Heaven and Astronomy

I have found, to my surprise, that nearly every atheist with whom I speak has a deep, strong, abiding faith that life exists on other worlds circling other stars.

Since there is not the least scintilla of real and actual scientific evidence, no, not even the slenderest reed, beyond mere speculation, supporting this belief, I think it is a wondrous example of the unfreedom of freethinkers. The prospect that Earth is the sole life-bearing globe in the cosmos, as best I can tell, is literally unimaginable to them.

It is an axiom of naturalism, which presupposes no unique events in the universe. It presupposes that life can arise from nonlife through a blind process of physical factors interacting: the correct distance from the sun to form water, a large nearby moon to sweep the orbit clean of asteroids and provide tides, amino acids that use sparkly unicorn fairy magic to jump together in the one information-carrying molecular format needed to build an unicellular organism out of nothing for no reason, and so on.

If life arose on one planet, it must arise on any other where the same physical factors are present, whatever those physical factors might be. Even if those factors only align once in a billion random trials, if there are one hundred billion stars in Milky Way, we should expect one hundred life-bearing planets in this small galaxy alone.

This leads to two questions. Will man will ever travel to other planets and make them worlds which we can live in?

Are there intelligent aliens, and, if so, does their existence pose an intellectual threat to Christians?

Allow me to answer the second question first:

The short answer is that if there are aliens, either they are unfallen beings, or, if they are fallen, Heaven no doubt has some divine plan for their salvation. This plan might indeed even include us, the world where Christ was incarnated, suffered, died,and returned to life again.

It is no threat. Augustine back in the Classical period speculated that if the monsters from traveler’s tales, giants or cannibals or pygmies or dog-headed men, were one day discovered, they would be found to be sons of Adam also, possessed of souls as were we, suffering the fall as did we, and needing salvation, as do we.

The medievals from a later period also speculated about nonhuman intelligences which were beyond salvation (fallen angels) or were not possessed of immortal souls, and presumably could not fall, but were therefore no part of human existence (elfs and mermaids and other long-lived nonhumans).

So I would say the discovery of men not born of Adam, but enough like us to be fallen and in need of salvation, would pose some hard questions for strict Biblical literalists (such as why aliens can be fallen if they are not literal descendants of Adam), but less hard than questions already posed by Darwinists, Freudians, Nietzscheans  and Marxists.

And, please note, that while these four have enjoyed their day in the sun, the current generation is finding that their tissue of speculations and shallow explanations for life is being slowly shredded by the hard questions that the Church asks of them.

  • Marx has been intellectually bankrupt for years, and sober economists do not regard him as a sober economist. He is a millenarian visionary: a religious zealot. The voices of the estimated eighty-five to one hundred million murdered innocents in the Twentieth Century, slain by partisans of this man’s illogical and insane ideas should drown out the voices of the cultural Marxists still enamored of him and of the endless bloodbaths he inspired.
  • Nietzsche’s thinking leads to nihilism, which is an intellectual halt-state. That he inspired the fascist dreams of the superman, and died raving in a madhouse, is circumstantial evidence strongly suggestive of where philosophy without theology leads.
  • Freud is ill regarded among psychiatric professionals. Freud held, among other things, that Oedipal desires to kill one’s father and marry one’s mother are the norm. He held that religious is a psychopathology arising from exaggerated fear of death. Jung held that the hero’s journey myth, not the Oedipus myth,  reflects base human psychology, and that religious experiences and expressions are normal, and ignoring or downplaying the horror of death (as moderns are wont to do) was abnormal. Freud is best understood as a crackpot who sought a scientific sounded excuse to justify his neurotic dislike of God.
  • Darwin’s theory is non-falsifiable, hence not a scientific theory properly so called at all. How life arises from non-life is unanswered, perhaps unanswerable, considering the information density of even the simplest single-celled organisms.

All things considered, modern philosophy, as exemplified by these four men, is dreck. It is not rigorous, examines no underlying assumptions, and has nothing to say about ethics, ontology, metaphysics, aesthetics, or anything else worth discussing.

Serious students are better served by reading Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and the like.

The difference between reading a sober thinker telling you how virtue arms you against adversity, and urging you to be a man, and a blithering babbler telling you to ignore the difference between good and evil and urging you to curse God and be a superman, is too marked a difference to miss.

But I would also say the questions of the fall and salvation of souls on other worlds unrelated to Adam are less difficult than the questions of the incarnation, the trinity, and soteriology, which the Church, after centuries of debate, had settled to the satisfaction of the orthodox for thousands of years.  Give the Church two or three centuries to mull it over after Klatuu lands on the White House lawn, and they might have an answer then.

Especially if Klatuu comes to Earth looking for the source of the cosmos-wide psychic disturbance that made the Bethlehem Star go nova…

So much for the second question.

As to whether man will travel to other planets and make them habitable, my answer is, first, we have traveled, in the form of robotic probes, to several planets, and found that they are less hospitable than the Antarctic, or the bottom of the sea. Second, in the absence of some extraordinarily rare trade good not found on Earth, but extraordinarily crave by multitudes, such as the Spice of Dune that grants immortality, there is no practical, economic reason driving the foundation of colonies off-world inside this solar system. O’Neil colonies, that is, living in something like a submarine parked in orbit, remain feasible, but, then again, why not colonize Antarctica?

Absent a fundamental change in our understanding of how the universe is put together, faster than light drive remains as unlikely as time travel. Slower than light drives require astronomical (no pun intended) lengths of time or amounts of fuel to send a man with all his life support to another star.

Even a simple equation concerning the amount of energy needed to accelerate a one-pound package of payload to nearlightspeed (that is, fast enough for Einsteinian relativistic effects to become a practical way to shorten shiptime in transit) is an absurd, an unimaginable amount of energy. This is without even taking into account the terrible influence of Niven’s Law: any drive capable of star travel is capable of frying your home planet like an egg.

As a science fiction writer, I can (and have) invented farfetched situations where slower than light travel might be feasible.

In THE GOLDEN AGE, I propose that a medical advance allowing for Methuselah-long lifespans might allow rich or eccentric individuals to build a starship, and an expedition to the Black Hole alleged to be at Cygnus X-1, if modern theories are correct, would be the source of infinite, endless energy.

In COUNT TO A TRILLION, I propose that alien machine intelligences, engaged in an eons-long war with their cousins in Andromeda galaxy, require races to colonize planets of as many solar systems as possible, in order to build as many Jupiter Brains as possible, in order to prevail in a war to extinction. The machine intelligences are speculated to be able to form and carry out plans requiring millions or billions of years to eventuate.

In my short story ‘Farthest Man from Earth’ I propose that the Church would send missionaries to save the souls of extraterrestrial aliens. Men willing to live without fresh air or sunlight in a tin can for 40 years in transit, and spend their old age on a world where they cannot breathe the air and eat the food, is a discipline no more rigorous than certain orders of monks voluntarily undertake.

John Varley, in his book TITAN, proposes that aliens wanting to save the dolphins expel mankind from Earth, forcing them to colonize the solar system. Michael Swanwick has a similar proposal, but with an evil computer called Comprise driving mankind off the globe. And, of course, any world-destroying disaster, such as is pictured in WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, would give someone a reason to build a space Ark.

Aside from admittedly far fetched circumstances like these, I cannot imagine, even after many technical revolutions, any reason which could muster the resources needed to found interplanetary colonies, nor to launch an interstellar expedition.

The safe money is to say that it is never going to happen. But if you asked me in the days just before Columbus if Europe would ever discover a New World, as large as Asia, where nothing in the Bible or any other ancient writing even hinted that there might be, my answer would have also been pessimistic.

All these speculations are based on certain assumptions which may turn out to be pessimistic. The heavens may surprise us after all.