If I was a Q, I'd probably be a bit of a jerk, too.
January 1, 2011 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Is there a quote about how a vastly superior creature who isn't a god could appear as if they were one?

I'm an agnostic who feels that we can't possibly be the most advanced creatures in the universe. That being said, if there is a more advanced life form than us floating around out there, who chooses to mess with us for the same reason that kids like kicking down anthills and adults like to spray for termites, if they were really that much more powerful than us, I think it would be easy for us to decide that it was God doing whatever it was they were doing.

The phrase that sticks in my head is something along the lines of "The actions of an advanced living being, sufficiently superior, would be indistinguishable from those of a god." As much as I'd love to toot my own horn, I know I can't be the first person to have that idea. So where did I read it?
posted by Golfhaus to Religion & Philosophy (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," one of Clarke's three laws, is similar to what you're trying to think of.
posted by zsazsa at 2:12 PM on January 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Are you thinking of Clarke's Third Law? "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
posted by decathecting at 2:13 PM on January 1, 2011

More of an extrapolation of the idea than the thing itself but ...

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C. Clarke, "Profiles of The Future", 1961 (Clarke's third law)

is there a ribbon for finishing third? I did get the date and the name of the book
posted by philip-random at 2:13 PM on January 1, 2011

Aha: Shermer's Last Law: "Any sufficiently advanced ETI (extraterrestrial intelligence) is indistinguishable from God."
posted by zsazsa at 2:14 PM on January 1, 2011

Tvtropes has "Humans are Cthulhu"; that might be similar.
posted by wayland at 2:16 PM on January 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

The "Humans are Cthulhu" page also links to "Sufficiently Advanced Alien".
posted by martinrebas at 2:33 PM on January 1, 2011

Well, this is pretty much exactly the overriding theme of Stargate. Of course, you could have run across the idea in many places.
posted by J. Wilson at 2:59 PM on January 1, 2011

Thanks, everyone! I'll sleep better at night knowing I'm not some kind of secret genius.
posted by Golfhaus at 3:02 PM on January 1, 2011

There is a kind of corollary to, or slant take on, Clarke's law that I have seen in discussions of Gene Wolfe: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a miracle."
posted by grobstein at 3:12 PM on January 1, 2011

Another slant on the idea.
I half-remember a poem from way back, possibly by Ogden Nash.

I overheard some ants the other day,
whose nest had been trampled on by a cow,
seriously discussing the intentions of the gods
towards their civilisation.
posted by jan murray at 3:22 PM on January 1, 2011

Nope, this is not Clarke. It's from Philip K Dick's novel, Our Friends From Frolix 8.

"God is dead,' Nick said. 'They found his carcass in 2019. Floating in space near Alpha.'

'They found the remains of an organism advanced several thousand times over what we are,' Charley said. 'And evidently could create habitable worlds and populate them with living organisms, derived from itself. But that doesn't prove it was God."

posted by smoke at 3:32 PM on January 1, 2011

Second thoughts about Ogden Nash.
More likely to have been Don Marquis

It was,

from 1927, entitled "archie and mehitabel"

and ran like this

i once heard the survivors
of a colony of ants
that had been partially
obliterated by a cow s foot
seriously debating
the intention of the gods
towards their civilization
posted by jan murray at 3:44 PM on January 1, 2011 [7 favorites]

The only one I can think of aside Clarke's and Shermer's (which I came in to share, but MeFi membership is made up of them as know quotes) is "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king," Which isn't quite what you want, but is along the same lines.
posted by tzikeh at 9:45 PM on January 1, 2011

Very likely not it, but here is a quote from C.S. Lewis that I was reminded of:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations.

from his book "Weight of Glory"
posted by Spyder's Game at 12:22 PM on January 4, 2011

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