Are Aliens Part of Evolution’s Plan, Too?
What would the discovery of intelligent aliens mean for Christianity? A recent article made a splash asking that question. Maybe, though, the question should be turned around: what would it mean for evolutionary science?
Clara Moskowitz wrote an eye-opening headline for Space.com: “Are Aliens Part of God's Plan, Too? Finding E.T. Could Change Religion Forever.” The article was re-posted by Live Science. MSNBC News reproduced it with a huge headline and subtitle, “If intelligent extraterrestrials exist, what about God? Experts say encountering E.T. would pose religious dilemmas, especially for Christians.” The “experts” referred to are participants at a recent DARPA-sponsored conference called the “100 Year Starship Symposium.” Its purpose was “to discuss issues surrounding traveling to other stars.”
The reason Christianity was singled out was that Christ’s death was supposed to provide salvation once for all creation. “Did Jesus die for Klingons, too?” Moskowitz quipped. Is Christ becoming incarnate on multiple planets? Christian Weidemann, a German Protestant philosophy professor, thinks Christ would have to be incarnate in 250 places simultaneously, “based on the best guesses of how many civilizations we might expect to exist in the universe, and how long planets and civilizations are expected to survive,” Moskowitz wrote.
She provided a couple of ways Christians might respond. Weidemann suggested that maybe aliens aren’t sinners, although that seems to fly in the face of the “principle of mediocrity” that posits our Earth is unexceptional. Another is that Christianity has a history of absorbing scientific findings. “Religion is essentially conservative,” Pastor Robert Hoffmann, a pastor from Tulsa, Oklahoma said. “You can put almost anything in its face and it’s going to shake out a little bit, and then it’s going to drop right back down. We’ve seen this happen historically.”
Finally, a video clip embedded in the article shows that evolutionists have their paradoxes, too: like the Fermi Paradox. This asks, if Earth is unexceptional, where are the aliens? Jill Tarter offered the suggestion, without evidence, that aliens or their artifacts might actually be present in the solar system, even on Earth, but so far have escaped our detection.
So does Tarter want us to watch for monoliths? This article is from the genre, “Religion has problems, but science doesn’t.” MSNBC and other secular news reporters love to pick on Christians especially. The politically-correct article went out of its way to argue that Muslims and Hindus do not have problems with alien life. (The rules of political correctness allow open season on Christianity but not on any other religion.)
The soteriological issues are valid, and worth discussing, but let’s lay some context. First, there are no aliens (yet). From the empirical, scientific evidence, we can only say that Earth is the only known place where life exists. Any “what if?” questions are, therefore, purely speculative. Second, this is not news. Christians and non-Christians have addressed the philosophical and theological implications of alien life for centuries, since the middle ages at least. A variety of opinions have been offered, which are purely academic till alien life is detected. Neither are the issues unknown to Scripture; there is the whole field of angels and demons to consider when discussing issues of salvation.
Third and most important, everybody has dilemmas with this question—not just Christians. The Fermi Paradox is rightly tossed right back at the evolutionists. OK, if evolution is so simple and pervasive, where are they? If aliens have been evolving for millions of years beyond our paltry few steps out of the trees, they should have mastered space travel and come here long ago. If evolutionists want to complain about theologians offering “maybe this and maybe that” answers, let them look at their own: “Maybe space travel is too hard. Maybe civilizations evolve to a point then destroy themselves. Maybe they are here and we can’t detect them.” All right, then, maybe angels and demons exist and we can’t detect them, either.
Because Moskowitz doesn not recognize the level playing field, she gave a very lopsided view of the issues and dilemmas in this speculative game. As a corrective, we need to turn the tables and re-write the article. Here’s how it might look:
Are Aliens Part of Evolution’s Plan, Too? Not Finding Them Could Change Evolutionary Theory Forever.
Experts say failing to encounter ET would pose scientific dilemmas, especially for Darwinians.
The absence of intelligent aliens would be mind-blowing in many respects, but it could present a special dilemma for the world’s secular scientists, philosophers pondering interstellar travel concepts said Saturday.
Neo-Darwinists, in particular, might take the news hardest, because the evolutionary belief system does not easily allow for Earthlings to be unique, scientists and theologians said at a meeting to discuss issues surrounding traveling to other stars.
In other words, "Did evolution take place on other worlds, too?" as philosophy professor Christian Wiseman titled his talk at a panel on the philosophical and religious considerations of visiting other worlds.
According to neo-Darwinism, the origin of life on Earth some 3 billion years ago was supposed to be a purely natural process. “You can grasp the conflict,” Wiseman said.
Here’s how the debate goes: If the whole universe includes 125 billion galaxies with hundreds of billions of stars in each, as astronomers think, then what if none of them have advanced civilizations like ours? Why would evolution work only here, and nowhere else?
Aliens and evolution can still coexist
Wiseman, a Christian trained in science and evolutionary theory, suggested some possible ways evolutionists could wiggle out of the dilemma known as Fermi’s Paradox. Perhaps extraterrestrials can’t travel the distances between stars. Perhaps they don’t want to. Perhaps they destroy themselves before they can evolve into interstellar travelers. However, the principle of natural selection — the idea that the environment drives innovation — would contradict the thought that intelligent beings would cease to find solutions to problems such as dying stars. Such problems should drive aliens to find ways to migrate to new environments.
“If there are extraterrestrial intelligent beings at all, it is safe to assume that evolutionists would claim they are evolving too,” Wiseman said. “If so, would they stop at their planet’s biosphere? My position is no. If evolution has limits, it would represent a very exceptional viewpoint among neo-Darwinists.”
Another possibility is that the evolution of sentient beings only happened on Earth. However, based on the growing number of new planets being discovered, and the speed at which human life appeared on Earth, evolutionists should expect intelligent life in the universe to be widespread.
Scientific food for thought
If life is truly just a matter of chemistry and time, the only conclusion for evolutionists is that alien life should be common in outer space.
Dr. Dave Paulies, an astrobiologist from Tesla, said that the issues Wiseman raised were “really on target.”
“If life elsewhere continues to elude discovery, unfortunately we need to have more discussion about it,” Paulies said. “I think this is a very robust conversation we need to have.”
While the non-discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence would likely spur profound soul-searching for scientists of all faiths, many of the world’s religions might have an easier time accommodating the knowledge than atheism would, said philosopher Michael Aftermath.
“It seems to be only a problem of atheism,” Aftermath said.
In Christianity and other monotheistic religions, for example, theologians place no limits on what God could and could not do, but their Scriptures make no clear references to aliens (although they speak at length about angels and demons). Hindus, however, might wonder why their millions of gods exist just to receive offerings from Earthlings.
Ultimately, though, the non-discovery of intelligent aliens isn't likely to pose a serious crisis for atheistic evolutionists, either, Paulies said. After all, evolutionism has survived challenging scientific revelations before.
“Evolutionism is essentially dogmatic,” Paulies told Spaced-Out.com. “You can put almost anything in its face and it’s going to shake out a little bit, and then it’s going to drop right back down. We’ve seen this happen historically.”