Thursday, November 19, 2015

Childhood's End

Childhood's End, is about to be a mini-series on SyFy.

Apparently they are going back to their old formula from the turn of the century.  Turn a Golden Age SF classic into an over blown mini-series.  It's been ratings gold for them in the past and perhaps they are hoping to retrieve lost viewers who are hoping to see actual science fiction on the SyFy channel.

Silly viewers.

Anyway here's the trailer.

It looks like a competent enough rendition.  Charles Dance with his menacing paternalism should make an excellent Karellen.

My only real objection here is the choice of material.

Arthur C. Clarke's peon to his own atheism is considered a classic in the field but honestly it's not that good.  Here's a clip of Clarke at his most sub-average.

The instrument he handed over on permanent loan to the World History Foundation was nothing more than a television receiver [ …] linked somehow to a far more complex machine, operating on principles no one could imagine, aboard the Karellen’s ship. One had merely to adjust the controls, and a window into the past was opened up. Almost the whole of human history for the past five thousand years became accessible in an instant. Earlier than that, the machine would not go, and there were some baffling blanks all down the ages. They might have had some natural cause, or they might be due to deliberate censorship by the Overlords.
Though it had always been obvious to any rational mind that all the world’s religious writings could not be true, the shock was nevertheless profound. Here was a revelation that no one could doubt or deny: here, seen by some unknown magic of Overlord science, were the true beginnings of all the world’s great faiths. Most of them were noble and inspiring—but that was not enough. Within a few days, all mankind’s multitudinous messiahs had lost their divinity. Beneath the fierce and passionless light of truth, faiths that had sustained millions for twice a thousand years vanished like the morning dew. All the good and all the evil they had wrought were swept suddenly into the past, and could touch the minds of men no more.
Humanity had lost its ancient gods: now it was old enough to have no need for new ones.
As John C. Wright pointed out:

"The smugness and dishonesty of the passage is breathtaking, not to mention the naive optimism (if you are an atheist) or blockheaded arrogance (if you are a theist).

Let us pause for a moment to admire four of the more amusing shortfalls, shall we?

First, there is only one religion under attack here, and it is misleading to pretend any religion but one is in the crosshairs. Like far too many an atheist writings, this passage is not atheist, merely antichristian. There is only one religion that has a messiah who claims divinity. It is twice a thousand years old, which just so happening to be the age mentioned in the passage.

Note that it is the religious writings of “the world” that “any rational mind” can see cannot all simultaneously be true. Obviously the author means the sacred ideas and dogmas, and is using the word ‘writings’ as a synodoche. Why the emphasis on writings, that is to say, on Bible(s)? There is only one God whose word has been written into officially recognized sacred books: and that is the God of Abraham. The Buddhists have no central authority, no Magisterium, to decide which books are in and out of an official canon. I am not saying pagans do not have holy books: I am saying it is a metaphor particular to the religions of Abraham to refer to holy doctrines by referring to holy books, because we emphasize our books as testament. Clarke is not referring to the Kojiki nor to the Shahnameh nor to the Mahabharata.

Second, there is only one (or two, depending on whether you think Christianity is a religion in its own right, or merely a heresy of the Jews) religion whose holy book makes disprovable historical claims about observable events in history.

Turning the Wayback machine onto the image of the Prophet (peace be on him) would show a man seated on a mountain and writing the Koran, and this would prove or disprove nothing, unless you think the divine inspiration he claimed dictated to him was something the Wayback machine could see. Can the instrument pick up thought-waves sent by Archangel Gabriel? Turning the Wayback Machine to the events in the Bhagavad Ghita, we see the supreme hero Arjuna in his chariot, listening to the teachings of his charioteer, Krishna. Turning the Wayback machine to the Awakened One, the Buddha, would show a man seated in a deer park, teaching his disciples. Turning the Wayback Machine to Confucius or Lao Tzu would also show you a man writing a book.

Hmmm. What is the one religion which is centered, not solely on a teaching, but on an event, not on a man writing a book, but on a man hanging on a tree on Golgotha at Passover, emerging from a Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher at the Feast of Firstfruits, ascending from Mount Olivet the Sabbath before the Feast of Weeks, all this not in a mythic otherworld, but at a specific spot you can find on a map, and at a specific date you can find on a calendar? Bueller? Anyone? Bueller?"

SyFy could have made other choices from the Golden Age.  The rights are cheap enough and CGI being what it is now, it's not all that expensive anymore.  Why this one?  

Fifteen years ago, back when I was so busy that I had all of two hours available for TV watching in a week.  Both of those hours belonged Sci Fi Channel.

Now I haven't watched anything on it in years. The PC rot came in hard and fast.  The first victim was the Stargate franchise.  Which was utterly butchered by Stargate Universe, Creative Consultant; John Scalzi.  Gee, I wonder what they fucked up?

 Lost Girl, lost me early on.  The constant poly-lesbian love scenes managed to turn me completely off.  That took doing.  Defiance is an unwatchable soap opera.  All of it has SJW overtones.
SyFy appears to have completed its expected journey from a vaguely libertarian fringe media outlet to full blown SJW nest.
Simply put, there is zero doubt in my mind that the reason Childhood's End was selected not in spite of it explicit atheism but because of it. 

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