Francis Schaeffer claims that Michelangelo’s David, with its heroic size and disproportionately large hands, is a quintessential statement of humanism. Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke suggests an ideal man with a hypertrophied mind—a modern statement of the same philosophy.

Clarke has been called the best publicized writer of science fiction. His career began almost thirty years ago. In addition to science fiction, he has written nonfiction books and articles, and is the first person to have suggested the synchronously orbiting communications satellite. He is a writer of “hard” science fiction; scientific knowledge is an important part of his settings and plots. But Clarke’s stories have not been mere explorations of the applications of technology. He has tried to deal with what that means.

This is seen in two short stories and five novels. “The Star,” which won Clarke the 1956 Hugo award for best science fiction short story, is told in first person by a Jesuit astrophysicist who narrates a tale of exploring the remains of a supernova. The exploration team found that the explosion destroyed an advanced civilization, which had anticipated the disaster and left records. The point is that this supernova was the Star of Bethlehem. The protagonist closes the story with the agonizing question “Why?” posed to a God he clearly believes in.

In “The Nine Billion Names of God” (1953), which is included in two collections of religious science fiction, some Tibetan monks hire a computer to print permutations of words of up to nine letters to automate their task of listing all the names of God. They tell the computer operators that when their task is complete, the universe’s meaning will be fulfilled, and God will end it. The westerners ...

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