Monday, July 1, 2013

On being Cylon, speciesism, religion, and yoga

Earlier today, I was telling a colleague--I'm going to just call him R from now on--about my ongoing Battlestar Galactica (BSG) binge (for more details, see previous post). As he was unfamiliar with the basic premise of BSG (he's a middle-aged Canadian gentleman who is not that into sci-fi... speaking of which, Happy Canada Day, if you are reading this from Canada), I had to quickly explain the general story arc of BSG to him (we're talking about the 2003 remake here; the story is slightly different in the 1978 version): Once upon a time, somewhere in deep space, a bunch of humans who make up the Twelve Colonies of Kobol lived more or less happily on a bunch of planets. According to the holy scriptures of these humans, there is a thirteenth colony of humans who live on a planet called Earth, but nobody knows where Earth is, or whether it even exists. Anyway, the humans lived more or less happily in these twelve colonies until one day, the Cylons--a cybernetic race originally created by these humans to be their servants but who later rebelled and went off to form their own civilization--launched a surprise attack on the twelve colonies, which resulted in the near-extinction of the human race. The surviving humans (about 50,000 people) fled the Cylons in a bunch of rather shoddy spaceships (shoddy compared to the Cylon ships, that is). Led by the battleship Battlestar Galactica, they set off on a long journey across the universe to find Earth. Will they succeed? I don't know, I'm still watching to find out :-)

All this must be rather boring if you are already familiar with BSG. My apologies. Anyway, immediately after hearing my synopsis, R, who is well-known for his irony-laced sense of humor, remarked, "So, I take it that the Cylons are the good guys, right?" I was taken aback by this remark for about a quarter of a second, but then quickly saw where he was going with this. This is roughy how the conversation proceeded from this point:

Nobel: Ah yes, I see what you're saying. The humans basically created a slave-race of cybernetic robots to serve their rather trivial interests. All the robots did was rebel and fight back. Which is something any self-respecting race would do.

R [smiles and nods enthusiastically]: So you are on the side of the Cylons?

Nobel [smiles sheepishly]: Well, rationally speaking, I probably should be on the Cylons' side. After all, if we are willing to put aside the fact that they kill humans (like humans don't kill humans, anyway...), they do have a few strong arguments going for them. For instance, many Cylons are deeply religious: They believe that since humans are so fracked-up and corrupt, it is God's will that Cylons should be brought into this universe (by humans, no less: Which shows that God has a very interesting sense of poetic justice) to destroy humans, so that the universe will become a better place. A sort of moral Darwinism, if you will. To be sure, this argument is probably compelling only if you believe that there is a God or some kind of universal agency that is responsible for meting out justice in the universe. But it may still be a great argument if you replace "God" with either your favorite universal-justice-meting-mechanism, or with some notion of the survival of the morally and physically fittest.

Oh, and actually, there is also one more thing going for the Cylons. Since Cylons are basically a bunch of robots, they are, by default, in possession of perfect health and perfect cognitive abilities. Which means that Cylon society does not suffer from the kinds of problems associated with the allocation and distribution of scarce social goods (health care, for instance) that plague human society. After all, who needs insurance or a public health-care system in Cylon society? So, to be a Cylon is to be morally perfect, and also be in possession of perfect health and mental ability. What's not to love about that?   

R: Okay, very nice... so why aren't you on the side of the Cylons?

Nobel: Because I'm human! I hate to have to admit this, but I'm basically what Peter Singer would call a speciesist: I am somebody who favors the interests of my own species over that of another, just because they are a different species, just because they, well, look different from me... Well, actually, that's not even really true in the case of the Cylons. The latest Cylon models actually look and feel human (and rather attractively so, if I may add...):

The latest Cylon models
[Image taken from here]

Contrast these with the earlier robot model, a.k.a. the Centurion:

[Image taken from here]

And actually, while poking around online a little while ago, I also found this very useful chart that gives a quick overview of the evolutionary history of the Cylon:
Hmm... from toasters to hot blonde? How's that possible?
[Image taken from here]

Okay, I realize I've digressed majorly here. Anyway, to come back to my conversation with R... by the end of said conversation, I found myself running out of good reasons not to take the side of the Cylons, as they are obviously the physically, intellectually, and morally superior race... I'm going to have to seriously rethink my human allegiances now. By the way, what this also shows is that the writers of BSG are also a bunch of speciesists: Despite the very obvious flaws of the humans, they are still depicted as the good guys in the series. 


I suppose I better change the subject before you get bored by my BSG ramblings, if you aren't already. So, on a totally different note, it appears that yoga has scored a legal victory over a bunch of religious Cylons people. Earlier today, San Diego Superior Court judge John Meyer ruled that the Encinitas Union School District's yoga program (which, as most of you know, was initiated with a grant from the Jois Foundation) does not endorse any religion, and may be allowed to continue.

If you read this blog regularly, you know my position on this case, so I shall not belabor you with a further exposition of my views here. But now I can't help wondering if this entire case might not be a Cylon plot. After all, Cylons look like us (only they are a bit more physically attractive), and believe in a monotheistic religion; this being the case, it is very possible that Cylons might well regard yoga and its spirituality-imbued movement practice as an affront to God. Notice also that the "it's just exercise" argument is not going to work against Cylons: They already have perfect health, and won't need the exercise. Hmm.... could the NCLP be a Cylon front organization? Could those perfect-looking conservative Christians really be the latest Cylon models? Uh oh, I think I may have said too much here... well, I think I'll sign off now and go eat some dinner. And maybe watch more BSG. More later. 


  1. BSG this great to see them. I was also not familiar with the basic premise of BSG. But know I know it better.

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  2. Well, I don't know how far you are in the series, but there is one episode when one of the Boomer (Grace Park) models performs a tai-chi-like exercise in the nude. You might see more in the UK unrated version than you can in the original U.S. version that aired on SyFy.

    1. Grace Park performs Taichi in the nude... interesting! I'm definitely not at that episode yet, but hearing this gives me another reason to go back to my BSG watching :-)

    2. Btw, so you're the guy from Cedar Falls, Iowa who's been reading this blog (saw your google+ profile). Good to finally "meet" you! How did you find this blog?

    3. Trap It. I have a yoga feed on that site with a bunch of yoga blogs.

  3. Well you have peaked my curiosity and I spend sometime this long weekend to watch season 1 of BSG. It is interesting but at times if feels like they are going out of the way to add drama. I will start season 2 soon.

    Btw, Love the blog and I am also a student of PJ.

    1. Actually, I think season 2 is better in some ways: The narrative seems to be more streamlined, and there are also some interesting new characters and plot developments (for instance, the unexpected appearance of the Battlestar Pegasus, and the intense rivalry between Commander Adama and Admiral Cain).

      Are you presently practicing at PJ's shala in Waukesha? If so, please tell PJ and Larissa that I said hi. I think of them often.

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