Cover Story: Journeys to the Future

My Greatest Hope and Greatest Fear: The Invention of a Time Machine

By Nathan MacDonald


What is the most important question to be solved in the future?
by your discipline? Naturally, I think the most important question is the different forms that monotheism takes in the biblical texts. This is my own project for the next five years, so my answer probably smacks of hubris – but surely every academic wants to be working on the most important question in their field?
by research in general? I still find attractive the classical concern of the humanities: to understand what it means to be human and to seek the truth together with the richest and deepest expressions of human flourishing. Not one problem, and not one solution, but a worthy concern of scholarship.

Which ground-breaking invention do you hope will be made within the next ten years? A time machine. We will then be able to access the past in ways we never thought possible. Everyone who works with the ancient world longs to know more than we currently do. 

Which ground-breaking invention do you fear could be made within the next ten years? A time machine. We’d be so overwhelmed with other sources of information that we’d lose sight of the beautiful and fascinating ancient scriptural texts that have been our companions for the last two millennia. More importantly, the three monotheistic faiths have always seen Scriptures as the means of divine communication. Seeing the events does not ensure access to the divine acting in history.

Which problem of the future cannot be solved by research? Knowing how best to use our technical prowess. Genetic modification technology, human fertilisation, gene therapy … in every case our technological abilities seems to outstrip our capacity to think about the ethical implications.

Please complete the sentence: In the future, the world will be different from today because … we’ll have more of a past to reflect upon. I remember my Hebrew teacher suggesting that whilst as moderns we think of ourselves looking into the future, the ancients often saw themselves with their backs to the future, only able to see what was in the past.

What is your favourite piece of Science Fiction? C. S. Lewis’ dystopic “Perelandra trilogy”. I work in a university with evidence of John Knox and Scottish Calvinism all around, so I appreciate Lewis’ fear that the only thing we might off er extraterrestrial cultures is our own depravity and a replaying of the Garden of Eden.

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