Ken Wharton

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Ken Wharton is a physics professor at San Jose State University and science fiction writer.


Divine Intervention (2001)[edit]

All page numbers are from the mass market first edition published by Ace Books ISBN 0-441-00886-0
Nominated for the 2001 Philip K. Dick Award Award
All dashes, ellipses, and italics as in the book
  • The truth is so simple, and yet I tremble as I put it into words. On a cosmological scale, the universe is symmetric in time. What we know as God is simply the collective consciousness traveling opposite to our temporal orientation. God’s realm is our unknowable future; everything that is real to Him remains only possibility to us. Ironically, the reverse is also true: The reality of our past remains unknown to God.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 25)
  • “And we know that Burnouts are prone to fighting; it’s just a matter of time before they attack us.”
    Channing had heard these reports a hundred times. He had tried to explain that they were inventing imaginary dangers because no real ones threatened.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 53)
  • “History,” Daddy was saying, “has seen thousands of religions, millions of cults, billions of individual belief systems. All of them have been a search for truth, however misguided. Everyone felt the same innate spiritual feelings, but rationalized them in very different ways. And how indeed was prescientific humanity supposed to find the truth? It would have been easier to deduce the inner workings of the sun by staring at it. There was no framework, no alternate source of truth from which they could determine why our spirituality existed.
    “But with science came that framework. A framework that blatantly contradicted the false truths that most religions had already locked into their belief system. The literalist religions contended with the heliocentric solar system and biological evolution, both in disagreement with supposed “truths” that had been locked in by people who simply could not have known better. Even mystical religions, with fewer scientific premises to contradict, had their own difficulties. They had to contend with the realization that there was no unphysical soul, no sharp division between mind and body, no action at a distance. Humans had an instinct to seek out the truth, but instinct without a framework only drove them in the wrong direction.
    “So what was science’s advantage over primitive religions? The advantage of being wrong. To a believer, a religion cannot be wrong, and its evolution is fundamentally limited by this supposed fact. Beliefs that are locked in cannot change, because to change one part requires a questioning of the whole system. But a scientist is always wrong, always in doubt. Constantly framing hypotheses and disproving them, science is always narrowing down the field of what is not true, instead of finding what is true in a single step.
    “Science can never be true in the way that a religion can; there are always uncertainties, always the possibility that some new revolution can overthrow the old ways of thinking. And the scientists themselves welcome the revolution! Those who turn their science into a religion, those who instinctively believe in the old theories as absolute truth, they are left behind in the next revolution.”
    • Chapter 11 (pp. 144-145)
  • “Over most of human history science did a vastly better job of locating the truth—by burning down the alternatives—than did religion’s wild stabs in the dark. And eventually, thanks to science, there wasn’t much darkness left. And—to no great surprise—in the small patch of darkness where science had cornered truth, there wasn’t a single traditional religion left.
    “Yes, most religions claimed they fit in with modern science, but it was usually science that they were warping to fit their religion.”
    • Chapter 11 (p. 146)
  • “No, no, no,” Paul said, shaking his head “Occam’s razor. This is getting far too complicated. The simplest explanation is that”—he waved his hand up at the moon—“that God doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 184)
  • I’m just saying it’s a possibility. Just because it’s complicated doesn’t mean it’s not true.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 184)
  • She shrugged. “Maybe he is making sense. Maybe we’re just not trying hard enough to understand.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 184)
  • “I was right! He said he was in a spaceship! A small spaceship! It’s some alien spaceship up by the moon!” Without hesitating, she turned her attention back to God. “Are you in orbit around the moon?” Her smile softened a little bit. “He says…he says the moon is going around him.”
    Paul shrugged. “Well, it’s all a matter of perspective, I suppose. But I still don’t buy this alien business.”
    Katrina rolled her eyes. “I’m sorry, dear, if it messes up your theology and all that, but I’m telling you, we are communicating with an alien intelligence here.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 185)
  • It was an awfully persuasive theory, he had to admit. And even if it was wrong, he was starting to realize that God had to be an alien. There just wasn’t any other possible explanation. And that really scared him. All his life he had been so sure of his religion. When his daughters had died, it was the only thing he had left to hold on to. But had the devotion of his life to religion been misplaced? No, it couldn’t be. God couldn’t be an electronic alien. There had to be another explanation.…
    He forced a stop to that line of thought. He knew a rationalization when he saw it, and he considered himself pretty good at keeping his mind from coming to false conclusions just because of his beliefs. He used to be a scientist, after all. Not someone who would rationalize away clear evidence of aliens just because of some statements in the Journal. He had always told Katrina that if new scientific proof surfaced that his religion was wrong, he would admit he was mistaken. Well, now that had happened. There simply were intelligent aliens in the universe, and he would have to come to grips with it.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 303; the Journal is one of the Scriptures in the novel’s fictional religion)
  • Feelings of desperation clouded his mind. Could this be? Was this the final trap of a “provable” religion based purely on science? Was it inevitable that advances in scientific knowledge would disprove any religion, given enough time? And if science kept advancing, if they could never know everything, then no religion could ever be eternally true. In his last sermon Paul had claimed that science had backed God into a tiny corner of the unknown; but what if known science was the tiny corner, and the unknown lay vaster than anyone had imagined? If so, how could any religion ever claim to be compatible with science?
    • Chapter 22 (p. 304)
  • As remarkably strange as this event was, after a very short while he began to get bored. One of the great human abilities, he thought: tuning out the most fantastic events just because they happen slightly too often.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 335)

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