RE: The Star-Trek effect

From: Woodward Norm Civ WRALC/TIEDM (
Date: Thu Jan 24 2002 - 16:28:24 EST

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    -----Original Message-----
    From: Glenn Morton []
    Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 12:10 AM
    To: Asa@Calvin. Edu
    Subject: The Star-Trek effect
    You wrote...

    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
    From what you wrote, it appears that Whewell made the same mistake many
    Fundies do: they allow the opposition to define the debate.
    If, as you claim, there was an atheistic argument pointing out that "...
    each of those planets
    with intelligent life would need their own savior..." the argument dies all
    by itself.
    As Whewell pointed out, all living creatures have been "... sharers
    with us in God's preserving care." (Matt 6:26) But that is a far cry from
    saying that they all have "...their own savior."
    The writer of Hebrews suggested that angels are intelligent beings even on a
    higher plane that ourselves, yet THEY do not have a savior (2:16). And I do
    not know of any passages that suggest a savior for any non-human terrestrial
    life, intelligent or not. Why anyone would need to create a new
    dispensation for LGM, I cannot guess.
    Christians tend not to jump on extraterrestrial bandwagons because there is
    really nothing in it for them, except possibly to sanitize the origin of
    Cain's wife. In contrast, there is a lot to be gained by the skeptics: the
    appearance of sinking "special" creation (whose definition has been,
    thankfully, clarified here), suggesting an alternative to (terrestrial)
    abiogenesis, etc, etc.
    But, of course, none of this justifies either side of tweaking the data to
    fit their theology, or lack thereof.
    Norm Woodward
    Warner Robins GA

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