A Summary of Mike Alsford’s
“The Primal Question: What Are We?”
In book “What If: Religious Themes in Science Fiction”; the second chapter, “The Primal Question: What Are We?” Mike Alsford talks about science fiction as anthropology and how he has grouped the understanding of human beings into four categories: Subjects; Agents; Contingent; and Relational/Social. Alsford uses a lot of science fiction TV; Movies; and novels references to explain his conclusion as to “What Are We.” Science fiction as anthropology
SF as anthropology is the exploration of human identity, the human condition and what constitutes human-ness. Is he human or property is the question in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Data an android is put on trail to establish his rights. What does constitute being human? Alsford states that it is important to learn to read future fiction sensitively one is to identify the concerns that lie behind the unusual scenarios. Is it physical, mental, moral, social; is it what we call our soul or our relationship with God? “Human being as subject:
In this section ‘I think, therefore I am’ Alsford looks into human beings as subjects and refers to the philosophy of Rene Descartes concerning human nature. Descartes theorized that if he thought that something is false and he is the one thinking it, he states: “I think, therefore I am.” Descartes philosophy continues to dominate Western thought and culture even to this day.
Alsford also refers to Descartes mind/body dualism and uses the BBC series Dr. Who, which is back on the air now, as an example of how memory defines human beings. The Doctor is killed off and returns in another body, but his memory stays intact from previous Doctors. The series call this regeneration; it can also be called reincarnation, memory plays a very important rule in being human, how that even though the Doctor no longer has the same body his memory and mind stays intact. Human being as...
Cited: Alsford, Mike. WHAT IF? Religious Themes in Science Fiction. Chapter 2, p. 26 - 48. London: Darton,
Longman and Todd Ltd, 2000.
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