Exposing PseudoAstronomy

December 17, 2011

Young-Earth Creationists Really Don’t Like ET Life


Introduction

Sometimes, I’m fascinated with young-Earth creationist (YEC) positions on certain topics. It kinda falls under the category of “Why are you wasting energy worrying about THIS?” Like with Conservapedia taking the time to complain that black holes are liberal pseudoscience.

The issue du jour has to do with extraterrestrial life. For some reason, YECs just can’t even entertain the idea that there may be other life off this planet that did not originate here.

Possible Explanation

I think that the root of this is in a literal interpretation (yes, interpretation) of the Bible. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, but stick with me a moment longer. YECs and other biblical literalists like to say that everything in the Bible is 100% True exactly as it was written by their deity. In the Bible, it apparently says that Jesus died for all our sins and they were all the sins of mankind. Well obviously that means that Jesus did not die for aliens’ sins and therefore aliens don’t exist.

Other Bible readers have no problem with ET life, though. They say things like the Bible was written for us and just left out all the stuff about aliens. That believing life isn’t out there is limiting their god because why couldn’t it have created life out there, too?

YECs counter that the Heavens Declare the Glory of God (I think that’s a psalm or something) and that Jesus would have had to go to every planet with intelligent life and died for the sins of that species and the Bible doesn’t say anything about that. Since the Bible is a complete record of all that stuff, then since it’s not in there, it didn’t happen (I swear folks, I’m not making this up). I guess that means that cars aren’t real but wizards are.

As evidence for my hypothesis, I offer a full CMI article on the subject or several quotes:

“The Vatican astronomer’s comments about the possible existence of extraterrestrial life are the inevitable outcomes of allowing man’s word preeminence over God’s Word, instead of using the Bible as our starting point with which to interpret the universe.” from AiG.

Or “As we’ve written before, the Bible does not teach that God did not create life beyond earth; it is silent on that possibility. Yet, reading Scripture holistically, the implication is that earth (and especially humanity) is at the center of the cosmic stage. That view, combined with the lack of evidence for either evolution or extraterrestrial life, leaves us quite doubtful about ET—truly skeptical, unlike many modern scientists who have put their faith in evolution.” from AiG.

“Creation scientists maintain that we will never receive messages or entertain intergalactic visitors from deep space simply because there are no such civilizations out there. “As far as the Scriptures are concerned, they teach unequivocally that the earth is uniquely the abode of man [Psalm 115:16 and Acts 17:20]… It seems grotesque and blasphemous to suggest that the tragedy of Calvary’s cross should be repeated on millions of other planets, for the benefit of other unknown and hypothetical members of God’s creation.”5 Theoretical speculations and imaginative evolution-based predictions aside, all research beyond Earth has shown that when it comes to organic life — we’re it.” from ICR.

Full Disclosure

Even though I don’t think it’s relevant, I figured I should insert my own opinion on the issue. After all, it’s only fair considering that I’m analyzing someone else’s. I’m an ET life agnostic. I personally think that the hypothesis that ET life exists is not science because it is not falsifiable – we can never prove it doesn’t exist because you can always say, “Well, we just can’t detect it yet.”

Does that mean I don’t think it’s out there? I think it’s possible. I think that the study of extremophiles – lifeforms that exist in seemingly toxic environments like extremely acidic or temperatures above boiling or below freezing – is really interesting. I think the recent studies that have found amino acids on asteroids is really neat.

I also do think that if life arose here, it’s quite likely to have arisen elsewhere. But that’s really as far as I’m willing to go on the issue.

The Topic At-Hand

The reason for this blog post is a Creation Ministries International (CMI) article on the subject that came out December 15 entitled, “Has the Kepler spacecraft found an ‘alien world’?” This was followed up today by the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) article “Another ‘Goldilocks’ Planet Stirs ET Hopes” I’m going to focus more on the CMI article because Peter already talked about the ICR one.

First, I’m actually a bit surprised it took over a week since the press release for CMI and then ICR to come out with their take on the discovery of Kepler-22b, the first Earth-sized (ish) planet that orbits within the habitable zone around its parent star (the distance needed for the temperature range such that H2) can be in a liquid state). It’s a neat discovery and of course all the news stories – perhaps rightly – played up the astrobiology/ET possibilities.

After all, for life to exist as we understand it, we basically need two things — first, a liquid to act as a solvent and medium for metabolic reactions, and second, an energy gradient that metabolic reactions can take advantage of. This may sound different from how you learned it in school (I know it’s different from how I learned it) where you were probably taught that life needed some protection, water, and sunlight. Well, the first isn’t really true (bacteria survived for years on the moon being exposed to the vacuum and radiation of space), the second one doesn’t need to be water but we still think it’s the most likely, and the third one really just means energy where we use sunlight but you could take advantage of favorable chemistry, too, or geothermal heat.

Anyway, my point was that the media spin was somewhat hyped, but I don’t blame them. NASA is a public governmental agency that requires the good will of Congress to remain funded and so whenever it can play up stories that are of interest to the public, it will. And a story like that is so much more interesting than Britney Spears being the first person to get a million friends on Google+ that just came out today.

Studying Astrobiology

The third paragraph, though, of the CMI article states: “NASA’s Origins program is dedicated to looking for habitable planets that might harbor life. Their endeavours spawned a new field of research called ‘astrobiology’, which is to specifically search for the evolution of life wherever it might occur in the universe.”

This is wrong. According to NASA, the Origins program began in the 1990s. According to the online etymology dictionary, “astrobiology” was formed in the English language in 1903, well before NASA was founded over half a century later (1958).

The next paragraph of the CMI article is a not subtle hint that life on Earth is complex and CMI thinks that NASA should be studying that to show that only God coulddadoneit.

Then we get to the crux of the issue: Evolution. Apparently, the entire endeavor of astrobiology is to prove evolution is true because as we all know, abiogenesis or even a non-abiogenetic origin of life has anything to do with evolution. (For those of you who could not tell my tone in the written word, that was sarcasm. Origin of life study has NOTHING to do with evolution.)

The sixth paragraph of the CMI article deals with money. The Kepler observatory, which is what made the discovery of this planet, cost $600 million to build and launch. Gosh. That’s a lot of money. For that money, we could fund people to do research on the ground. Ahem … I couldn’t find any solid numbers, but as an example of some that were repeated when I searched (source), the city of Boston Catholic Archdioces alone has around $600 million in assets. That’s just the Catholic church. In one city in the US. Or we have, “The Catholic church, once all her assets have been put together, is the most formidable stockbroker in the world,” according to a church official. Or “The Vatican’s treasure of solid gold has been estimated by the United Nations World Magazine to amount to several billion dollars.”

Finally: “The Catholic church is the biggest financial power, wealth accumulator and property owner in existence. She is a greater possessor of material riches than any other single institution, corporation, bank, giant trust, government or state of the whole globe. The pope, as the visible ruler of this immense amassment of wealth, is consequently the richest individual of the twentieth century. No one can realistically assess how much he is worth in terms of billions of dollars.”

In contrast, NASA’s annual budget for FY2011 is $18.724 billion. The science division gets $5.006 billion of that (source). I think if a religious organization wants to study life, it has more means to do so than NASA. So stop complaining.

Do Extrasolar Planets (Exoplanets) Exist

Yes.

But following the reasoning they use with comets, I guess I’m not surprised that they question the existence of exoplanets. CMI states, “Firstly, we have never witnessed or directly observed (i.e. with our eyes through a telescope) a planet outside of our own solar system. They are presumed to exist through indirect methods of observation.”

Again … wrong. Spend 2 seconds on Google and you come up with headlines like, “Astronomers Capture First Exoplanet Images,” or “First True Exoplanet Images” … you know, vague and hard to understand headlines. From 2008 (this is why I felt it important to point out that CMI’s article was posted on December 15, 2011).

The Rest

The rest of the CMI article is basically reverting to the standard, “Science has made mistakes before therefore what we say God did he did.” Yes, I may be sounding irreverent, but they’re irreverent towards me (or my field, anyway).

They also have a whole section on, “Should Christians be concerned by this?” Again, I’ll go back to my beginning statement that this is just one of those cases where I can’t figure out why YECs feel the huge need to fight and argue against it. If the Bible contains everything about the universe, then why doesn’t it talk about computers? But it does imply it’s okay to offer up your daughters to an angry mob. Sigh. But Biblical weirdness isn’t quite the subject of this post.

Final Thoughts

The article as I’m viewing it now has two comments posted. One of them is from Jack of Australia who basically asks about the Fermi Paradox: If aliens exist, then we should’ve found them by now? The author of the CMI article responded and gushed at Jack answering with normal complaints against science.

Paul in the UK is the other commenter who just takes the article a bit further emphasizing that us evil scientists will believe anything so long as God is not a part of it.

I’ve actually submitted a comment because I find the factual mistakes somewhat annoying. and I’m curious to see what they’ll do. I’m hypothesizing that they will ignore it, especially because I’m putting in my full name. In the event they don’t, then I will post about it.

Edited to Add: And here’s the follow-up.

17 Comments »

  1. I was, again, reading the ICR’s facebook page, and somebody there argued that Jesus didn’t die for other animals and so needn’t have died for other lifeforms either. The general mood among the commentors is that “whomever writes these things is out of his or her competency [on this issue]” They do seem to be a bit out of touch with their supporters – they don’t like the idea that they could be disproved so easily.
    I’m surprised that CMI has comments, and I would say that the only way that they could maintain that situation is to carefully moderate anything that comes in. But I could be wrong.

    Comment by eyeonicr — December 17, 2011 @ 12:42 am | Reply

    • Oh definitely they screen the comments. When you comment, it’s more of a, “By submitting, you acknowledge that CMI may post your comments in whole or part.”

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — December 17, 2011 @ 12:58 am | Reply

      • or part‘? That sounds even worse than not publishing it at all. I hope you took a record of what you wrote…

        Comment by eyeonicr — December 17, 2011 @ 1:53 am

      • Took a screenshot.🙂

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — December 17, 2011 @ 2:00 am

  2. haha zany

    Comment by Walter Walkie — December 17, 2011 @ 2:21 am | Reply

  3. In my YEC years I was very much an ‘aliens can not exist’ person. My confidence (arrogance?) that I was right on the issue was firm. There was no way God would have created other worlds as well, because there would have had to have been another Jesus there too to die for their sins and it was us humans who were created in his image and to worship him, not them pesky aliens.

    When I look back on that I shudder in embarrassment.

    Now, I think it is very possible (likely even) than there is easily recognisable life on another world somewhere. I don’t think we’ll discover it any time soon though and certainly not in my lifetime. Though it would be ultra cool if we did.

    Comment by limey — December 17, 2011 @ 3:51 am | Reply

    • I don’t quite understand that reasoning, though — why would a Jesus need to die on all worlds to save them? The points the non-crazies bring up seem reasonable to me: The aliens may never have fallen, or they come here to be saved, or they don’t need to come here ’cause our Jesus died for all and it doesn’t matter the planet, or that there WAS Jesus on all the other worlds. Why are those not acceptable? ‘Cause the Bible doesn’t mention them?

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — December 17, 2011 @ 3:58 am | Reply

      • Good question. I’m not entirely sure what I would have replied to that back in the day. Probably something like, if they were intelligent like humans and created by god them surely they were also created to worship as we were and so they must also have been saved.

        One Jesus for all would have only worked for me if it were considered possible that we could evangelise them like the world we know here has been evangelised.

        Its a messy subject and I’m glad I don’t need to deal with it any more🙂

        Comment by limey — December 17, 2011 @ 4:10 am

      • That just seems really convoluted reasoning to me. But I guess whatever works to fit the worldview?

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — December 17, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

      • i was raised mormon and they have a better explanation as far as believers go i think . they say there are other worlds and if you are really good person you get to create your own world after you die , so other planets could be creations of different people in the after life or something , they also say when jesus died here he teleported to america and saved the indians so I see no problem with him teleporting all over the universe to different planets haha or maybe there is a different jesus for each world , doesn’t make much sense and I’m not an expert on thier belief system but they have what seems to me a more modern view on the universe than other christians

        Comment by Walter Walkie — December 17, 2011 @ 3:20 pm

      • Interesting Walter. The concept of just be good to be saved is something I have heard Roman Catholics say as well.

        From the Christian perspective though, salvation only comes through belief in Jesus, who died for your sins. In order for that to happen a person needs to have heard of Jesus. So life on other worlds would require some way for them to get that chance.

        Also, the Christian ethos is that humans are special, created for the pleasure and worship of God. Would intelligent aliens on other worlds, that we could communicate with, also be created with the same criteria and need to be saved?

        I guess the easy way out is to say, its just humans here on earth that are special and nothing else matters. That way life elsewhere could simply be ignored and explained away and God just created other animals, as he did on this planet too.

        Comment by limey — December 18, 2011 @ 7:16 am

  4. Have you seen this? A somewhat different tack…

    Comment by eyeonicr — December 17, 2011 @ 2:39 pm | Reply

    • Sounds like AiG is taking a slightly more pragmatic approach while still hedging their bets on the issue. Basically, “Bible doesn’t say anything about it, therefore it probably isn’t true, but it could be, but even if it is everything else we said is still all good.”

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — December 19, 2011 @ 2:26 am | Reply

  5. You can look at religion or God any way you want, you can choose to believe or disbelieve but what I find astounding is that so many people have become atheist. When you look around this planet or broaden your horizons to the furthest extent of the universe it is close to impossible to deny that there is a Creator. Only the short sighted would believe otherwise. To see exactly what the Vatican is saying on alien life and to put this issue into perspective see;
    http://www.educatinghumanity.com/2011/04/vatican-on-ufo-disclosure-alien-contact.html

    Comment by Franklin — December 17, 2011 @ 6:24 pm | Reply

    • Franklin, as this is your first comment on my blog, I’m letting it through. But please in the future note that my comments policy states that comments need to be on topic. If you have something to contribute to this discussion about your or others’ religious views on ET life, feel free to do so.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — December 17, 2011 @ 11:48 pm | Reply

  6. Genesis 6:1-2 : ” When men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose. ”

    ‘sons’ of God … does that mean Jesus was not the only son of God?

    or was God some sort of ancient astronaut ruler over certain planets that could support life and the sons of God were part of their exploratory party?

    After all, isn’t one of the purposes of NASA to discover other planets for earth humans to eventually settle, particularly if we need to leave earth at some point? Suppose there would be primitive human life on such a planet and we arrived with our space vehicles, would the primitives not look upon us as ‘Gods’ or sons of God? Maybe there would be some attractive cavewomen we could take as mates.

    Comment by Bruce — December 18, 2011 @ 5:52 am | Reply

  7. […] my last post, “Creationists Really Don’t Like ET Life,” I talked some about the philosophy young-Earth creationists (YECs) seem to have about ET […]

    Pingback by Follow-Up on Creationists Not Liking ET Life « Exposing PseudoAstronomy — December 19, 2011 @ 1:30 pm | Reply


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