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Religion and ET: What’s wrong with science writing today

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This artist's impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri
artist’s impression of Proxima B

Exhibit A: “If we made contact with aliens, how would religions react?”

From Brandon Ambrosino at BBC:

The discovery of life on another planet might seem incompatible with faith in a deity. Yet many theologians are already open to the existence of extraterrestrials, argues the writer Brandon Ambrosino.

In 2014, Nasa awarded $1.1M to the Center for Theological Inquiry, an ecumenical research institute in New Jersey, to study “the societal implications of astrobiology”.

Yes, we noticed that a few weeks back. And we are baffled as to why.

Is there any religion on the planet that states as a dogmatic certainty that aliens do not exist? Those people might be worth a quote. Instead, we read

This is not just an idle fantasy: many scientists would now argue that the detection of extraterrestrial life is more a question of when, not if.

There are several reasons for this confidence, but a main one has to do with the speed at which scientists have been discovering planets outside of our own Solar System.

The fact is, this can has been kicked to elementary particles and back again and 1) we have no evidence of aliens 2) none of those planets is habitable by life as we know it.

Oh yes, some will argue, but what if exoplanets are inhabited by life as we don’t know it? They may be, of course, but then how will we know what to look for? Aren’t we looking for something that, if we found it, we would knw what it was?

Plus, we read,

The third, the mediocrity principle, claims that there is nothing special about Earth’s status or position in the Universe. This could present the greatest challenge to the major Abrahamic religions, which teach that human beings are purposefully created by God and occupy a privileged position in relation to other creatures. More.

Well first, there is massive evidence for the fine-tuning of Earth for life, so much so that evidence-free concepts like the multiverse are invoked to counter the evidence.

And so far have we haven’t found a single live cell beyond Earth. Mightn’t it be best to find one at least, before wondering what “the Abrahamic religions” think?

Better still, how be we do the usual science thing and amass a lot of data on ten thousand such planets and come up with something more concrete than a headline and a theological speculation?

<em>Teapot</em> Cobalt Blue 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.

I have now read about twenty-five iterations of this basic type of article over the last twenty-five years, rehashing the same old nonsense. The science writer is not expected to ask penetrating questions or critique worn-out assumptions. Maybe there is some kind of rule against it now. Union or management?

Pity the Brit taxpayer who funds this stuff. – O’Leary for News

See also: NASA cares what your religion thinks about ET

PhysicsWorld: Proxima B in editors’ list of physics breakthroughs of 2016

and

Copernicus, you are not going to believe who is using your name. Or how.

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2 Replies to “Religion and ET: What’s wrong with science writing today

  1. 1
    J-Mac says:

    “If we made contact with aliens, how would religions react?”

    To me personally this is a rhetorical question I’m asked at work pretty often; or a sort of this notion.

    This is another one I get to deal with; “What would happen if we (humans) recreated life? how would you react? Or how would the religious react to that?”
    More or less is what I get not every day but often when big debates break up…

    The question regarding the recreation of life is worth answering first. Here is why:

    Is science even close to recreating life? No! The science can’t even define life. Recreating it turned out a bit tricky… Why? Because the scientists “working on it” are further away than they thought they were few years ago…thanks to technology and scientific progress…

    Let’s apply the same principals to the notion that “…what if made contacts with aliens…” and they are more advanced than us..obviously… so they can communicate with us…somehow…say through science like math…or through some kind of picture language, such as Hieroglyph…

    So my question is, after the necessary greeting and stuff would it be appropriate to ask;

    How did you come to be? How did you come into existence? What caused you to be what you are? What processes lead to you to being what you are? Are you eternal? Did you have a beginning? If yes, what caused it?

  2. 2
    groovamos says:

    I think the main problem for some persons posting on this board would be that, if there are intelligent extraterrestrials, would they be subjected to the primary dogma of mainstream Christianity – that unsaved souls go to hell. That is why I know of atheists philosophically enthused at the discovery of extraterrestrials – to put Christians in a quandary. And hardly able to blame them, this is why I think the wasteful SETI program will probably never die. There is just too much silicon valley money controlled by atheists for SETI to end. I think it highly likely extraterrestrial life is nonexistent.

    BTW the fine tuning argument applies to the universal dimensioned constants of physics, not the earth itself. The earth itself exhibits a mind boggling array of design features such as the liquid core to support the geomagnetic field and to renew the land masses; its rotation; the tilt of the rotational axis with respect to the orbital axis to permit seasons; and the orbiting moon to stabilize the tilt which would be otherwise unstable. The rotation not appreciably slowed by tidal lock is another, because of the appropriate mean distance to the sun. Another is the earth orbit in the temperate habitable zone and atmospheric pressure to render liquid water possible. Plus the ideal atmospheric chemical makeup, and on and on.

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