Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Life Beyond Earth: Does it pose a theological crisis?

By Deborah Haarsma, Director at BioLogos

Astronomers are discovering thousands of planets in orbit around other stars. They now estimate that there are billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy. Could intelligent life be living on some of those planets? This is the subject of much scientific speculation and entertaining science fiction. While we haven’t yet detected signs of alien life, what would such a discovery mean for Christians?

Some atheists claim the discovery of aliens would destroy organized religion or invalidate the Bible. However, a survey of religious people found that most are comfortable with the idea of intelligent aliens and do not see it threatening their beliefs. Astronauts such as John Glenn actually found their trip to space to bring them closer to God and to a deeper faith. The Bible is still relevant in the space age; it makes claims far beyond the people and places of Earth, describing God as the Creator of all life and the entire cosmos. Yet many questions remain.

Let’s think about some of the common questions Christians ask about intelligent life beyond Earth. While we ponder these, we can remember that the significance of humanity is based on God’s actions toward us here on Earth. On our planet, God became incarnate as one of us and sacrificed himself to save us. Whether there are aliens or not, we are significant in God’s eyes. We can stay curious about life beyond Earth and celebrate all life that God chooses to create.

Read it all here.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Ethics Forum Has a New Format

Beginning in August 2019, Ethics Forum will have a new format. It will be more aesthetically pleasing and user friendly. This blog has been around for eleven years and it is time for a fresher look!

Additionally, we will approach ethics thematically. Each month will focus on one theme. Perhaps you noticed that we explored the theme of aliens and extraterrestrial life in July. A few articles about politics were woven in to prepare for the August focus on political discourse and concerns about manipulation.

In September, we will consider global terrorism. Please suggest additional themes that you would like to explore.

Readers are invited to suggest themes of interest in the comment box. If you have written something that relates to the announced theme of the month and would like to have it published here, send it to Alice C. Linsley, aproeditor-at-gmail-dot-com

Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you.

Alien Adolescents

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Chesterton Explains US Political Insanity

G.K. Chesterton wrote:
"Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed. Thus every man who utters a doubt defines a religion. And the scepticism of our time does not really destroy the beliefs, rather it creates them; gives them their limits and their plain and defiant shape. We who are Liberals once held Liberalism lightly as a truism. Now it has been disputed, and we hold it fiercely as a faith. We who believe in patriotism once thought patriotism to be reasonable, and thought little more about it. Now we know it to be unreasonable, and know it to be right. We who are Christians never knew the great philosophic common sense which inheres in that mystery until the anti-Christian writers pointed it out to us. The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed. It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them. It is a rational thesis that we are all in a dream; it will be a mystical sanity to say that we are all awake. Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. We shall look on the impossible grass and the skies with a strange courage. We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed.” (Heretics)

Friday, July 19, 2019

Terrestrial U.F.O. - An Unclassified Encounter

John Williams

When I saw the UFO Welcome Center billboard, a hokey Route 66 style trinket shop came to mind. If I was really lucky, I thought, perhaps I’d find a curtain that could be brushed away for $5 a glimpse to reveal a shriveled grey body. Then I recalled, this wasn’t a UFO themed welcome center at all. It was Bowman S.C.’s legendary docking point for alien spaceships on earth.

The edifice eschews architectural conventions, contemporary or classical. Its imposing appearance is supplemented by cautionary signage. The way the floor gives and the wall shakes affords those who enter a sense of slight danger; adventure, as the ancients called it.

There was a deep stillness in those first moments, save a television silently relaying the black and white programming of a serial western. I sensed that this place’s sexton would present himself abruptly, as would only be appropriate. And suddenly, he emerged. Jody; an old, thin man with long hair, a Hawaiian shirt, and a beard.

“Do you want to go up?” he asked. 
“Yes, please.”

Overwhelmed by the beauty of this place, I was reminded of the cathedral. The environment envelops man and takes him somewhere fresh and new. As I climbed ladder after ladder behind Jody, I sensed the ascension that the architect sought to convey. When we reached the penultimate floor, pictures from the windows were encouraged. 

“We’re having fun!” he observed.

“Did you make this place?” I asked, knowing the answer.

“Yes. Human hands.” He showed them to me. I admire the pride in his species. The human hand is a comparatively rudimentary technology, but even the most ardent futurist finds it is most useful in overcoming alienation from his daily surroundings.

“For our otherworldly friends?”

“Yes for the aliens.. yes the otherworldly. If they ever come back again.” 

He exaggeratedly clasped his hand to his mouth. “I’ve said too much,” he said with a grin.

“What are you going to do in your life?” he asked me.

I stood silent. I’m very familiar with the question. It feels like an insurmountable weight at times. However, in Jody’s kind face I saw the dissolution of the egoism that typically drives the interrogation. It was as if he asked “What are you going to do in your life… disregarding Babylon.”

“Have fun!” He implored before leaping back into the hull. In climbing to the highest level, we found ourselves in a small cylindrical disc covered in Pyrex saucers. I felt tremendously welcome, and believe any ET worth his salt would concur.

Upon exiting the spacecraft, we saw a clan of pilgrims resting outside the walls of the sanctum, newly joined by Jody. Two children left an old woman’s side to approach us, showing the front pages of two local newspapers prominently displaying the feat.

After some pleasant conversation, Jody excused himself.

“I have a date!”

I thanked him for his hard work before he left.

“Don’t worry,” he replied, “It’ll still be here when you’re ready to go.”

My feelings regarding the alien grey are as complicated as the technology and intelligence that it signifies. It is easy to sense the spiritual or extra-dimensional progression of things.

Greys are reported to illumine, to rape, to give purpose, to manipulate. When pondering technofuturism, I consider the ways that paradigm-shifting intelligence does all of these things to the human spirit.

But in the microcosm; in Jody’s shuttle, filled with ancient, expended technology, far removed from Crowley’s invocations of Lam, far removed from L Ron Hubbard’s social manipulation through the use of alien archetypes, far removed from the extraterrestrially inspired self destruction of Heaven’s Gate, I felt an angelic hope. A feeling that, in earnest, when I’m ready to go, the joys of ascension, fun, pure creation, and ultimate revelation will be waiting.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Ethics and Partisan Politics

Recently, accusations of racism, pandering to fears, and questions about ethics have taken center stage in American politics. The polarization of Americans seems more pronounced than usual. What roll does ethics play in this drama?

"In a Pew Research Center survey conducted last summer, 91% of Americans said it is essential for someone in high political office to be honest and ethical – the top attribute out of nine asked about in the survey. There were no partisan differences in this assessment: Nearly identical shares of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (90%) and Republicans and Republican leaners (91%) said this."

The survey showed disagreement on Trump and his administration, as there has been for other elected officials. Similar disagreement surrounded the Clinton administration.

The Pew survey found that "People generally view presidents from their own party as trustworthy – and presidents from the other party as not trustworthy."

Read the January 2019 report here

Saturday, July 6, 2019

An Ethical Consideration of Aliens

Space Tapestry: Faraway Missions, Tate Liverpool, 2017

Alice C. Linsley

I work at the intersection of Philosophy and Science. The first discipline requires an open mind and the second requires that my mind clamp down on hard data. Both are helpful when considering aliens and unidentified flying objects (U.F.O's). There is no hard data to prove the existence of aliens and U.F.O's, and yet the obsession persists.What motivates the obsession?

It has been suggested that the Media keeps the obsession alive. This is the view of the journalist Keith Kloor in his article "America’s Enduring Obsession With UFOs: How the media keeps extraterrestrial infatuation top of mind."

Another explanation for the longevity of the UFO-alien obsession is cult-like groups. According to William H. Swatos, Jr, many of these groups have a religious quality. Swatos explains:
To their alleged encounters, "contactees" such as George Adamski and Orfeo Angelucci attached religious meaning, which often incorporated spiritualist and theosophical principles with apocalyptic and millennialist themes. These themes reflected growing American cultural fears of communism and nuclear destruction, combined with faith in the salvific nature of technology. Masonic and Rosicrucian ideals and rituals also appeared within some of the early groups and, most recently, in the Order of the Solar Temple. Contemporary UFO groups additionally borrow from "New Age" and Christian doctrines (as did Heaven's Gate) as well as from the general science fiction milieu. The range of beliefs among these groups is quite wide, including people who claim to have seen UFOs, alleged contactees, alleged contactees who have visited ships or other worlds, reputed victims of alien experimentation, and alleged aliens who live among humans.

In another article by Keith Kloor he asks, "A community of believers in extraterrestrial visitations continues to push its story, and the media and Pentagon continue to listen. Who benefits from these tales of close encounters?" 

The speculation gains legitimacy when the Navy issues guidelines for reporting UFO's. In an age when people read only the headlines and the headlines are often misleading, few will note that the Navy is not acknowledging encounters with alien spacecraft. Rather, it is acknowledging the importance of recording unusual sightings by trained military personnel.

Perhaps some people follow alien lore as a way of gaining attention. Attention seekers thrive by keeping a speculative conversation going, and there are attention seekers in every arena of society. Add an element of conspiracy and religious indignation, and the movement is bound to draw followers.

Claire Coffey finds that what was once a fringe belief system has taken hold of the imagination of many. The religion of the UFO is also the religion of technology and is disseminated and popularized through the narratives of Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The X-Files. She sees this as a new religion with adherents as loyal as Roman Catholics who claim to have had visions of the Virgin Mary.

In an attempt to find legitimacy in the Bible, some insist that the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4 refers to aliens. Here we have a case of selective reading or what some call "cherry picking" biblical passages. The verse makes it clear that it refers to men, not aliens.
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

The nephilim were powerful early rulers, also known as gibboriym, which means the mighty ones. They are also called "the mighty men" of old in Genesis 10. Further, the term "nephilim" comes from the same root as the Aramaic npyl (nephil) which means great in rank or stature. This is equivalent to the Arabic nfy, meaning hunter. It is said concerning Nimrod that he was a “mighty hunter” or a “mighty man” before the Lord.

Since there is no hard evidence for aliens and U.F.O's, how should one respond to those who adhere to this belief? Humoring is perceived as condescending. Confrontation is likely to stir antagonism. People don't like to have their worldviews challenged. Empirical reasoning is useless since the worldview of adherents is a substitute for empiricism.

In today's world one may discuss ethical encounters with aliens. It is time we talk about ethical engagement with alien-embracing religionists.