The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.
P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
10.1 (Winter 2011)
FAITH AND CULTURAL MELTDOWN
courtesy of artrenewal.org
Extra-Terrestrials Do Not Threaten Faith, Whatever Else They May Menace
Much has been said and written lately about UFOs. Ever since British researcher Nick Pope went very public with declassified investigations of strange craft in the post-World War II UK, the intellectual community–scientists, engineers, academics, journalists, even politicos–has been far less inclined to deride the subject of “little green men”. The History Channel recently addressed the subject in a documentary which worked its way around to religion. In particular, various “experts” and “scholars” concurred that a universal recognition of Earth’s having been visited by extra-terrestrials would undermine the major faiths generally, but especially Christianity. Adherents of such outdated belief systems would be forced to admit that Earth is not the only source of intelligent life, that human beings are not the apex of Creation, that we can scarcely have a greater claim to being made in God’s image than the creatures who have literally been flying circles around us for centuries, and so on. To be fair, the documentary allowed a Catholic priest and another religious scholar to beg to differ about the subversive impact of demonstrating that Genesis is not literally true. Yet the dominant impression left was clearly that Christians (as opposed to more tolerant and flexible believers such as Hindus) would not be able to handle the historical disruption of their rigid linear paradigm running from Eden to the Second Coming.
This kind of “learned analysis” is so predictably and absurdly presumptuous that one could well put a frame around it and hang it under the title, “Portrait of the Artist’s Theoretical View of His Backside”. The “intellectuals” in such discussions seem not to have an inkling that they have logically disqualified their judgment by assuming what was to be proved–and their folly is on display over and over again, wherever “science” is being paraded as the last word. So an extra-terrestrial explorer’s presence would instantly demonstrate that homo sapiens is but an advanced ape? Why? Because the former can travel the stars while the latter cannot? But why does interstellar travel demonstrate superiority? Mathematical and engineering superiority, no doubt… but are these the ultimate measure of excellence? If there is no God–no alpha and omega of spiritual love, justice, and goodness–then the answer may be “yes”. But how is such a God proved not to exist when the offered proof begins in assuming his non-existence? And if he does indeed exist, we must first gauge the extra-terrestrials’ regard for the innocent, the weak, and the suffering before we award them the palm. Perhaps we should also ascertain whether or not they love music and sculpture, or even allot cultural space to the “finer things”, since such things are a reliable indicator of being able to find pleasure in something not devoted to one’s selfish ends.
Dare we question, furthermore, their motive in needing to leave their home planet to wander the universe? Why should we assume that it was and is to amass objective knowledge for the joy of knowing–was that not, also, intended to be a conclusion rather than a premise? Might a very good case not be made that the best people–the “highest” beings–have reached a peace with their material surroundings and do not need to stray hither and yon in an endless struggle to fill a great empty void? Many of our society’s theorists and moralists have made careers out of branding every earthbound explorer in human history an adventurer, an imperialist, a racist, and a slavemaster. Why, then, should we suppose an extra-terrestrial Columbus to be any different? Please God that he be so–but why is this to be assumed a priori? One of the documentary’s “experts” remarked fatuously that our guests were necessarily peaceful because their intelligence was clearly superior. The only lucid side to this assertion is that its author is necessarily abusing his intelligence because he clearly cannot distinguish between a logical consequence and wishful thinking.
Another irony of the same flavor is that science’s leading experts have been reassuring us for decades that the chances against other intelligent life in the universe are slim to none; that life in any form must be rare enough, and life sufficiently evolved to travel the galaxy is a pipedream; that the odds of such life, if it did exist, finding just our one tiny planet in the haystack would be less than those of retrieving the proverbial needle; and so on, and so on. Expressing a receptiveness to the proposition that interplanetary travelers might find us was akin, in the scientific community, to affirming that Jesus once walked on water. It was crazy: it was cultic. The last thing one wanted one’s professional peers to suspect was that one believed in the supernatural in any way, shape, or form.
Now it seems that this same community is making its peace with E.T. by advertising him as an antidote to religious belief rather than faith’s gateway drug. In a way, both views are correct. Interstellar travel obviously cannot take place according to that body of natural law which we currently know. Space ships could not travel fast enough: generations of occupants would have to be reared within the comet-like craft before a scout could place his webbed foot on Earth. As a result, our visitors must be either robots or a hybrid of biology and cyber-technology. We can conceive of such sophistication at our current level of understanding, but only just. The remaining alternative is that the voyagers may have reached us by exploiting a seam in the space-time continuum–by executing, that is, the plot of a science-fiction story. If they are truly here, then such things must clearly be possible; but if possible, then they also signal that we are a very long way from grasping the profound workings of physical reality.
Faith tells us precisely the same thing (this is one of the messages, is it not, behind Christ’s walking on water). The presence of extra-terrestrials can therefore either signify that we also fail to understand vastly many other things, such as how and why the universe began and whether some existence may await us beyond our material form… or that we must reject all of our old faiths for this new faith. What new faith, you may ask? The faith that our visitors are the true gods: that they are superior to us in every way, that they have intruded into terrestrial history from time to time to give us an avuncular nudge (or maybe just to build a lighthouse), that they mean us well and would never harm us, and that–in their own good time–they will let us know what we must do (which is sure to be very different from what we are doing). If this sounds like some pagan belief system far older than Christianity, the similarity is no accident. Our “scholars” and “experts” will plainly be prepared upon E.T.’s first public proclamation–far more so than any Christian–to fall on their knees. If he tells them to surrender x hundreds of virgins or to euthanize a certain human tribe, they will eagerly obey. The same people have long been proposing (and lately with a new traction, since our current president worships at their altar) widespread disposal of infants and elderly without much potential. They raise their Moloch and call it Progress. Now it will have a new face: large, slanting eyes, tiny nose and mouth, and an enormous frontal lobe to house an unearthly brain–the cult of Intelligence fashioned by those who have eaten of their own brilliance for far too long.
Irregular occurrences have certainly been going on in our air space for a long time–and also in some of our more remote terrain, where strange minds of some sort have been surgically mutilating cattle with what does not appear to be a sensibility that PETA would appreciate. Should we ever be able to communicate with these beings, the first question we should ask is whether they consider their behavior subject to review by a higher being of perfect justice. If they then do not have to wait years for the question to be transmitted to and answered from their home star, but are instead capable of speaking for themselves, then we can decide at that point how much learning we have to do, and how much teaching. ~ Pancratistes