Science Fiction Metaphysics in Eureka Seven Episode 37


The William Baxter episode of Eureka Seven offered an, at the time, different take on religion within a setting which had hitherto presented it in skewed terms. It presented personal faith – a desire to do right – as something linked to self-reliance and isolation, as opposed to a view of organised religion that was intractable, morally apart from society (in the episode in which Renton encounters a conflict surrounding medical treatment going against religious views) and most of all viewed with suspicion. Even as Holland works to help the Voderak and save Norb from Dewey, it is out of a sense of humanitarian duty and the need for information and allies – he is standing up, where it is profitable, for people. Yet episode 37, the first half of which is an extended debate between Norb and the eccentric scientist Greg Egan, sees Holland apparently embracing the Voderak viewpoint.

Episode 36 ended with Holland admitting the importance of fresh starts – he in the past ruined his chances of happiness with Diane, and does not want to lose other relationships in the same way. This presages what will occur in the following episode – the coming together of disparate viewpoints to further a common aim – and also begins the thematic development whereby he must “use” Eureka in the same way as Dewey “uses” Anemone. It is becoming inevitable that Eureka’s role as the tabula rasa sent to evaluate humanity will necessitate her and Renton remaining close, since between them they represent the potential innocence of both species. Holland’s remaining distant is a part of this – he has, in his own words, been acting to intentionally alienate others in order that they see the destructive effects of his mistakes. He has given up seeking forgiveness and instead simply wants to serve as a warning – and in so doing, become closer to Talho so that they can have their own new start as a couple. While this seems admirable at first – in how he appears to for once be showing some contrition and acting to do something about his past mistakes – it is a very selfish way of doing so, based on avoiding responsibility for them and admitting that there is no possible way to atone. Thus as the scene is set for an apparent spiritual epiphany, an episode ends which has been about characters trying to justify their inability to be open with each other.

Openness is the motivation for the meeting between Norb and Egan; the Gekkostate aim to record their discussion, which will lay clear the truth about the Coralians from both a spiritual and scientific perspective. Society has, apparently, rejected both – hence the marginalisation of organised religion and the uneasy ways in which Egan and Adroc Thurston have been depicted. What is becoming clear is that Eureka Seven‘s world is one where co-operation between religion and science is a necessity, because both and neither are able to explain what is happening. Baxter’s religion was based on ideas of equilibrium and the inevitability of some things, a passive, personal faith that was born out of trying to rationalise, in isolation, why people suffer, and it is this which is evoked as Norb and Egan speak. The discussion comes at a point in the story where the supernatural has been proven to exist, and what remains is discovering its motives and reasons. Traditionally in science-versus-religion stories in science-fiction science is out to disprove religion, to offer reason in place of superstition and thus uplift ignorant cultures. This is Dewey’s science – he takes weapons to the unknown and manipulates the public to get the right conclusions – while Egan’s science is itself more spiritual, based not so much on proving the superiority of reason over superstition but understanding the supernatural. In a world where the only apparent logical position is that some kind of divine exists, science must accommodate it, and religion must qualify experiment. Throughout the debate, Egan is focused on explaining the phenomena, while Norb focuses on finding solutions and applying that knowledge. Thus it is that science becomes almost its own religion, requiring faith in its shortcomings and acceptance that the truth may be unscientific.

The first step is convincing the doubters – Mischa, the Gekko’s doctor, is prepared to accept Egan’s theory of the Scub Coral and Coralians as a planetary intelligence to the point where it is alive, but not sentient. Sentience is what ascribes it its divine power – if its actions are not premeditated, as Mischa argues, then it is just an animal. Egan theorises that the Coralians are an immune response to the population of Earth, preventing the “limit of questions” – some kind of unknown upper limit – being reached, and that this is a sign that the Scub Corals are sentient. The idea of equilibrium returns – a balance must be maintained on Earth in a fashion that humanity is not well-positioned to maintain – and thus Dewey’s actions are set clearly in an unnatural light. He is provoking the Coralians in a scheme which, as described later, will provoke the Scub Coral into awakening and hastening the “limit of questions.” Of course, if the Scubs are sentient, then they themselves contribute towards the limit – which in turn explains some of the unknowns about society. A phenomenon known as the “Great Wall” is described, an area of spatial disturbance, and from this Egan hypothesises that the Scubs are currently dormant. One woke up at the Great Wall, and thus the limit of questions was reached, necessitating a cataclysm to restore equilibrium. If Dewey’s provocations thus awaken the Scubs, he will destroy the planet.

But as Norb interrupts, Egan’s rational theories of limits and dormant intelligences are only half the picture. If the Scubs are sentient, and the planet is thus possessed of a planetary intelligence, then this is surely a deity. His interpretation of the limit of questions is a more metaphysical one, suggesting that it represents the inevitable transience of the world. Species and civilisations rise and fall, and in their time they eventually reach natural limits. Here the nihilism of religion – a kind of acceptance of tragedy as unavoidable and natural – is set against the hopefulness of science, even though both figures are arguing the same point. Norb claims that the spiritual “limit of questions” is the point where people become so numerous that society cannot sustain the “Voderak state of mind” – “worry and pain” impedes spiritual enlightenment and causes the downfall of society. Yet both lines of argument, described as “two ends of the same road,” lead to the same conclusion – co-operation and cohabitation with the Scubs is vital to the survival of humanity. Here, Norb has a sounder grasp of what is happening. Science has identified the nature of the Scubs, and the dangers of the limit of questions, but only religion and faith in the intangible can grapple with the matter of communicating with a spiritual entity. It is revealed that superstition is in fact scientific; the trapars and Compac Drives, the energy and technology that has defined the series so far, are the tangible part of the Scubs, psychic phenomena that will allow humanity to reach out to its pseudo-deity.

This debate of the metaphysics of a science-fiction world where God has suddenly been proven to exist by scientific means is a fascinating episode of Eureka Seven; it is, structurally, clumsy expositional worldbuilding as two characters talk at the cast and audience about comples aspects of the setting. The episode’s title, “Raise Your Hands,” is almost a joke on its lecture-like status. Yet its juxtaposition with the second part – Dewey continuing his manipulation of the people with no facts, simply bare-faced lies and propaganda to allow him to hasten the world’s destruction, sets it in context. The viewer leaves episode 37 understanding why the heroes must do what they are doing, yet for all the grand aims of turning this debate into a way of exposing the truth about Dewey, it never leaves the Gekko. While Norb and Egan lecture, Dewey is out picking fights and doing something – and the waiting audience are already sated with falsehood.


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