The Star-Trek effect

From: Glenn Morton (
Date: Wed Jan 23 2002 - 00:10:22 EST

  • Next message: george murphy: "Re: The Star-Trek effect"

    I am a long time trekkie (but don't dress like an idiot or go to
    conventions) and have loved the stories of other forms of intelligent life
    in the universe. And I really like this new one Enterprise which just
    started here in the UK. Star-Trek of course has life scattered around like
    corn seed at sowing time and this Star-Trek effect has serious apologetical

    I am currently reading a book for a book review (this will not be the book
    review) but it has application to the current discussion we are having about
    why apologists seem to pick and choose what observational data they will
    deal with and what data they refuse to accept. The book is William
    Whewell's _Of the Plurality of Worlds_ edited by Michael Ruse, University of
    Chicago Press 2001. The book was originally published in 1853 and this is a
    facsimile reprinting. I need to set the intellectual landscape for this

    Whewell was writing about 9 years after Chambers' _Vestiges_ which was the
    first book to really bring evolution into the intellectual landscape (it was
    very poorly done so he won few converts). The issue which occupied Whewell's
    attention was the problem that astronomy was presenting to Christians at
    this time by showing that there were so many worlds. The atheistic argument
    of the day pointed out that there were lots of stars each of them should
    have planets around them, many of those planets filled with intelligent
    life. Furthermore, there were these nebula(today we call them galaxies)
    which look like dust clouds until you look at them with very powerful
    telescopes and see that the dust cloud is made up of stars. Each of those
    stars should have planets with a proportion having intelligent life (the
    Star-Trek effect). Whewell in 1833 had agreed that life on other planets was
    probable, but after the Vestiges was published, it became perfectly clear
    that life on these other planets might be evolved and Whewell changed his
    position because he could not reconcile evolution with Christian faith.
    Furthermore, the atheistic argument pointed out that each of those planets
    with intelligent life would need their own savior and therefore God would
    not see the earth as a special abode or be 'mindful of man'. Why would a God
    of a universe full of intelligent life pay any special heed to a small blue
    planet circling an otherwise unremarkable star? Whewell chose to take on
    this argument in a very fascinating book. While Whewell seems to be correct
    that life is rare in the universe, his approach to it was unfortunately
    typical of the way apologetical institutions seem to deal with problematical
    issues. Looking back on his argument gives us perspective on this approach
    and lets us see clearly what RTB and other apologists are doing with
    anthropological and evolutionary data clearer.

    Whewell first raises what I believe to be a diversionary argument. He argues
    that we should not be concerned about what astronomy is teaching about
    possible other civilizations because:

    "The telescope suggested that there might be dwellers in Jupiter or in
    Saturn, of giant size and unknown structure, who must share with us the
    preserving care of God. The microscope shewed that there had been, close to
    us, inhabiting minute crevices and crannies, peopling the leaves of plants,
    and the bodies of other animals, animalcules of a minuteness hitherto
    unguessed, and of a structure hitherto unknown, who had been always sharers
    with us in God's preserving care." Whewell p. 25

    Why is this diversionary? Because we have always known of unintelligent
    creatures here on earth sharing God's care. Worms are unintelligent at least
    compared to most humans. What the issue is actually about is intelligent
    life. Thus, Whewell evades the subject with his first response. And like
    many apologists, when asked how we explain nuclear genetic systems in
    mankind which have so much diversity that it would take 500 hundred thousand
    to 2 million years in order for this diversity to be generated by mutations,
    we find apologists pointing to mitochondrial mtDNA which is clearly a
    diversionary tactic. (
    Pointing out the mtDNA doesn't explain the nuclear genetic data anymore than
    Whewell pointing out microbes explains the implications of extraterrestrial

    Whewell then attacks the concept of life on planets around the nebula (what
    we call galaxies) by denying that they are really galaxies or separate star
    systems. He did discuss some very good evidence indicating the modern view
    was correct. however, he chose to reject that data. Instead of the points of
    light telescopes reveal in the galaxies being stars, Whewell claims that
    they are comets around a much smaller object.

    "And if we suppose a large mass of cometic matter thus to move in a highly
    resisting medium, and to consist of patches of different densities, then
    some would move faster and some more slowly; but all, in spirals such as
    have been spoken of; and the general aspect produced would be, that of the
    spiral nebulae which I have endeavoured to describe. The luminous matter
    owuld be more diffused in the outer and more condensed in the central parts,
    because to the center of attraction all the spirals converge." William
    Whewell, Of the Plurality of World’s, edited by Michael Ruse, (Chicago:
    University of Chicago Press, 2001), p. 128

    And, thus, since we know that life can't exist on a comet, we don't need to
    worry about life in the nebula!

    Today, there is hardly a Christian who denies that galaxies are actually
    star systems, but Whewell denied this IN SPITE OF MUCH EVIDENCE THAT THIS
    WAS THE CASE. He didn't believe the sense data! He hypothesized some
    improbable situation in order to avoid the impact of astronomical data. He
    let his theology drive him to doubt the obvious. This approach is much like
    the anti-evolutionist who denies transitional forms are transitional forms
    because his theology drives him to that position. If one wants to reject
    evolution, one certaintly can't accept transitional forms. (see When we deny sense
    data, like Whewell did, we look very silly to future generations of

    When it came to extraterrestrial life itself, especially intelligent life,
    He examined the nature of intelligence and showed that regardless of what
    form this intelligent life takes, it's intelligence would require a similar
    consciousness to ours (a point I believe but don't want to debate). THen he
    inconsistently claims that we can't assume that their life is like ours. He

    "The intellectual progress of the human species has been a progress in the
    use of thought, and in the knowledge which such use procures; it has been a
    progress from mere matter to mind; from the impressions of sense to ideas;
    what is necessary, universal and eternal. We can conceive no progress, of
    the nature of this, which is not identical with this; nothing like it, which
    is not the same. And therefore, if we will people other planets with
    creaturees, intelligent as man is intelligent, we must not only give to them
    the intelligence, but the intellectual history of the human species. They
    must have had their minds unfolded by steps, similar to those by which the
    human mind has been unfolded; or at least, differing from them, only as the
    intellectual history of one nation of the earth differs from that of
    another. They must have had their Pythagoras, their Plato, their Kepler,
    their Galileo, their Newton, if they know what we know." William Whewell, Of
    the Plurality of World’s, edited by Michael Ruse, (Chicago: University of
    Chicago Press, 2001), p. 46-47

    He also points out that any geometry for them must be the same as ours
    further uniting them to us. And then he turns around and rejects the above
    with this:

    "Intelligence, as we see in the human race, in order to have those
    characters which concern our argument, implies a history of intellectual
    development: and to assume arbitrarily a history of intellectual development
    for the inhabitants of a remote planet, as a ground of reasoning, either for
    or against Religion, is a proceeding which we can hardly be expected either
    to assent to or to refute." William Whewell, Of the Plurality of World’s,
    edited by Michael Ruse, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), p. 47

    What astounds me in this is that Whewell laid out a perfectly logical and
    convincing (to me) case that intelligence must act universally like ours
    does, and then he rejects this consequence when it goes against his
    preferred point.

    There is an analogy among apologists which perfectly fits this situation.
    When speaking of fossil men, we are not speaking of a possible alien
    intelligence separated by millions of light years of space but by millions
    of years of time. And what we see is that apologists will reject the
    obvious evidence of intelligence (behaviours which seem to be similar to our
    behavior and intelligence acting as our intelligence acts) among fossil men
    because they can't accept that there could be a connection between us and
    them for theological reasons.

    For instance we find an Neanderthal altar at Bruniquel in which a bear was
    killed, taken deep into a cave, into the very darkest parts, where an square
    altar was built and the bear burned, yet we find people like Wiester, Wilcox
    and Ross denying that this is spirituality. If we ever find an alien race, I
    can see it now that their temples where the great beast they call Gazoobahs
    are sacrificed will be claimed to be anything other than an altar because
    everyone knows aliens can't be spiritual! Here is the description of the
    Neanderthal Bruniquel altar and Nahr Ibrihim, another Neanderthal alter-like

    At Bruniquel, France, archeologists have excavated a square stone structure
    dating to more than 47,000 years ago (prior to the advent of modern man in
    Europe) in which the Neanderthals burned a bear. Bednarik (1996, p. 104)

    "The cave of Bruniquel in southern France has just produced fascinating new
    evidence. Several hundred metres in from the cave entrance, a stone
    structure has been discovered. It is quadrilineal, measures four by five
    metres and has been constructed from pieces of stalagmite and stalactite. A
    burnt fragment of a bear bone found in it was radiocarbon analysed, yielding
    a 'date' of greater than 47 600 years BP. This suggests that the structure
    is the work of Neanderthals. It is located in complete darkness, which
    proves that the people who ventured so deep into the large cave system had
    reliable lighting and had the confidence to explore such depths. Bruniquel
    is one of several French caves that became closed subsequent to their
    Pleistocene use, but were artificially opened this century."

    This appears to have been the ritual sacrifice of a bear. It is also the
    first proof that man went deep into caves long before they painted the
    walls. (Balter, 1996, p. 449)

    Neanderthals at Nahr Ibrahim, Lebanon, appear to have ritually sacrificed a
    deer. Marshack writes:

    "In the Mousterian cave shelter of Nahr Ibrahim in Lebanon the bones of a
    fallow deer (Dama mesopotamia) were gathered in a pile and topped by the
    skull cap. Many of the bones were unbroken and still articulated. Around the
    animal were bits of red ochre. While red ochre was common in the area and so
    may have been introduced inadvertently, the arrangement of the largely
    unbroken bones suggests a ritual use of parts of the animal." (Marschack
    1990, p. 481)

    And Wilcox (PSCF 48:2:circa p. 91), as well as Davis and Kenyon the authors
    of who wrote_Of Pandas and People_ hold that Neanderthals were uncreative,
    yet they invented the burin (a tool used to make art by modern men), the
    first glue(by use of very high temperature processes which excluded oxygen),
    engaged in the first coal mining, left us the first musical instruments,
    designed the 7 note diatonic musical scale, were the first to utilize and
    collect sea food, were the first successful surgeons, made the first
    clothing for which there is evidence(I believe it was made earlier), and
    invented a type of stone tool that we moderns can't even make (only about 14
    people on earth can duplicate what the Neanderthals did with stone). Our
    theological positions force us to ignore all of that and claim erroneous
    things--like Neanderthal is uncreative-- just like Whewell did when he
    claimed galaxies really weren't systems of stars.

    I would predict that if we ever find intelligent life in the universe, that
    apologetical efforts will be made to treat them like apologists treat the
    Neanderthals and claim that they really aren't intelligent/spiritual even
    though they send us radio signals! If we find the Star-Trek effect--lots of
    other intelligent beings--we will deny to our final breath that they really

    And this is what concerns me most about Christianity's apologetical efforts.
    We seem to be hidebound to deny observational data while inconsistently
    expecting everyone to accept the observational data for the resurrection.
    The Bible warns us not to be double minded.

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