Friday, July 06, 2018

Search For Intelligent Life

I remember thinking that it was curious when Carl Sagan was deeply agnostic about God, yet so committed to searching for intelligent life in the universe.  I thought I noticed then that people who were so curious about that were almost invariably not believers in the Christian God in any usual form.  That just follows a prejudice of mine, that they would think that.  I don't actually know it.  I still think it true, but it would be easy to talk me out of it with a little good data.

Slate Star Codex (sidebar) has a lot of links and connections to the rationalist/humanist communities. I think I am seeing the same thing again over there. I will postulate, for contemplation, that there is some conservation of this belief in the human personality.  We want to believe that there is something out there that can instruct us, guide us, improve us. When we give up YHWH, we find some less-threatening cycle of lives, or oneness with the universe, or distant wise ones to believe in instead. (I find all of these to be ultimately much more threatening, but they don't look it at first.)

I do not claim this is universal.  I suspect there are people who have none of this belief at all, neither Abrahamic nor SETI. Yet the replacements have observably sprung up in the West in step with the reduction of monotheistic belief.


Donna B. said...

"We want to believe that there is something out there that can instruct us, guide us, improve us."

ummm… no, I do not want to believe that. I think that is the ultimate leftist way of thinking/believing. Those ways ultimately lead to socialism/communism because they are always invented by humans. I don't think the universe cares about us one way or another. I can believe there is a God of the universe, but if he/she/it cares about us, it's not in that way.

Christianity is least problematic because it recognizes free will.

james said...

Reports of angels vs reports of UFO's and alien abductions?
Both are, of course, extra-terrestrial...

We don't want to be alone--perhaps we know we aren't. Ordinary creatures like us might overpower us, but they would have no moral authority over us.

james said...

WRT alien abductions, I like this Pixar short: Lifted

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Donna B - I recognise, and mentioned, that it is not universal.

Donna B. said...

That you did, AVI, and I apologize for harping on that line. It "triggered" me! I've read too many others (generally on the right side of the political spectrum) who say that without that sort of guidance, we're just animals, which implies we don't have free will. I've also read too many (generally on the left) which say that our brain, our "wetware" controls all on a physical level, which also implies we don't have free will.

I think both sides have some validity. I've seen too many of the effects of brain injuries to believe that organ isn't in charge of many of our thoughts and actions. I've also witnessed great acts of love and sacrifice (some by people with brain injuries) that make me take a 2nd look at the idea of a greater power.

My "formative" years were spent in an area that was dominated by 2 churches, Catholic and Mormon. Both were dogmatic in those years, but very social as long as no other church was involved. I went to catechism with some friends and LDS youth study groups with others. I couldn't quite accept the original sin of one group or the idea that humans could aspire to be divine of the other. I'm probably still confused.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think I was touchy because I was thinking of you specifically.

As for free will, I don't think we have much, but it doesn't take much to make big changes in outcomes. We are largely automatic and get by just fine. The enormous difference is the ability to imagine different possibilities from our actions, or responses to the possibilities of others' actions. I don't know as this is the cause of our free will, but it is the field on which that freedom is played out.