The danger of writing about that in which you are ignorant is that you’re bound to look foolish. Let’s see an example.
Jeff Schweitzer, who bills himself as a scientist and “former White House Senior Policy Analyst”, writes that because astronomers recently discovered yet another planet “we come ever closer to the idea that life is common in the universe“. Actually, since astronomers have been telling us for quite some time that planets besides those in our solar system are exceedingly common, we are no closer at all, especially since there have not been any discoveries of extraterrestrial life.
But that let pass: it is a harmless mistake. Schweitzer goes on to make blunders which are far more fantastic. It’s his guess that if life is discovered on some remote planet, it will set the world’s religions on their ears.
I predict with great confidence that all will come out and say such a discovery is completely consistent with religious teachings. My goal here is to declare this as nonsense before it happens.
In a way, you have to admire the brazen conceit of such modern atheists. They consistently believe, in direct contradiction to freely available evidence, that they are the first to have thoughts on many subjects. (Reminds me of a joke I saw on Twitter: An atheist, vegan, and crossfitter walk into a bar…I only know because they told everybody within two minutes.)
In 2009 the Vatican had a conference on SETI (and more details here). Before that, the chief astronomer of the Vatican, Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, gave an interview at which he said extraterrestrial life is no problem for the Church, and that it fits in fine with Catholic theology.
The philosopher David Oderberg has written on the philosophy of rational beings like ourselves, and finds no difficulty (see this paper). There is a branch of religion called exotheology whose purpose is to study how fits into the usual Christian beliefs. C. S. Lewis wrote the novel Perelandra exploring questions of sin and redemption among aliens.
I could go on, but you get the idea. There is nothing new or frightening about the idea of rational material beings other than ourselves to Christian theology.
Let us be clear that the Bible is unambiguous about creation: the earth is the center of the universe, only humans were made in the image of god, and all life was created in six days. All life in all the heavens. In six days. So when we discover that life exists or existed elsewhere in our solar system or on a planet orbiting another star in the Milky Way, or in a planetary system in another galaxy, we will see a huge effort to square that circle with amazing twists of logic and contorted justifications.
The man does give some indication that he has glanced through the text, but he managed to miss the point. And angels: he missed angels, too. Angels are, as Peter Kreeft often reminds us, extraterrestrial rational, but not material beings, also made by God.
As I’ve often pointed out, atheists are overly prone to read the Genesis account literally. Let St Augustine have the last word on this topic:
It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation.
We’ll also skip over the Galileo business, and think about this from Schweitzer:
None of the 66 books of the bible make any reference to life other than that created by god here on earth in that six-day period. If we discover life elsewhere, one must admit that is an oversight. So much so in fact that such a discovery must to all but the most closed minds call into question the entire story of creation, and anything that follows from that story. How could a convincing story of life’s creation leave out life? Even if the story is meant to be allegorical, the omission of life elsewhere makes no sense.
Ignore that Schweitzer uses an expurgated Bible, and focus on Schweitzer’s I-Know-What-God-Would-Do Fallacy, an exceedingly obnoxious and frequent error. Who says God shouldn’t mention other life in the universe? Schweitzer says. And how does Schweitzer know? Schweitzer doesn’t: he made it up.
Schweitzer then uses his self-created belief about God would do to say that because God didn’t do this or that particular thing, therefore God cannot exist.
Thanks to Sheri for bringing this to our attention.