Thu, 14 May 2009 02:35:31 +0000 – What if "Star Trek" is a gift from God? We know that "Star Trek," the number one movie in the country right now, is a gift to Paramount Studios, but seriously, what if "Star Trek" is a gift from God?
If all knowledge comes from God, as we are told in Romans 11:33, then that's where all creativity comes from, too. And also science and technological knowhow.
Of course, not all knowledge, creativity, and science is put to good use, but that's a failing of men, not God and His works.
And speaking of works, what if we could apply "Star Trek" technology to practical issues in front of us, such as growing the economy, improving health, and, perhaps most profoundly and urgently of all, defending the U.S. and its allies, including Israel?
The new "Star Trek"film shows Captain Kirk's Starship Enterprise making good use of photon torpedoes and force fields. So the question comes to mind: Would Israel be safer if it could shoot down enemy missiles and rockets with such photon torpedoes, or block them altogether with a force field? Of course it would.
Let's consider the power of technological fixes in the Middle East. If a 20-foot fence, built over the past few years, enabled Israel to reduce suicide bombings by more than 99 percent, then that's the beginning of a new vision of Israeli security, based on hard defensive technology, not scraps of paper. And so, continuing with a little thought experiment, what could a mile-high fence do to safeguard Israel against Qassam rockets fired by terrorists from the Gaza Strip? What could a 20-mile-high fence do to secure Israel against Katyusha rockets from Lebanon? And what could a 200-mile fence do to protect Israel against Shahab missiles from Iran? Such a tall fence wouldn't have to be physical; it could be virtual, as in a force field.
So back to "Star Trek," and any number of science fiction sagas. Why don't we have force field technology? Scientists can use small magnets and lasers now for industrial processes; why not deploy giant magnets and lasers for national security? Some might say that we will get them eventually, but maybe we need them now. Right now, and in a big way--because we are increasingly vulnerable to various kinds of weapons of mass destruction. For all the progress we have made in virtualization and miniaturization, the fact remains that our corporeal selves, our cities, and our nation states are all acutely vulnerable.
"Star Trek"-type technology is creeping along, slowly but surely--but mostly slowly, as detailed in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle. Yes, Apple's iPhone is a bit like Dr. McCoy's "Tricorder," and yes, the Pentagon is making some progress toward "cloaking devices," but on the big things that defined the "Star Trek" universe--huge spaceships, warp speed, teletransportation--we haven't even begun. Still, the new "Star Trek" film is supremely valuable,ifwe see it as a nudge to get going, to put our minds to the grindstone, as it were.
Specifically, let's put our minds to the question of what the world is going to be like for us and our allies if 20 or more countries have nuclear weapons--up from the current nine (we think). Iran's atom-bomb production facilities could be bombed tomorrow, but who seriously doubts that Iran will have a nuke, somehow, from somewhere, in the next few years? And of course, the long-range technology to deliver nuclear weapons is also proliferating. Do we really think, in such a missiled-up, nuked-up world, that treaties will keep us and our allies safe?
Not everyone likes to think about the necessity of military technology, but the historical verdict is clear enough: If you want peace, prepare for war.
And yet at the same time, we must have faith--faith and the vision to see the best course. Americans might pause, for example, over the fate of Israel. Israel confronts severe demographic, geopolitical, and nuclear threats. Some say it will need a miracle to survive. Such miracles have come in the past, but will they come again?
Only God knows the answer to this question, of course. But in the meantime, perhaps we need more faith--and a keener eye for hopeful indicators. Perhaps we need to recognize that these days, too, are days of wonders and miraculous signs, just as in Acts 2:43, and yet we don't see them, or we don't see all of them.
And so back to "Star Trek." If force fields and the like seem far out, well, then, maybe we need far-seeing leaders. The late sci-fi visionary Arthur C. Clarke had it right when heobserved, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." And such "magical" technology doesn't have to be a weapon; it was techno-magic that brought us such wonders as refrigeration, electricity, and cures for disease. These would have all seemed like miracles only a few centuries ago.
So maybe technology is a miracle we've been longing for, and yet we don't fully recognize it for the blessing that it is, because it has come disguised. Maybe we have been entertaining angels, as in Hebrews 13:2, and yet not seen them for what they were, because we thought they were just... entertainment. That is, we have glimpsed vital technology, but mostly not seen its potential, because we made the mistake of seeing it only as a fun diversion, as opposed to a serious sign. Not every amusement should be left to Saturday night at the movies; some figments of imagination should be made real, harnessed, and put to work, every day of the week. As soon as possible.
And not just for the safety of Israel. Why doesn't the U.S. have such safekeeping, peacekeeping technology? Maybe the answer is that our leaders have not had enough faith. That's right, not enough faith. They didn't see that the futuristic techno-wonders depicted in sci-fi were signs. They didn't see that these wonders were advance indicators of miracles that could be, if only we could envision them--and then get to work building them. Like everyone else, politicians are happy to see computers, cell phones, and other gadgets improve, but the political class no longer seems to hear the call of destiny, which is telling them that the same "cool" technology can be utilized for national defense and national survival, not just personal convenience and pleasure.
It's not that the U.S. and Israel are doing nothing--but maybe they aren't doing enough. The two allies have been collaborating, for example, on Arrow, a theater missile defense program. And the Obama administration is requesting $7.88 billion for missile defense. That's good, although if we were really serious about protecting America and its allies, we should be spending ten times that much, visibly engaging our finest scientific minds, just as we did during World War Two, when faith and research brought forth technical miracles. And unfortunately, today, some key programs, such as the Airborne Laser (sounds like a proto-photon torpedo to me, which is to say, worth pursuing with warp speed) and the Multiple Kill Vehicle, are being reduced or even eliminated.
People of faith, who care about the safety of Israel, of America, of Christendom, and of the world, need to get involved in the politics of technological security, because right now, these priorities are being pushed down low on the national agenda--below bailouts, "stimulus" spending, and Air Force One photo-opping.
*In the meantime, other countries, not friends of ours, are working on their own missile programs, and more. On May 9, the Russians debuted their own new missile defense system, the S-400 missile defense systemin a Soviet-style hardware parade through Red Square. And the Chinese are working diligently toward space-war capability.
Some argue that we shouldn't even try to build these weapons, and some say they wouldn't work.
The answer to the first of these arguments is simple: If the bad guys are working on new kinds of weapons, that's all the more reason for us to get there firstest with the mostest. As a grim aside, we might imagine how history would have been different if we had lost the atomic arms race to Hitler's Germany.
For the answer to the second question, we can turn once again to Arthur C. Clarke:"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."
And so here's where faith must be combined with works. In James 1:2, we are told, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials"--because that's where the faithful can find victory. So, with greater appreciation for all that God can do, let's roll up our sleeves, dig into our wallets, teach our children science and technology, and thus make the world safer.
Because, God knows, technology is already a game-changer in just about every area of human activity. Among its many wonders, which we now take for granted, technology lets us change our physical surroundings for purposes of recreation, habitation, and even transportation. We live and work and play up in the sky, atop tall buildings or atop mountains. We confidently get into a metal tube and fly through the air, or go underground in concrete tunnels. We use the giant sun, or a tiny atom, to power our tools and appliances.
In other words, technology can confound the once-formidable obstacles of geology and geography. If we can change the course of rivers and burrow through mountains, then surely the defense of Israel, as a physical place, is not an insurmountable challenge. Yes, Israel is situated amidst enemies and perils in the Middle East, but the finest scientific minds could help make it safe.
Yet at the same time, robust technology might permit Israel to safely give up territories taken in the 1967 Six Day War, thereby putting millions of hostile Palestinians on the other side of a future defensive barrier. The argument that Israel needs the geographic "buffer" of the Golan Heights, the Jordan River, and so on, might seem less overwhelming if technology could somehow overcome Israel's small physical size. And of course, absent direct divine intervention, onlytechnology will defend Israel against rockets from Gaza, Lebanon, and beyond. As noted, technology is a game-changer; it could also be a geography-changer, in ways that we can't yet fully fathom.
And so we must return to the political realm--since politicians are often the prime movers for every other form of human action. We all remember that Robert F. Kennedy Sr. said, "There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?"
What we need today are leaders who have the vision to see a film such as "Star Trek," and say, "Why not? Why not have such weapons and protections, as soon as possible? Let's do what it takes to make it so."
The security challenges confronting Israel have so far confounded the wisest of the wise. But maybe the solution can come from miraculous technology, shifting the ground right out from under the anti-Zionists. Technology of itself is neutral; it is the uses to which technology is put--and the minds and hearts of those controlling the technology--that make all the difference. And so technology, brought into existence by whatever means, no matter how circuitous, could yet serve a Godly purpose.
Jews and Christians both believe that God made a special covenant with the Israelites, and that belief is the basis for much of today's strong politico-military advocacy on behalf of Israel. For its part, the Israeli government puts a huge premium on military technology to keep its protective edge. That's a policy with Biblical roots: In Psalm 144, David says, "Blessed be the Lord, my rock, which trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle." Or, as as the old Tom Lehrer song puts it, "The Lord's our shepherd, so says the Psalm--but just in case, we gotta get a bomb."
But today, too many of us are trained to think of technology as something different and mostly apart from spirituality. That's unfortunate, because God created the geek and the nerd, too. Not to mention every tool, and every lifesaving device, and every form of protection. Surely every believer can laugh at the joke about the man in the burning building who declares, "God will save me." And so he declines to jump down into the safety net below, and then he refuses to descend down a rescue ladder, and then he refuses to be hoisted into a helicopter. So the man dies, goes to meet his Maker, and asks Him, "Why didn't you save me?" To which an exasperated Deity responds, "You fool! I offered you a net, I offered you a fire ladder, I even offered you a helicopter--what does it take to get through to you?"
The signs are everywhere, folks. And I believe that "Star Trek," and similar shows, are some of these signs. There's a reason that a favorite Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, wrote so much science fiction.
But whether or not we agree on "Star Trek," let's grab hold of technology and put it to its highest, best, and most miraculous use. As Jesus saidin Mark 9:23, "Everything is possible for the person who believes." So let's put some faith in the message of "Star Trek"--and get to work.