Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Reflection Post, The Sparrow

I thought it was an interesting question that Professor Jackson brought up during class: what mistakes did the mission make and could they have avoided them? I think the answer is only so clear to us because we have hindsight to guide us. Of course they should have been more logical, more rational, and less trusting in what they did. We know that would have probably saved them in the end. However, I think it is also important to remember that, from the very beginning, this was believed to be "God's mission". God wanted them to do this and would protect them from harm, so they didn't need to worry about logic or rational thinking: they had God on their side. It is plausible to speculate on what they could have done differently, and I agree that there are many things that fall into that category. However, in the context of the book I don't believe that any of the characters could have acted differently and still stayed true to what Russell made them to be. They landed on this alien planet with their own cultural and religious bias and stereotypes which made the characters more believable, at least in my opinion. I think that, for me, the theme or main message of this book is that: just because you believe doesn't mean that God will save you in the end. And in order for this to be the thought that the reader comes away with, Russell had to make it seem like what they did and the actions they took, while in hindsight could have been avoided, were the best step to take at the time.


Chris said...

"Anne still played Official Skeptic." Caps and all. I believe that within Anne's character, she could have been the voice of reason. She could have dissuaded people from believing that this was God's mission. Any of the characters with any science background could have told Sandoz and the Gang (who did release a cover of "Celebration," if anyone's wondering) could have mentioned that THERE MIGHT NOT BE OXYGEN. Frankly, I think it is patently absurd that they went on this journey with virtually no knowledge. Anyone in the book who's passed the second grade should be able to bring up these complaints.

And if you think that this is God calling, are you really that afraid that he'll hang up while you figure out IF THERE'S ANY OXYGEN? One would think that God would understand you taking a few precautions. Even Sandoz could have believed that. What's the Jesuit tagline? Patience.

Rinske said...

Firstly, it is significant that Anne "played" the role of the Official skeptic. It did not mean that Anne wasn't a skeptic who wanted to be a believer, which I think she was. Anne was put in the role of being the skeptic because she didn't believe that it would be them to go, and about the down to earth practicality. The Earth term not being an accident as she was the skeptic about that aspect, and once she said that she would go, lost all aspect of being the "Official Skeptic".

About the oxygen issue, we have now at least started being able to detect what elements are on a different planet from Earth[]. /It doesn't take more than two weeks to do a simple scan of the atmosphere from orbit to figure out if there is oxygen, and it being found, it didn't need an additional comment other than the fact that it was another turtle on another fencepost.

Chris said...

I agree that it is significant that she only "plays" the role. In other words, there were no skeptics in the group. But the question raised in the post is, could one of the characters realistically have averted all this shit? And the answer is yes, within her character, she could have been skeptical if she hadn't been taken in by the false wonder of belief instead of the true wonder of knowing. She took the easy way out - they all did - and almost all of them died.

And yes, we can detect oxygen from orbit, but we couldn't detect the thirty other things I bring up in my own post. And even beyond that, (still referencing my own post) there was no evidence that the society that produced the message wanted to be found, or even wasn't a ship passing through. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who's been through freshman bio in high school could have brought up at least some of these issues.

And the final line of your post - that it would have been another turtle on the fencepost - is indicative that no one was being skeptical. No decent skeptic would even claim that the people in the room at the time of discovery were the right people to actually go on the mission - the turtles on the fencepost were made up. It's hindsight bias: what already happened must have been the only/best way of events happening. It would not be "a fact" that oxygen in the atmosphere would be another turtle. It would be a bad, unsubstantiated guess.