Analysis and interpretation – The Nine Billion Names of God
In 1953 Arthur C. Clarke wrote “The Nine Billion Names of God”. This is a science fictive short story where we meet a group of lamas who wants to write the nine billion names of God. Atypically, the lamas will not use the ‘normal’ alphabet; but their own alphabet where they have invented and written in their holy books. In over three centuries they have been typing these names down, and it would take another fifteen thousand years for them to complete the chore. Therefore, they purchase a special computer, Mark V, from a company, which can calculate and write all the letters ...view middle of the document...
He can not really see the point of such a primitive group of lamas get themselves such a high technological computer. It seems like he sees them as too ‘stupid’ to be able to handle this equipment. He believes that science is greater than religion. He cannot really see the purpose of this task either, but asks the lama anyway and for a second he wonders whether he has offended him. On the other hand, we have the lama who believes that these religious thoughts go far beyond the science world. He knows that the scientists are narrow-minded and do not believe in a world of religion.
”It is somewhat alien your way of thought, so I hope you will listen with an open mind while I explain it.”
Later on in the conversation, the lama talks about this computer eliminating ridiculous combinations.
”For example, no letter must occur more than three times in succession. Three? Surely you mean two. Three is correct: I am afraid it would take too long to explain why, even if you understood our language.”
The lama knows that he will not understand their view at life and so does the scientist. The barrier between these two worlds are simply too excessive. But the lama has come to do business and he hires two engineers to come along to make sure the computer works as intended.
When Chuck tells George the crazy news regarding the monks’ intention with the nine billion names, their scientist brains simply can’t find a reasonable explanation for a statement like that. They still see them as crazy people who are trying to complete an impossible quest. Chuck and George are only here for business, therefore, they think about the consequences of the monks’ reaction to their purpose not working properly. Chuck and George are rational people who don’t believe in religious thoughts either. They really find the monks silly for being so stupid and naive.
They are not capable of accepting the monks’ belief. They even feel sorry for them.
”And don’t you think I’m running away because I’m afraid. I’m just sorry for those poor old guys up there, and I don’t want to be around when they find what suckers they’ve been.”
Once again, this underlines the total lack of understanding each other when it comes to religion and science.
On their way away from the monastery, Chuck and George were discussing whether the monks would smash up the computer in their rage and disappointment. Ironically, a moment later the stars were going out. It was really the end of the universe.
“Overhead, without any fuss; the stars were going out.”
This is the last line. Things in the sky such as stars, the sun and the moon are in many religions considered to be Gods or...