Jan 30

Discovering Atheism


So... Does Burnham'a views in New Eden represent a fairly simplistic view that science is good, and faith is superstition and religion the cause of all wars? And does Pike represent a more inclusivist approach to faith? Have the Discovery writer's watched too many BSG episodes? Or maybe this was pitched just right for you? I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts.

I love this question! I'm going to hold off answering because Valerie and I intend to have this conversation on the air this season and have had it in our back pocket ever since Saru's Short Trek which also raises some of these questions (or at least raises questions about the writers' relationship with religiosity), but I'm excited to read what other people think.

I second Glenn's comment here! It'll be interesting to think about the Syrrannites as we discuss.

Never watched BSG reboot. Burnham definitely represents at the least the Vulcan view of formal religion (though frankly seems like their discipline is super close to religion). Pike seemed VERY comfortable about it, I suppose that was the family he grew up in. I can see a father who in pursuit of a rounded view, dragging his kids to different disciplines and churches to experience services. It actually *would* help interacting with other species. Also, I don't think faith is superstition, it's not even necessarily formally religious. I separate religion and belief though. I do not think you have to be a constant, card carrying church goer to have a deep faith. But that's just me. When it comes to formal religion, a whole lot of it seems to have to do with our nature of seeing patterns, or wanting to see patterns, seeking answers and often trying to subdue chaos. I *do* think it was fairly simplistically presented in New Eden. Very old school Trek. I think it's ok for now. I think Stamets had a way more nuanced and interesting thing to say about spirituality at least when he was talking about being on this side of the cycle in the mycelial network. And indeed Tilly's statement about a good haunting and energies greater than ourselves. These are of course all forms of religious toe dipping at the very least.

Huh. Rereading what I just wrote about religion....gosh all those things apply to science as well, don't they....... " When it comes to formal religion, a whole lot of it seems to have to do with our nature of seeing patterns, or wanting to see patterns, seeking answers and often trying to subdue chaos. "

Jan 31

Framing the discussion as science versus religion was most unfortunate in my view. Doing so suggests that they are locked in mortal combat with only one victor allowed. Instead, as Burnham implies when she asks if anyone has used science to figure out how the people got to Terralysium, they are different ways of obtaining knowledge. In science answers are checked to see if they are correct through observation of the natural world and experimentation. Religion is based on belief which, by definition, requires no such checking, no proof. As the All-Mother said: "We have no need of proof. We are guided by the existence of something greater than ourselves -- our faith." She did good until the last word which should have been God, not faith. The thing greater than ourselves is God, not our faith in the existence of something greater than ourselves; that's tautological thinking. It's been curious to see how popular the word faith has become in recent years. In the adjective form, faith-based, it's ungainly.

FWIW, I think this is more like an opening salvo in the examination of it. I don't know that they will at all end with "one must win".

@Karen Chuplis I agree. I really have no idea where this is going, but I think this is wrapped up in Burnham's path toward healing from the deaths of her parents.

Jan 31

Glenn, I was pleasantly surprised to hear you mention Michael Shermer (psst, not Sherman). I first became aware of him many, many years ago when he was a bicycle racer and participated in the Race Across America, a non-stop coast-to-coast gruelathon. When I saw someone with the same name associated with The Skeptic, I was delighted to discover it was him. Not too many years ago he gave a talk at my university during which he showed the white gorilla video. If you are familiar with it, you will be aware that it demonstrates how very easy it is to fool our senses. If not, be on the lookout. It's amazing. At any rate, I'm happy that he's willing to publicly engage all the various "deniers" out there and take on the role of debunker in chief.


Karen, I'm not sure I catch your drift. Contests do have winners and losers, don't they?


Good news. Yesterday I read that Season 2 has brought a spike in subscriptions to CBS All Access. Haven't come across mention of it online though.

I guess I do not view the examination of Science and Faith as a contest. To me this seems like an exploration of them in relation to each other.

Pauladz, thanks for correcting my pronunciation. Valerie and I have lost track of how many times she's had to point out that I've said "Spike" instead of "Pike" and have me do another take, but it's so many that all the other flubs are getting past the filter.


I read his book Why People Believe Weird Things when I was in the Army because it had Stephen Jay Gould's name on it and I had just read his book Dinosaur in a Haystack. I never really went back to Shermer unless I saw something making the rounds on the Internet, but I was excited to hear him quoted on Star Trek.

Feb 1

To be sure, I don't either, Karen. But that's the way writers have presented it, as science versus religion. Early on, we see Pike as being extremely troubled by growing up with a father who was a science teacher and a student of comparative religion. Actually I found that to be a rather big change in his personality from the first episode in which he was light-hearted and almost lacking in gravitas, enough so that I wondered how he was chosen to be the captain of a starship like the Enterprise. In this episode, he is showing himself as a more contemplative and conflicted person, one who is capable of sacrificing himself for others without a second thought. He's not just that guy who can laugh about his F in astrophysics in front of subordinates . . . now that I think of it, I wonder why he got an F in a science course.

I didn't think he lacked gravitas in Ep 1 at all. But no, he was not dour. I also didn't feel he was deeply troubled by his upbringing, just that he could see the confusion that family dynamics can create. He was definitely willing to challenge Burnham, as I expect was often a thing in his family. Kind of dinner table discussion etc. I do suspect he may have a bit more openness for sure to the idea of formal religion and belief but I get no sense of piety from him.

Feb 1

I wonder if Burnham is simply a product of her upbringing here. she believes in science and logic, things that the Vulcans venerate and believes that all religions are simply emotional props and explanations for things unexplainable by the believers scientific and logical level of sophistication. This actually bugs me as she keeps on saying that she is a xenoanthropologist and as such she should be more tolerant and less argumentative of others culture and beliefs. Pike's position seems to be that he also is a non believer but is respectful and knowledgeable about others beliefs and is not going to openly challenge them as it is not his place to judge. The scene in his ready room with the modified Asimov quote seems to indicate that he is not anticipating a God but a highly advanced alien species. There is no fight between science and religion both are trying to discover Universal truth but from different directions.

Thank you for bringing up that she's an anthropologist. We don't see any of that in "New Eden," where rather than being interested in other cultures, she's merely interested in correcting other cultures. It's a strange writing choice.

Feb 2

Karen, I thought Pike was tremendously appealing when he told Burnham that they would break some rules and have fun. But this comment came on the heals of the death of Connolly, so it seemed a tad inappropriate. The Pike of episode 2 seemed much more serious, almost as though he was bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders. Dour isn't quite the word I wanted to describe his demeanor, and this description doesn't quite do it either, but it will do for now. We all have our different interpretations of the characters. BTW, I saw an interview with Anson, Sonequa, Mary W. and Anthony in which Anson commented on the fact that it takes a while for an actor to build a character so he was at a disadvantage in that the others already had a season to round their characters into shape.


Hi Kev, Haven't we seen some indications of a Vulcan religion in previous series? Rituals are a feature of their culture, and I would think they have roots in religious beliefs. After all, Spock's struggle is with logic v, emotion, not science v, religion. Was the quote really from Asimov? I couldn't agree more that science and religion are asking different questions and seeking to answer them with very different methods.



The nuanced take on religion from the production that banned the use of the word God on set should be a great watch.

Haha, right. I was really interested in those reports, too, but I think they have turned out to have never been true. Certainly we had all sorts of religious language even in very early episodes of the show.

New Posts
  • I had missed some of the bonus content and am finally getting to your coverage of S1 ep1 Caretaker. I've really enjoyed it. I have seen the first 3 or 4 seasons back when they originally aired but haven't seen any since then. I can't say that Voyager stuck with me, it's my least favorite Trek. So my question for anyone is: What are the 5-10 best episodes of Voyager?
  • I am not the biggest Voyager fan. The series never lived up to the potential I thought it had. So my disappointment in it is all on my end as a viewer. That being said I recently watched the premiere episode again and was impressed by how good it was. The intro starts with a text crawl that looks like it came from a 16 bit video game. Its terrible. I don't think it was needed, some other contextual clue would have been better. The intro then drops us right in the action with Maquis being chased by Cardassians and disappearing. This is more action than most episodes get right off the bat. The main function of a premier is to show us the crew, the ship and the setting. Voyager does an excellent job introducing the crew. Disgraced officers, rebels and a mix of new and veteran Starfleet personnel promises for an interesting show. Captain Janeway is fully fleshed out from the get go, they did a great job making her character feel real for the audience. The cameo by Quark is also very well used, setting up a crucial friendship between Paris and Kim. They spend enough time and give us something about all of our main cast here which is a very strong start. The ship doesn't need alot of time and doesn't get it. It can't compare to the Enterprise so they don't try. It's a smart choice. The plot in how they ended up in the situation is where this gets a little thin. I actually think they would have been better served by making the alien more incomprehensible rather than a hologram that babbles. Janeway makes a difficult and understandable choice, but if I was a crewman I would be mightily pissed off. This is a strong start for the series and is the second best premier, after DS9, in my opinion. It was way lower for me prior to this rewatch, so I am somewhat surprised by Voyager here.

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