Study and Discussion Questions for Gregory Benford's "First Commandment" [2004]

Throughout the semester, we have been examining the idea that more recent SF frequently depends on or responds to earlier notable works in the genre.  Here, Benford clearly revisits Clarke's "Nine Billion Names of God" in a contemporary setting.  Once more the "What If?" idea of the story hinges on a conceptual breakthrough.  As you review the story, consider these issues:

  1. How do the positions held by the three principal characters--Dr. Cindy Locke, Weiss, and Abrahams--collectively represent conflicting scientific and spiritual positions regarding the nature of reality and belief?  Which character's position does Benford encourage us to accept or support?  Look carefully at Each character's stated position:  Weiss [56-57], Locke [60-62], & Abrahams [64-66].

  2. If each character represents--in a hyperbolic way, of course--a contemporary position regarding science, religion, and the natural world, then Benford must be prodding us to reconsider our perspectives on these issues.  Whose position does he privilege in the story?  What statement is he making?  How are we expected to respond toe the dramatic reversal at the  story's end?