Last night’s episode of Heroes raised a lot of interesting subjects with its God-talk. First, there was Angela Petrelli mentioning that those who were involved in the attempt to give abilities artificially were “attempting to be better than God”.
The whole notion of “playing God” is double edged, but one rarely hears talk of trying to “outdo God”. On the one hand, this series suggests that evolution in its divine beneficence endowed some people with remarkable, god-like abilities. On the other hand, it did not give them to everyone, and sometimes the abilities seemed more like a curse. On the one hand, nature contains the potential for technology, genetic modification and other human advances. On the other hand, until we discovered ways to intervene through science, humans suffered at the mercy of nature. There is a definite ambiguity in our relationship to the rest of the natural world, of which we are a part. But the discovery of evolution confirms the Gnostic hunch that we are not the direct creations of a supreme deity, but cobbled together by a tinkerer, who turns out to be inferior in some ways to the Demiurge of the Gnostics. This can be liberating when it comes to thinking about science. We can certainly try to outdo nature, without feeling the need to assume that the natural order is created directly by God in its present form with the commandment or that we leave it as we found it.
Heroes also explored the nature of religious experience in a world in which beings with supernatural powers roam the earth. Nathan Petrelli has been having visions, and was convinced (and may still be) that he is doing God’s work. But in fact these visions are being given to him (and to the speedster) by someone else with an ability, Matt Parkman’s father. This was a key part of the dilemma Descartes wrestled with, namely that in a world populated by angels and demons, the latter could well deceive someone in to thinking the world is other than it is. Religious experience, in the context of a world populated by malevolent as well as benevolent spiritual beings, cannot guarantee the truth of religious beliefs any more than science or history can.
If Heroes doesn’t get you to grasp the nature of this problem, you can always try the Bible. Take a look at 1 Kings 22:23…