Re: The Star-Trek effect

From: Jonathan Clarke (
Date: Tue Jan 22 2002 - 17:33:17 EST

  • Next message: Glenn Morton: "RE: The Star-Trek effect"

    Hi Glenn

    I don't think that we should take William Wherwell's opinion as neccessarily
    respresentative of Christian views on the plurality of life on worlds. In his
    1817 "Astronomical discourses" the Scottish preacher Thomas Chambers wrote of
    other planets that “must be the mansions of life and of intelligence” and “The
    universe at large would suffer as little, in its splendour and variety, by the
    destruction of our planet, as the verdure and sublime magnitude of a forest
    would suffer by the fall of a single leaf”. Even earlier the 17th century Dutch
    astronomer Christain Huygens in his posthumous book "Cosmotheoros" wrote “For
    all this Furniture and Beauty the Planets are stock’d with seem to have been
    made in vain, without any Design or End, unless there were some in them that
    might at the same time enjoy the Fruits, and adore the wise Creator of them.”

    On the spiral nebulae, wasn't the original idea that they were actually
    protostellar nebular in the process of collapsing, rather than being galaxies?
    Until stars were resolved in then they were thought to lie within our own

    But it is interesting how groups such as RTB seem to have nailed their colours
    to the mast by saying that life is rare in the universe, without any direct
    evidence one way or the other. Doubtless should life be discovered elsewhere in
    the universe this will be used as a rod to Christian's backs.



    Glenn Morton wrote:

    > 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
    > implications
    > 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
    > argument.
    > 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
    > intelligence.
    > 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
    > Christians.
    > 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
    > says,
    > "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
    > site:
    > 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)
    > writes:
    > "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
    > exist.
    > 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.

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Jan 22 2002 - 18:10:30 EST