Atheists and Aliens: Would the Existence of Extraterrestrials Mean the End of Religion?

Illustration by Andreus / 123RF Illustration by Andreus / 123RF

In A Brief History of Time Professor Stephen Hawking asks, “…if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?” Indeed, the more humanity learns about the universe in which we are just a very miniscule part, the less need we seem to have for a higher power. The theory of evolution cogently describes how we as a species came into being, and the Big Bang elegantly enumerates on how the universe itself came into existence. As our scientific understanding expands, purely religious answers for life’s “big questions” seem to contract. But what would it mean for belief—or non-belief—if we discovered the existence of extraterrestrial life?

This question is central to the premise of a new book, Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal with It? by David Weintraub, an astronomy professor at Vanderbilt University. The book examines the stances, if any, of the world’s major religions in regards to the possibility of life beyond our own planet. Wintraub reports that one-fifth to one-third of Americans believe that alien life exists, and with the exponential increase in the discovery of new planets, finding one that would harbor living beings seems more and more likely.

However, not all Americans are quick to embrace the idea of extraterrestrials. While Weintraub found that 55 percent of atheists felt that the existence of aliens was possible, his book also states that evangelical and fundamentalist Christians are the least likely of any religious group in the United States to embrace the thought that life may exist beyond Earth. An article on Futurity examines this reticence of fundamentalists Christians to believe in aliens in terms of salvation—Christian concepts of original sin and the need for atonement through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross would be complicated by the existence of otherworldly beings who may or may not require the same redemption.

While theological debates over the implications of alien life may be theoretically interesting, one factor that the Futurity article does not take into account is the distrust of science among fundamentalist Christians. Worldviews such as creationism and intelligent design  present a purely human-centric view of the universe. From this perspective, the universe was created in six, 24-hour days—never mind that from a universal perspective, the concept of a “day” is relative to what planet one might inhabit. Also inherent in the fundamentalist Christian perspective is the idea that God gave humanity dominion over all of creation, meaning that humans have free reign to do with the earth’s natural resources, and presumably the resources of other planets, as they please. The existence of extraterrestrials, however, would muddy these straightforward concepts found in fundamentalist Christianity. Alien life, especially intelligent alien life, would mean that our perspective of the universe is relative and that we as a species are not specially appointed to control the cosmos.

Weintraub points out that not all religions would be troubled by the discovery of aliens. Hinduism and Buddhism have speculated that humans could be reincarnated as extraterrestrials, while Judaism and Islam see their tenants as only applicable to humans on Earth, regardless of life on other planets. Even some Catholics and Protestants have managed to somewhat ambiguously incorporate extraterrestrials into their understanding of God’s plan. While the discovery of life on other planets might strike a blow to the worldviews of fundamentalists, the existence of aliens would not necessarily mean the end of religion.

Humanism, with its emphasis on science and logical reasoning, would have no qualms about accepting the presence of extraterrestrials, if such beings could be scientifically demonstrated to exist. Instead of looking to ancient texts or dogma to determine the possibility of alien life on other planets, humanists must merely wait for the evidence.

Do you believe that there are aliens on other planets? Why or why not?

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  • euroyank

    Belief vs. evidence is always a problem.

  • http://batman-news.com theron

    I’m ashamed to say people would try to prosthelytize the aliens.

    • catalinda8

      Did you ever see the hilarious South Park episode where Pat Robertson was trying to drum up donations for spaceships to bring bibles to the aliens?

      • Scott

        Marklar! marklar?

      • Doubitng Thomas

        I just mentioned that in my comment on this article. “Now what we need is money to build an interstellar cruiser. This space ship will travel through a worm hole and deliver the message of the glory of Jesus to those godless aliens. Send your money today. Amen.”

        • catalinda8

          Ha, that was one of the best South Parks ever! That one and the one about Joseph Smith (dum-dum-dum-dum-DUM!)

    • Jerry Wilson

      Ohhh, you can bet on that!

    • catalinda8

      I saw a book recently called Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? So yeah, people are already thinking about this…

  • Scott Schwartz

    I would LIKE there to be. It seems likely that there will be.

  • N8W1der

    The ‘Created in God’s image’ trope dies a well deserved and long overdue death.

    • Alan

      Man is created in god’s image? You can bet religionists would either say that the aliens weren’t made in god’s image, making humans superior, or that god appeared differently to them!

      • N8W1der

        I had not considered that angle as the God Grifters could continue their long con. After all, it sure beats working for a living & it is tax free.

      • Dan

        Most religionists ((Christians) say the image God made man in is sentient, not bodily so there is lots of flexibility in interpretation for those who should encounter the impossible become probable.

        • JW

          That isn’t one I’ve heard before, but I could see people arguing that.

  • tenzindolma

    tenet

    • Karen Whiddon

      Minuscule

  • Disqusdmnj

    It seems reasonable that in an infinite universe with an uncountable number of galaxies and stars, that there could be a planet out there that could both support life, and on which life has evolved. I think the wrench in the spokes is that it’s more than likely not happened yet, or already happened and that life has been wiped out… either way, it’s probably so far away from us that contact – or even detection – would be just about impossible. I’d think that by the time another civilization realised *we* exist, we won’t.

    • Dave

      Wy do you think the universe is infinitely large?

      • Disqusdmnj

        Isn’t that what the prevailing science says? Not that there are an infinite number of galaxies.

        • JW

          There is no prevailing consensus that stays put, other than that the OBSERVABLE universe is expanding. Every time some physicist or other makes some bold theoretical statement like, “Big Crunch, more like going out with a whimper from entropy!” or “it collapses and then forms a new universe, which eventually collapses and forms a new universe, and it’s continuous!”, etc…

          …it seems like within a month somebody contradicts it.

          This is why I stopped actively following physics news. :P

    • Scott

      its far more likely that life exist everywhere in the universe. The only real question is would it be possible for them to travel across the vast distances to our system?

  • catalinda8

    What if the aliens brought their own religion? Then we’d have a whole other can o’ worms to deal with…

    • Mike Hugh-jass

      Yup. What if the aliens had a religion that said that their God gave *them* dominion over all of creation, and hence, humans. That’d make a good movie plot.

      • Dan

        maybe they ran out of animal sacrifices and we are the next prize!!

        • catalinda8

          Remember that great Twilight Zone episode, How to Serve Man?

    • Condensate

      Are you people really that dumb?

      • Jerry Wilson

        I think that would be entirely possible,…..and I wouldn’t believe their religion, either.

      • JW

        That’s not implausible at all. And their religions might be even stranger than ours, in ways we couldn’t predict. Who knows how a sapient alien would think? It depends entirely on how they evolved.

        However, one thing all life on Earth that has a brain capable of some level of cognition shares is the capacity for pattern recognition – because it’s useful! It’s how we figure out what’s edible and what isn’t, how we recognize danger and predators, and so on.

        Thing is, highly-developed pattern recognition often results in lots of false positives (thinking something is significant e.g. dangerous or special, when it’s actually nothing), because the reverse, false negatives (not recognizing something is, say, dangerous) is far riskier. Brains tend to play it safe by assuming things.

        And once you get into that, it’s not uncommon for it to get irrational, especially when you get into cultural legacy, by which I mean memes in the classic Dawkins-coined sense.

        There’s a famous experiment with some primate or other (I think it was bonobos, though it could have been a monkey species) where there was an electrified ladder, that would give non-fatal but painful shock when touched, in their enclosure. They quickly learned to not touch it, and taught each other not to as well. They even taught new members introduced to the enclosure not to. And then the originals were taken out, so that only the ones who hadn’t been there before were left, and they introduced more. And the ones that hadn’t experienced the shocks, but were taught to avoid touching the ladder at all costs, punished the newest ones for going near it, taught them to avoid it too. Even though they had no way of knowing why, and even though the originators of the rule were no longer there to enforce it. Even if the ladder weren’t electrified anymore.

        And then you have the fact that while natural selection doesn’t punish you for thinking the wind in the grass is an evil spirit and avoiding it, it MIGHT punish you for ignoring the rustle in the grass that turns out to be a predator.

        Combine those factors, especially in a social species, and it’s entirely possible they could have their own irrational or obsolete behavior and superstitions. Which means, yeah, they could have a form of religion, too.

        Hypothetically. :)

    • Doubting Thomas

      Then Republicans would probably want to stop that alien immigration, too.

  • Michael Swaine

    This article needs an editor.

  • Michael Cannon

    Only 55% of atheists think extraterrestrial life is possible? Really? Given the numbers of galaxies and planets therein, the probably is much too high to think the we are the sole life in the universe.

    Now whether or not we would ever encounter extraterrestrial life is an entirely different matter. Here the vastness of space and time work against us.

    • yarnm57

      The question was probably actually something about believing in aliens. No self-respecting atheist would answer that in the affirmative. Hence, 55% of the so-called atheists polled were likely just that: so-called atheists.

    • Doubting Thomas

      I think extraterrestrial life is possible, but I’m not going to believe there’s life out there until we discover it. Just like God. It’s one of those “we don’t know” questions at this point in human history and I’m going to have to remain agnostic on that issue right now.

      But it would appear the poll was asking about belief that aliens exist, not belief in the possibility they exist.

    • Dan

      But majority does not make it so! Nor do raw statistics. When one looks for the simplest chemical events required for biology to proceed, we are daunted to find how polymers combine into linear (let alone chaotic networks) chains of molecules like DNA or proteins. What special circumstances are needed remain guesswork. It does not matter how many times one says that DNA got started on “the backs of crystals” it simply does not help the argument that life on our planet, for now, IS FOR ALL PRACTICAL PURPOSES – MIRACULOUS, until further investigations should prove it otherwise. When all physical phenomena known to us are literally against the existence of biological life – of the simplest kind let alone the 8 million or so species that are on the planet- it seems a bit too early to suggest that life just pops into existence out there so very easily.

      In fact, Edwin Hubble quite deliberately rejected his observations (of the earth being the center of the universe) out of horrifying fear that it might be true. So he asserted, he did not discover, that the universe is homogeneous and isotropic – without boundaries, things we battle with in cosmology today because Hubble said so. His fear sprang from his disbelief in design and while we may belittle this belief, formulating dark matter and dark energy and inflaton particles are no better than invoking intelligence – until further discovery shows otherwise.
      The verdict is out of the question for me until science should prove otherwise. We are so far in our infancy in these matters, it is reasonable to refrain from such a blind faith in what evolution “might” do, out there.

  • Kurt M. Thompson

    “Do you believe that there are aliens on other planets? Why or why not?”

    I believe it’s possible there are aliens on other planets. But, the term, ‘alien’ could apply to any living organism. There are definitely ‘aliens’ on other planets.

    However, it seems to me that, just as we have millions of species on our own planet, and humans are currently the only intelligent one’s [that we know of], I sometimes think it might be the same across the rest of the universe, wherein millions of species exist across millions of planets, but no other human-like or intelligent species are to be found. I do believe that’s a very likely possibility and unfortunately will make it pretty hard to detect when no other technology driven societies exist.

    On the other hand, if alien intelligences IS out there, that would be incredible.

  • Tommy Griffin

    I think there are life on other planets. If we are here then so are other beings. The universe is huge and growing, We have already established there are more planets out there and some of may harbor life. It is a matter of time that other life will show up here or we show up there on their planet. Science will prove there is life. In the mean time I guess we will guess. Religion, most of it will just fade away!

    • Penny Sue Dove

      I sure hope so Tommy, it would be a more peaceful world without religion. I just hope that the aliens are not the war mongers that we seem to be!

      • Tommy Griffin

        Your right it would be a more peaceful world without religion. But, you know the two things that make this world so unsafe, people starving, people homeless, is both religion and GREED! If you take religion and greed out of the picture, with the technology we have today there would be no wars, no one starving and no one homeless unless they just wanted to be. A RBE, Resource Based Economy can deliver that. There are no monetary systems in plce, money is gone! Religion may still be there but with ET’s arrival that will disappear.
        Yes I hope like you do, these ET’s are peaceful beings and truly want to be friends.

  • Philip

    Aliens exist They are a species of Angel. Buddha indicates that there is indeed life elsewhere in the material creation.

    • Daren Daniels

      Philip, with a statement like that, I’d probably not post a profile image either…good call.

      • Philip

        Ha Ha. Am open-minded on the matter. Who knows what there was a millisecond before the big bang (theory)? Profile picture coming soon.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    I used to think that discovery of intelligent life on another planet would bring the rapid end of religion, but sadly, I’ve come to see the remarkable ability of religionists to move the goal posts, or just pretzel-think their way around rational challenges. Religions have survived dozens of scientific discoveries that directly disprove their scriptures’ claims. The believers just rationalize about those parts of their holy books, claiming that those parts are “metaphorical,” rather than literal, even though those same people were insisting that those parts are literal up to just before the discoveries debunked them. They also dust off parts that they used to ignore, and very loosely interpret them to claim that the new discoveries are accounted for in their ancient tomes.

    However, I think that over a long time, continued contact and cultural/informational exchange with extraterrestrials would result in an accelerated demise of religion, because of the “college effect.” When young people who have been raised in insular, rural environments go to college, they are exposed to new and widely different ideas, and very often they end up freeing themselves from their families’ religious beliefs. It’s often a painful process, but after they get through it, they say that they’re much better off.

    Hopefully, humanity will survive that difficult education.

    • Joseph Heston

      But the religionists can only move the goalpost so far that they are running out of room and there’s no place left to move the goalpost.

      • Vincent Alexander

        When they can no longer move the goalposts they will just outright lie.

        • JWR

          And that’s different than what is happening now, how? :)
          I suppose that I will admit that there is a difference in lying and just plain ignorance.

      • Daren Daniels

        Since most of them live in a fantasy world, they won’t run out of room…fantasy can be limitless.

    • Dare

      You’re right, of course, about the capacity of religion to reframe the discussion and metaphoricize what it had previously proclaimed as literal and unchangeable. C.S. Lewis discussed the implications of discovering other intelligent life in his essay “Religion and Rocketry”; he saw no necessary clash with the Christian faith of such a discovery. He presents four possibilities: 1) even intelligent animals might not have ‘souls’ and therefore no possibility of a moral and spiritual Fall; 2) this alien race might have souls and therefore moral obligations, but they may not have fallen, remaining pure and in no need of salvation. (Lewis presents this possibility in his science fiction novel Perelandra); 3) God may have provided salvation for this alien race by incarnating Himself into their flesh and dying on their world, as He did on ours; or 4) miraculously, Earth may indeed be “the Visited Planet”, and God’s manifest plan may be for us to carry the Gospel to each new civilization we discover, much like the Jesuits brought the Christian faith to North American natives.

      If we discover we are not alone in the universe, prepare for the rise of exotheology’

      • Bob

        Dare, the incredible arrogance and exclusivity of what you are saying is appalling. It should be remembered that the Jesuits also participated in atrocities against native peoples. And when you speak of Christianity, you are speaking of an institution that once burned people alive for the high crime of thinking. I hope by the time we reach out to ETs Christianity, Judaism and Islam will have joined Baal, the deities of Olympus and the cruel gods of Egypt in the trash bin of history.

    • Naomi Braun

      This isn’t about the warring factions of our belief systems. Religionists opposing Athiests. This is a small minded intellectual pursuit. We need to face the trillions of things we don’t understand. I find Athiests and religionists two sides of the exact same coin. Both are close minded. Both want to be sure, to be right. To be sure and to be right is exactly what the universe isn’t about. It’s about the unknown, the mystery. There could be a higher power there could be nothing. Why close yourself off to the possibility. To do so, is a sad, suffocation of possibility.

      • Dan

        Well thought out response. I must respect such an open and honest view of reality. So many are quick to decide what is when we are still in our infancy of knowing what is.

      • Carol

        I absolutely do not fit in with religion, but I am finding in my local Atheist group that I don’t fit in with them either because my life experiences teach me that nothing is black or white. While I do not believe in God, I do know that there is more to life than happenstance; there’s an energy in intention that can manifest specific life experiences. Most of the experiences I have had over the past 3 decades cannot be proven by science, yet, nevertheless, they happened. Like seeing a vision of a home I eventually moved into, before I even knew the home existed (that happened 7 times in a row … Yeah, I used to move a lot) or how in my business I will think, “Gee, I need more sales of ” and suddenly I get a bunch of orders for that product. Coincidence? It happens with such regularity in my life and with deliberate intention that I cannot deny that I have tapped into a movement of energy that I can direct to create specific experiences in my life. When something happens regularly and repeatedly, it’s impossible to deny it exists. Unfortunately, I fall into a crack between Athiests and Religious, neither of which seem to want to consider that as a human, we are so much more than the bucket either side has seemed to place us into.

        • JW

          You would qualify as agnostic, for the record. :) Which is the reasonable view, given human limitations on interpreting or even experiencing the universe – after all, we cannot hear “ultrasound” like dogs or “infrasound” like elephants, or see in all the colors that some butterflies can, or with the exactitude of a mantis shrimp’s trifocal eyes, and that’s not even considering the difficulties we have understanding quantum weirdness. The human mind and senses are limited and subjective.

          I would point out though that you should be careful not to attribute some (not all) of those incidents to “more than chance”; you may want to look up research on the way the brain is pattern-seeking. It’s been found repeatedly, in pretty much every person ever tested or studied, that we tend to notice only the things that seem special or significant…and then disregard and forget, say, the countless times you might have thought “we need to sell more of this product…” and nobody actually called in to order it. The fact that you already felt that these were significant occurrences, means that you assign even greater significance to them than most,so unfortunately, your tendency towards confirmation bias (taking note of the incidents that “prove you right” and neglecting to notice the ones that don’t, which may well outnumber them) is going to be even stronger.

          However, you will find me a little less skeptical than most on the “visions of a place you’ve never been before” thing. I’ve actually experienced that before – though usually it’s been with novel experiences in familiar settings – and while the standard explanation is “oh, it’s just your brain playing tricks on you: the part of the brain that recognizes something as familiar is triggered when it shouldn’t be, is all”…that doesn’t quite fit with the deja vu that I’ve sometimes experienced in the past. For instance, there have been cases where I felt momentarily that I knew what was going to happen, and accurately predicted ahead of time what someone was going to say, or I deliberately changed the event from what was “supposed” to happen (setting down objects in a different order, specifically) – the latter felt deeply wrong, and I always wondered about why. But the big confirmation to me involved a cartoon.

          I woke up one morning with vague memories of a weird dream. There was a talking set of french fries, and talking milkshake, and a talking meatball, and there was something about a giant balloon animal at the beach. It was amusingly surreal enough, novel enough that I actually commented on it to my father at breakfast.

          And then imagine my shock when, a few months later, I was watching Adult Swim and a NEW episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force – then a brand-new show – premiered. It featured – yep – a talking french fry package, meatball, and milkshake, and this given episode wound up with a giant balloon animal at the beach.

          See, every other case of deja vu I had was unexplained; I would just suddenly know something was going to happen and/or have a flash of “this is familiar even though it shouldn’t be”. But this…this was literally a dream! I remembered having it! I talked about it!

          The problem is, I have no way of “triggering” such things, nor do I know anyone who does. I didn’t know it had any predictive value until after the fact, and it happened at random, with no warning and for no apparent reason – how do you test something like that? Answer: you can’t. If you can’t predict it’s going to happen, and you don’t know it’s significant until afterwards, there’s no possible way to test it, since you don’t even know there’s anything to test. And all anyone other than my dad and I has to go on is our words – hardly “hard evidence”.

          So, there are some things that are just weird and trippy and unexplained. I don’t think there’s necessarily a higher purpose to it – pretty much all of my deja vu instances were useless, like knowing I was about to drop a cracker on the floor but not being able to do anything about it – but it’s strange. There’s not even a logical mechanism for it – hypothetically there could be something in quantum physics, the whole “spooky action at a distance” thing and all, but I’m leary of assuming that, since I’m no physicist and even as a layman I know how other layman badly misinterpret it.

          And that more than anything is why I never assume that humans can or will know everything. This doesn’t mean we should stop looking, but it does mean we shouldn’t make too many assumptions (at least, not without acknowledging to ourselves that is is in fact an assumption). This goes for everyone, though, not just the extremists.

          • Carol

            Agnostics take the stance that they do not know whether or not god exists. I do not believe in god, but I do believe in intelligent energy within everything, and it is that intelligent energy within everything and everyone that is our personal source of power. I personally do not believe that my experiences are chance because they occur too frequently and have been happening for decades, even though I know most other people would claim they are. My experiences extend far beyond what I have shared. For instance, one day I said, “Wouldn’t it be fun if someone called me and invited me to speak at their meeting.” and an hour later I got a call from a woman who said, “You don’t know me but my mom (who I had never met) thought you might be willing to speak at our meeting.” Or the time I wanted to schedule a timeshare in Flagstaff and was told nothing was available for the entire year, and then a week later I woke up with a strong urge to call them back and was given a unit exactly where I wanted it.

            I am aware of pattern-seeking and have consciously noticed it at times when I have been thinking about various things, like when I was looking for a new car. I also have lucid dreams that can span a week of activities with various people and places (I think of them as my alternate reality). I started my present business from a vision I had back in 1996.

            And then there are those precognition moments, as you have described, where the phone rings and I know who it is before I answer it or I will think about a particular person and they call a few moments later. Or I will be driving and suddenly sense that a person will pull into my lane and slow down just as they pull in front of me.

            Or seeing an eight inch wide and twelve inch long purple light emanating from someone’s hand, or seeing a one to three inch energy grid emanating from people’s silhouette or hearing a pop sound and feeling a rush of energy when someone I am working with has an aha! moment.

            I do not find any of these experiences as strange, rather I take advantage of them to more deliberately create the experiences I want. Plus I know that there are many other people who share these types of experiences.

            Perhaps one day science will have the tools to understand our “sixth sense” and how it works. Until then, I will continue to focus on the things I want in life (rather than the things I don’t want), because I know that whatever I focus on expands (pattern-seeking), and that I am the one creating my experiences by the person I am being in every moment I live (my thoughts, beliefs, words and actions) … what goes around comes around.

        • JWR

          Or, is premonition just a leakage within ones own mind where you are convinced that you envisioned something? You are correct though, anything is possible.

          • Carol

            When I have a vision (premonition), it eventually comes true exactly as in the vision, so it’s not something I have convinced myself of seeing. The vision just bursts through out of nowhere, and when it happens everything around me ceases to exists for the time I see the vision. It’s like I get swallowed up by the vision and all I can see or hear is that which is contained within the vision. Sometimes the visions come true in 24 hours or less, other times it can take months or a year or more before it appears. Often the vision is like watching a video snippet, but mostly it is a very specific image of something.

            For instance, when I had decided to move back to California from Flagstaff in the late nineties, I saw a vision of a 3-story white house and a deck that seemed to wrap around the entire house, there were trees everywhere, no garage and a long dirt driveway that led to the house.

            Back then I was foolish enough to think that if I drove around I would find it, so I spent a week doing just that. Now I know that it will just appear when the time is right, because shortly after returning to Flagstaff, I spoke with an acquaintance about moving back to Calif, and she said that they had just decided to rent their home to move to her ill mother’s house to take care of her. I rented her house site unseen (as I had done with the Flagstaff house), taking care of the business via phone and mail.

            The day I arrived with the moving truck, I turned onto a long dirt road and at the end of the road was exactly my vision: a 3-store white house with a deck that surround three-quarters of the house. There was no garage, and in the yard was an apple tree, orange tree, fig tree, apricot tree and other assorted trees, and on the other side of the dirt road was an apricot orchard.

            This is only one of dozens of examples of the visions I get that come true, and a clear example that we are capable of so much more than religion or atheists want to believe.

      • Bob

        You seem to have gotten rid of a starting point. Mysteries are something we should strive to solve. Sitting around pondering them is just a way of wasting time and spinning your wheels.

  • Bill McGrath

    I can only say that we are talking about probabilities. I think that the likelihood of life forms on other planets is high. Life developed by perfectly natural processes here. Why would we doubt that something similar would also happen in environments amenable to analogous processes? The number of habitable planets is literally astronomical, so, even if the probability of life developing on a given planet is very low, the abundance of opportunities would overcome the difficulty, and there should be life. Note that this is a far cry from believing that we have been visited by extraterrestrials, although that, too, is possible.

  • Daren Daniels

    “Humans are the most intelligent species on our planet” The problem with that statement is, we don’t have an impartial authority to verify that. If the planet is someday visited by aliens, we might find that they’d rather spend time with the dolphins…or a certain tree species. The entire criteria used to determine a species intelligence level, was created by us. So the criteria’s kinda rigged.

    • Dan

      I don’t know Daren. It is pretty clear to me that we have proven our superior intelligence. Just as much we have proven our superior ignorance in ways religious and even in humanism. Wars, murders, thievery, and the like.

      • Daren Daniels

        We view our world through “human colored glasses,” if you will. So our perceived superiority is based on human perception and therefore, uniquely our opinion. Our perceived failures are also uniquely our opinion.

        Our human consciousness is like a unique “kaleidoscope” from which we view the world (and make judgments on our impact on it). An alien visiting our planet would quite possibly have its own unique “kaleidoscope” of perception.

        Considering this possibility, one must wonder, would a visiting alien even perceive our existence?… or any other species on this planet that we perceive every day? How would our planet as a whole be perceived by the visitor?…would it appear as Mars does to us…cold and desolate?

        I do believe the reason we haven’t found evidence of life beyond our planet up to this point is because we are trying to find life forms that share our kaleidoscope. And the odds of that happening, I believe, are extremely low.

        • Daren Daniels

          This smacks of “Many worlds” theory…and it should. I do believe each “world” or reality is tied directly to the observer’s unique “kaleidoscope” of consciousness.

        • Dan

          I understand what your are saying. But, where Sagan and Dawkins suggest life forms vastly different from ours, I don’t think so. Considering the limitations of the physical sciences that would permit life to exist I think, providing evolution is a feasible mechanism, any life outside will be carbon based, composed of nitrogen, oxygen, flesh and blood and not be so very different from us. Given the need for liquid water, a planet in the habitable zone and the limitations as well as the infinite possibilities of biochemistry, I tend to believe we will see these folks – face to face, as very similar if not the same as we are. There is no reason to speculate beyond what our current knowledge of the 103 elements tell us, the need for water and oxygen, chemical energy etc…. In fact, if there is life out there, it may have been spawned from planet earth. The scenarios are always reverse but the simplest explanation of extraterrestrials is that we are the parentage of all other life in the universe… should there be any. Of course this is just my meanderings but a like to keep theoretical and philosophical arguments within the narrow limits of what we KNOW about chemistry and life. I think they will see us and know us.

          • Daren Daniels

            You could be right Dan. It’s all speculation at this point. If you get a chance, check out the theory of Biocentrism formed by Dr. Robert Lanza. I’m not going to say I agree with 100% of his theory, but many aspects of the theory answer a lot of questions.

          • Dan

            Interesting philosophical idea Daren. New to me. To be honest, I don’t like it. something has got to a reality for me. That my dog responds to me in a similar way to my kids and wife and neighbors tells me there is a common reality we share. The fact that we can communicate and understand each other is more than a joint hypnosis of sorts. I mean why should your reality be the same as mine if biocentrism has merit. Each of us would form our on reality and there is not reason to think we would connect … unless we represent a super conscious and then this really gets weird.

          • Daren Daniels

            I understand your issues with Lanza’s theory. I have my own as well. But his theory does answer key questions that we wrestle with quite well.
            One in particular is the experience of our world being “tailored” for life. Just the right conditions exist for us to exist. Biocentrism states that the world appears so, because our consciousness has created it. At face value that seems outlandish…until you begin to take into account quantum physics and the “two slit experiment.” Indeed, at least at the quantum level, this experiment suggests that reality does seem to behave in certain ways due to the act of our observation. And since our entire universe is comprised of quanum particles, I think the two slit experiment lends credibility to his theory….just my opinion.

          • Dan

            I would really have to read the book. I understand the basic idea that it is perception that creates the reality or the organism that creates the perception rather than the reality – creating the organism (as biological evolution would have us believe). But our common perceptions seem to hint of a real “reality” and those parameters of that reality, as agreed upon by a common conscious awareness, would seem to exist without our perceptions at all. Fortuitously, or so it seems, we perceive the factors that permit our perceptions and they all seem fit to be favorable to the whole of the biological world. If this is not the case and it is the other way around, does biological evolution have a role to play in our existence? Are we not entertaining the God hypothesis again? I really need to read the book.
            Dan

          • Daren Daniels

            Are you familiar with the 2 slit experiment Dan? If not it’ll blow your mind. There’s several down to earth video’s on YouTube that explain the experiment and the mind blowing results.

          • Daren Daniels

            In regard to your comments about “the limitations of the physical sciences,” if the world is “tailored” by our consciousness, it would stand to reason that said perceived limitations would be part of that “tailoring.” In other words, those limitations are boundaries within our human “kaleidoscope” of consciousness.

            I find it interesting how on so many levels the world reveals itself mathematically, but we never stop to consider that we as observers, are experiencing our world with mathematical (logical) minds (consciousness).

  • Big Nick Digger

    christians be like ”do you agree with me or are you wrong”

    • catalinda8

      Well said, Big Nick.

  • Darkroomjames

    The issue of “God After Science” has to be honestly settled before accepting the naive premise of holy books.

  • Jay L.Lerner

    The only problem I have with this whole article is this: “….while Judaism and Islam see their TENANTS as only applicable to humans on Earth, regardless of life on other planets.” Tenets people…TENETS. Unless, of course, the author meant tenants to mean the people who believe in those particular religions….the tenants of that religion.

  • yarnm57

    As an atheist I hate being asked if I believe in something. I’m surprised you ask it. I accept the likelihood that there is life elsewhere in the universe. But I would never purport to say I believe there are aliens on other planets. Beliefs are for the religious and superstitious.

  • Daren Daniels

    What if Dr. Robert Lanza and his theory of Biocentrism are correct? Then WE ARE alone in the Universe, because the Universe is merely the product of the observer. In other words, life creates the Universe through conscious observation…not the other way around. As ridiculous as it sounds, experimental results in Quantum Physics (2 slit experiment, etc.) support his claims…check it out!

    • Jerry Wilson

      That’s using a micro to try to apply to a macro and it isn’t a legitimate comparison.

    • JW

      The 2 slit experiment shows we can INFLUENCE results by observing them.

      There’s quite a difference between “we can influence the universe” and “we create the universe”. How do you explain our own existence, then? Do we create our cells? Our selves, sure, but our cells?

      There’s a huge difference between “influenced by the observer” and “a product of the observer”. The way you just tried to summarize that theory is just as unsupported as any given religious claim, and still smacks of requiring “creation”.

  • A_Nonamus

    What if there are highly intelligent, spacefaring and benevolent aliens, who one day visit Earth… and proselytize us? Their obviously superior technology would likely render them immune to any attempts at attack by us, but what would happen here?

  • Scott

    I personally believe we mistook aliens for divine creatures and angels. They are the same thing with different names, and the Jesus story could very easily be tied into the existence of aliens if he is in fact half alien. Maybe the aliens were going to wipe us out and he convinced them not to? Maybe he literally stuck around on Earth even though he knew he would be murdered? It could all tie in together, and in fact I think most religions make a lot more sense if you incorporate the existence of extraterrestrial life. The Mormons already believe in aliens as do scientologists

    • johnboy

      I tend to dismiss Mormonism and Scientology, but I have most of my life thought that Jesus was an alien, and that the series “Ancient Aliens” isn’t that far from the truth. I read “Chariots of the Gods?” many years ago and it blew me away. I was raised in the Catholic Church and finally gave up belief in a “god” a few years ago. You’d think I’d have something to replace it, but no, there isn’t anything out there but a whole lot of space, and some elements being fused together, interspersed with some rocks floating too far apart to be meaningful to our existence. The universe is WYSIWYG, in spite of quantum physics.

  • derni

    better yet what if the aliens actually created us as an experiment..one that obviously failed

    • Cate

      Yup, we’re just some advanced form of life’s science fair project!

    • Jerry Wilson

      I’ve often thought that our planet could easily be a galactic `zoo’.

  • advancedatheist

    “Aliens” in this sense violate skeptics’ own standards for rational belief. But celebrity skeptics and humanists like Carl Sagan assumed they had to exist any way because “aliens” fill some kind of emotional need in people who have rejected traditional religiosity, not because we have any evidence for them. Notice how the discussion about “aliens” has degenerated into speculations about why we can’t detect them, just like we can’t detect the dragon in the garage in Sagan’s famous essay.

    Well, I go for the obvious default position: These “aliens” simply don’t exist.

    • Tommy Griffin

      Your, the assumption your making because science has not proven aliens exist! There are some evidence out there that insinuates they do through archeology results. There are signs throughout history through the centuries that show this. BUT, science has not proven this to be…..

    • tesmith47

      at one time we could not detect all sorts of things , microbes, radio waves, gravity waves etc.

  • Rod

    It would be a shock to Christians who accept Genesis as an accurate depiction of creation. I don’t think it would be a problem for the Hindu or Buddhists. Religions may decrease but I don’t think they will disappear. The evidence would have to be extremely convincing before it would believed by creationists. They are still bent on teaching creationism in schools and deny that humans have evolved from prior species. There would probably be an increase in “conspiracy theories.”

  • RexReddy

    It’s kind of funny that the atheists just assume that the aliens are atheists too and won’t have there own religion.

    • Jerry Wilson

      That’s an untrue generalization. Since I believe in the evolution of life on this planet has arrived in my existence, I have little doubt that if evolution happened somewhere else, they would have just as much a proclivity for mistaken beliefs as I even if they had technological superiority. With all of our technological superiority over many third world nations, we still cannot `control’ them, no matter how many times we fruitlessly try.

    • http://natehevens.wordpress.com/ Nathan Hevenstone

      If the ETs are space-faring, and at the levels where they can explore their galaxies or even other galaxies, then I wouldn’t be surprised to find that they were “atheists” simply because of the fact that as science increases, faith decreases. Yes, a whole lot of scientists are believers, but a whole lot more aren’t.

      And I should say that I mean “atheist” in the very simplest sense: “one who does not believe in a higher power or powers”.

      What if traveling the universe in a sort of “Star Trek” fashion requires knowing and understanding the 98% of the universe we humans are currently missing, including what caused the Big Bang? Of course, I’m making the assumption that our universe is the product of an “accident” and not an intelligent mind. I would argue that if we come upon a universe-traveling extraterrestrial species that does indeed have a higher power of any sort, maybe we should perk up and listen, because they most likely know things we don’t, and their “belief” is not a belief at all, but a point of knowledge.

  • Cate

    Unfortunately there will always be people that need things like religion because it’s just easier to have someone tell you a nice contrite story than to have to think of hard things or unknowable things yourself.

  • adriana lesmann

    I dont get it. I dont understand the association being made her between the existence of extraterrestrials (which I know exist because an experience in 1972) and religion????

  • mmm

    Tenets, not tenants, no?

  • kanenas101

    So much assumption about religion here… it is almost like seeing faith in action haha.

  • magtic

    is there (other) life in the Universe? wait! look, Universe is! alive.

  • Adil Abdalla

    On the contrary, discovery of Extraterrestrials will mean the new revival of Religion..!

    I did not have the opportunity to explore the findings of Mr. Weintraub, when he had examined the
    Islamic referrals related to this issue, nor I can be sure of the authorities spoke on behalf of Muslim.. Religion is a progressive concept that had been widely controversial.. However, I may point to three issues that would support my claim (as an intellectual Muslim):

    First;
    The main scripture of Islam; the Holy Quran had noted in many verses on the other nations either at the Skies or between Earth and Skies; which Adam’s sons (Mankind) do not know.. These nations have descriptions that vary between intellectual and living species alike what we have on Earth..

    Second;
    Islamically; there are three purposes for the (intellectual) creations to adhere to: Worshiping the Creator, Purifying oneself from non-divinely attributes, and Colonization and utilizing of Earth.. Therefore; in order to guide people to the righteousness, it is clearly stated in the Holy Quran that every nation had received a Prophet or a Messenger from Allah, yet their names, numbers or dates were not revealed apart from the few..

    Third;
    Islam had described a legacy of Mankind, whereas both Believers and non-Believers are in continuous confrontation; which had been deformed as a concept and created the concurrent Jihadists.. Accordingly, those Extraterrestrials would have their own versions of the “Oneness” belief; which will support and consolidate what we already have.. Also, they might be Disbelievers or atheist; which would expand and enrich the dialogue..!

    Either way, it will be interesting and challenging rather than demoralizing..

  • Jinx D’bourget

    Religion was created by man to control the weak minded. It’s pretty funny that even in 2014 we have so many weak minded people.

  • jimtoday

    “while Judaism and Islam see their tenants as only applicable to…”

    “Tenants”? Really? Yikes.

  • James Kookie Griffith Jr.

    The books say. “A day is as a thousand years,as a thousand years is as a day”. Not six 24 hours period,but 6 thousand years. It will change religion as we know it. But oue lufe came from somewbere.

  • Antoine Devine

    This article brings up the issue I have with the film “Prometheus.” At a point early in the movie when the screenwriters could have set up a great debate on secularism vs. religion, they left a huge whole in the movie’s theme, and lost me from that point forward. When Shaw was faced with the notion that everything she believed, Earth in 6 days, Adam & Eve, Noah, etc. was all a big lie, instead confronting the issue, not to resolve it, but to exchange truly intelligent questions and analysis, the script states, “If they made us, someone made them, and i’m going to find out who.” This movie could have had so much meaning, causing the unwritten debate to continue in coffee shops and living rooms all over the world. Instead, we get a scfi-dud on the order of Battlefield Earth, and Shaw takes off into physical space to find the God in the fairy tale book known as the bible.

    • Dan

      That’s the only part of the story I liked. It was logical that if we had a designer, who designed the designer? She was not satisfied with assuming she had rreached God and he was as flawed as us…. I also thought she was out to find why they wanted to destroy their creation?

      • Antoine Devine

        I agree that the question is a logical step in the process. My disappointment was that there could have been a discussion prior to getting there. Scott admitted that he purposely avoided having the debate, which I thought made the dialog less effective, and as it turned out, beginning of the set up for a sequel. I think the discussion we’re having here goes to show that the topic bears interest. I just wish Scott had been brave enough to get the ball rolling.

  • John McNicol

    I have often asked my christian friends if Jesus came back and proved himself the son of God would you still have faith in religion? obviously the answer is faith is unnecessary when proof is given. One doesn’t have faith in water it is tangible. Faith is the excuse for religion not the proof. Proof just muddies up the water for religion.

  • Guest

    Our governement seems to be run by aliens. I pray to god for a UFO to come save us.

  • Rick Arndt

    I don’t know… our government is pretty wacky these days. I pray to god a UFO will come and save us all.

  • PJ

    If “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts, we’d all have a very merry…yule. The point being partially, why not debate more important topics, and the advent of evolution sure didn’t slow religion down.

  • Dan

    My understanding of biological evolution is that it remains an unproven assumption. The closer one looks at real data the less viable the scenario. No one, for instance, understands how polymers can form independent of living cells or intelligent input. DNA, RNA protein and lipids are polymers. Evolution does not explain how life came into existence and this is a big gap in our secular knowledge. The development of some 8 million life forms from any one or even multiple life forms does not help the theory since every one of these forms as unique blueprints for building its biology. We have yet to conclusively demonstrate that natural selection of random defects in DNA can generate the kind of information database required to synthesize even the simplest body plan, even a bacterium or virus. I think too much credit is given to our current ignorance in fields of molecular and cellular biology. A good example would be the ENCODE project which just last year demonstrated that the junk in our DNA is programming for the control of the 1% of protein encoded in DNA and is active from conception to death at various levels and various times. Amazingly, fully understanding this amount of information has been estimated to take another 200 more years of research and some, in systems biology, suggest that the data has created infinite knowledge – enough information that we will never fully understand it all. As to Cosmology, the big bang theory is not as useful as we might think. Something from nothing is not science. Dark matter and dark energies don’t add to knowledge, scientifically, maybe religiously or philosophically but this is no longer science. Inflaton particles that don’t exist which expanded the universe and then disappear quite conveniently, is not science either. We really don’t have the grasp on reality that you might think, though it is so often published in popular science articles as though we do. Even the existence of the mind, or the arguments for and against its existence is a problem that is just beginning to be tackled and not many good ideas are out there as to how to attack it. So assuming evolution is viable and the universe did come into existence on its own, the existence of other life forms on other worlds is irrelevant since the distance to contact is overwhelmingly beyond our technology and even our theoretical conceptions. To suppose that Christian theology would be debunked by such a discovery really depends on who we meet, if and when we meet them. Wouldn’t it be surprising if they arrived and introduced the real God of the universe to us, the one that Christian religions have remade after their own image? On the other hand, if there is no other life forms in the universe except for those on this little blue marble, what would that mean to our atheism? Would we amalgamate this in our world of possibilities or would it shatter the entire atheistic argument, admitting that the fundamentalist interpretations of those ancient documents were right after all? The coin falls both ways when the evidence for a view point is mere assumption or worse prejudice. Don’t you think?

  • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

    We seem to have forgotten that the first European voyages to the Western Hemisphere raised the same sort of questions about religion. Contact with entire civilizations of people unmentioned in Scripture, whose cultures were blissfully unaware of Abrahamic religion, was a strange and terrible moment for Western civilization and belief.

  • kyle

    There are probably aliens and it’s possible there is a god still. how much more logic is needed?

    • kyle

      w/o certain universals somebody could do whatever that individual felt was good at the time (and in the masses mind you too). unfortunately most ppl are under-privileged and will never know such ‘theories’ and will do what they seek fit. good people would suffer intolerable acts, now would you want that?

  • D.M. Keith

    What happens when artificial intelligence is the norm and we as humans are no longer necessary? What happens to our souls(energy or whatever you may believe)? Are we being studied, darted and tagged as we do to our sub species? Just a thought.

  • sailor50

    Of course there are other beings on other planets. I would guess some would not be intelligent and others would be, just like Planet Earth. Given the ever expanding number of planets that we know about, it is only reasonable that many will support life.

  • M. Hoehne

    What I think is that a “communications associate” should know the difference between tenants and tenets.

  • Robert Mulkins

    Remember the concept of “cultural shock” in 2001, A Space Odyssey? This idea of Arthur C. Clark basically said that humans couldn’t take the sudden shock of ET discovery and it would have to be revealed to them slowly by their leaders. I’m not certain about this prediction, but I am certain that the discovery of alien life in the universe would not cause the end of religion. Logic and reason would tend to point us in that direction, but logic and reason have about as much value to religionists as does science. Many humanists love tales of myth and magic, but they also understand the concept of “the temporary suspension of disbelief” for the sake of entertainment. Religionists actually believe them and are comfortable with the permanent suspension of disbelief.

  • Cecil Bothwell

    Edit: “tenets” not “tenants”
    The ascent of science since well before my birth in 1950 is why I used to label myself as “post-theist.” God has never been a necessary explanation of anything in the world I grew up in. (Later I accepted “atheist” as a matter of solidarity with the movement to preserve church-state separation and etc.)

    But, wouldn’t it be hilarious if “god’s image” turns out to have 17 arms, 6 sexes, 4 heads and a snail shell? Or, perhaps bears great resemblance to a pile of pasta with meatballs?

  • MiltonDValler

    No. Facts are irrelevant to religion. That’s why it’s called FAITH. You assert your favorite ideas to be true and real, irregardless of factual reality. Aliens: just another example of god’s creative prowess.

  • http://natehevens.wordpress.com/ Nathan Hevenstone

    Here’s how I look it. “Is there extraterrestrial life” is not the question, because, for me, the answer is “of course there is. The universe is too big, and there are too many galaxies, and thus stars, and likely planets, for there not to be.”

    I think the better question is “will we ever find extraterrestrial life?” I for one don’t think we’ve ever been visited simply because of the insane distances within the universe. It may very well be impossible to travel beyond a given solar system. And if that’s beaten, you then have to figure out how to get beyond a given galaxy. The TARDIS is probably the best way to do that (let’s not forget that the size of the universe is such that we have to use TIME to measure it), but the TARDIS is, of course, a fictional vessel.

    So there’s a very good chance that we are alone simply by the vast differences between planets, stars, and galaxy. It may be impossible to really interact with life outside of our own solar system (let alone our own galaxy).

    And if it is possible, I’d argue that the technological leap required is so far advanced that any extraterrestrial species that has discovered it is no longer interested in this universe, and is finding ways to visit other universes, instead (that’s assuming other universes exist, of course). Which would of course mean that they wouldn’t waste time visiting us, because anything we (and by “we”, I mean all life on earth, not just humans or animals) could come even close to teaching them they likely already know. And they wouldn’t attack us for our resources because they would have figured out ways of extracting resources that don’t result in the disturbance or destruction of a planet and/or the life on it.

  • brommers

    Do you mean do I believe there is intelligent life on other planets? Of course, it is statistically very improbable that there is not. Are there aliens on other planets? Well there will be if we go there I suppose. You can’t be an alien on your own planet can you?

  • paulo

    I believe in my he possibility of alien life, due to the fact that we have discovered other planets in the habital zone s in far off galaxies thanks to the Hubble Telescope. Granted they may be microscopic creatures or intelligent, full from beings. Who can say yet. However with many of the modern marvels in the world such as the Pyramids at Geza, Baalbek, the Nazca lines, perhaps we have already been visited. Also, we know that bacteria has been found on asteroidsthat have come from deep space, so possibly these microorganisms hitched a ride and landed here billions of years ago. My final idea that life outside exists was my two encounters with UFOs, one very close and one far. Not exactly sure who drove these crafts, but do not think they were human in origin.

  • Irreverent Brian

    What is meant by the term “higher power” that gets tossed around so much in “Is there a god or not discussion?” Nuclear power is a higher power than I, by far. What has “power” to do with it anyway? I think that the use of the word “power” is indicative of god believers who see things in terms of power and power over. No wonder so many atrocities have been committed in the name of “religion.” Power to wipe out non-believers “for their own good” if they can’t or won’t convert, for instance. How about we just drop the word power (as in other and/or greater). Organized religion, by virtue of separating, relies on power to exist. What need is there of power when you don’t separate people so there is an “us” and a “them?”

  • johnboy

    I tend to dismiss Mormonism and Scientology, but I have most of my life thought that Jesus was an alien, and that the series “Ancient Aliens” isn’t that far from the truth. I read “Chariots of the Gods?” many years ago and it blew me away. I was raised in the Catholic Church and finally gave up belief in a “god” a few years ago. You’d think I’d have something to replace it, but no, there isn’t anything out there but a whole lot of space, and some elements being fused together, interspersed with some rocks floating too far apart to be meaningful to our existence. The universe is WYSIWYG, in spite of quantum physics.

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