information is all fine and good but it has no scientific ground to stand on and is akin to saying that clearly the sun goes around the earth. Science is not common sense.

Anonymous tiredofitall April 17, 2013 11:30 PM  

"How many great novels, in any genre, are written by North Koreans or Chinese?" - Anonagain

Well if you believe the propaganda most of em were written by Kim Jong Il.

Anonymous Mudz April 18, 2013 12:17 AM  

@ Question

If we're going to just call the supernatural whatever lies outside of modern physics,

Correction. Whatever lies outside of nature is supernatural. Since space and time are the two key necessities of nature, then the creation of space and time is of necessity a non-natural event, unless self-causation is somehow postulated.

'Modern physics' in the sense of contemporary theorising has nothing to do with it. That sounds like you're trying to turn it into an appeal to ignorance.

The problem most of you have and Wright has since his conversion to Catholicism is that modern science is not kind to a Biblical view of the world,

Incorrect, also. I probably should leave this all to Stickwick, but since your mistakes seem to be logical or imaginative rather than scientific, I'll briefly address them:

Big Bang is A+ for creation event. Made creationists very happy. Made atheists unhappy.

I think there's a book or two waxing most pleased about this. A quote I seem to remember involves scientists surmounting mountains to find theologians had been sitting there all along.

The problem most of you have and Wright has since his conversion to Catholicism is that modern science is not kind to a Biblical view of the world,

Trivially correct if 'modern science' refers 'what scientists generally think to be true now'. Their opinions are not relevant to the fact that revolutions in physics have been constructive rather than destructive of Christian beliefs. That's the point. There's no need for anyone to chew fingernails over it, if they don't want to. Just point somewhere in the direction of the Big Bang and take the rest of the day off.

Or if you're actually just doing this:

Scientists == Science

You are not even trivially correct.

Anonymous Stickwick April 18, 2013 12:21 AM  

This is deeply silly. If we're going to just call the supernatural whatever lies outside of modern physics, yeah every physicist will tell you the supernatural exists since the two big fundamental tested theories don't agree with each other.

You have no idea what you're talking about. Super = above, beyond; natural = the natural world, the universe. The supernatural exists, whether it's populated by God and angels or other universes. Every physicist worth the paper his degree is printed on knows it and acknowledges it, which is why the atheists are forced to posit the multiverse as the only serious alternative to God.

Also deeply misleading. There is no scientific theory of intellectual creation, or we can't look at something and say a thinking entity did that.

Who says we can't? Read Sean Carroll's book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, and count how many times he uses the word "logic" to describe what biologists are discovering about evolutionary development. Carroll is a Darwinist, and yet he can't help but use a word which is totally incongruous with the basic concept of Darwinian macroevolution. Logic is the product of intellect, not randomness. Consider that the principle of mediocrity has been utterly nuked by the realization that there are a thousand parameters in the universe that are precision-tuned for life as we know it. Consider that quantum mechanics and even string theory blow apart the notion of matter as anything more tangible than an idea. Every major discovery about nature in the last 100 years has confirmed what the Bible has been saying all along. Why do you think atheists are in such a panic to mainstream and legitimize the multiverse hypothesis? Because it's the only remotely plausible (and that's really stretching the sense of the word) alternative to a conscious, deliberate creation by a rational being.

Anonymous Question April 18, 2013 1:33 AM  

Correction. Whatever lies outside of nature is supernatural.

You have no idea what you're talking about. Super = above, beyond; natural = the natural world, the universe. The supernatural exists, whether it's populated by God and angels or other universes.

When I say universe I mean everything that exists. If God existed he would be part of the universe because of his existence. When you say universe you seem to mean what science has discovered or something. Otherwise talking about something existing outside of the universe doesn't make sense.

Read Sean Carroll's book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, and count how many times he uses the word "logic" to describe what biologists are discovering about evolutionary development. Carroll is a Darwinist, and yet he can't help but use a word which is totally incongruous with the basic concept of Darwinian macroevolution. Logic is the product of intellect, not randomness.

This is weird. Logic is not the product of intellect, its not the product of anything it just is. I mean what would you expect that animals whose form was illogical for the constraints of their environment would survive? It's like you're looking up at the sky and telling everyone you see faces in the clouds.

Consider that the principle of mediocrity has been utterly nuked by the realization that there are a thousand parameters in the universe that are precision-tuned for life as we know it

Rofl life as we know it. Let me rephrase that for you, if things were different they'd be different. We're not so special that we have to have some reason why we're here instead of something else.

Anonymous Mudz April 18, 2013 1:56 AM  


When I say universe I mean everything that exists.


Then you should define your terms. And may I suggest 'existence' works better for 'all that exists' as opposed to 'universe' which typically refers to our local spacetime continuum, and is how scientists use the term.

Rofl life as we know it. Let me rephrase that for you, if things were different they'd be different. We're not so special that we have to have some reason why we're here instead of something else.

How do you know this? What is your sample?

Anonymous Stickwick April 18, 2013 2:20 AM  

Question, you're not tall enough for this ride.

Anonymous VD April 18, 2013 4:16 AM  

When I say universe I mean everything that exists. If God existed he would be part of the universe because of his existence. When you say universe you seem to mean what science has discovered or something. Otherwise talking about something existing outside of the universe doesn't make sense.

It should be fascinating to hear you explain your take on the Big Bang theory. To a physicist. Do go on.

Anonymous Darth Toolpodicus April 18, 2013 10:21 AM  

"unfortunately the definition of information in the theory is deeply unintuitive to someone who hasn't heard it. Using said definition you can say that a page of random gibberish has more information content than say a page of the Bible to be inflammatory for the heck of it. "

This is pedantic baloney, the functional equivalent of navel gazing by information science nerds.

Defining message compressibility as the metric of information content is highly misleading. Compressibility is essentially a function of how often symbols repeat in a message. All real information streams have symbol repetition if you have a large enough data stream.

Saying that random (gibberish) data has more information than a a genuine message stream is a bullshit trivial boundary case: Obviously truly random data doesn't compress because BY DEFINITION, the symbol size always equals the message size; whereas real information streams at some level have symbol sizes smaller than the message size and are therefore more compressible.

Your interpretation of compressibility as a sole metric of information content is one only a pinhead academician could love.

That's like saying even though it would take longer to exactly describe a pile of spilled Legos(tm) on the floor than it would to be to describe the same pile completely built into stacks, it would take longer to spill the bucket onto the floor instead of building all of the blocks into stacks.

Anonymous Stickwick April 18, 2013 11:25 AM  

It should be fascinating to hear you explain your take on the Big Bang theory. To a physicist. Do go on.

"Well, there are these four science nerds, two of which live in the same apartment, and there's a girl who lives across the hall from them and who has dated one of the nerds off and on. But nowhere in the show is there anything supernatural!!"

Anonymous Darth Toolpodicus April 18, 2013 11:40 AM  

Stickwick FTW

Anonymous Question April 18, 2013 11:55 AM  

When I say universe I mean everything that exists. If God existed he would be part of the universe because of his existence. When you say universe you seem to mean what science has discovered or something. Otherwise talking about something existing outside of the universe doesn't make sense.

It should be fascinating to hear you explain your take on the Big Bang theory. To a physicist. Do go on.


There is nothing in what I said there about physics just about what the word universe means. But concerning Stickwick's vaunted physics knowledge I'm calling bullshit. There is almost zero chance they have anything besides a popular science level knowledge of string theory and very unlikely that they are a cosmologist or a particle physicist. In my experience physicists are highly reluctant to talk about fields outside their specialty for fear of sounding stupid and unless Stickwick is some renaissance man secret genius their opinions on these things are just about as relevant as mine. But I am pleased to have VD acknowledge that physicists do have some expert knowledge on this subject and I feel it necessary to point out that modern physics is very much materialist and by implication atheistic and that real cosmologists don't even bother with God as explanation. If we're going to cede to the experts I'm very much on the winning side.

Anonymous Question April 18, 2013 12:06 PM  

Defining message compressibility as the metric of information content is highly misleading. Compressibility is essentially a function of how often symbols repeat in a message. All real information streams have symbol repetition if you have a large enough data stream.

Saying that random (gibberish) data has more information than a a genuine message stream is a bullshit trivial boundary case: Obviously truly random data doesn't compress because BY DEFINITION, the symbol size always equals the message size; whereas real information streams at some level have symbol sizes smaller than the message size and are therefore more compressible.

Your interpretation of compressibility as a sole metric of information content is one only a pinhead academician could love.

That's like saying even though it would take longer to exactly describe a pile of spilled Legos(tm) on the floor than it would to be to describe the same pile completely built into stacks, it would take longer to spill the bucket onto the floor instead of building all of the blocks into stacks.


What you've done here is just give a definition of mathematical information just like I was and you probably did it a little more clearly. What you haven't done is call me wrong or that I flubbed the definition. Using the only definition that science has of information natural processes can and do create loads of it. Thats all I was trying to say and you've said it again for me so thank you.

Anonymous Mudz April 18, 2013 12:29 PM  

You guys use a lot of words to say 'formatted' and 'unformatted'. :P

Anonymous Stickwick April 18, 2013 12:57 PM  

I am responding to Question's inanity one last time for the benefit of anyone reading his drivel and wondering about its veracity.

There is nothing in what I said there about physics just about what the word universe means.

As you've repeatedly demonstrated, you don't understand science. Science requires precise definitions. As with your hilariously misleading definition of compressibility, you are attempting to make up your own definitions to suit your way of thinking and to arrive at the conclusion you desire.

But concerning Stickwick's vaunted physics knowledge I'm calling bullshit. There is almost zero chance they have anything besides a popular science level knowledge of string theory and very unlikely that they are a cosmologist or a particle physicist.

"They"? I am not a string theorist, but very little of what I said rests on string theory anyway. In fact, I can fully build my case without appealing to it at all. As for my expertise, I'm an extragalactic astrophysicist and the majority of my work lies in the field of cosmology.

In my experience physicists are highly reluctant to talk about fields outside their specialty for fear of sounding stupid and unless Stickwick is some renaissance man secret genius their opinions on these things are just about as relevant as mine.

Then your experience with physicists is zilch. While most physicists are unwilling to go on record in a field outside their expertise, they're certainly willing and able to discuss matters related to the whole field with laypeople in an informal setting such as this. Normally I don't flout my credentials in casual discussions, but to claim that a PhD in the field has no more credibility on the subject than a proven moron and liar who clearly possesses no real education in the field is so ludicrous that a new word is needed to describe how ludicrous it is.

But I am pleased to have VD acknowledge that physicists do have some expert knowledge on this subject and I feel it necessary to point out that modern physics is very much materialist and by implication atheistic and that real cosmologists don't even bother with God as explanation. If we're going to cede to the experts I'm very much on the winning side.

Proof you are talking out of your ass. Modern physics turned the whole notion of materialism on its head. Destroyed it. Here is a quote from Werner Heisenberg, one of the fathers of quantum theory, on the nature of matter:

Inherent difficulties of the materialist theory [of existence] have appeared very clearly in the development of physics during the 20th century. This difficulty relates to the question whether the smallest units of matter such as atoms are ordinary physical objects, whether they exist in the same way as stones or flowers. Here quantum theory has created a complete change in the situation ... . The smallest units of matter are, in fact, not physical objects in the ordinary sense of the word; they are -- in Plato's sense -- Ideas.

"Real" cosmologists inevitably contemplate the supernatural and God by virtue of the fact that cosmology is the interface between physics and metaphysics. If you had even a tenth of the brainpower required to understand, I'd recommend you read a book called Ultimate Explanations of the Universe by Michael Heller, who is a respected cosmologist, professor of philosophy, and priest. Incidentally, the physicist considered to be the father of the big bang is the highly-respected cosmologist and mathematician Georges Lemaitre, who was also a priest. He called his theory the "primeval atom," and liked the idea because it was consistent with Genesis.

Anonymous Stickwick April 18, 2013 12:59 PM  

Normally I don't flout my credentials in casual discussions

OUCH. Bad typo. Clearly, I meant flaunt.

Anonymous Darth Toolpodicus April 18, 2013 1:01 PM  

No, I am saying that you were quite in error (i.e.: full of crap) to claim that: " Using said definition you can say that a page of random gibberish has more information content than say a page of the Bible".

Why? Because the definition that you were appealing to was incorrect on top of you applying it incorrectly. Compressibility is not THE metric for information content.


@Mudz: Add "specified" and "contingent" to that list and call us in agreement.
This is like saying: "Under some theories the color "blue" is really 600nm in wavelength...so using said definition WOW the midday sun is SOOO Blue today!".

A page of random gibberish does NOT have more information CONTENT than an equivalent page of text.

Anonymous Mudz April 18, 2013 1:20 PM  

I am responding to Question's inanity one last time for the benefit of anyone reading his drivel and wondering about its veracity.

Personally, I wasn't. But I was interested in the response. So, cheers.

@ Darth

Preaching to the choir, man.

Anonymous Darth Toolpodicus April 18, 2013 1:32 PM  

Sorry mudz, I misplaced my comment to you in the middle of my rant. Mea culpa.

Anonymous Mudz April 18, 2013 1:55 PM  

Actually, I totally am too. I actually saw that, then immediately forgot it. I think my brain misses it's beauty sleep, the pussy.

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