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Friday, 10 December 2010

Another thing Asimov had wrong--and right.

CounterIn the 3½ years after I first wrote about Isaac Asimov's Nightfall, that post has remained in the top ten, with over 2300 hits--so I am regularly reminded of its popularity. It occurred to me today, in going back over what I had written, that there is another fascinating correlation between Asimov's fiction and the reality of the struggle between atheists and Christians. Note that in Nightfall, the scientists of Lagash and the religionists of Lagash are members of non-intersecting sets. This is how Asimov and his fellow atheists would have it: a classic battle in which all the science is on one side, and all the religion on the other. Among Asimov's blind spots should be pointed out his failure to see that this has never been the case. Even with PhD programs being virtually closed to anyone willing to admit that he believes the biblical account of creation, there are still thousands of practicing scientists who see no conflict between their beliefs and their ability to do real science. In fact, they lay against the atheists the opposite charge: that their unwillingness to believe the Bible's account as true history is an obstacle to scientific progress. So, Asimov was wrong about that.

But notice what he was right about: on Lagash, it was only the religionists who had any record of Lagash's ancient history: the scientists had none. Although their science had advanced to the point that they were able to run the astronomical clock back to a time when none of Lagash's six suns were visible, they had no historical memory amongst themselves that it had actually happened. For this, they had to turn to the records of the religionists, as despised as they were.

When Nightfall became such a popular story that it was made into a movie, that was changed. In the new version, archaeologists stumbled across evidence that showed the scientists they had been wrong all those years in denying the religionist's stories about an ancient darkness--and new studies of planetary motion were forcing the scientists to admit that there must be something to what the religionists were saying after all.

Now, why would Asimov change his story in this way? Was it due to the fact that, in the decades following the publication of Nightfall,  archaeology had vindicated many tenets of Scripture that had been previously scoffed at?

Note: this was actually posted on September 4, 2014. Some glitch in blogger predated it when posted.

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