Pharyngula

Can we send them to Mars?

As we all know, now that the trivial and relatively uninteresting business of mere engineering has cleared a hurdle, Mars Curiosity can get to work on the important stuff: finding evidence of biology on Mars. This is where it’s also going to get peculiarly controversial, because some creationists are feeling a bit threatened: there is a subset of creationists (definitely not all of them!) who are convinced that there can be no other life elsewhere in the universe. There’s also a weird subset that believes there may be intelligent life elsewhere, but it must believe in the Christian god, and these alien worlds must have been visited by an incarnation of Jesus…but let’s not get that deep in the bizarre yet.

Because this is bizarre enough. Faye Flam got an angry letter from a creationist who is upset at all the money wasted on Mars Curiosity, because it’s absurd to consider the idea that life may have arisen somewhere where a god didn’t put it.

Her answer is excellent, you should go read it. Although, sad to say, it’s not true that her correspondent is from some strange dimension…he’s pretty typically from our tiny corner of this galaxy.

Comments

  1. #1 Richard
    Canada
    August 7, 2012

    Kent Hovind teaches that extraterrestrial life are demons that are here to bring about the New World Order…

  2. #2 Russell
    August 7, 2012

    Faye’s correspondent may be stuck with a god of only average intelligence, but it’s hard to tell, as deities tend to avoid IQ testing.

  3. #3 Birger Johansson
    August 7, 2012

    Hmm… some creationist has read Ray Bradbury.

    On the absurdity of imposing an antropocentric belief system on the cosmos, read the appropriate passage in Stanislaw Lem’s novel “Fiasco”.

  4. #4 Tom
    New York
    August 7, 2012

    I am truly curious about your blog site and ideas, but I guess I am a creationist. Heres the problem though, I am not like most Christians for I believe heavily into science. Yes I do know that this sounds like I am a hypocrit, but if you research into this you can find that the younger generations of possible free thinkers realizing that yes the world was not created in seven days, and the bible was written by men. Also yes that men are not always righteous and selfless such as emperor Constantine (sarcasm) and his “divine dream”. These are just a few of the things I understand, but what I don’t understand is that why do I don’t fully fit into either category? The standard generalizations of theists and atheists don’t apply to all persons, for it is very improbable for all to fit with a standard definition. So is it possible to believe in everything you believe but add a mysterous god? Why must the god factor place me into the mindless sheep of the church and liars?

  5. #5 joe
    NJ
    August 7, 2012

    Tom,

    If this god has any effect on the real world than, although possilbe to believe as you do, it is not rationale, since an interacting god would violate the laws of physics and nature. If this god has no effect on the real world, then it is not rationale to believe in him either, for their is no evidence.

  6. #6 mikel
    August 7, 2012

    @Tom:

    So is it possible to believe in everything you believe but add a mysterous god?

    Yes. There are in fact a sizable number of practicing Christians who also accept evolution. Some of them are even scientists, and some of them contribute to our understanding of evolution. Check out Ken Miller. You might be what is known as a Theistic Evolutionist.

  7. #7 joe
    August 7, 2012

    “You might be what is known as a Theistic Evolutionist”

    Or someone who doesn’t understand theism or evolution

  8. #8 Tom
    August 7, 2012

    I hear you about how it goes against science. This may sound crazy, but I do believe in god but not the religions that each and all state they are the only true religion or god(s). This is the puzzling aspect. For they cannot be right, and all can be wrong. I do see all of your logic. But not the standard theist supposed truths, for as you are right they are mindless drones lead to the slaughter. I find that this hypocritical situation I face is very confusing. My critical thinking states as you all do, but my heart says yes to god. My belief even though I am not fully sure how to explain it is far more complex. I will write more on a more complete basis on that when I have more time. I do feel for your frustrated efforts to bring wisdom and truth to the average folks.

  9. #9 Tom
    August 7, 2012

    Thank you very much for the conversation by the way it has been very fruitful. I don’t know a lot about science, but I actively study and research all I can. What I find strange is that most people believe two thousand year old fanatics who do not fully understand their surroundings to write what they sliver is a sign. Also didn’t these fanatics also worship trees?

  10. #10 Stu N
    August 8, 2012

    Joe, “If this god has any effect on the real world than, although possilbe to believe as you do, it is not rationale, since an interacting god would violate the laws of physics and nature.”

    I consider this to be a self-defeating statement, since the laws of physics and nature are in place except when violated by the action of God. And who knows how frequent or infrequent such hypothetical violations are? All we know is that the ‘norm’ is what we see when what we are observing remains unviolated. Hence the view of a God who does interact is not irrational, at least, not based on this argument.

    Tom, “What I find strange is that most people believe two thousand year old fanatics who do not fully understand their surroundings to write what they sliver is a sign. Also didn’t these fanatics also worship trees?”

    This thought started promisingly but went off the rails around the end of the first sentence. Care to restate your point?

  11. #11 Tom
    August 8, 2012

    Yes I hear you I apologize for my crude generalization that was not proper or nice. Thank you very much for pointing that out to me.

  12. #12 Stu N
    August 8, 2012

    Well I gathered the sentiment behind your comment, but actually I simply don’t understand what you mean by “…who do not fully understand their surroundings to write what they sliver is a sign” as the vocabulary/syntax is confusing.

    I do however understand and disagree with “Also didn’t these fanatics also worship trees?”; while there were undoubtedly all manner of pantheists and animists 2000 years ago, I don’t think any of them wrote parts of the New Testament, which is what I suppose you’re referring to given the time frame you mention.

  13. #13 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    August 8, 2012

    So is it possible to believe in everything you believe but add a myster[i]ous god?

    Of course – but what reason is there to do that?

  14. #14 Petri
    Finland
    August 8, 2012

    So is it possible to believe in everything you believe but add a myster[i]ous god?

    Yes, sure.
    From European perspective, the evolutionist vs creationist in the USA debate seems – hmm, strange. Spiritual and material worlds are two different things. And when spiritual “interferes” to material it does not necessary obey the laws of the materia. Well, “parallel universe” one might call it… I believe this is the standpoint of majority of christian believers here.

  15. #15 Tom
    August 8, 2012

    I am commenting on my phone and it auto corrects. I was trying to saying is that they were writing in a way that they could understand even if that was a possibility for it to be wrong. Yes I agree that the new testament was not written 2000 years ago. It was also a crude joke that is both unfounded and unwarranted. I turned a good conversation into a ignorant rant. I was tryin to focus more on the old testament where to me it seems to be a bit difficult to see as others amongst my community. They look at it like it is fact but I find it hard to believe that all of this is possible, but yet still believe in god. I just wonder if they got it wrong out of translation, or if it was an attempt to write out what they were not able to fully comprehend? Also I do see how it is not rationale, but it feels right, as silly as that sounds. Thanks for giving me the chance to correct my ignorant and unkind words.

  16. #16 Don
    MI
    August 8, 2012

    Tom,

    You’re brave to come here and ask the questions you’re asking, and I commend you for that. What I want to recommend you do is ask yourself “Why do I still believe in God?” Do you have a good reason to? Do you think you would believe in a god if you had not been taught about god as a child?

    Take a moment and consider a world without a supreme deity. You will find that when you open your eyes, you are still attached to the planet Earth (this is not meant to be condescending). People around you will still go about their business. Your moral code will not change.

    One of the most wondrous elements of my life is concept of “I don’t know!” It’s an amazing feeling to not know all the answers and to have to find them, based on evidence. The non-supernatural world so full of wonders that I simply don’t have time to think about God or other unprovable, unfalsifiable ideas. Being surprised at every scientific turn is exhilarating.

    I would ask that read just one book. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. You my friend seem like it would benefit you a great deal.

    Again, I ask you question your beliefs. As a smart and curious person, you are obligated to. Lastly, atheism isn’t the belief in nothing, it’s the belief in anything so long as there is evidence, and it’s a good life.

    “I don’t know” isn’t just a good answer for things we don’t know, it’s a pillar of honesty. “I don’t know, but I’m sure as hell going to try and find out!”

  17. #17 Tom
    August 8, 2012

    That is a great post thank you very much. I have waited sometime trying to find the right crowd, and the right people to talk to. I have been searching for the right answers. It is true everything would be just fine if not better without the supernatural. I chose to talk to you on this site because I liked how everyone worked out things positively. I will absolutely read that book. If I talked to someone from my community they would have said it is because it is so don’t question god or his holy bible. That is when I started saying why, didn’t that happen in the dark ages and see how that worked out for them? Which in turn created more questions, and I like the scientific aspect much more than the blind faith.

  18. #18 Russell
    August 8, 2012

    Feed the two armed unbelievers to the thargs

  19. #19 Tom
    August 8, 2012

    I am not sure what you mean by that sentence Russell.

  20. #20 KEREM TOLGA
    www.elektroteknikmedikal.com
    August 8, 2012

    çok faydalı elinize sağlık
    süt sağım makinaları

  21. #21 Russell
    August 8, 2012

    For a Holy Hekkador, Tom doesn’t know much theology

  22. #22 Tom
    August 8, 2012

    It is unfortunate that you must act like this. I would hope that maturity would extend to you from this point foward. It is true however that I do not know much about this, but to act immaturely is sad. Would you like to restart your statement in a more mature manner?

  23. #23 Tom
    August 8, 2012

    Sorry Russell, I meant that for another website. I copied pasted the wrong paragraph. What I had for you is, I finally got it lol thanks. Do you own one of those?

  24. #24 Joseph Bradley
    United States
    August 9, 2012

    Interesting perspective, thank you for the article. Any effort to thwart the progress of our understanding of the universe should definitely be questioned. My two cents.

    Emeryville Pharmaceuticals

  25. #25 Don
    August 9, 2012

    Tom,

    Yes, you are going to run into some ass-hats in any community you expose yourself to. Some people see any mention of the belief in God as an instant sign of stupidity. It’s not I assure you (more on this later). The chances are that the atheists you come across that act like this have forgotten when they were in the questioning phase of their transition.

    Keep asking questions. If someone says “you just have to be believe” remind yourself that you simply don’t have to, and you are not obligated to.

    You have already alluded to this, but what if no one asked why? The world would be a dark place where the powerful would use divine unquestioned warrant to rule those than excepted their words.

    On belief: Once you are taught to believe, it can be very hard to accept a world without God. Almost every atheist in the world has had to deal with this very issue because religion is so prevalent. To a child’s mind everything is magic before they are explained the way everything works. That is why refining a belief system in early childhood is so effective at perpetuating belief systems.

    The fact that you are questioning your beliefs means you have already done most of the heavy lifting. Many many people never reach to point you are at right now.

    Atheist isn’t a belief system, as many might have you belief. The belief system many atheists subscribe to though is Humanism. It’s foundation is in equal rights for all people. It extends to opinions on the humane treatment of animals and the environment. I’d suggest you wiki it if you aren’t familiar. It’s a system of moral belief based on the golden rule.

    You are completely normal in having been religious or having believe in God. Dawkins talks at great length about this in his book (he has several, but I suggest God Delusion first). However, now you are asked the question. It is now up to your to find the answer to the best of your ability.

    If you are honest with yourself in this endeavor, you with most likely come to the same conclusion I did. There is no evidence for a god. I’m not obligated to believe it exists, and I’m still a good person regardless of my religious beliefs because morals are not derived from religious, but from social evolution of our culture.

    Good luck. If you ever need someone to talk to you can always e-mail me (oldaughd@gmail.com).

  26. #26 Don
    August 9, 2012

    My apologies for the typos :/

  27. #27 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    August 10, 2012

    Dawkins talks at great length about this in his book (he has several, but I suggest God Delusion first).

    Actually, I suggest Unweaving The Rainbow first. That’s an awesome book.

  28. #28 csaar
    August 11, 2012

    “he’s pretty typically from our tiny corner of this galaxy.”

    To be more exact – pretty typically from a big corner on our planet: the USA. You won’t be the greatest democracy in the world for long if this shit continues. And, since USA is our modern “Roman empire” I’m pretty sure this creotard-shit will spread to the empires provinces and then i have to deal with the fact that 50% of my students will be brainwashed by “Gods word”, “knowing” then that evolution is wrong.

  29. #29 Technotron
    Australia
    August 13, 2012

    Such an awesome achievement for humanity!

  30. #30 james ainoris
    brooklyn
    August 13, 2012

    I would challenge anyone to read the Lubavitch Rebbes book “mind over matter” This Rabbi was an engineer and did classified research for US NAVY. He has excellent discourse with leading Physicists with respect to G-ds TORAH (our bible) and how so much of it is backed up by modern physics….especially quantum mechanics.. I worked for DOE and know a little about this…look up the famous “EPR experiment” (spooky action at at distance)… also I am not aware of any branch of modern science that could define or begin to explain conciousness (soul) of man… we are made of same atoms as rocks but are able to realize this (unlike a rock unless you are taking acid)…lol . I used to be secular but now firmly believe in creator (HaShem).. it is actually logical. No science can “prove” there is NO creator equally..look at the odds of four DNA chemicals arranging themselves through chance..staggerin odds… look up what a ribosome can do (corrects and proof reads rna ,has no brain ) jim ainoris

  31. #31 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    August 13, 2012

    especially quantum mechanics

    Do tell!

    look up the famous “EPR experiment” (spooky action at at distance)…

    How is that related to any religion? Show me a religion that predicted Heisenberg’s uncertainty relation, and we can talk!

    also I am not aware of any branch of modern science that could define or begin to explain conciousness (soul) of man…

    That’s because you haven’t been paying attention in the last 20 years. Learn more neuroscience.

    Mind is what the brain does. It’s an activity.

    No science can “prove” there is NO creator equally..

    No, but science can fairly easily show that there’s no need for the hypothesis that there is a creator.

    look at the odds of four DNA chemicals arranging themselves through chance..

    Not how it works. Mutations are random, but selection is not – it’s determined by the environment.

    look up what a ribosome can do (corrects and proof reads rna ,has no brain )

    That’s not the ribosome, that’s RNA polymerase… and it metaphorically “proofreads” by being electrostatically stuck to mismatches between bases (such mismatches form bumps in the DNA); coming close enough to a mismatch changes its shape, so that the cutting end comes into contact with the mismatch. It’s all mechanics.