Yesterday, a post entitled, “Do Aliens Have the Answers to Life?” appeared on Ken Ham’s blog on the Answers in Genesis website. It was a typical anti-alien piece, using a piece of news or research as a springboard to launch into things.
The post begins with a statement about the ubiquity of aliens in modern culture:
“The idea of extraterrestrial beings is everywhere in our culture. Since the invention of television, we’ve seen countless cartoons, sci-fi films, and TV shows featuring aliens. Some are cute and green with large pupilless eyes; some are slimy and violent; others appear almost human.”
That in itself is true. Television has certainly made good use of alien tropes in film, animation and shows. Marvin Martian, Superman, My Favorite Martian, X-Files, Doctor Who… that’s a short list. Of course, aliens were depicted in print long before that. The very first work of science fiction, according to Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan, is Johannes Kepler’s Somnium, published posthumously by his son in 1634. The tale gives details of a voyage to the moon and meeting its extraterrestrial inhabitants, the Levanians. My fellow Young Earth Creationist like to note that Kepler is one of our own. Which means that the very first work of science fiction, a tale involving intelligent extraterrestrials, was written by a Young Earth Creationist.
Mr. Ham’s article then makes the following sweeping generalization:
“One thing these supposed aliens nearly all have in common is heightened intelligence, often revealing humans on earth to be so far behind in development that they’re practically primal.”[emphasis in original]
I say sweeping generalization because, well, it’s true about some aliens depicted on television and film, but certainly not all. The chest-bursting, acid-veined xenomorphs of LV-426 (Acheron) certainly don’t possess heightened intelligence. And Uncle Martin of My Favorite Martian and the Great Gazoo of the Flintstones are actually exceptions to the rule. Most aliens may possess advanced technology, but we are generally as clever (e.g., Star Trek) if not more clever than our extraterrestrial counterparts (pretty much everything else). Maybe next time the AiG research team could consult a sci-fi author on common tropes before jumping to such conclusions.
“An evolutionist astronomer once suggested that perhaps the reason we haven’t yet made contact with alien life is that aliens are ignoring us. He backed up this claim with the idea that aliens may have formed cliques, much like the ones high schoolers deal with every day, and humans aren’t cool enough to be in the clique. This clique is so exclusive that all alien groups have formed a pact to ignore us unintelligent humans.”
“Recently, Scottish astronomer Duncan Forgan refuted this idea, though he added that any assumptions are difficult to test with computer simulation because there isn’t any real alien data.”
This is embarrassing. The AiG research team really should’ve taken a better look at Forgan’s findings. Forgan’s computer simulations refuted the idea of a Galactic Club but he didn’t refute the idea of smaller, more local Galactic Cliches. In fact, he deduced that if aliens exist, they must exist as an alien cliche rather than a Galactic club. Furthermore, he said that if this is the case, either aliens do not exist locally [or at all] or we belong to a cliche that is keeping us in the dark until we reach a certain technological milestone or whatever.
Furthermore, the AiG research teams appears to have quote-mined Forgan! You see, when Forgan made his statement about assumptions that are difficult to test with a computer simulation, he was no longer talking about Galactic Clubs and Cliches. Instead, he was referring to the assumptions made by Stephen Hawking to reach his conclusion that contact with ETs would be a bad thing: namely, that “one– Aliens that explore the Galaxy in person do so because of their aggressive nature, or two– Intelligent beings only evolve from predators or naturally aggressive creatures, or three– Peaceful aliens do not explore the Galaxy.”
Next, Mr. Ham’s post gives us his anti-alien mantra:
“Well, here’s the real news: real alien data will never exist because, well, aliens aren’t real!”
He doesn’t know this, of course. This is an assumption (there’s that word again). As my new book, Strangers and Aliens, demonstrates, the assumption Mr. Ham is making is based on logical fallacies. And truth cannot be supported on such faulty premises.
Mr. Ham then gets to his [mostly unrelated] point:
“You see, people are always looking for something beyond themselves to explain life and the universe, answer their big questions, give them the keys to immortality and infinite knowledge, and offer them a sense of purpose. But when people deny the true Creator of the universe, they’ll look for anything to try to replace Him—no matter how ridiculous their ideas are.”
SETI [Search for Extraterrestrial Life] was born in my state in 1960 as Project Ozma, the first modern SETI experiment, conducted at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia. Frank Drake also came up with his Drake Equation, a basic estimate of the odds of discovering intelligent life in the universe, while working in Green Bank. SETI is a double-edged sword where claims for extraterrestrial life are concerned. On the one edge, it definitely rules out the idea that UFOs are extraterrestrial in nature. If there were any truth to this premise, SETI should have picked up evidence of extraterrestrial communications. Neither NASA nor SETI believes there is any evidence that the UFO phenomenon is connected to extraterrestrial life. Of course, this doesn’t rule out the possibility of life somewhere out there.
Searching for signs of intelligent communication is the only way to search for aliens at a distance. Which leads to the the other edge of the sword: And we haven’t found any yet, leading to the Fermi Paradox, which can be summarized in the question: Where is everybody? The fact that we can’t detect communications from alien civilizations is what has led to such theories as the the Zoo Hypothesis that Forgan was investigating. Another attempt to reconcile the hope of extraterrestrial contact with the Fermi Paradox is the Cosmic Filter theory, the idea that something [various filters have been proposed] prevents life from advancing past a certain stage, preventing us from discovering one another. Both the Zoo Hypothesis and Cosmic Filter theory are rescuing devices, which doesn’t make them wrong, but it does make them suspect.
What I take issue with in Mr. Ham’s post is the only reason to search for extraterrestrial life is to search for answers that are ultimately found in the Bible. That’s a heckuva straw man. It’s true that some folks might suppose that aliens provide us with an Encyclopedia Galactica that answers all of our questions from a purely naturalistic worldview. The rest of us just want to know if we are truly alone in the universe or whether the Creator chose to paint on more than one canvas, as it were. I mean the whole point of a search for intelligent extraterrestrial life is, primarily, a search for intelligent extraterrestrial life. Scientists and philosophers are still weighing in on whether it would be a good thing or a bad thing if we do find it. We do hope for greater knowledge and insight into the universe, and that the benefits will ultimately outweigh the risks and costs, but that’s no different than any other scientific venture of discovery.
Mr. Ham’s post continues:
“Isn’t it interesting that they’re looking for everything God has already provided?
- Genesis 1:1 tells us how we got here: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
- Ecclesiastes 12:13 states our purpose: “Fear God and keep His commandments.”
- 1 John 5:13 explains eternal life: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”
- And Proverbs 1:7 provides the key to knowledge: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”
“When we look for answers outside of God’s Word, our efforts are in vain and even foolish.
“These evolutionists/atheists have turned what serves as simple entertainment for many of us into a passionate, expensive pursuit that will never give them the answers they’re looking for. Only a life pursuing our Creator will give us the answers and purpose we seek.” [emphasis in original]
The thing is, if we found evidence of extraterrestrial life, we would be looking at something that God never mentioned in the Bible. Of course, He didn’t mention microbes either, and they’ve turned out to be very important to humanity. Looking for things the Bible doesn’t mention isn’t a sin, nor is it a sign of rebellion. Frankly, even if we
I happen to agree with Mr. Ham that we shouldn’t look for the answers to meaning, immortality or wisdom in any other source except the Bible; however, the Bible is silent on the question of extraterrestrial life, meaning that the only way we’re going to find the answer to whether alien life exists is by looking. Alien life may turn out to be nothing more than speculation. Likewise, (and with apologies to Douglas Adams) alien answers may turn out to be as ambiguous to humanity as the number 42. If we ever confirm the non-existence of aliens, science fiction authors will stop writing about them, except as an alternate fictional history. You see, there’s always a bit of plausible scientific speculation upon which science fiction is based; otherwise, you’re looking at fantasy.
In the meantime, the question of extraterrestrial life is open for debate.
Speaking of questions, if you’d like to know why it’s OK if a Christian believes in extraterrestrials, why science fiction is a Christian apologist’s best friend, and why the UFO phenomenon is irrelevant to the question of extraterrestrial life, pick up a copy of my new book, Strangers and Aliens: A Christian Sci-Fi Author Examines the Evidence for Extraterrestrial Life. You won’t be sorry.
Thanks for stopping by and may God will grant you discernment,
This item was written without the assistance of AiG’s research team.