Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
December 15, 2003
So, did God create another ET world?
Columnist debates the belief in Christ vs. the belief in spacemen
On the Other Hand
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
For the past 40 years, astronomers of the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) have been trawling the ether in hope of picking up radio signals originating with extraterrestrial beings - most recently aided by banks of Internet-networked computers.
Meanwhile, spacecraft have landed on a few, and done close flypasts of all the planets and moons in our solar system save for Pluto, looking for, among other things, signs of life.
The sum total results from all this activity is a big, fat zero. No radio signals, and for that matter no signs of life at all.
This is of course frustrating to astronomers and other ET enthusiasts. Under the theory of evolution by chance, which most (but not all) scientifically-minded folks hold to with a cult-like faith, the idea that the evolutionary process only bore fruit, so to speak, on the third rock orbiting an otherwise unremarkable dwarf star in the outer suburbs of the Milky Way galaxy beggars credibility.
In the Christian world, God created everything, and his final creative act was to breathe an immortal soul into one of his biological creatures, making it human. Then, a little more than two millennia ago, God actually became human and offered himself as a living sacrifice.
If one subscribes to Christian belief, as I do, then it seems highly unlikely and illogical that God would repeat this whole drama elsewhere repeatedly, as would have to be the case if there are other analogically similar forms of life inhabiting the cosmos.
As Thomas Paine, an atheist, sarcastically argued in The Age Of Reason (1794), "The Son of God, and sometimes God himself, would have nothing else to do than to travel from world to world, in an endless succession of death, and with scarcely a momentary interval of life," adding that Christianity is simply incompatible with the existence of extraterrestrial beings, noting: "He who thinks he believes in both has thought little of either."
I'm inclined to agree, albeit from the opposite perspective on what really obtains.
Jill Tartar, director of the SETI Institute's Center for SETI Research, is quoted in a September 2003, Atlantic Monthly article by philosopher and astrobiology specialist Paul Davies, contending that: "God is our own invention. If we are going to survive or turn into a long-lived technological civilization, organized religion needs to be outgrown. If we get a message (from ETs) and it's secular in nature, I think that says they have no organized religion - that they've outgrown it."
Hmmmm. An awful lot of "ifs" and qualifications in those two sentences. Davies himself suggests: "Just contemplating the possibility of such advanced extraterrestrials appears to raise additional uncomfortable questions for religion. . . . Suppose that ET is far ahead of us not only scientifically and technologically, but spiritually too. Where does that leave mankind's presumed special relationship with God?"
A lot of presuming in supposing there too. Frankly, this is not a question that causes me, as a devout Christian, any discomfort or distress at all. Thus far, secular science hasn't come up with a scintilla of evidence that ET life exists in any form, let alone a scientifically, technologically, and spiritually superior one, and I'm reasonably confident that it never will.
I categorically disbelieve that human intelligence and ingenuity, and indeed human existence at all, are products of the evolutionary process, so unless God deliberately created other races of spiritually alive beings elsewhere which I don't entirely dismiss but think highly unlikely, then we are alone in our self-consciousness and state of original sin.
Just to clarify, I accept that there has been an evolutionary process; I'm not a young earth creationist. It seems to me that biological evolution is a tool God used in his creative work - but not the means he employed in making us human. It is the unique status of being created in the spiritual image and likeness of God - the spiritual element - that makes us human, and probably only us.
As for ET life, the SETI astronomers argue, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." But until there is evidence, affirmation of extra terrestrial life is a faith statement; as the epistle to the Hebrews says, "assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
Thing is, there's lots of circumstantial evidence for the existence of God, and thus far absolutely no evidence of ET life. So just which faith is the most credulous?