Lucky Starr and the Final Redactor of Genesis


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Lucky Starr and the Bible

By Bobby Neal Winters<o:p></o:p>

When I discovered Isaac Asimov’s Lucky Starr Series as a teenage boy in the 1970s, little did I realize it would provide an example of the difference between scientific writings and scripture in a way that was so much in favor of scripture.<o:p></o:p>

The series author, Isaac Asimov, a scientist whose formal education was as a biochemist, had interests in science that ranged far and wide. Indeed, his interests in all things intellectual are legendary and he left literally hundreds of books in an astounding range of areas spanning fiction and nonfiction. <o:p></o:p>

While he did write much science fiction for its own sake and began his writing career in that way, he also wrote a good deal of science fiction as a means of teaching science and of getting young people interested in science. The Lucky Starr Series is of the latter type and introduces the young reader to the science of astronomy through the adventures of Lucky Starr and his sidekick John “Bigman” Jones who travel the solar system and explore the planets.<o:p></o:p>

Lucky and Bigman visit Mars, Venus, Saturn, the Asteroids, and so forth finding pirates, spies, and alien creatures along the way. To an adult who is reading about it for the first time, this might sound quite hackneyed and clichéd, yet to a young man seeking adventure beyond the skies as I was at that time, it was quite attractive. The effect left by reading Lucky’s adventures was a feeling that it was all attainable. It was within man’s grasp. Adventure in space was the manifest destiny of the human race.<o:p></o:p>

The reality of the stories, or at least the accuracy of their science, was very important to Asimov, who viewed the relating of science to be an essential task. One might even go so far as to say he seemed to take it as a calling. This was so much the case that, after the success of Sputnik, he took a hiatus from writing science fiction in order to devote more time to writing science fact. In spite of that hiatus, he did take the time to revisit the Lucky Starr books when they were re-released in order to issue caveats the science therein was no longer current, but that the reader could feel free to enjoy them at the level of adventure stories. <o:p></o:p>

Though caring about the accuracy of the science and by implication the education of young people in this way is very much to Asimov’s credit, it illustrates the value and the limit of science in on fell swoop. Science is a process that seeks the truth about the natural world, but it is not a collection of truths. Every scientific proposition can be revisited and is open to the possibility of being revised.<o:p></o:p>

For example, the scientific theory that the surface of Venus was covered by oceans which was current at the time Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus was written was found to be inaccurate. Science moved on and textbooks were corrected. That is the nature of the beast and each year there are science textbooks that become outdated and are revised because of this. However, the theory was absolutely essential to the plot of Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus and couldn’t be removed. Asimov could issue a warning in the introduction and that was all. <o:p></o:p>

I originally read the stories after the theories in them were found to be incorrect, but I enjoyed them anyway on the level of adventure stories. However, regardless of my level of appreciation of Isaac Asimov’s work in toto, it would be an overstatement to say the Lucky Starr books are in anyway unique achievements in the adventure genre. <o:p></o:p>

One might be so bold as to say if the science is all the value the stories have, then they are at best redundant. They sink to the depths of mediocrity as a dropped blaster would to the depths of a nonexistent Venetian ocean.<o:p></o:p>

One measure of the value of any piece of literature, and here I do not restrict myself to science fiction, is how well it stands up to time. Some stories stand up better than others, and it is at this point I would like to contrast the Lucky Starr stories with those in Genesis. This seems to be ridiculous on its face. Genesis is, after all, in the Bible, while Lucky Starr is a work of science fiction. Yet I believe there is a comparison to be made. Genesis does put forth statements about how the heaven and the earth were created and about the creation of life. It states there was a world-wide flood. There is even a theory about methods to manipulate the coloration of goats via controlled breeding. <o:p></o:p>

Much has been made of the science and cosmology of Genesis, and it is a matter of much debate within—and across—the borders of Christendom. Rather than risk adding even more heat (and possibly less light) to that already hyperthermic debate, let me simply move now to bracket the question. For the sake of argument, let me suppose that the stories in Genesis were like the Lucky Starr stories in that they were intended to teach science and that the scientific theories changed.<o:p></o:p>

I contend there is still something valuable left, and to prove this, I will choose one of the more ridiculous stories, i.e. the creation of woman.<o:p></o:p>

Genesis says that Adam was put into a deep sleep, a rib was removed, and Eve was created from the flesh and bone. <o:p></o:p>

Modern science would deny the truth of this. Rather, it would say, homo sapiens is a species that reproduces via sexual reproduction and that sexual reproduction itself is a product of evolution.<o:p></o:p>

Yet the author of Genesis went further than the creation. He added meaning when he quotes Adam as saying, “Now you are bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” and adds himself, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”<o:p></o:p>

Any man who has ever loved a woman knows what his means and knows that it is true and no scientific discovery will ever change it. One might even speculate that this was the point of the story to begin with; the story that Eve was made from a rib was really just a vehicle to convey this eternal truth. This I will leave as an exercise for the reader.<o:p></o:p>

Genesis has more stories than the Lucky Starr Series, and each of them can be read at a level beyond the level of mere science. They all stand up, and all will still be read when Lucky Starr has been reduced to yellow flecks of dust.<o:p></o:p>

(Bobby Winters is an Assistant Dean of Arts and Science and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University. He writes a weekly column and is a lay speaker who preaches monthly at the Methodist Churches in Opolis and Frontenac, Kansas. You may contact him at or visit his web site Okie in Exile Press. )<o:p></o:p>
Hi Okie:

Another wonderful message for the misbegotten. I especially identified with this one since my first real serious reading included Azimov, Heinlien, Pohl, Dick, Bradbury, and their peers. A guaranteed way to open one's mind to many possibilities.

Hmmm...Lucky Starr or Genesis ? Both are fables and are meaningful. I think I'll choose both.