Monday, November 19, 2007

L.B. in Newport 4: The Gothos Game

The dogs and I returned to the house after an hour's walk. I'd been thinking, and I'd decided that the lizard tail hypothesis actually made more sense than the war hypothesis. If somebody wanted to exterminate humanity, they could have done it easily enough by making the other two-thirds of the human race disappear too. I checked my answering machine, but none of my family had returned my calls.

In the bedroom, the television was still on with the sound low. They were mixing footage of traffic accidents, downed aircraft, the schoolroom in Baltimore, and crying women in doctors' offices. My wife asked me what I thought was going on, and I told her about my lizard tail theory: someone was running an experiment on the human race, to see how we would react to having a segment of our population eliminated.

"Do you really believe that?" she asked.

I shrugged. "It fits the facts as well as anything else. I can't think of any better explanation."

"Someone on the TV just now said he thought it was the Rapture."

I had to think for a moment to realize what she was talking about. "You mean like those fundies believe? Like that movie with the disappearing people in the airplane?" My wife was a Wiccan, but I knew she had seen the movie, though I was pretty sure she hadn't read any of the books it was based on.

"He was saying that this was just what they were predicting. Do you think it could be true?"

The God hypothesis, huh? Of course, there was no way to prove or disprove it, which has always been the case with the God hypothesis. But that gave rise to another thought.

Arthur C. Clarke famously said that a sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic (or, in this case, divine intervention). This made me remember an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called "Devil's Due", about an alien named Ardra who showed up on a planet claiming to be the Devil. Ardra had come to collect on a Faustian bargain the planet's inhabitants had allegedly made a thousand years earlier, using a bag of technological tricks to convince the planet's inhabitants that she was the real thing.

Was that happening to the earth? Was some powerful alien trying to convince us that it was God, and that the fundy End Times were here? If that was true, then depending on how powerful the alien's bag of tricks was, the result might be indistinguishable from the actual Rapture, except that instead of being sorted out into Saved and Damned, the human race would simply be screwed over. Of course, Ardra had only been a con artist seeking wealth and power on the planet she was gaming. We might just as easily be facing a real sadistic bastard like Trelane from "The Squire of Gothos" who was running an End Times game and tormenting us just for shits and giggles.

I mentioned all this to my wife, and ended by pointing out that, as far as the human race was concerned, there was no difference between God and a Sufficiently Advanced Alien. The human race wasn't going to be any better off in the hands of a God who would pull something like the Event than we would be in the hands of the Squire of Gothos.

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