Re: Incarnation

Paul Arveson (
Thu, 11 Apr 96 20:31:35 EDT

In message <> Jeff Webster writes:
> Did anyone see John McLaughlin's One on One program about the possiblilty of
> life on other planets? He spoke with two astrophysicists (Sorry, I forgot
> their
> names) and a theologian named Ted Peters, all of whom concurred that there is
> most likely life elsewhere. The problem McLaughlin was attempting to raise
> was
> the uniqueness of the incarnation: why would God visit this planet, incarnate
> in
> Jesus Christ, when we inhabit such a small planet circling around an
> ordinary
> star in an ordinary galaxy, etc., when there simply "must" be sentient life
> elsewhere. Actually the two astrophysicists were certain that there was life
> elsewhere, while Peters was ambivalent to the possibility, claiming that it
> had
> no bearing upon the essential fact of the incarnation. Any thoughts on this?
> Jeff Webster
> Dallas Theological Seminary

A few thoughts:

When the last large SETI project was initiated at NASA, I was at the meeting,
and I asked Dr. Jill Tartar (the PI) how large a volume fraction or how many
stars in the galaxy she hoped to examine. I don't recall the exact answer, but
her general point was that it was a very small fraction of the galactic volume
-- even using the Arecibo antenna and with liberal assumptions of the ET output
power. In other words, space is BIG.

The SETI work often doesn't advertise these estimates. They talk about how many
millions of channels they have, the probability of life etc. But the size of
space acts as a kind of partition to keep creatures apart (if there are any that
are anything like us). Remember Fermi's statement: "Where are they?"

The SETI project was promoted in such a way that it raised expectations. When
those expectations were not met, the Republican Congress shut it down: another
government project without results. If instead they had laid out a metric to
screen a certain number of stars, or a certain volume per month, then maybe they
could have just kept on working at a slow pace indefinitely, always showing more
progress. (How's that for Monday-morning quarterbacking?)

Regarding the Incarnation and encounters with other creatures, I think the
best Christian discussion of this issue is in Walker Percy's weird masterpiece,
Lost in the Cosmos -- The Last Self-Help Book. If you're not a Christian, you
won't get it.

Paul Arveson, Research Physicist
(301) 227-3831 (W) (301) 227-1914 (FAX) (301) 816-9459 (H)
Code 724, NSWC, Bethesda, MD 20084