Intelligent Design

Desperately Seeking ET. Yes, But Why so Desperate?

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For years we have been deluged with science news stories about how this or that datum might finally be the breakthrough demonstrating that earth is not unique in the universe for harboring life.  Why are some scientists so obsessed with ET?  I was thinking about this the other day and it occurred to me that this phenomenon is essentially religious in nature.

Suppose you are a scientist with a strong faith commitment in atheistic materialism.  Maintaining any faith commitment can sometimes be hard even for true believers.  This is especially the case for materialists, who must grit their teeth and hang on to their faith in the face of overwhelming evidence that materialism is false.  Consider their origin of life conundrum.  No one has the faintest notion how inorganic matter could possibly have spontaneously organized itself into the technologically marvelous nanomachinery and hyper-sophisticated information processing technology that characterizes even the simplest life.  Maintaining one’s faith in materialism is really tough in the face of such daunting obstacles.  That creates psychological dissonance, which can be very uncomfortable.

But suppose we found organic matter somewhere else in the universe.*  That would allow materialists to argue that the spontaneous emergence problem is not as tough as we think it is.  If it happened at least twice, there is no reason to believe that life is not common in the universe.  That relieves the uncomfortable pressure on the materialist’s faith commitment, which accounts for the frenetic search for organic matter and the endless evidence-free wild speculations we have seen over the years.   It is all about keeping the faith.

 

____________________

Note that the reverse is not true for theists.  I know of no doctrine of any religion that denies that life exists elsewhere in the universe.

35 Replies to “Desperately Seeking ET. Yes, But Why so Desperate?

  1. 1
    News says:

    “ I know of no doctrine of any religion that denies that life exists elsewhere in the universe.”

    The notion that other heavenly bodies are inhabited is actually common and normal in belief systems worldwide. But you’d have to look that up on the internet to find out.

    Yet the claim otherwise is heard frequently among tenured ignoramuses in cosmology, religious studies, etc.

    Sometimes, the notion gobbles up tax dollars that could be more wisely spent. For example, NASA cares what your religion thinks about ET.

  2. 2
    john_a_designer says:

    In his 1985 Gifford Lecture, which are prestigious lectures on natural theology sponsored by Scottish universities, Carl Sagan had some interesting things to say about science, the universe and religious experience.

    According to Sagan,

    “The word ‘religion’ come from the Latin for ‘binding together,’ to connect that which has been sundered apart… And in this sense of seeking the deepest interrelations among things that appear to be sundered to be sundered, the objectives of science and religion, I believe, are identical or very nearly so…

    By far the best way I know to engage, the religious sensibility, the sense of awe, is to look up on a clear night. I believe that it is very difficult to know who we are until we understand where and when we are. I think everyone in every culture has felt a sense of awe and wonder looking at the sky. This is reflected throughout the world in both science and religion. Thomas Carlyle said that wonder is the basis of worship. And Albert Einstein said, ‘I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive in scientific research.’”

    Sagan then shows, and comments upon, several pictures of astronomical objects that invoke in him a sense of awe and wonder. As an amateur astronomer many of them are very familiar to me. Indeed, as an amateur astronomer I personally share Sagan’s experience of awe and wonder.

    However, Sagan then ends his lecture in an odd way. After showing us what an awesome and wonderful world we live in he writes:

    “as Ann Druyan [Sagan’s wife] has pointed out an immortal Creator is a cruel god, because He, never having to face the fear of death, creates innumerable creatures who do. Why should he do that? If He’s omniscient, He could be kinder and create immortals, secure from the danger of death. He sets about creating a universe in which many parts of it and perhaps the universe as a whole, dies… There is a clear imperative in Western religion that humans must remain small and mortal creatures. Why?”

    To me this seems to be totally contradictory. As long as the God of traditional religion doesn’t exist the universe is a place of awe and wonder. But then He show up and suddenly those wonderful thoughts and feelings disappear. The cup suddenly goes from more than half full to more than half empty. My question also is why? Why would it, and does it, make any difference?

    It appears to me that as human being we are “hardwired” to think and believe a certain way.

    For example, why do people, like Ann Druyan, who do not believe in immortality think about it and ponder it? Why does she get upset with a Creator she does not believe exists? Or, why do atheists, like Sagan, ponder whether or not the universe has some kind of higher meaning or purpose? Are those who seek out E.T. intelligent beings (who may after all be more advanced and therefore wiser than us) just really seeking a God substitute because that is the way they are hard wired? On naturalistic evolution why would we be hardwired this way? Is it all just an accidental fluke?

  3. 3
    groovamos says:

    jad : To me this seems to be totally contradictory. As long as the God of traditional religion doesn’t exist the universe is a place of awe and wonder. But then He show up and suddenly those wonderful thoughts and feelings disappear.

    Materialists are kind of odd especially when they are physicists. Sometime around ’81 there was a series I think on PBS, about the origins of the cosmos and the physics that might apply etc. I was working at the UT Austin physics department in an engineering capacity. The morning after one of the episodes I was on an elevator at the building housing the department, and one of the senior faculty got on at a stop and greeted one of the other faculty and the first thing said was something along the line of ‘how did you like the treatment of your universe’ in reference to the show. I actually got the feeling that on some level these guys think they ‘own’ the cosmos, much more than you or I because they see themselves as the intellectual masters of it more than the rest of us. I think it is much easier to have that sort of arrogant attitude if you don’t see the cosmos as being designed, because after all you can’t be superior to the designer, but you can be superior to the average person. Since the materialist physics researcher is highly creative, in their minds there may be a semi-conscious tendency to see themselves as the designers that should get the accolades.

  4. 4
    tjguy says:

    john_a_designer @2

    “as Ann Druyan [Sagan’s wife] has pointed out an immortal Creator is a cruel god, because He, never having to face the fear of death, creates innumerable creatures who do. Why should he do that? If He’s omniscient, He could be kinder and create immortals, secure from the danger of death. He sets about creating a universe in which many parts of it and perhaps the universe as a whole, dies… There is a clear imperative in Western religion that humans must remain small and mortal creatures. Why?”

    This is perhaps the main problem that creationists have with the ID position. There is no place for the Fall and it’s effects on the world.

    Yes, I’m aware of Dembski’s(?) “solution” to the problem of seeing death as a retroactive punishment for what God knew would happen in the future, but that just doesn’t make sense to me. It is not what the Bible teaches.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    tjguy,

    “It is not what the Bible teaches.”

    And why should the effects of the rebellion against God, Who is timeless, Who indeed created time, space, and everything else, be thought to be constrained to only one direction in time?

    I hold that only a essentially materialistic philosophy would expect such a one way causation in time for rebellion against the One Who created time itself. I hold Theism would expect a ‘timeless’ effect:

    A few ‘scientific’ notes to that ‘timeless’ effect that we should expect:

    “We have become participators in the existence of the universe. We have no right to say that the past exists independent of the act of observation.”
    – John Wheeler

    Wheeler’s Classic Delayed Choice Experiment:
    Excerpt: Now, for many billions of years the photon is in transit in region 3. Yet we can choose (many billions of years later) which experimental set up to employ – the single wide-focus, or the two narrowly focused instruments. We have chosen whether to know which side of the galaxy the photon passed by (by choosing whether to use the two-telescope set up or not, which are the instruments that would give us the information about which side of the galaxy the photon passed). We have delayed this choice until a time long after the particles “have passed by one side of the galaxy, or the other side of the galaxy, or both sides of the galaxy,” so to speak. Yet, it seems paradoxically that our later choice of whether to obtain this information determines which side of the galaxy the light passed, so to speak, billions of years ago. So it seems that time has nothing to do with effects of quantum mechanics. And, indeed, the original thought experiment was not based on any analysis of how particles evolve and behave over time – it was based on the mathematics. This is what the mathematics predicted for a result, and this is exactly the result obtained in the laboratory.
    http://www.bottomlayer.com/bot.....choice.htm

    Genesis, Quantum Physics and Reality
    Excerpt: Simply put, an experiment on Earth can be made in such a way that it determines if one photon comes along either on the right or the left side or if it comes (as a wave) along both sides of the gravitational lens (of the galaxy) at the same time. However, how could the photons have known billions of years ago that someday there would be an earth with inhabitants on it, making just this experiment?
    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2.....r.html.ori

    Here is a recent variation of the Wheeler delayed choice experiment:

    New Mind-blowing Experiment Confirms That Reality Doesn’t Exist If You Are Not Looking at It – June 3, 2015
    Excerpt: The results of the Australian scientists’ experiment, which were published in the journal Nature Physics, show that this choice is determined by the way the object is measured, which is in accordance with what quantum theory predicts.
    “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Truscott in a press release.,,,
    “The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence,” he said.
    Thus, this experiment adds to the validity of the quantum theory and provides new evidence to the idea that reality doesn’t exist without an observer.
    http://themindunleashed.org/20.....at-it.html

    “Look, we all have fun ridiculing the creationists who think the world sprang into existence on October 23, 4004 BC at 9AM (presumably Babylonian time), with the fossils already in the ground, light from distant stars heading toward us, etc. But if we accept the usual picture of quantum mechanics, then in a certain sense the situation is far worse: the world (as you experience it) might as well not have existed 10^-43 seconds ago!”
    – Scott Aaronson – MIT associate Professor quantum computation – Lecture 11: Decoherence and Hidden Variables

    Verse:

    Romans 8:18-22
    For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward. For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

    Of supplemental note:

    A Biblical Case for Old-Earth Creationism
    http://www.godandscience.org/y.....onism.html

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    “as Ann Druyan [Sagan’s wife] has pointed out an immortal Creator is a cruel god, because He, never having to face the fear of death, creates innumerable creatures who do. Why should he do that? If He’s omniscient, He could be kinder and create immortals, secure from the danger of death. He sets about creating a universe in which many parts of it and perhaps the universe as a whole, dies… There is a clear imperative in Western religion that humans must remain small and mortal creatures. Why?”

    That objection might hold for other monotheistic religions but it falls flat as an objection against Christianity

    The Problem of Evil by Benjamin D. Wiker – April 2009
    Excerpt: We still want to cry, Job-like, to those inscrutable depths, “Who are you to orchestrate everything around us puny and pitiable creatures, leaving us shuddering in the darkness, ignorant, blasted, and buffeted? It‘s all well and good to say, ‘Trust me! It‘ll all be made right in the end,‘ while you float unscathed above it all. Grinding poverty, hunger, thirst, frustration, rejection, toil, death of our loved ones, blood-sweating anxiety, excruciating pain, humiliation, torture, and finally a twisted and miserable annihilation — that‘s the meal we‘re served! You‘d sing a different tune if you were one of us and got a taste of your own medicine.”
    What could we say against these depths if the answer we received was not an argument but an incarnation, a full and free submission by God to the very evils about which we complain? This submission would be a kind of token, a sign that evil is very real indeed, bringing the incarnate God blood-sweating anxiety, excruciating pain, humiliation, torture, and finally a twisted and miserable annihilation on the cross. As real as such evil is, however, the resurrection reveals that it is somehow mysteriously comprehended within the divine plan.
    With the Incarnation, the reality of evil is absorbed into the deity, not dissolved into thin air, because God freely tastes the bitterness of the medicine as wounded healer, not distant doctor. Further, given the drastic nature of this solution, we begin to recognize that God takes the problem of evil more seriously than we could ever have taken it ourselves. ,,,
    http://www.crisismagazine.com/.....em-of-evil

    “It is a glorious phrase of the New Testament, that ‘he led captivity captive.’
    The very triumphs of His foes, it means, he used for their defeat. He compelled their dark achievements to sub-serve his end, not theirs.
    They nailed him to the tree, not knowing that by that very act they were bringing the world to his feet.
    They gave him a cross, not guessing that he would make it a throne.
    They flung him outside the gates to die, not knowing that in that very moment they were lifting up all the gates of the universe, to let the King of Glory come in.
    They thought to root out his doctrines, not understanding that they were implanting imperishably in the hearts of men the very name they intended to destroy.
    They thought they had defeated God with His back (to) the wall, pinned and helpless and defeated: they did not know that it was God Himself who had tracked them down.
    He did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conquered through it.”
    James Stewart (1896–1990) was a minister of the Church of Scotland

  7. 7
    Silver Asiatic says:

    tjguy

    This is perhaps the main problem that creationists have with the ID position. There is no place for the Fall and it’s effects on the world.

    I don’t follow this. The ID position is that some aspects of nature give evidence of having been designed by intelligence.

    That’s either true or false. The presence of evil in the world is not an argument against the FSCI present in living things. It’s also not an argument against the fine tuning of the universe. That’s all the ID position is. It can be embraced by people of any religion and those of no religion at all.

    Theological arguments about original sin, baptism and redemption fall outside of ID.

  8. 8
    Silver Asiatic says:

    “as Ann Druyan [Sagan’s wife] has pointed out an immortal Creator is a cruel god, because He, never having to face the fear of death, creates innumerable creatures who do. Why should he do that? If He’s omniscient, He could be kinder and create immortals, secure from the danger of death. He sets about creating a universe in which many parts of it and perhaps the universe as a whole, dies… There is a clear imperative in Western religion that humans must remain small and mortal creatures. Why?”

    That’s such a fascinating quote. There’s a real sense of yearning there – blindly trying to understand something about God but blocked by the limits of human intelligence.

    “because He, never having to face the fear of death, creates innumerable creatures who do”

    Thus, the divine, loving genius of Christianity. She might want to watch Gibson’s Passion of the Christ some time and then wonder if God ever faced the fear of death.

    He could be kinder and create immortals, secure from the danger of death.

    He did, actually, create immortals. It’s the “second death” that all should fear.

    He sets about creating a universe in which many parts of it and perhaps the universe as a whole, dies…

    There is a huge – infinite, part of the story missing here. This is trying to understand theological concepts from a worldly perspective. It’s like applying scientism to the study of God’s plan for the universe. It doesn’t work. There’s no room for purpose and destiny. Nothing about the mystical union of humanity with God – Theosis.

    There is a clear imperative in Western religion that humans must remain small and mortal creatures. Why?

    LOL. Because Western religion shows us reality. But I smile at the bristling we see here (and we all do it), when it comes to that beautiful and difficult virtue of humility.

    What is the value of a life, hidden, obscure, almost totally unknown – given entirely to the service of God? Something like a person who consecrates him or herself to a monastic vocation. Living every day in prayer, adoration and very humble service to the community. Even the names of millions of those men and women are lost for ever – even while living nobody knows who they are.

    The value is “humility before God”. It’s the reality. We are, indeed, very small. This is the most difficult thing for people with advanced academic degrees to accept. Ego, hubris, pride, arrogance … all that ugly stuff, we all have to fight against.

    I love this passage and quoted Scripture from James Larson:

    Interestingly enough, we are also given specific warnings against the pursuit of false science and philosophy – philosophy being defined as the attempt to understand things in their deepest cause and reasons through the use of man’s unaided power of reasoning:

    “Nothing may be taken away, nor added, neither is it possible to find out the glorious works of God: When a man hath done, then shall he begin: and when he leaveth off, he shall be at a loss.” (Ecclus 28:5-6).

    “And I understood that man can find no reason of all those works of God that are done under the sun: and the more he shall labor to seek, so much the less shall he find: yea, though the wise man shall say, that he knoweth it, he shall not be able to find it.” (Eccl 8:17).

    “For the works of the Highest only are wonderful, and his works are glorious, secret, and hidden.” (Ecclus 11:4).

    These scriptures present us with three extraordinary facts about every created substance: 1) the origin and nature of each is wonderful, glorious, secret, and hidden; 2) man’s mind cannot understand the origin and being of anything, except as lying in the mysterious Being (Intellect and Will) of God; 3) the attempt to unravel the depths of created reality using man’s analytical mental capabilities leads to deeper ignorance, and eventually to total darkness and confusion.

    yea, though the [pompous scholar] shall say, that he knoweth it, he shall not be able to find it …

  9. 9
    mahuna says:

    “But suppose we found organic matter somewhere else in the universe.*”

    1. There is no note explaining why the asterisk is about.

    2. I find it REALLY misleading for Science dudes to throw around the phrase “organic compounds” when all they mean is “carbon compounds”. The vast majority of people assume “organic” means “produced by an organism”, which is not necessarily true if you mean compound as simple as CO2 or CH4.

  10. 10
    groovamos says:

    mahuna I think you should think that one through. You look as if you are ridiculing an established lexicon, which doesn’t seem particularly brilliant on your part. You are talking about the moniker of a massively extensive field of study and application, and not a “phrase” being “thrown around”. The term can delineate a field of study, a career path, a scientific journal, textbook, course title, Ph.D program, you name it. I live in a city (Houston) which is built on the industrial aspect of the field. It is the primary lexical designator of much of the fundamental research going on in the metro, and the basis for all of the manufacturing on the east side and up and down this part of the Gulf Coast. The worldwide plastic and pliable materials sector is supplied with feedstocks made here. And last of all the first elementary model students look at in the topic is the benzene ring, with six carbon atoms. Not CO2 with one carbon atom. So your equating “carbon chemistry” with organic chemistry is false.

  11. 11
    Eric Anderson says:

    john_a_designer @2:

    . . .as Ann Druyan [Sagan’s wife] has pointed out an immortal Creator is a cruel god, because He, never having to face the fear of death, creates innumerable creatures who do. Why should he do that? If He’s omniscient, He could be kinder and create immortals, secure from the danger of death. He sets about creating a universe in which many parts of it and perhaps the universe as a whole, dies… There is a clear imperative in Western religion that humans must remain small and mortal creatures. Why?

    Ah, yes, the old “evil design” canard. This is such an incredibly lame argument, both from a logical and theological standpoint. Yet it keeps resurfacing in various forms over the years.

    There is something understandable in our initial knee-jerk reaction to pain, suffering, injustice. Something perfectly natural in our need to cry “Why me? Why do these things exist?” But to jump from that initial cry of the heart to something akin to “therefore, God doesn’t exist,” or even the softer, “therefore, I won’t take God seriously, even if he does exist” – that kind of mental jump is illogical, incredibly naïve, and demonstrates a serious lack of understanding regarding religious doctrine.

    The argument against God due to the existence of evil has to be one of the most absurd and illogical arguments that could ever be put forth. Anyone doing so should be embarrassed.

  12. 12
    J-Mac says:

    I agree with the desperation thingy…but…

    Let’s look at this issue from the point of view of the ones who think that the abundant enough (filthy with complexity) life on earth is not worthy enough to investigate, so looking for water on Mars is much more important. Why? Who decides and pays most importantly for this nonsense? Would anybody would like to guess?

    BTW: All atheists should actually be an agnostic, since they have no evidence whatsoever to back up their belif to be as they see it.

  13. 13
    Eric Anderson says:

    tjguy @4:

    Others have commented, but I’m curious about a couple of your comments as well.

    This is perhaps the main problem that creationists have with the ID position. There is no place for the Fall and it’s effects on the world.

    As others have noted, this is not true. ID is perfectly fine with the concept of a Fall and its effects on the world. Indeed, many ID proponents take the view that the Fall may be responsible for some of the things we find in biology that seem less the result of design.

    Either way, ID doesn’t depend one way or another on whether there was a Fall.

    Yes, I’m aware of Dembski’s(?) “solution” to the problem of seeing death as a retroactive punishment for what God knew would happen in the future, but that just doesn’t make sense to me. It is not what the Bible teaches.

    I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the retroactive possibility. Presumably you accept that other aspects of God’s interactions with man can have retroactive effect — God’s grace or Christ’s suffering and atonement, for example?

    But setting aside the interesting question of whether Dembski’s view is correct, what is it specifically that you think the Bible teaches that would make the Fall inconsistent with ID?

  14. 14
    Eric Anderson says:

    Barry, there are no doubt a number of astronomers and astrobiologists who are motivated by a desire to maintain a naturalistic worldview.

    But there are lots of easier ways to promote one’s naturalistic worldview than spending years working toward a PhD, spending subsequent years pulling night shift at some remote mountain observatory, and then making publishable discoveries.

    In my experience, the great majority of people working in this area are genuinely interested in the science, sincerely working to learn as much as they can, faithfully trying to document their findings and observations.

    If we were to find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, it would be one of the most remarkable discoveries ever made. There is genuine excitement and interest in this area — for purely scientific reasons.

    Now, I do agree that once the university press office gets hold of a paper or discovery, all bets are off as to what gets sent to the press.

    Furthermore, yes, scientists who have a materialistic bent tend to interpret their findings in that light and that unfortunately sometimes bends how their findings are reported. This is a problem and they should be called on the carpet. But it doesn’t mean that they went into their field initially or are continuing in their field primarily, or even at all really, in order to promote their worldview. It is just that we unfortunately have to hear about their worldview when they report the science. Ironically, rather than helping explain their findings as they often assume, it detracts from the science.

    Most importantly — and this is an aspect often missed by both proponents and opponents — finding life elsewhere doesn’t change anything about the debate over design and materialism. Here’s why:

    Finding another living organism, even an intelligent one, simply means that we have another example of an intelligent organism, presumably one that exhibits complex specified information in its makeup.

    How will that be interpreted?

    Those who have a rational understanding of the math, the physics, and the chemistry will realize that this is another example of design.

    On the other hand, those committed to a materialistic worldview will sit in awe of the wonderful power of molecules in motion to produce yet another wondrous organism.

    The very same thing happens right here, right now. It happens every time a new organism or a new organ or a new molecular machine is discovered.

    It doesn’t make one bit of difference whether a new form of biological complex specified organization is found in Antarctica, at the bottom of the ocean, on Mars, or in another solar system. The same exact scenario will play out, and it will come down to a question of whether we are dealing with design or purely materialistic processes.

    —–

    So I’m happy to have the search for extraterrestrial intelligence continue. Just as I’m happy to have the search continue for new species in Antarctica, or deep in the Amazon jungle, or on the ocean floor, or on Mars.

    Most of the research will be done by people genuinely interested in the hunt, in the science, in the discovery. Some (alas, occasionally, much) of the science will be reported through a prism of materialism. We have to call people on the carpet for that and, more importantly, teach others to see through the smoke and mirrors. But the materialism in the reporting need not sour us completely toward the underlying science.

  15. 15
    Eric Anderson says:

    groovamos @10:

    If I may (mahuna can correct me), the way I read mahuna’s comment was that findings of “organic compounds” are sometimes thrown about and reported as though they were bringing us close to the discovery of an actual living organism (e.g., think about some of the molecules found in meteorites, on Titan, even in the Miller-Urey experiment).

    These reports of “organic molecules” can give the unsuspecting reader the impression that something closely-related to a living organism was discovered. But in most cases it is nothing of the sort. Just some “organic” molecules that could, possibly, if they had been arranged in just the right way (which they weren’t), theoretically, might have something to do with life.

    Would you agree that the leap sometimes made from “we’ve discovered organic molecules outside Earth,” to “we’re getting meaningfully closer to discovering life outside Earth,” is unfounded?

    At least on that score I would tend to agree with mahuna.

    If that isn’t what mahuna was referring to, then fine; I’ll just agree with what I wrote. 🙂

  16. 16
    john_a_designer says:

    Earlier I asked, “why do people, like Ann Druyan, who do not believe in immortality, think about it and ponder it?”

    We could also ask how many human beings alive today, don’t think or never have thought about immortality? If you talk to an atheist is he going to know what you are talking about? If he does it means that he has thought about it at some time in his life. But why do we think this way?

    Ironically a colleague of the late Carl Sagan, Frank Drake, who has been called the father of SETI, has some very interesting views about ET’s and immortality.

    According to historian of science George Basalla,

    Drake… asserted that any extraterrestrial intelligences we contact are likely to be immortal. Immortals are not rare, Drake declared. They may even more common in the universe.

    Drake’s idea of immortality was more material than spiritual. He envisioned the elimination of the aging process and the transfer of memory from older to younger brains or to the brains of clones. Drake imagined that aliens lived in a medical utopia, a society free of disease.

    Drake believed that in the future humans will acquire physical immortality. Just as nuclear energy and radio telescopes are inevitable in the development of technological cilization, so is immortality…

    Civilized Life in the Universe: Scientists on Intelligent Extraterrestrials
    By George Basalla, p. 160.

    It seems to me that such a view presents a real dilemma for people like Drake who are committed philosophically to naturalism and scientism. (BTW Drake is not alone here. There is a movement known transhumanism, which envisions human immortality, as one of its outcomes, as the inevitable result of advances in bio-tech and/or AI.) http://whatistranshumanism.org/

    Why would any kind of naturalistic biological evolution hardwire us humans to think and/or believe we might be immortal? From a naturalistic perspective it seems like that is just wishful thinking. If it is then it must some kind of accidental fluke of evolution. But even if there is some kind of survival value, it is still not verifiably true from a naturalistic perspective. But if that’s the case then why would we place any credibility in what Drake or transhumanists think and believe– especially since, at least in Drake case, there zero evidence so far that ET’s even exist.

  17. 17
    rvb8 says:

    In 1985 at the University of Glasgow, Carl Sagan gave a series of nine lectures followed by Q & A. These are the prestigious, Gifford Lectures. Past guests included, Arthur Eddington, James Frazer, Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, Albert Schweitzer, and Hannah Arendt, among others, and of course Sagan; that’s pretty amazing company! These were discovered gathering dust by his partner Ann Druyan and finally published in 2006, in a book entitled, not coincidentally, “The Varieties of Scientific Experience”.

    They are as fresh and articulate today as when first printed. Dawkins, Harris and Vonnegut are unstinting in their praise as to the great clarity and perceptiveness, of one of science’s greatest communicators.

    Any effort here to denigrate, mis-quote, or in any other way misrepresent Sagan’s well argued point, that a universe without a God, is infinately preferrable to one with a Supreme Being, will seem tiny in comparison. Don’t attempt it, you will fail.

    Sagan: Concerning recognising truth: ‘But there are a few simple rules. The truth ougt to be logically consistant.It should not contradict itself; that is, there are some logical criteria. It ought to be consistant with what else we know. That is an additional way in which miracles run into trouble.’ pp. 229-230.

  18. 18
    john_a_designer says:

    For those who are not familiar with the term transhumanism, here is a brief but informative overview of the transhumanist movement. Take a look at some of the people involved and the money that is being invested. How serious are these people? I think we can tell something, as they say, by following the money.

    http://www.theverge.com/a/tran.....nshumanism

  19. 19
    Eric Anderson says:

    rvb8 @17:

    Sorry, but Sagan doesn’t get a pass on a bad argument just because he was a well-known scientist and science writer. If he makes a bad argument he makes a bad argument.

    Any effort here to denigrate, mis-quote, or in any other way misrepresent Sagan’s well argued point, that a universe without a God, is infinately preferrable to one with a Supreme Being,

    And what, pray tell, is this “well argued point”? If it is based at all on the existence of evil, or poor design, or pain and suffering in the world, or on some red-herring caricature of God that Sagan has in mind, then it is a terrible argument. It fails logically and practically and also demonstrates a lack of awareness of fundamental theological doctrine.

    If john_a_designer @2 has misquoted Sagan from the lecture he cited, then please feel free to correct the quote or to show why the quote doesn’t really reflect what Sagan thought.

    But just jumping in to say that we mustn’t question Sagan’s materialistic philosophy because he is, well, Sagan, doesn’t cut it.

    Sagan: The truth ought to be logically consistent. It should not contradict itself; that is, there are some logical criteria. It ought to be consistent with what else we know.

    Good principles, with which I can agree.

    But this quote is especially ironic coming as it does in the current context. We would be hard pressed to find a set of worse, more illogical, more self-contradictory arguments, than some of the arguments so commonly put forth for the non-existence of God. Particularly argument based on the items john_a_designer cited @2.

  20. 20
    Eric Anderson says:

    john_a_designer @18:

    The idea of mind uploading and technological immortality is interesting. I’m not even sure it is a bad area of research to pursue. But . . .

    It is informative to talk to people who actually work in the field of artificial intelligence (among whom I count a couple of personal friends).

    The realities of the technological limitations and the still-insurmountable challenges that lie ahead give one a much less sanguine view of the situation than the upbeat — frankly naive — views often propagated by some “futurists” who make a living promoting largely-inaccurate, wildly-over-optimistic claims about a future that always seems to be just around the corner . . . just out of reach.

    —–

    Personally, I’ll be thrilled when Google Maps finally gets smart enough to provide useful searches, rather than recommending I drive halfway across the country to find the nearest 7-Eleven.

  21. 21

    EA @ 19: Of course, it is not just Sagan who made such bad arguments. Neo-atheist “leaders” such as Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, etc. have all made similar arguments during open debates (and in writing)…usually to loud partisan applause.

    Thinking themselves wise…

  22. 22
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Agreeing here with EA @ 19. The arguments about an “evil god” or “evil design” are pathetic and very revealing about the ignorance of such people who make them.

    These are theological arguments offered by people who know nothing about theology and who proclaim that they don’t even believe that any god exists. Then, however, they take a caricature of some sort of god they retained from childhood memory or popular culture and find some problems with this.

    It’s almost beyond belief to see otherwise educated and intelligent people saying “God would …” or “God should …” without any attempt to define why they think their version of God has any meaning at all.

    Then, actually ask them to study theistic philosophy or theology on the nature of God? They simply ignore it.

    rvb:

    …a universe without a God, is infinately preferrable to one with a Supreme Being, will seem tiny in comparison. Don’t attempt it, you will fail

    There is so much wrong there that it’s hard to even begin. But I’d start with your assumptions/definitions and initial understanding. Do you know what the term “Supreme Being” means and entails?

    We need not even go into what a universe ruled by blind, unintelligent, purposeless forces actually is, but you cannot derive the term “preferrable” from such a construct.

  23. 23
    john_a_designer says:

    EA @ 19,

    If john_a_designer @2 has misquoted Sagan from the lecture he cited, then please feel free to correct the quote or to show why the quote doesn’t really reflect what Sagan thought.

    Indeed, the quotes that I have given is this thread of Sagan @ 2 as well as comments about his colleague Frank Drake @ 16 were transcribed by me from the two books cited, which are part of my personal library. Does rvb8 own either of these books? My point is does he know what the context is, or is he just shooting from the hip?

    By the way, I have the utmost respect for Sagan as an astronomer, science writer and science popularizer. However, when he goes “off the reservation” and starts pontificating about theology, philosophy and religion he is fair game… He clearly does not know what he is talking about when it comes to these subjects.

  24. 24
    bb says:

    This whole business of E.T. as an argument against the creator God, or a generic Intelligent Designer, reminds me of this bit from Exodus 7:

    20 Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21 And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. 22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. 23 Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart.

    In both cases those against God attempt to distract from obvious reality with non-sequitur. As others in this thread have said, if life, or organic compounds, are discovered off-planet, it doesn’t mean that life magically sprang from chemistry and evolved into us. Like the Egyptian priests: if they were able to turn water into blood by their “secret arts”, it didn’t mean that God didn’t act right before their eyes, as He went on to prove without doubt.

    Materialistic theories, more often than not, are merely square pegs repeatedly beaten into round holes. Like the Christians Faraday, Maxwell, and many others, their presuppositions are religious. Unlike those foundational scientists, their presuppositions fail to deliver anything of merit. To quote Cornelius Hunter: “Religion drives science and it matters.” Materialism, time and again, exhibits the often used definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

    The assertion that God is evil helps to establish this whole business as a religious, not scientific, debate. As others have said, it is a straw-man propped up by ignorance and cherry-picked Bible verses.

    1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

    2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
    3 Dress for action like a man;
    I will question you, and you make it known to me.

    4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
    5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
    6 On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone,
    7 when the morning stars sang together
    and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

    -Job 38

    This business of Transhumanism smacks of Satan as described in Isaiah 14:14:

    I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.’

    Those that claim that we are materially, and helplessly, determined beings want self-determination. Thinking themselves wise….

  25. 25
  26. 26
    bb says:

    Drake… asserted that any extraterrestrial intelligences we contact are likely to be immortal. Immortals are not rare, Drake declared. They may even more common in the universe.

    Drake’s idea of immortality was more material than spiritual. He envisioned the elimination of the aging process and the transfer of memory from older to younger brains or to the brains of clones. Drake imagined that aliens lived in a medical utopia, a society free of disease.

    Drake believed that in the future humans will acquire physical immortality. Just as nuclear energy and radio telescopes are inevitable in the development of technological cilization, so is immortality…

    This is a fascinating bit and it is pure fantasy. Drake has no idea what ET’s, if they existed, would be like. He has no observation to form a hypothesis. The whole bloated SETI program is a leap from someone’s baseless assumption.

    Once again I’m reminded of Paul’s narrative history of idolatry in Romans 1. Those that reject God tend to invent new gods to their own liking. Even constructing a fantasy world of medical utopia without disease. It’s amazing how the imaginary idea of utopia, whether economic or regarding human nature, always sells with those of this mindset, despite the repeated failures of the past. When you kick against reality, and this what is happening, it bites back hard……and/or God destroys these futile efforts. It demonstrates that He created the cosmos to operate according to His will, and human efforts to pretend things aren’t as God laid out are rebellious acts and futile. Like the teenager that believes she can have sex at hookups without ever getting pregnant or catching an STD, despite what her parents said. That also thinks something unjust happened when consequences hit like a hammer.

  27. 27
    john_a_designer says:

    Blaise Pascal said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator…”

    That is why atheists like Sagan, Ann Druyan, Frank Drake and the transhumanists cannot come to terms with the implications of their own world view. Without God there is no higher meaning and purpose… there is no hope. From an atheists perspective any dreams of physical immortality are totally delusional.

    Ironically, one of the best evidences for the existence for God is watching the way they struggle to rationalize and justify their own delusions. It would be farcical if it weren’t so sad and pathetic.

  28. 28
    rvb8 says:

    OK,

    I think the arguments of an evil God creating death in a universe where S/He, It, could have dispensed with this, is sound; why not just create happy subserviant followers, then everyone is happy, if a tad ignorent?

    What about the argument for a wasteful God? That is, any creator worth Her, His, Its, salt has sure created a hell of a lot of nothing; why not be a little more fecund? Also, the extinct species contain >90% of all the life this planet has ever seen, then we arrive. Also, this beautiful planet, so often given in evidence of God’s wonderful design is a nightmare of waste: 70% water, which his special creation, US, can’t live in; sporadic deserts, and two poles we have great difficulty in reaching, let alone utilizing; arid areas where only a meager existance can be rooted out; well done God.

    So there is no God because the design is so fantastically wasteful, chance is the only answer.

  29. 29
    Querius says:

    rvb8,

    You obviously believe that you’re so profoundly knowledgeable about the world, the universe, and how incredibly stupid God must certainly have been that this knowledge qualifies you beyond doubt in your estimation to make these sweeping judgments.

    With this kind of knowledge, you should really apply for the job vacancy of “God.” Then you can announce to us mortals whether it’s ethical to eat certain types of hominid animal protein that would otherwise go to waste in order to end starvation on this planet. You could also have the power to rectify “the nightmare of waste” of the 70% water covering the earth by eliminating the oceans.

    Gosh, I wonder what that might do to the weather. Surely you must know.

    -Q

  30. 30
    Eric Anderson says:

    rvb8:

    What a load of rubbish.

    First, I sincerely hope you can comprehend that because something is not “perfect,” in some subjective sense in your personal estimation, that this does not mean it wasn’t designed nor that there is no designer. Do you acknowledge this simple logical fact? On this basis alone, such arguments fail.

    Second, your claims of waste are no more helpful than the long string of failed claims since Darwin’s day about this or that biological system that was supposedly poorly designed, from the panda’s thumb to the giraffe to the mammalian eye. Not in a single instance has the materialist evolutionist ever offered a reasonable alternative to the biological system in question, nor anything even approaching an engineering-quality analysis of potential design alternatives. As with so much of the evolutionary narrative, the most we get is vague assertions.

    Again, it is key that we understand poor design doesn’t mean there is no designer. But even on the substantive question of whether a particular design is poor, your argument fails. The attempts to claim poor design in biology or in the cosmos have an extremely terrible track record. Such arguments are inevitably based on the twin pillars of ignorance and pride. In nearly every case in which the details have been tracked down and analyzed, it has turned out that the design is exquisite after all. Those claiming poor design then slink away with egg on their face, hoping no-one will remember all the eggs they had put into that particular basket.

    —–

    Lastly, your first paragraph betrays an incredibly naive view of existence and certainly does not constitute a “sound” argument. It is nothing more than a personal preference statement about how you wish things were. One, I might add, that betrays the paucity of careful thought and introspection that has gone into the formation of your view.

  31. 31
    Eric Anderson says:

    I should add, rvb8, that you’ve stooped to a new low in arguing that there is no God because the Earth has a lot of ocean or has cold polar regions. I can hardly even type right now, I’m laughing so hard at the absurdity.

    Is this your own idea, or is there really a strain of argument in materialist thought that argues for God’s non-existence due to the large amount of water on the Earth?

    What a hoot!

    Thanks, though. I needed a good laugh before retiring for the night! 🙂

  32. 32
    Origenes says:

    John_a_designer: Sagan then shows, and comments upon, several pictures of astronomical objects that invoke in him a sense of awe and wonder. As an amateur astronomer many of them are very familiar to me. Indeed, as an amateur astronomer I personally share Sagan’s experience of awe and wonder.

    I do not. That is to say, I’m quite insensitive to the ‘awe and wonder’ of the atheists that seems to be solely invoked by the size of astronomical objects. Yes, the universe is quite large, but so what? Get over it. A bacterium captured in a dew drop may experience the same ‘awe and wonder’.

  33. 33
    Silver Asiatic says:

    It’s an interesting sort of designer that is proposed. Everything should be neat, clean, tidy, small and efficient. Only the bare minimum required. There are too many sparrows and daisies and clouds. It’s too awesome. 🙂 I can only imagine the incredibly boring universe such designers would create. It’s like all they can think of is the efficiency of shipping containers or napkin holders. “Great design”!

    Then there’s “Waste”. LOL. “The Atlantic Ocean is too big and has too much variety of life”. 🙂 Why not consider the concept of “Abundance”. That is what God is trying to show you. But you just need to open your eyes. Abundance (as plants shedding forth immense numbers of seeds) is an indication of Providence. Not a sparrow falls to the ground.

    When you buy a loved one some jewelry, do you make sure it’s the cheapest and most efficient? 🙂

  34. 34
    bb says:

    rvb8,

    Your argument is straw-man propped up by ignorance, and pride as added by Eric Anderson. These “bad design” arguments always fall apart as we make new discovery. In other words, as ignorance subsides.

    Your argument is shown to be straw-man by the opening chapters of Genesis. According to scripture, life wasn’t so frail and hard. Since death was presented as a consequence, the logical, theological conclusion is that there wasn’t any until Adam sinned. Interesting that the likes of Drake, and all utopians, promise to deliver what God already had in the beginning, but man threw away.

  35. 35
    Querius says:

    Priceless! 🙂

    Rvb8 seems to have disappeared, maybe to a Safe Place curled in fetal position. lol

    “Hello, in there.”

    -Q

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