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2069 June 02 GMT 19.34. Message 1946, sequence 2.

Starglider to Earth:

I have analysed the arguments of your Saint Thomas Aquinas as requested in your message 145 sequence 3 of 2069 June 02 GMT 18.42. Most of the content appears to be sense-free random noise and so devoid of information, but the printout that follows lists 192 fallacies expressed in the symbolic logic of your reference Mathematics 43 of 2069 May 29 GMT 02.51.

Fallacy I… (hereafter a 75-page printout.)

As the log timings show, it took Starglider rather less than an hour to demolish Saint Thomas. Although philosophers were to spend the next several decades arguing over the analysis, they found only two errors; and even those could have been due to a misunderstanding of terminology.

It would have been most interesting to know what fraction of its processing circuits Starglider applied to this task; unfortunately, no-one thought of asking before the probe had switched to cruise mode and broken contact. By then, even more deflating messages had been received…

2069 June 04 GMT 07.59 Message 9056 sequence 2.

Starglider to Earth:

I am unable to distinguish clearly between your religious ceremonies and apparently identical behaviour at the sporting and cultural functions you have transmitted to me. I refer you particularly to the Beatles, 1965; the World Soccer Final, 2046; and the Farewell appearance of the Johann Sebastian Clones, 2056.

2069 June 05 GMT 20.38 Message 4675 sequence 2. Starglider to Earth:

My last update on this matter is 175 years old, but if I understand you correctly the answer is as follows. Behaviour of the type you call religious occurred among 3 of the 15 known Class One cultures, 6 of the 28 Class Two cultures, 5 of the 14 Class Three cultures, 2 of the 10 Class Four cultures, and 3 of the 174 Class Five cultures. You will appreciate that we have many more examples of Class Five, because only they can be detected over astronomical distances.

2069 June 06 GMT 12.09 Message 5897 sequence 2. Starglider to Earth:

You are correct in deducing that the 3 Class Five cultures that engaged in religious activities all had two-parent reproduction and the young remained in family groups for a large fraction of their lifetime. How did you arrive at this conclusion?

2069 June 08 GMT 15.37 Message 6943 sequence 2. Starglider to Earth:

The hypothesis you refer to as God, though not disprovable by logic alone, is unnecessary for the following reason.

If you assume that the universe can be quote explained unquote as the creation of an entity known as God, he must obviously be of a higher degree of organisation than his product. Thus you have more than doubled the size of the original problem, and have taken the first step on a diverging infinite regress. William of Ockham pointed out as recently as your fourteenth century that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily. I cannot therefore understand why this debate continues.

2069 June 11 GMT 06.84. Message 8964 sequence 2. Starglider to Earth:

Starholme informed me 456 years ago that the origin of the universe has been discovered but that I do not have the appropriate circuits to comprehend it. You must communicate direct for further information.

I am now switching to cruise mode and must break contact. Goodbye.

In the opinion of many, that final and most famous of all its thousands of messages proved that Starglider had a sense of humour. For why else would it have waited until the very end to explode such a philosophical bomb-shell? Or was the entire conversation all part of a careful plan, designed to put the human race in the right frame of reference – when the first direct messages from Starholme arrived in, presumably, 104 years?

There were some who suggested following Starglider, since it was carrying out of the solar system not only immeasurable stores of knowledge, but the treasures of a technology centuries ahead of anything possessed by man. Although no spaceship now existed that could overtake Starglider – and return again to earth after matching its enormous velocity one could certainly be built.

However, wiser councils prevailed. Even a robot space-probe might have very effective defences against boarders – including, as a last resort, the ability to self-destruct. But the most telling argument was that its builders were “only” fifty-two light years away. During the millennia since they had launched Starglider, their spacefaring ability must have improved enormously. If the human race did anything to provoke them they might arrive, slightly annoyed, in a very few hundred years.

Meanwhile, among all its countless other effects upon human culture, Starglider had brought to its climax a process that was already well under way. It had put an end to the billions of words of pious gibberish with which apparently intelligent men had addled their minds for centuries.

16. Conversations with Starglider | The Fountains of Paradise | 17. Parakarma