Nov 4, 2012

The Religion of Exode

intelligent design
"Is God a race of sentient alien beings that see all of time and space at once and is helping us evolve in ways we are too small to understand?"

During the construction of Exode I've been struggling with the temptation to make religion a significant part of Genesaunt Culture. At one point in my thinking I suggested that Genesaunts might "never question their origins". Genesaunts live in an entirely synthetic culture where they are miraculously provided with just those technologies that their keepers want them to have. For example, Genesaunts almost never suffer illness. They live with nanorobotic medical nanites in their bodies that automatically repair injuries and damages tissues.

However, I decided that one of the main characters in Exode, Kach, would have religious beliefs about how humans were created. After making that decision to include religious Genesaunts in Exode I realized that maybe the pek would actively support and foster certain religious beliefs as part of their need to prevent Genesaunts from developing an interest in science and technology. If Genesaunts are trained to believe in the existence of a powerful but unseen Creator then maybe they would not question their origins and the artificial structure of their lives.

In my previous blog post, I described the special role that the pek play in raising and educating young Prelands. As part of their indoctrination of Genesaunts, the pek find it convenient to provide a specific religious belief system that explains how the human species was created. Initially I was thinking of the various types of religious belief systems that we have here on Earth and the kinds of creation myths that have been invented by the many cultures of Earth. However, the pek encourage a different kind of belief about human origins, a religion specifically designed for Genesaunts living in the special environment of worlds in the galactic core such as Hemmal.

Conflicts between Religion and Science
One of the interesting aspects of religion on Earth is conflict between different religions, but within Genesaunt Culture the pek have an efficient system for making sure that there is only one religion: the one that they create and maintain. On Earth the creation myths adopted by religions can come into conflict with our scientific understanding of the world. For example, some people have adopted the religious belief that the Earth and humans were created recently by divine intervention. Such beliefs are very different from the scientific view which is built on objective evidence for a very old Earth and a long evolutionary process by which humans came into existence. Would Prelands be subjected to such conflicting accounts of human origins?

What do the pek teach the Prelands about biology? Not much. In fact, the same can be said for any scientific topic. The only pocket of scientific thought within the Genesaunt Culture of the galactic core is within the ranks of the Interventionists and primarily among the Fru'wu.

Upon arriving at Earth seven million years ago, one of the major goals of the pek was to transform the primitive apes of Earth away form their natural biological form towards a type of artificial life. This is the kind of transformation that the Huaoshy went through about a billion years ago and for the past several hundred million years the pek have been going from galaxy to galaxy and guiding thousands of different species along the path of cultural development that the Huaoshy went down.
From our perspective as humans, the most important biological fact is that the pek have accumulated a huge amount of evidence to support the idea that technology-wielding species self-destruct. The only known antidote to this problem of self-destroying technological cultures is to transform species like humans into an artificial lifeform that does not have the disadvantages of a biological lifeform.

Towards that end, Genesaunt Culture is initiated when species such as humans are taken away from the planet where they evolved and placed into the artificial environment of worlds near the galactic core where exposure to gamma ray bursts from exploding stars has prevented the evolution of native complex lifeforms. The typical Genesaunt has no chance to experience an Earth-like environment and even begin to wonder about the possibility of humans evolving from an earlier-existing form of life. Genesaunts are like a blank slate; ready to adopt a creation myth provided to them by the pek. There is some spread of the scientific notion of biological evolution from the Fru'wu to the Interventionists of other species, but the Fru'wu are a very special case. The Fru'wu are the most accomplished galactic explorers within Genesaunt Culture and they found their home world and other worlds beyond the galactic core with rich ecosystems. Fru'wu Interventionists understand biological evolution and they understand that the pek use advanced nanotechnology to shape and control Genesaunt Culture. Still, the Fru'wu can't refute the evidence that exists concerning the self-destruction of technological species so they are not tempted to use their knowledge of biology as a basis for trying to oppose the religious belief system that is imposed by the pek on most Genesaunts.

What is the pek view of biology?
Here is an analogy..... Think about our attitude as humans towards the small pox virus. We view that virus as a scourge and we have celebrated its eradication. What if the Huaoshy view primitive lifeforms such as we humans as little more than a destructive product of random biological evolution, as a kind of weed, as something that needs to be eradicated? Continuing this analogy: some scientists find the vaccinia virus to be useful and, if looking for a silver lining to this dark cloud, we might optimistically note that the means by which a biological scourge is eradicated can have benefits or be of practical value. Similarly, the Huaoshy derive benefit from the process by which the pek transform primitive biological species such as we humans into more Huaoshy-like artificial lifeforms. The pek eradicate the human-like species they find in galaxies and replace them with artificial lifeforms that are compatible with the Huaoshy. This process essentially "immunizes" the universe against violent and destructive lifeforms, making the universe safe for the Huaoshy.

Time to extinction for species under direct observation; past 50 million years
The pek use their religious belief system to assure that Genesaunts will fear the wild and destructive lifeforms that arise by random mutation. The main biology lesson that the pek teach to Genesaunts is the history of the technological species that for the past billion years have been observed by the pek during the time that the pek have spread from galaxy to galaxy. Upon arriving at a new galaxy the pek always find some planets with the remains of civilizations that have self-destructed. Typically, a galaxy might have a few planets with species that make tools or possibly a fledgling interstellar empire. In the case of our galaxy, the pek came across the Fru'wu who were just starting to use fusion-powered spaceships to travel outward from their home star system.

Seven million years ago the pek took some Fru'wu, some primates from Earth, and representatives of about 20 other tool-using species to planets of the galactic core where those species were "cultured" and domesticated by the pek. In the case of the Fru'wu, the pek have detailed records of how the Fru'wu civilization on its home planet destroyed itself. However, the pek were able to preserve some of the Fru'wu on planets of the galactic core and by the time of Exode, some Fru'wu of the galactic core (who descended from Interventionists) have started using hierion technology of their own design.

The Fru'wu thus provide a good example, from our own galaxy, of a technologically advanced species that when left on its own, destroyed its budding civilization, but with the help of the pek, some Fru'wu were genetically modified and those "domesticated" Fru'wu have survived in the galactic core. The pek have thousands of other similar examples from the past several hundred million years and the thousands of galaxies that they have explored.

The pek are rather humble. They don't present themselves to Genesaunts as being the means by which the Huaoshy transform species like the Fru'wu from

1) bumbling creatures who will die off soon after starting to develop a technological civilization


2) genetically modified organisms on the path towards abandoning their biological form.

The pek are known to the Prelands as servants who do all the dull and boring tasks that humans don't want to do. A major pek strategy is to provide Genesaunts with religious beliefs that support the idea that it is the responsibility of the Genesaunts themselves to achieve a fundamental transformation of thier nature.

Previously when I was thinking about how the pek would educate young Genesaunts I was imagining a learning environment similar to a modern school, but now I'm leaning more towards the idea that the pek might provide "temples" where the young are systematically indoctrinated with the idea that humanity's chance for survival lies in a future transcendence to a form of existence beyond what is possible for our physical bodies. They Huaoshy have radically transformed themselves into an alternative state of existence where their physical makeup is sedronic matter. The pek use religion to facilitate the process by which humans are being transformed from their natural biological form into an artificial form of life that resembles the Huaoshy.

This devious and deceptive strategy of using a religious indoctrination system might be the only strategy available to the pek. The fundamental transformative process that the Prelands are going through involves adapting their brains for efficient utilization of nanite symbionts. Eventually, the Genesaunts need to willingly abandon their biological bodies and transfer their minds into the form of bodies built from hierion-based nanites. Towards that goal, through a process of artificial selection, Prelands are being evolved away from the use of spoken language towards reliance on a form of "mental resonance" by which hierion-based communications between nanite symbionts in Preland brains allow for a kind of direct telepathic sharing of conscious brain states.

The entire process by which Prelands abandon their biological nature and learn to use their nanite symbionts is guided by rituals that take place in the pek-run "temples".

The Buld are in an interesting position with respect to Preland religious beliefs. The Buld Clan is a tiny minority among Genesaunts and the Buld exist for a special purpose different from the Prelands. The pek allow the Buld to decide for themselves if they want to adopt religious rituals and beliefs. Some members of the Buld Clan try to adopt Preland religious beliefs while other Buld are skeptics who prefer a rational and science-based account of Genesaunt Culture. Unfortunately for that scientific Buld, the pek have no intention of helping the Buld pursue science. The process by which a species like a tool-using ape is transformed into a sedronic artificial lifeform is not simple. Here is an analogy: imagine starting with a bacterial cell and trying to transform it into a dog. Even with advanced genetic engineering tools and artificial selection such a transformation is not going to be easy. The gap between a chimp and the Huaoshy is of similar magnitude as the gap between a bacterium and a dog. During the long, slow process of that transformation the pek do not want to have any Genesaunts, including the Interventionists, be successful in developing an active pursuit of science and a society with expanding technological know-how.

The Buld "scholars" have taken on the task of trying to understand relationships between all of the different Preland groups on hundreds of worlds such as Hemmal. The only Buld who are allowed a chance to directly study Preland culture are "missionaries" who adopt Preland cultural practices. Kach is a "missionary" on Hemmal when she meets Parthney. She is torn between revealing herself to Parthney as a "false" Buld female and completing her mission for the "scholars". I have yet to decide the extent to which she is a "true believer" in the Preland religion of "transformation"; possibly she will not fully adopt Preland beliefs and sometimes she will have to just pretend to be an unquestioning believer in order to be able study the Prelands.

From the perspective of the pek, the most important function of the Interventionists is to provide a mechanism by which desirable human gene combinations can be transferred from Genesaunts to humans on Earth. In the first chapter of Exode, Parthney is on track to become an interventionist.

An unavoidable consequence of sending Interventionists such as Parthney to Earth there is also some "cultural contamination". I'm having fun imagining how some aspects of Preland religion and some elements of Interventionist knowledge can reach Earth and influence the development of religions on Earth.

For example, imagine that about 5,000 years ago some Interventionists on Earth were able to share the idea of written language. Imagine that there were four specific locations on Earth where the Buld "scholar" practice of using written language became known to Earthlings. This transfer of cultural knowledge from the Buld to Earth was felt to be desirable by the pek because of the fact that a Buld spaceship was on its way to Earth and it would be dangerous if the cultural differences between Earthlings and the Buld were too great at first contact.

The Exode story itself takes the form of "cultural contamination". Imagine if 5,000 years ago an Interventionist arranged to leave behind on Earth a written account of how the human species was created. How might that story have been integrated into the myths and religions and of Earth?