StarGate SG-1: The Parable of the Wise Scientist and the Blind Faithful

Last night our family watched a StarGate SG-1 episode for our family home evening activity.  The episode we watched is called “New Ground” from season three. I saw it for the first time back in 2000, and I can still remember being uncomfortable watching it because of the cognitive dissonance it produced for me.  Just for the record, the kids loved watching it, and we had a great discussion afterwords.

The story highlights the potential for conflict between scientific discovery and dogmatic faith, and does so in an interesting and compelling fashion.  For anyone with kids or teenagers, I highly recommend watching this episode with them.

The basic plot line is this:  The StarGate team travels to a new planet, where a star gate has been recently uncovered by local archaeologists in their country of Bedrosia.  The archaeologists are very surprised to find a star gate, because they were actually searching for evidence that star gates did not exist. Bedrosia is at war with a rival country, the Optricians, over their beliefs regarding the origin of human life on their world. The Optricians believe that aliens brought humans to their world thousands of years ago through a portal, while the Bedrosians believe that their god, Nefertum, created life on their planet.

One of the archaeologists is convinced that the functioning star gate is dramatic proof that his own beliefs, and the beliefs of all Bedrosia, are wrong, and that the Optricians have been right all along. The Bedrosian military is not convinced by the evidence and believe that the StarGate and SG Team are all part of an elaborate hoax setup by the Optricians to undermine Bedrosian institutions and their faith (i.e. their religion). From the Bedrosian General (I’m paraphrasing): “I will not allow this hoax to undermine the institutions and faith of our people.  I have read the book of Nefertum from cover to cover and know that it is true no matter what lies the Optricians try to make us believe.  Our solders have not died in vain.”

“The primary theme of the episode is the ideological war between religion and science. The archaeologist is a true scientist, who has no unfounded allegiance to abstract belief, but is eager to change what he believes when presented with new evidence. The Bedrosians are dedicated to their faith, and are presented as arrogant and stubborn — unwilling to consider that their beliefs might be wrong, even when presented with hard evidence. This dichotomy is manifested in the characters of the archaeologist and the military general.” – http://www.gateworld.net/sg1/s3/319.shtml

You can read a full summary of the episode here: http://www.gateworld.net/sg1/s3/319.shtml. If you’d like to watch the episode, you can purchase it at the iTunes store here.

Two thumbs up from Rich & Heather!

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3 comments on “StarGate SG-1: The Parable of the Wise Scientist and the Blind Faithful
  1. BillieO says:

    Hello:

    Thank you for your thoughtful and excellent review of a Stargate SG-1 episode.

    In my humble opinion, this show is one of the best television shows ever created for television. It is, as you have so eloquently stated, a perfect show for the entire family, regardless of age or gender.

    I watch the re-runs all the time and they still bring me great enjoyment.

    Thank you again for your review!

    ….and as always….

    Have A Very Stargate Day!

    BillieO

  2. dion says:

    I tried leaving a comment on facebook but wouldn’t let me. Maybe I’ll try again later. But this is it:

    You can also watch it on free on netfix. ; ) Ever since I realized I can hook my laptop to the TV I love netflix more and more.

    I remember this episode; but I don’t remember thinking about it very deeply. It does bug me though when religion is always portrayed backward and unwilling to change beliefs and scientists are always the open minded idealist. Certainly there are enough stories that that kind of stereotype has some validity to it but it in real life it is a false dichotomy. I will also say that religions tend to be slow to catch up but I think some are better than they were. For instance Catholicism has made some great strides in science these last few years. They’ve come a long way from declaring heresy to those who taught the earth isn’t the center of the universe to recently acknowledging that life could exist elsewhere. They don’t even teach that non baptized infants go to hell anymore. I’m sure that is a relief to infants everywhere. Ideally, science and religion would have the same goal – that of truth and both should be willing to adapt to it. I believe that one day both institutions will realize they can’t have one with out the other and that there really isn’t a competition.
    In fact, it is that competition that bugs me the most. I enjoy keeping up with physics and evolution and a little archaeology and am always aggravated when the purpose of an article is to try to prove religion wrong rather that just to present findings for the furthering of truth. Often the goal is to disprove religion – and by extension the existence of God. Just as upsetting are groups like the Creationists (at least here in the states) who I think make religions look like absolute idiots. They deserve the ridicule they get from evolutionists. In physics Theory of Relativity and Quantum physics are not yet tied together but that doesn’t invalidate the library of knowledge in either field. i think the same is true with religion. One day all truth will be under the same umbrella.

    Anyway, That’s all the rambling you’ll get out of me at 2 in the morning : )

  3. rmccue says:

    Dion,

    You are right that this episode portrayed the best side of the scientists and the worst of the other worldly religionists.

    From a teaching perspective, the episode was useful for me in starting a discussion with my kids about the importance of critical thinking – respectfully questioning and evaluating evidence for and against what we are taught at school, at chuch and at home.

    A non controversial example I heard once was a woman who whenever she cooked a ham, would cut the end off before putting it in her oven. When someone asked why she did it, she responded that this is the way her mother taught her to cook ham. She later asked her mother why she cut the end off her ham, and her mother told her that she did this because her old roaster for cooking hams was too small for large hams. What was originally a necessity for the mother became a unquestioned tradition for the daughter.

    Thanks for the discussion Dion. Take Care.

    Rich

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