Culture Ethics Extraterrestrial life Mind

Atlantic writer loses his faith in aliens

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War-of-the-worlds-tripod.jpg
Alien tripod by Alvim Corréa, 1906 French edition of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds”

And starts to come to terms with the difference that makes:

If the revelation that humans are probably alone in our universe stands, and as that revelation sinks into our collective psyche, it could effect a second, weirder Copernican revolution in culture. To begin with, it’s really hard to square humanity’s status as perhaps the only intelligent species in all of time and space with the idea that we are insignificant. To the contrary, the everyday breath of the least of us contains meaning in so concentrated a form that a cup’s worth of it could be doled out to a dozen star systems, transforming the arid matter into a garden of significance.

There’s been a lot of talk in literary and philosophical circles of a new “post-secular” age. And some writers, like Marilynne Robinson in her stunning novel Gilead, have discovered old religious skins for the new wine of our time. But in truth, human culture never left the non-secular world behind. The 20th-century fantasies of alien intelligence were just a modern version of religious literature. Religion, after all, conceived of a relation between two intelligences—one human, one not. Books from Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama to the Strugatsky brothers’ Roadside Picnic to basically all of the late Philip K. Dick recast the ancient story of humanity’s contact with an unknowable god in the terms of alien intelligence. If humankind begins to see intelligence as one thing—just us—then religion’s service to secular literature may finally be at an end. …

There’s something retro about aliens, I thought, a vestigial remnant of the 20th century, like DeLoreans. I sat there thinking about how one could write a sci-fi novel without extraterrestrials. Then I thought—this is a weird thing I’m doing right now. Thinking. What is this? What does it feel like? … Michael W. Clune, “I Don’t Believe in Aliens Anymore” at THe Atlantic

Well, if We Are Alone, that would indeed change things.

If we are truly the only intelligent entity in the universe, then all human life is precious. One wonders, how will that affect the abortion debate?

But there is, of course, an out: According to many in neuroscience, consciousness is an illusion unless, of course, your coffee mug is conscious too.  One can always give up on intelligence altogether, instead of giving up only on alien intelligence.

See also: Fixing the unfixable Drake equation

Obituary column: By the time we hear from the space aliens, they will be dead

ET still hasn’t phoned Frank Drake

and

Americans don’t fear the discovery of alien life. So why do some commentators insist they do?

3 Replies to “Atlantic writer loses his faith in aliens

  1. 1
    Latemarch says:

    News:

    Well, if We Are Alone, that would indeed change things.

    Maybe a lot of things.
    Take the Copernican Principle that we are not in the center of the universe. If we are alone just perhaps we are also in the center (ID friendly assumption). The Copernican Principle is just an assumption not a known fact.

    Are We at the Center of the Universe? A brief discussion, if we were near the center it would obviate the need for Dark Matter and Dark Energy. How interesting since we have been unable to find either yet.

    But the materialist cosmologists must cling to their metaphysics.

  2. 2
    cmow says:

    I’m behind the times. Not only did I miss the boat on placing my faith in aliens, I wasn’t aware that God wasn’t an option anymore either.

  3. 3
    EDTA says:

    From the article: “The weird thing, the mysterious…thing, isn’t that we have too little meaning. It’s that we have too much of it. It seems out of place in a silent galaxy.”

    Boy is he about to get really depressed.

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