Fringe: Science, Spirituality and the Soul

I just got caught up on watching Fringe last night. The episode was almost entirely focused on souls – whether that of William Bell in Olivia Dunham’s body (and I have to say that Anna Torv does an incredible job of acting the role of someone else in her body – there were times when it seemed like she was about to burst into laughter, but it may just have been a Leonard Nimoy grin) or that of a woman who, having been struck by lightning, can’t figure out how to get her soul to finally depart her body.

From the perspective of someone interested in the intersection and interaction of religion and science, I think this provides an opportunity for reflecting on an important point: the soul (which was also a major focus on “V“) has historically been a major focus in science fiction. Even humanistic sci-fi like Star Trek has always seemed to have room for souls or katras.

And so I found myself wondering whether this facet of science fiction does not indicate something about people. Science fiction’s writers and fans include a significant number of those who would consider themselves secular, humanist, agnostic, atheist, and/or skeptic. Yet the soul and the afterlife seem to live on in the imagination of this genre. Does this indicate that there is in fact more spirituality (if not religion, much less traditional organized religion) in these circles than some would assume?

Or to put it more provocatively, is science fiction itself typically “spiritual but not religious” rather than secular and purely scientific in character?

It may be highly illogical, but it seems we all want to live long (or forever) and prosper. 😉

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  • Angie Van De Merwe

    There is no end to the many ways that humans attempt to overcome their limitations, whether one's limitation be defined by physical life, or perspective. Science, just as religion seeks to unite Man. The "commonalities" of human reality is what science fiction connects to, the "new realities" or "new possibilities" that science can make in/for human reality..The "unification" of Man is the ideal of globalism under some form of "feeding the masses" on that "real reality", where humanitarian goals are accomplished.

  • Angie Van De Merwe

    Perhaps, I don't desire a uniformity concerning perspective. Otherwise, we dissolve free societies from diverse goals, and purposes, which represent certain segments of our society, which is the value of liberty itself!. Unification denies the possibility of diverse interests, because the "outcome" or "goal" is already pre-determined.

  • Gary

    I have to get a life, and stop wasting my time with blogs. But I wonder what literalists (which I am not) would think of "nephesh", or soul, or "breath of life", which applies, according to Genesis, to humans, but also to all animals, in various places in the bible, including "everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died" Gen 8:22. People should consider being vegetarians, and not science fiction addicts. Live long (or forever), and prosper.

  • Keika

    To know the unknown, to discover the undiscovered. To boldly go where no soul has gone before. I’ve been really confused by Fringe lately.

  • Matt

    A lot of science fiction is not different than fantasy they just use words like "modulate," "polarity" and "neutron flow" instead of "reagents" or "spell."On another note, I think there is a difference between a literary soul and a popular religious soul (as in a transparent ghost version of you that climbs out of your body at death). There is a mystery in how we should conceive of individual existence. I think the word "soul" can be shorthand for our personal qualities that define us and that other people use to recognize us even when they aren't looking at us face-to-face. That's a literary soul that is perfectly compatible with a secular scientific universe (it also helps as a quick way to identify someone when you want to do a body switching episode).I tried to get into Fringe because the show sounds amazing when people talk about it but I don't like the monster-of-the-week stuff enough to sit through every episode to keep up with the more interesting plot arcs. I'll have to wait until they sell mythology packs like they did with The X-Files.

  • Anonymous

    It reminds me of C.S.Lewis descrbing a time in which people believe in "spirits" but not God…in effecting worshiping "forces" (demons) but denying the Creator.And at such time the battle will be just about over.Still Anonymouse