[ HT: KRock]
The aim of this essay is to set the record straight on behalf of Norm Geisler in the landmark creation-evolution case Mclean vs. Arkansas as well exploring a few connections of ID/creation/evolution with Extra Terrestrials (ETs) and certain religious ideas.
Ironically, the Uncommon Descent weblog owes much of its existence to an advocate of Extra Terrestrial (ET) origins of life on Earth, namely DaveScot Springer who built up the UD blog for several years before getting separated from it. I have promoted the work of another ET-ID fan, Dr. Andras Pellionisz. And last but not least, UD’s very own Rob Sheldon offered his hypothesis that comets throughout the universe participated in a massive coherent computation that created life on Earth. His paper Comets, Information and OOL puts forward the hypothesis that comets facilitated information flow and enabled the universe to become one gigantic OOL computer that works like a quantum computer (versus classical computers), and thus even Rob Sheldon gives a scenario for the involvement of Extra Terrestrial computation for the origin of life.
In this essay, I offer some concern over my ET-loving associates in ID’s big tent who may believe that space alien civilizations are the source of life and evolution on Earth. This essay is not a disagreement with the other forms of ET theories like Dr. Sheldon’s Cometary hypothesis or simple microbial panspermia that life exist throughout the universe and is spread by comets, meteors, asteroids, etc. (FYI, even some creationists like Walt Brown think comets have bacteria in them because the bacteria came from Earth, so this is sort of a reverse panspermia!).
It would be nice in some respects to think the universe, like Earth, is teaming with life and never ending adventure and advancement and good. A highly romanticized expression of this idea found its way into popular culture through the series Star Trek which is summarized in this brief heartwarming collage:
But alas Star Trek was only a dream and tragedy struck the lives of some who were part of that dream. I had the honor of meeting one of the actresses, Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura),
of the original series, and it was a sad day to see her talking on TV about her brother’s suicide with the Heaven’s Gate UFO Cult that tried to go into outer space via mass suicide as the Hale-Bopp comet approached….
Are advanced alien civilizations real, and what about UFOs? A beloved Darwinist professor of physics of mine, James Trefil, in criticizing the existence of ET’s, unwittingly wrote a book that gave fuel to the ID movement. As he explored the improbability of ET’s, he arrived at an interesting conclusion which ID proponents have never let him off the hook for. From Are We Alone?, he concluded:
I were a religious man, I would say that everything we have learned about life in the past twenty years shows that we are unique, and therefore special in God’s sight.
So at least some credible scientists doubt the existence of advanced alien civilizations. Remarkably, a contrary opinion was offered by Richard Dawkins in favor of space aliens creating life on Earth. 😯
It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved, probably by some kind of Darwinian means, probably to a very high level of technology, and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. Now, um, now that is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry, molecular biology, you might find a signature of some sort of designer.
Future discoveries will hopefully clarify whether Trefil or Dawkins is closer to the truth. My money is with Dr. Trefil, but Dawkins arguing for detecting signature of some designer? Now that’s news in itself. 🙂
That said, I have to express some concern over the possible sources of inspiration for the idea that advanced space alien civilizations are sending UFOs to Earth. I’m not speaking on behalf of my colleagues in the ID community, nor others at UD, but just speaking thoughts as a concerned citizen and also one feeling some obligation to stand up for a fellow ID proponent and creationist Norm Geisler who suffered much ridicule for speaking his conscience in the Mclean vs. Arkansas creation-evolution trial.
Q. Do you believe that Satan exists?
A. Yes. Yes.
Q. What is the basis for that?
A. The basis for that belief is that the Bible is the word of God, and the Bible teaches it. And my basis or belief in the Bible as the word of God, I have already indicated earlier.
Q. That’s true.
A. And I might add that it is confirmed by experience, as well.
Q. What experiences have confirmed it to you, sir, as an expert, the existence of Satan?
A. Uh, dealing with demon possessed people, exorcisms, the study of the UFO phenomena, the study of the occult.
Because of all the pro-ID activity happening at GMU 8 years ago, Eugenie Scott was asked to visit GMU to “set everyone straight about ID” at a gigantic meeting that the faculty sent their students to. One of her first swipes at the creationists and IDists drew huge laughter from the audience when she pointed out creationist Norm Geisler claims UFO’s are a manifestation of Satanic activity.
Eugenie managed to elicit that response from the audience because of the widespread views that Satan is as mythological as Santa Claus and those UFO/ET followers are generally kooks. Even as recently as Septermber 2013, 3 decades after McLean vs. Arkansas, the NCSE’s “Science” Defense League of America was still trying to pile on after Norm: Bride it came from Outer Space.
To some extent, I wish there were no Satan even if that meant the world is purely material and absent of spiritual influence. A purely secular life and values and ideals have had appeal to me whereby we humans with our technology and science can ever progress to better conditions toward some utopia. But alas, that too is wishful thinking bordering on false religion. The fact of inevitable death of civilization and the universe, the obvious flaws of human nature, have precluded me from buying into the falsehood that science and technology and atheism will somehow be the salvation for the human condition.
It would be nice to just laugh away the experiences of people claiming to have contacted aliens and relegate them to being harmless but happy kooks. But these people have suffered mentally, emotionally and physically after such encounters. I feel compassion for them whether or not the cause was a mental or physiological dysfunction or possibly the result of sinister spiritual forces. Having kooky ideas is one thing, but living a life of suffering because of such an experience is another. And the Heaven’s Gate Cult suicides show that religious ideas tied to space aliens can lead to fatal consequences.
Even recently, a member of the UFO related Urantians visited UD in this discussion: Enigma of Consciousness, Comment 481829. No disrespect intended toward individuals with sincere and intense religious beliefs like Urantia, and though I appreciate their interest and support of ID, I feel some obligation to offer my disagreement on some points.
In defense of Geisler, here are some quotes from experts in the field regarding UFOs coming from space alien civilizations:
“One theory which can no longer be taken very seriously is that UFOs are interstellar spaceships.”
– Arthur C. Clarke, New York Times Book Review, 07/27/75
“The ‘medical examination’ to which abductees are said to be subjected, often accompanied by sadistic sexual manipulation, is reminiscient of the medieval tales of encounters with demons. It makes no sense in a sophisticated or technical framework: any intelligent being equipped with the scientific marvels that UFOs possess would be in a position to achieve any of these alleged scientific objectives in a shorter time and with fewer risks.”
– Dr. Jacques Vallee, Confrontations, p. 13
“A large part of the available UFO literature is closely linked with mysticism and the metaphysical. It deals with subjects like mental telepathy, automatic writing and invisible entities as well as phenomena like poltergeist [ghost] manifestation and ‘possession.’ Many of the UFO reports now being published in the popular press recount alleged incidents that are strikingly similar to demonic possession and psychic phenomena.”
– Lynn E. Catoe, UFOs and Related Subjects: USGPO, 1969; prepared under AFOSR Project Order 67-0002 and 68-0003
Many cases of UFO influence I think are of mental and physiological origin, but that does not exclude spiritual origins. Why do I believe that there are spiritual origins for UFO experiences? We have credible accounts of unseen spiritual forces acting even in the present day.
Regarding the paranormal and supernatural, I tried to give a balanced description of viewpoints (pro and con) in the OP and comment section of Creationist RA Herrmann’s ID theory. I cited the good work of Skeptic Organizations like James Randi Foundation, but pointed out there are some credible cases that may lie outside the detection of such organizations. Thanks to KRock, the Creationist RA Herrmann’s ID theory thread became a collection of evidence for and against paranormal and supernatural involvement at the personal level. It is a repository of links to accounts of Astronaut Charles Duke, Governor Bobby Jindal, professor of mathematics RA Herrmann, professor of psychiatry Richard Gallagher, Fr. Ralph DiOrio, professional gambler Mike “Bootlegger” Turner, Latoya Ammons, and others.
In that thread, I tried to give some opinions (like that of James Randi and others) that I think demonstrate a lot of paranormal activity by “practitioners” is a hoax, but also reasons I think controlled methodology will fail to detect rare but genuine occurrences of paranormal or supernatural phenomenon. I cannot go into all the data of that discussion, so I direct readers to that thread and particularly the comment section. That discussion also gave me a chance to respond to critics whom I respect (like RD Fish) regarding evidence of non-material supernatural mechanisms. ID proper doesn’t require the supernatural, but I’ve often contended evidence of the supernatural makes the ID case more believable.
Long before the Heaven’s gate mass suicide, Jaques Vallee warned the world of his concerns regarding the group’s activities. Sadly, it was to no avail, and the group succeeded in taking at least 41 lives. In his book Messenger’s of Deception: UFO Contacts and Cults, he argued that UFO’s are not of extraterrestrial origin. An amazon reviewer summarizes Vallee’s book:
Jacques Vallee’s ‘Messengers of Deception’ (1979) is an intelligent, complex, and prescient exploration of the UFO phenomenon that focuses specifically on its social aspects and the mysterious UFO cults which have arisen globally around it.
By the time he came to write ‘Messengers of Deception,’ Vallee had produced five earlier books on the subject, and was fairly confident that UFOs did not represent extraterrestrial craft of any kind (“I believe that UFOs are physically real. They represent a fantastic technology controlled by an unknown form of consciousness…they may not be from outer space.”).
Almost thirty years later, Vallee, who contributes a new foreword to the current edition, is, like everyone else in the field, still in the dark about the exact nature of the subject under question.
What makes ‘Messengers of Deception’ particularly fascinating is that Vallee cautiously sketches out his belief that some agency with enormous power of various kinds is and has been “staging” thousands of technologically complex, essentially ‘fake’ UFO sightings around the world with the pointed intention of manipulating and guiding civilization, and man himself, in a very specific direction.
The apparent goal of this agency is to encourage mankind, via a belief in the impending arrival from the heavens of the benevolent ‘space brothers,’ to become anti-scientific, irrational, infantile, dependent, and endlessly hopeful that the essential problems of man—including his mortality—can be permanently overcome through the multi-prismed salvation the [false] “space brothers” offer.
So yes, the Darwinists, Eugenie Scott, the NCSE and for that matter the overwhelming majority of Americans will probably get a laugh from hearing Norm Geisler’s claims, but when I consider the 41 lives taken by the Heaven’s Gate UFO cult, I think Norm was right, and it’s no laughing matter.
1. photo credits: Wikipedia, Amazon
4. Many thanks to KRock for helping me with this essay and pointing me to so much material. God bless you KRock.
5. This was the far more serious essay that was pre-cursored by the more light-hearted essay Former Canadian Defence Minister Said US Tried to Start Intergalactic War.
6. I believe miracles, supernatural phenomenon, demon possession is rare and unpredictable and will generally elude laboratory controlled detection. This raises philosophical problems about what we can believe, but I accept some things will escape lab controlled detection from start to finish, but that does not mean we can’t detect these things via inference from scientific instruments.
7. I think some churches overemphasize the Devil, and some individuals blame him disproportionately for their own bad behavior. I’m a member of the PCA and a minister from a sister denomination the OPC expresses my general view that most cases of demon possession are explainable by other factors than actual demons:
8. I also think some phenomenon of seeing apparitions or aliens might be attributable to mechanism related or similar to Charles Bonnet Syndrome (HT: selvaRajan).
9. That said, in light of the cases listed in Creationist RA Herrmann’s ID theory, some phenomenon don’t appear to me to be explainable by anything but supernatural causes.