He That Believeth In Me
Battlestar Galactica‘s story arcs have always drawn dark and uncomfortable parallels with the War on Terror – themes of occupation, apocalypse, suicide bombing, resistance, extra-judicial justice, abortion, monotheism vs. polytheism, prophecy and civilian vs. military governance. This ‘dark mirror’ has made BSG one of the most potently sophisticated political storytelling vehicles on television – more so even than The West Wing.
The opening episode of season four, He That Believeth In Me, deep-dives into the painfully isolating nature of prophecy. As showrunner Ronald D. Moore points out – When somebody really is a
prophet or a seer or a visionary…they’re
shunned, rejected, ignored…people who have a genuine foreknowledge or greater awareness generally don’t have a good
I can’t help see the show as anything other than the story of a withering Machine Jihad that seeks to replace humanity as the children of God. Yet in the process of euthanising its parent culture, belatedly realises that it seeks human acceptance and wonders – to paraphrase Moore – ‘What if they’re like us and we’ve been doing all these terrible things this whole time…if they could have created us so
easily, what does that say about how special we are…maybe we’re not touched by God
either…maybe we’re some sort of fairly easy technological accident.’ Indeed, this introspection gives rise to machine atheism!
My interpretation is an inversion of Moore’s story which is essentially oriented around humanity and it’s struggle to comprehend that their greatest fear isn’t that their offspring aren’t human – but that they are and that turning inwards against each one other is a more potent existential threat than the Cylons.
In reading Wired’s piece today on Ray Kurzweil’ notion of the Singularity, I can’t help but wonder that in seeking to create machine consciousness, modeled on our own understanding of human consciousness, that we sow the seeds for inevitable spirituality arising amongst machines. Perhaps Battlestar Galactica is actually the most sophisticated piece of Singularity fiction since Blade Runner, raising not only provocative parallels to current events, but forcing viewers to consider what it means to be human.