Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Extraterrestrial Life: The Final Blow against Theism.

I recently came across an article on the Internet about a search that is underway by cosmologists for Earth-like planets outside our solar system. Actually, the existence of extrasolar worlds themselves was predicted decades ago and was finally confirmed in the 1990's. Since then, hundreds of such celestial objects have been found, but none with characteristics need to support life, at least as we know it (nor for that matter has SETI [Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence project]).

Yet life is amazingly adaptable. Living creatures have been found here on Earth existing in conditions that were once thought impossible to support any life at all such as at the bottom of the ocean where the atmospheric pressure is so intense that it would crush humans in an instant, and in volcanic settings with temperatures as high as 400 degrees centigrade. And given the unimaginably large number of stars in the universe (more than all the grains of sand on all the beaches in the world), the odds are that some do have life on them, maybe even civilizations superior to ours. Even within our own solar systems, there are potential sites besides Earth that have conditions conducive to life, e.g. Titan (one of the moons of Saturn) and Mars. So it may be just a matter of time before we find extraterrestrial life in one form or another.

If and when in fact life is found on other worlds, how will theistic Earth-centered anthropomorphic religions handle such a discovery? Strangely, even the Catholic Church is taking an interest in this search (Why? Are they looking for new worlds to screw up?)

At this point it would be fair to ask that if there are other civilizations "out there", why have they not contacted us? A recurring theme in science fiction literature is that humankind is not yet ready for such communication as we are still too primitive and violent to interact with more intelligent species. Given man's track record, especially in the matter of religious conflicts, that may not be too far fetched. Who knows how believers will react when their geocentric god-rug is pulled out from under them? So maybe our planet is under some kind of "quarantine".

On the other hand, could the discovery of extraterrestrial life instead finally liberate humanity from the chains of religious fantasy and magical thinking that have plagued us for thousands of years? In turn could this break one of the greatest barriers that has separated humankind? Equally important, finding life on other planets may well give a renewed hope and meaning to life on our own.


John_poson26 said...

Great post!
I’ve been fascinate over the possibilities of life existing outside of our own solar system for most of my life, and this was one of the reasons why I became a scientist. We now know that the process which created our star and our solar system; is quite common throughout the universe, including in our galaxy also. And I believe that many of the billions of billions of stars in the universe were formed in much the same way as our sun, and therefore some of their planets, must also be earthlike as well. I believe wherever life can exist, it will. And if you just played the odds, one could say that life exists on millions of other planets within the universe.

The religious of this world, if confronted with the facts that we are not alone in this universe; the most deluded and hardcore ones, would just go to their fucking holy-books, and start twisting some of its scripture, and then start proclaiming, that this knowledge was there all along (they have been doing this for many years now, anyway). Even if a group of ET’s, landed here today, and told us how the universe was made – some of them would only believe that the ET’s were sent by Satan, to try and cheat the believers out of their tickets to “heaven.”


Secular Guy said...

Thanks for your support, John. I too have been fascinated by the space sciences since I was a kid. But for my deficiency in math, I also would have made a career out of astronomy.

You are right about hard core theists stubbornly clinging to their dogma in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary (sigh). Denial is a powerful thing.

In the recent issue of "Free Inquiry", an article discussed that some Orthodox Jews now even reject the principle of heliocentrism!

I'm just hoping that if we ever do make contact with an extraterrestrial civilizations, the fundamentalists will be marginalized into irrelevance.