Monday, January 8, 2007

What Would Extraterrestrial Life Mean for Religion?

We all know that fundies believe "god created the heavens and the earth," as well as every single thing "that creepeth upon the earth."

But what would happen if ET popped by for a visit? If we did find small, wriggly one-celled beings in one of Mars' potential water ways?

I always imagined one of two things:
  1. Suddenly a new "chapter" in Genesis would be discovered, sort of an addendum to chapters one and two which would say something to the effect of: "And on the eighth day, God sprinkled little bits of life dust throughout the solar system; and it was better than anything the first seven days had ever produced."
  2. Or, people would simply shrug, say, "Well, I guess we should take god off life-support then, shouldn't we?"
Granted, many would fall somewhere in between. Some would suddenly find "prophecies" in Psalms, maybe a proverb or two, claim that Satan put them there, whatever.

One interesting story I read this week talked about the possibility that life was overlooked on Mars in the past, due not only to a lack of understanding about the Martian habitat, but because we didn't realize as well how diverse life could really be at the time. (Don't read into this that life had been discovered but destroyed; that is not the case. But the possibility that it may have been overlooked has been presented in this article...) Since we discovered sea cucumbers, worms at super hot acidic vents at the depths of the ocean, even life living in a sea of methane at the bottom of the gulf of Mexico... No, this isn't God Classics earth any longer. Either this is a newer, tastier, more elaborate God II, or we've switched formulas entirely...

I personally can't wait till that discovery is made. Whether it be a tiny microbe or a 7 legged deer type creature which survives by eating rocks and farting cheeseburgers...

Our universe is large, and keeps getting stranger... I just wonder how long god can stay on life support...

8 comments:

davida said...

I dont get it. What does extra terrestrial life have to do with God? Does the bible specifically say that there are is no life on other planets? If God made life on earth, why couldnt he have made life on Mars? I am not well-schooled on this stuff - just wondering.

Jason Hughes said...

It has been generally assumed throughout much of my upbringing in the Cirle of Fundamentalism that God only created earth to host his creation, esp. man whom he deemed most special above all others. I was actually taught that we would never find life on other planets and how much of a waste of time and resources it was!

And while, you are correct, it does not say god didn't create life on other planets, it also doesn't say that he did, and a fundamental reading of the bible with strict interpretation of the so-called "inspired words" pretty much mean he only created life on earth--which is why it only talks about creation on earth in genesis, why there's only going to be a new heaven and earth after the tribulation and white throne judgment (theories vary on which would actually come first)... here's all sorts of reasons why there wouldn't be life on other planets to your run-of-the-mill fundie, but the interesting part will vome in when it is discovered--esp. in regards to institutions like the RCC which has always been an enemy of the sciences, not to mention the Southern Baptists among others...

That's why I wonder how they will react--I'm not sure how they would try to reinterpret their word-for-word reading of the bible, what would now need to be read into, perhaps a context created for it, maybe even a prophecy or two... Who knows? Maybe they'll claim it false like the RCC did when it was discovered the world wasn't flat, or that the earth revolved around the sun, not the other way around... Or maybe, just maybe, they'll just run with it, like I expect the more liberal and moderate branches of religion would do...

BTW, welcome to the blog, in cae I haven't said it before...

Dar said...

I brought this hypothetical situation up to my Jehovah Witness friend awhile back. I love asking her difficult questions because she never bats an eye. (She is so heavily trained for questions like this!) Her response and bible references (which were all over the old testament) astonished me, as Witness have a very unique spin on "the word" that most christians roll their eyes at. I personally consider this craziness, but this is the best of what I can remember of her "explanation":

Who we call "god" is personified, his name being Jehovah. There are other beings out there like Jehovah. (Let's call them Fred and George for example). Jehovah created the Earth and all the creatures on it, being the very intelligently advanced god that he is...while Fred and George have also created "worlds". Perhaps Fred and George are a little behind, their solar systems are still young and therefore not capable of life yet. The whole 7-day creation thing is symbolic of course.

Well it still doesn't explain how Jehovah, Fred and George all got there or who their professors were and the whole system before them that brought them to be...and this she says we will not live to understand until Jehovah reveals it unto us upon our judgement day.

I nearly bit my tongue off, and had to remember that I did ask for it after all.

Just thought I'd share that story for a giggle.

davida said...

I spoke with my friend Annetta earlier - she is a Christian. She is actually Baptist and lives in the South - does that make her Southern Baptist? Anyway, she said. "It is possible that there could be life on other planets - God make the universe and he can do anything -it's not for us to question him." Maybe all Christians dont think its impossible for there to be life on other planets. I am trying to figure out exactly what I believe,so its important to me to get lots of differing views. I scanned your blog and I wonder why you decided there is no God. Isnt fundamentalism kind of the extreme in Christianity? Dont you think there could be groups of Christians that are doctrinally right about God and Jesus? If you dont believe in God, then you dont believe in heaven/hell, where do you think you will go when you die? Is it not possible that there is one creator of everything - I just cant believe in the whole evolution thing. Sorry for all the questions, but like I said, I am searching for different views on the subject. I lean more toward the God is real and Christians are right - just wondering why you dont. Also, are you ever afraid you are wrong about there being no God?

Jason Hughes said...

LOL! And I thought the JW's were crazy before!!!! Wow...

And to davida--a blow-by-blow:
You said: I spoke with my friend Annetta earlier - she is a Christian. She is actually Baptist and lives in the South - does that make her Southern Baptist?
It might...

Anyway, she said. "It is possible that there could be life on other planets - God make the universe and he can do anything -it's not for us to question him."
Issue #1: It's not for us to question him? Dear god, thank you for a brain that I'm not supposed to use to question things. Amen. Sorry, but no. That's the sort of mentality that is meant to keep people in line and have total control and authority over them--I'd rather die.

Maybe all Christians don’t think its impossible for there to be life on other planets.
I don't think they do. But as most of my experiences with christians have been either a. Fundamentalists or b. People who claim the label but make no attempt to live what they claim to believe, that doesn't leave much room for actual christians: people like my brother Tom, or Cori, or even Bill and DaBich. They have shown themselves to live model lives of their teacher--and while I don't agree with everything they have to say either, they are people I respect and love. I don't know what they'd think about alien life. Of course they are more than welcome to share it, but as I said earlier, some will role with it; some will deny it; and others will make up more stories to keep their hold on the feeble-minded...

I am trying to figure out exactly what I believe, so its important to me to get lots of differing views.
Always commendable.

I scanned your blog and I wonder why you decided there is no God.
Just my logical conclusion based on my life, as well as the lives and works and writings of others much smarter than I, as well as some much dumber than I. I just don't find the idea feasible, nor do I find it plausible. That's a nut shell, of course.

Isnt fundamentalism kind of the extreme in Christianity?
Yep.

Dont you think there could be groups of Christians that are doctrinally right about God and Jesus?
You can be doctrinally right (as in, follow the precepts set forth in the bible) and still not be right about what's out there. I could be right that the sky is blue, but of course, we know from science it isn't; it's simply a refraction of light through a prism created by our atmosphere; our sky is colorless. Our atmosphere gives it color. But if I never read this, or learned this, I would still be right in claiming the sky to be blue, as it appears blue; but I know it isn't. See what I mean? You can follow the directions to a T to get to a certain restaurant, but that doesn't mean there's no other roads, or even other sets of directions, that people can take to reach the same restaurant. I'm not even sure there is a restaurant, but I'm willing to allow the possibility without placing my faith in the probability.... Make sense?

If you dont believe in God, then you dont believe in heaven/hell, where do you think you will go when you die?
I'm just going to die. That's it. The end. I won't go anywhere. There's no where to go.

Is it not possible that there is one creator of everything
Yes.

I just cant believe in the whole evolution thing.
Why?

Sorry for all the questions, but like I said, I am searching for different views on the subject.
I never mind questions. I like civil discussions (although, I also like the raging across the system ones as well! :D) Differing views are awesome, judgmental opinions are only good for a semi-quasi-debate type discussion. Ask away! I promise to tell you what I honestly believe, what I honestly think about what you believe (and we may at times agree to disagree!), but I'll be civil as long as you are! :D

I lean more toward the God is real and Christians are right - just wondering why you dont.
Let me see if I can point out a few posts that may give you a general idea. One f the most recent would be It's Always Best to Start at the Beginning. That just goes into some questions I was asked by friends, although not all of it will be relevant to what you are asking. Another would be Musings on Family Comments, in which I touch on a conversation between me and my father, and me and Tom, and some things we disagree on. Some others are:
*And Knowing Is Half the Battle
*This I Believe.
*Thoughts About the Soul
*Brace Yourselves: This Is Long
*Things That Make You Go Hmm...
*What Is Faith?
*Losing My Religion.

Okay, this is getting too long: just one more: Imagination Vs. Reality.

Of course, I'd like to point you to Cori's blog as a wonderful Christian example; Kevin, her husband at Memoirs of an Ex-Christian; for some free-thinking blogs, you could try Dar's blog, Dar Alluding, Ergo's blog Leitmotif, Agnostic Mom as an ex-Mormon tries to raise her kids outside of the church... There are all kinds of different blogs just there to the right on my blog--check them out if you get the chance!

Also, are you ever afraid you are wrong about there being no God?
Afraid of being wrong? No. Think that sometimes I might be? Yes, that is why I still continue to read and discuss and search things and look things up. But afraid of being wrong? No. I'd rather try my best to find what I believe to be true then live in fear and hope I'm doing everything right based on what others tell me...

Catch ya later!

Sylvia said...

Thanks for the comment Ja.
I missed u guys too. I love ya! Nice post by the way. I loved it and can't wait to read more.
sylvia

davida said...

Jason, thank you for the detailed reply. I am going to check out the sites/blogs you mentioned and then I will get back to you to see if we agree or agree to disagree
:-). You have a really nice blog by the way. Have a fantastic day!

Dar said...

I brought this hypothetical situation up to my Jehovah Witness friend awhile back. I love asking her difficult questions because she never bats an eye. (She is so heavily trained for questions like this!) Her response and bible references (which were all over the old testament) astonished me, as Witness have a very unique spin on "the word" that most christians roll their eyes at. I personally consider this craziness, but this is the best of what I can remember of her "explanation":

Who we call "god" is personified, his name being Jehovah. There are other beings out there like Jehovah. (Let's call them Fred and George for example). Jehovah created the Earth and all the creatures on it, being the very intelligently advanced god that he is...while Fred and George have also created "worlds". Perhaps Fred and George are a little behind, their solar systems are still young and therefore not capable of life yet. The whole 7-day creation thing is symbolic of course.

Well it still doesn't explain how Jehovah, Fred and George all got there or who their professors were and the whole system before them that brought them to be...and this she says we will not live to understand until Jehovah reveals it unto us upon our judgement day.

I nearly bit my tongue off, and had to remember that I did ask for it after all.

Just thought I'd share that story for a giggle.