Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Mr. Sawyer made it difficult to enjoy this book by “poisoning the well” in his preface. He made it abundantly clear that he hoped to show that people who disregard theology in favor of a reasoned approach to the world based on scientific study were just as biased and closed minded as some theists. The “Science is just another religion” view. This position shows both a lack of understanding of the process of science and, apparently, religion.
He accomplished no such thing, of course. It was about as much a useful parable on the acceptance of theism by critical thinkers as Sherlock Holmes is a textbook of crime scene investigation. Mr. Sawyer thought that by changing what we know, adding new fabricated knowledge and introducing a foreign perspective he could enrich the discussion of the “does god exist” question. He didn’t. He trod old ground and made the same logical mistakes that many have made before. That aspect of the story was so infantile it seems clear that Mr. Sawyer has been lax in his consumption of modern philosophical thought.
It’s a shame, really. The actual narrative is very sweet. Especially with the excellent reading by Jonathan Davis. The very human aspects of the story are well done, if a little more sentimental than absolutely necessary. Still, it is always nice to read a science fiction story that is more interested in people than technology or aliens.
Yes, there are aliens in this story, but they are only alien in their form and origin. They are not advanced or particularly different in any other meaningful way. I’m having a difficult time in deciding whether I respect the novelty of this or not. It is very common to have aliens that do not differ from us in form, but have significantly different culture and thought processes, this is the opposite. A nice twist for creating sympathetic characters, but it is a cumbersome way to play at confirming his premise without actually bringing in any new evidence. Kind of like paying a shill to extol the virtues of your snake-oil.
Not a bad read, but kind of a ham-fisted effort to push a particular agenda. Having characters in the book draw bad conclusions from contrived evidence does not a compelling argument make.