Science and Religion

We are currently living in an era defined by a technological renaissance. Humanities machines, weapons, and access to knowledge have surpassed the imaginary limits of many 20th century novelists and—to be quite honest, elicit in me a curious sense of caution as to our limits. The Internet, genomics, Solar-Photovoltaics—these are instruments and ideas that would have been inconceivable fifty years ago. My generation has always been exposed to a world of knowledge that hadn’t existed a few years before our birth. The Internet can provide us with the answers to all of our non-transcendental questions almost instantly. To many, religion is regarded merely as the manifestation of the human unknown—meaning, it is the explanation of what we have yet to prove with science. As an atheist myself, I used to frequently dwell on God’s existence, or more appropriately, the disproof for God’s existence that I could piece together using logic into a vain philosophical argument which proved to me nothing. To many, ‘logic’ and religion are incompatible.

Einstein takes a very different standpoint. He argues that religion has the answers to our aspirations and nature—something which cannot be entirely explained using proof. Einstein claims that overzealous nationalism and totalitarianism are destroying the human spirit, by resting their crosshairs on destruction rather than creation. Objective knowledge, he argues, is extremely important and has been colossal in its achievements. But does not, however, come close to giving us the meaning of our existence.

Military Technology in Things to Come

The military technology reflects in Things to Come reflects that of World War I, only occasionally showing new developments in the context of a World War I-style conflict. H.G. Wells reflected pre-war conceptions of how the next war would occur, showing masses of troops crossing trenches into no-man’s land, tanks massed and charging across rough terrain, as well as gas attacks. It is interesting to note that Wells’ pre-war conceptions versus how the war actually occurred are similar to how pre-World War I writers envisioned the Great War; both were able to determine the technology that would make a difference on the battlefield, but both failed to realize how it would be used and how much of an impact these technologies had.

Wells does get one key thing right however, and that is the use of leftover military equipment. Most “futuristic” war movies show the latest and greatest in terms of equipment and guns, but Wells shows the true reality of going to war- the reissue of old equipment in order to sustain such a massive army. Soldiers are shown equipped with the old rifles leftover from World War I and are seemingly absent of any submachine guns or squad operated weapons (i.e. the Bren Gun). Also, instead of single, fixed wing aircraft, the British are shown using biplanes, which they did in fact use in World War II. However, in reality a biplane would not keep up with the newer combat fighters that were developed in the 1930s.

“Metropolis” and Scientific Advancement

Humans are creatures of habit; we don’t like change. This dislike can morph into fear, especially when it comes to technology. In his film Metropolis, Fritz Lang explores the marvels and horrors that could come from technological advances. While Lang illustrates class inequality and warfare, the film focuses mainly on scientific advancement as a double-edged sword.

Metropolis is the story of a futuristic city, in which the wealthy live extravagantly while the poor work all day to keep the city running. A woman named Maria tells of a mediator that will close this gap between rich and poor. Freder, the son of the ruler of the city, fills this role of mediator by bringing his father and Grot, the leader of the workers, together.

This film displays the good that can come from scientific advancement, but also the evil. For example, science can bring remarkable things, such as the city of Metropolis, but it can also bring horrible things, such as the Maria robot.  In this way, both Metropolis and Bertrand Russell’s “Icarus or The Future of Science” advise people to be cautious with science because what can come of technological advances is uncertain.

The contract between the actions of the robot Maria and the real Maria show why science is not to be trusted. The robot Maria leads the workers out of their underground city, leaving the machines and their children behind. The real Maria goes to the workers’ city and saves the children. This scene shows the audience that scientific advancements are not always better for humanity. Humans need to be cautious and aware of their actions when using technology because it can be dangerous.

Metropolis shows the uneasy and fear of the 1920s. Science was advancing and changing how people thought and perceived reality.  This film shows the meeting of humanity with its creations.