The Shortcomings of “Raised by Wolves”
Raised by Wolves is a science fiction TV series directed by Ridley Scott, the same man who directed Blade Runner. The setting is a devastating war between Mythraics versus atheists. I was intrigued the moment that I heard of a show about atheists, and rushed to buy an HBO subscription to watch it.
The historical Mithraic Mysteries was a mystery religion that competed with Christianity in the 3rd century CE. It was based on the god of the sun Mythras whom the Romans imported from Persia. In the show, however, the Mythraics do not pray to Mythras, but instead to Sol Invictus, another god of the sun whom the historical emperor Aurelian brought into the Roman state religion.
This action by Aurelian was a significant historical event, because it was the first time when politics openly promoted a popular grass roots religion into the state politics. Before Aurelian, the Roman state religion was subservient to political needs, and priests could not dream to dictate political actions. Fifty years later, Constantine did the same with Christianity, firmly uniting religion and the state. What has followed are rivers of blood, resulting from religion guiding the swords of armies.
At first I thought that the screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski chose Mithraism to avoid Judeo-Christian religion for which many viewers would have a favorable bias and therefore would not be able to draw objective moral lessons. But as the show develops, it surfaces all the elements of the Garden of Eden, so the biblical reference is there.
Overall, the show was a disappointment. I hoped to see a show where the atheists are good, and the religionists are evil. But Guzikowski and Scott must hold that there can be no morality without faith, and they made a show to demonstrate this. The atheist view is portrayed as heartless, while the human condition is portrayed as one seeking faith. A child born in an atheist family is deemed heroic when he is seeking opportunity to pray and bring compassion into a family enacted by heartless robots.
Thus, the show demonstrates that pure reason not tempered by emotion leads to disaster. But this is wrong, because it is a misunderstanding of what are emotions and gut feelings. Emotions and gut feelings are also products of reason, only these represent automatized conclusions reached long ago. For instance, you have reached long ago the idea of what it means for a girl to be pretty. When you now look at a pretty girl, you instantly feel a pleasant emotion.
I have learned about this new way to understand emotions from Ayn Rand’s character John Galt of Atlas Shrugged. He states [page 934, 50th ann. ed.],
Just as your body has two fundamental sensations, pleasure and pain … so your consciousness has two fundamental emotions, joy and suffering … . Your emotions are … lighting calculators giving you a sum of profit and loss.
Ayn Rand elaborates on this view in her non-fiction work “The Virtue of Selfishness.” In the chapter of “Objectivist Ethics”, she writes,
[While] the standard of value operating the physical pleasure-pain mechanism of man’s body is automatic and innate, determined by the nature of his body — the standard of value operating his emotional mechanism, is not. Since man has no automatic knowledge, he can have no automatic values; since he has no innate ideas, he can have no innate value judgments.
Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are “tabula rasa.” It is man’s cognitive faculty, his mind, that determines the content of both. Man’s emotional mechanism is like an electronic computer, which his mind has to program — and the programming consists of the values his mind chooses.
The shows vilifies only blind faith, the kind that attempts to deny Free Will. But it places atheism in the blind faith camp, saying that an unbending adherence to an idea is equally bad. It states that the difference between the Mythraics and the atheists is a false dichotomy: both are blind religions. To prove it, it is shown that an atheist has no qualms murdering thousands of people including children, in order to protect her children from imposition of faith. And the story has an android to be the exponent of atheism, a representative of pure reason. Furthermore, the androids are purported to becoming more human whenever they abandon reason and succumb to emotion.
What’s wrong with this picture (pun indented)? The correct view would be that an android would become human not when he becomes capable of emotion, but when he becomes capable of Free Will. It is Free Will that distinguishes humans from all known animals, and an android capable of the same would be a human in all respects of the mind.
The big screen is still waiting for a show that would honestly criticize faith of all degrees. Faith is anti-reason and can not be combined with reason to make a better whole. Faith is poison, and mixing it with honey would only poison all of the honey.
What is “faith”? It is the claim that knowledge about reality can be obtained by means not connected to reality. It can’t be done and even entertaining this view is harmful to the proper way to obtain knowledge. The proper way is by reason alone. Furthermore, babies are not born with some idea of what is right and what is wrong. They are only born with a mechanism to learn what is right and what is wrong.
Contrary to a common view, atheism is not faith. What about the claim that if one can’t prove that there is no God, then he must believe that there is no God? Sure I can: in the absence of evidence of X, there is no X. It is a basic principle of logic that a claim without supporting evidence places it outside of logic, and makes it equivalent to gibberish. Furthermore, no evidence will ever be presented for the case of God, because the whole idea is contradictory with itself.
Despite all the mentioned shortcomings, however, I applaud “Raised by Wolves” for being the first show that openly placed the issue of atheism on the big screen. I hope this opened the flood gates, and other shows with a more honest portrayal of atheism will follow. But this will not happen until the atheists themselves gain the ammunition to defend their own view.
Where can atheists get the ammunition to defend themselves? Only Ayn Rand’s Objectivism would give the proper foundation to atheism. They will not find it in the works of Hitchens, Dawkins, and the other New Atheists who accept the same premises that give rise to religion. They deny the efficacy of pure reason, individualism and Free Will. They temper reason with community, voting, and biological constraints.
Ayn Rand is not known as a crusader for the atheistic cause because she never explicitly wrote on the subject of atheism. Instead she contrasted faith versus reason, and opposed faith on all grounds. However, you will find her explicit statements on atheism in her two interviews with Phil Donahue.
Is there anyone who will make a TV series in which reason is the winner, and faith is the loser?