Space Aliens: Evolutionists’ Imaginary Friends
Those who believe life emerges from atoms pretend to talk to companions they don’t even know exist.
It’s common in atheist circles to mock believers in God as having an “imaginary friend” that gives them comfort like a cosmic teddy bear. Well, how about those who believe in billions of invisible friends? That’s the faith that keeps atheists willing to spend time and effort looking for them. It launches many a book and article about what these imaginary products of evolution might be like.
Is Earth special? Is it the only place around with intelligent life? That would be remarkable. — Seth Shostak
Star-speak. How do you talk to an alien? What language should you use? Try mathematics, says Leonard David. Even aliens know math, he says at Live Science. It’s not just his idle speculation; this idea got serious discussion by experts at a recent astrobiology conference:
The idea is that mathematics is as much a part of our humanity as music and art. And it is mathematics that might be understandable — even familiar — to extraterrestrial civilizations, allowing us to strike up star-speak repartee.
Carl DeVito, an emeritus faculty in the mathematics department at the University of Arizona in Tucson, has proposed a language based on plausibly universal scientific concepts. He recently detailed his work at the Astrobiology Science Conference 2017, held from April 24 to April 28 in Mesa, Arizona.
Crypto-speak. It will be tough discerning the language of imaginary friends, though, when we can’t even figure out the language of some real companions of spaceship earth. In Nature, Andrew Robinson reviews a new book on cryptograms: messages in mysterious ciphers that have never been solved, some for centuries. One of them, the medieval Voynich Manuscript, draws 16% of online traffic to the Yale Library where it is stored, but has defied solution by the best code-breakers in the business. Chances are slim to none we could crack an alien language, even their version of math. And think of the trouble aliens will have trying to figure out our Voyager Record.
Baby-speak. Language isn’t such a big deal, after all, claim Freddy Jackson Brown and Nic Hooper at New Scientist. You can explain it by a few simple rules. “How children learn language is one of the oldest controversies in linguistics,” this article begins. “But speaking may just be a matter of grasping the relationship between things.” This begs the question, how did the ability to grasp the relationship between things evolve? That’s simple, too. It evolved when children learned to speak.
The long longing. Ross Pomeroy from Real Clear Science, in an article posted on Live Science, thought up “12 possible reasons why we haven’t found aliens.” A similar list could be drawn up for why we haven’t found the gnomes, leprechauns, or fairies that Richard Dawkins is fond of referring to when mocking believers in God. Some theists, of course, would say that we do have messages from God, and they are not cryptograms (see Romans 10). Anyway, Pomeroy’s list is worth reproducing for insights into the thinking of evolutionists about their imaginary friends:
- There aren’t any aliens (he finds this unlikely given the number of stars)
- There’s no intelligent life besides us.
- Intelligent species lack technology.
- Intelligent life self-destructs.
- The universe is a deadly place.
- Space is big, so signals haven’t reached us yet.
- We haven’t been looking long enough yet.
- We’re not looking in the correct place.
- Alien technology may be too advanced.
- Nobody is transmitting.
- Earth is deliberately not being contacted.
- Aliens are already here and we just don’t realize it.
Some of these collapse under a single refutation: given the age of the universe, and the number of stars, they should have been found if evolution is a law of nature. Enrico Fermi’s famous paradox still stands: where are they? If evolution produced real friends on earth out of chemicals, it should produce imaginary friends around other stars. If evolution gave rise to intelligent minds with technology here on earth, it should have made them around stars far older (in Darwin Years) than our solar system. Given those presuppositions, it seems unlikely that we can’t see the signals, or they don’t have technology, or they aren’t transmitting.
Wow! —not. The source for a famous “Wow!” comment of 1977, written on a scrap of paper by a SETI researcher surprised by a strong signal, has been deciphered. It was a comet. Bob Yirka tells the sad story on Phys.org. For decades, researchers held out slim hope that it was a signal of intelligent origin. Jesse Emspak, however, disputes the comet theory, according to Live Science. Seth Shostak and other SETI advocates still hold out hope there is Pow in the Wow. Emspak notes, however, in another Live Science piece, that there have been five other times when ‘aliens’ fooled us, like the episode of the ‘Little Green Men’ pulsars.
Xenon brain storks. Comets may not be entirely disappointing. The true believers have now transferred their faith to comets. Mike Wall writes for Space.com, “Comets May Have Delivered Many of Life’s Building Blocks to Early Earth.”
A new study suggests that about 20 percent of the noble gas xenon in Earth’s atmosphere was delivered by comets long ago. And these icy wanderers likely brought lots of other stuff to our planet as well, researchers said.
The “cometary contribution could have been significant for organic matter, especially prebiotic material, and could have contributed to shape the cradle of life on Earth,” said study lead author Bernard Marty, a geochemist at the University of Lorraine and the Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques in France.
Getting “lots of other stuff” by special delivery from comets gives whole new meaning to the Stuff Happens Law. It’s like “have gun, will travel.” Got stuff; will happen. If the stuff gave rise to Mike Wall on our earthly spaceship, maybe comet storks gave birth to his counterpart on the planet Zorxx. Of course, it’s a bit of a stretch to get from xenon to brains. Given time, evolutionists promise to convert that vaporware into futureware.
Fake aliens. In an experiment on decoding alien signals, a SETI believer at Max Planck Institute sent a fake-alien coded message he concocted and challenged the general public to decrypt it. New Scientist reports that 66 out of 300 who responded decoded the message correctly, which proves that some humans can decrypt some human messages (see ‘Crypto-Speak’ above). Does it teach us anything about aliens? Not much. “It’s impossible to compare this to a real extraterrestrial missive since the message was created by a human and we have no idea how that would differ from a message created by aliens,” the article admits.
The hairy edge of possibility. National Geographic‘s article is brimming with optimism about exoplanets and the possibilities they bring for detecting “alien metabolisms” and “techno-signatures.” But calling ‘Land Ho!’ doesn’t mean we will find natives with peace pipes. Chris McKay encourages cautious optimism:
Merely finding life, no matter how far-flung or bizarre, doesn’t necessarily tell us how it sprouted, and whether the process was any different from the origins of life on Earth [see 6/13/17]. That is an even tougher and more nagging question, says NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay.
Proving a second origin—and therefore making a more profound commentary on the fundamental prevalence of life—can be done from afar, McKay said, although it’s just on the hairy edge of possibility.
Reporter Nadia Drake briefly mentions the chirality problem: earth life is composed of left-handed amino acids in its proteins. “There’s no easy answer for why or when lefties ended up dominating Earth’s amino acids (this is a subject of great debate),” she says, “but biochemists generally think single-handedness is crucial for efficient molecular engines.” (Read this for why it is highly improbable.) Drake’s point is that if right-handed proteins were found on a planet, it would signify an alien life form. She expresses the emotions driving the search for imaginary friends:
It’s a lot to hope for, but answering one of the stickiest, most profound questions humanity can ask will necessarily demand perseverance, patience, and fearlessness. And perhaps one day, the answer to whether we’re alone in the cosmos will be as definitive as whether other planets are spinning in the sky.
Mindy Waisgerber’s article for Live Science about how scientists search for ETI contains additional insights into the motivations: “Humans are creatures that want to know — where we came from, where we’re going, how we appeared on Earth,” says Mercedes López-Morales, at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Long-time SETI researcher Seth Shostak admits there is no data. His motivation points to a philosophical question about the nature of reality.
“Is Earth special? Is it the only place around with intelligent life? That would be remarkable — but it’s just as remarkable to find you’re not the only kid on the block. That’s something that would change our view of ourselves forever,” he said.
A waste of time and money? At Phys.org, Bob Yirka reports the initial results of the Breakthrough Listen project, a SETI initiative funded by a Russion millionaire at $100 million. Results from looking at 692 stars: 11 for a closer look, but none with a definitive signal. Think of what down-to-earth nonprofits could do with that kind of money. Geraint Lewis seems to waffle on SETI. In March, he said at New Scientist, “A little less ET, a little more astrophysics, if you please.”
This is not to say that we scientists shouldn’t consider the possibility of alien activity – we should be open to radical ideas. But science’s role is to rule out the boring and often tedious before we seriously embrace the extraordinary. That’s one message that should be beamed far and wide.
But in May, Lewis was back at New Scientist recommending, “Let’s seek traces of ancient indigenous ETs in our own backyard.” Aliens should have been to our solar system by now, he says, and they might have left some litter. Jason Wright concurs with this approach (Phys.org). We don’t know what they would think if told their method concurs with Intelligent Design: i.e., it’s possible to differentiate between natural causes and intelligent causes, even if you don’t know the nature of the intelligence.
How to respond to the atheist who calls God your ‘imaginary friend’: Ask, “Do you believe in space aliens? Where’s your evidence? Doesn’t scientific empiricism demand that belief be grounded in empirical observations? As for me, I have evidence: a collection of 66 books, and a Creator who appeared on earth like one of us, who died and rose from the dead, and was seen by over 500 eyewitnesses, and who changed history so that we number our years from the date of his birth. So I agree with Michael Faraday, the greatest experimental physicist of all time. He said, ‘Speculations? I have none. I am resting on certainties. I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day’ [see II Timothy 1:12].”