Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Missionaries to Mars

Every time there's exciting news about space, whether it's missions of exploration, the discovery of new celestial bodies, or an advancement in relevant technology, speculation starts flying about extraterrestrial life. One variant of that you don't see very often popped up in the Wall Street Journal: "Could Aliens Have Souls That Need Saving?"
Post title shamelessly stolen from Albert Mohler.
(If you don't have access to the WSJ, the discussion of said article over at Get Religion is worth reading.)

The question at hand: If alien life were discovered, would Christians have to share the Gospel with them? It's not a new question, although it's usually expanded to consider the role of cosmology in Christian theology as well. CS Lewis wrote a series of books about it, for example.

There's a few ways of looking at this.

  • The positive case would state that, since Adam's sin caused the Fall to ripple out through all of creation, then aliens would also be in need of redemption. 
  • The negative case would state that, since any alien life would not be descended from Adam, they would not be inheritors of Adam's sinful nature and thus not bound by the details of Christian theology. 
  • The demure case would state that, since the Bible says nothing, positive or negative, about life beyond Earth, then speculation about the theological ideas surrounding it is improper. 
Dr. Mohler argues the latter case, incidentally. 

As for me, I'm a contrarian on this topic. The question is hypothetical, but I'm convinced that the possibility of alien life is so poor that it's not worth taking seriously. Allow me to explain.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Chasing the Wind: Our Story

I mentioned in the first entry for this series that I've been re-reading some philosophy books. In A.J. Ayer's essay, The Claims of Philosophy, I came across this paragraph:
But for now, it may be objected, suppose that the world is designed by a superior being. In that case, the purpose of our existence will be the purpose that it realizes for him; and the meaning of life will be found in our conscious adaptation to his purpose. But here again, the answer is, first, that there is no good reason whatsoever for believing that there is any such superior being; and, secondly, that even if there were, he could not accomplish what is here required of him. For let us assume, for the sake of argument, that everything happens as it does because a superior being has intended that it should.
 . . . The point is, in short, that even the invocation of a deity does not enable us to answer the question why things are as they are. 
I've left out the details of the argument, and Ayer goes on like this quite a bit more; Kai Nielsen repeats Ayer's argument in his essay, Linguistic Philosophy and "The Meaning of Life." (I don't recommend the latter. Linguistic Philosophy, as a field, seems like endless pontification on what the meaning of "is" is with the assumption that such navel gazing is profound.) There's much to say in response to this line of argument, but it becomes easier to do so in the context of the Christian world view. In other words, the response to all of these different formulations and perspectives on Meaning becomes understandable in the light of the story Christians tell about the Meaning of Life.

Maybe this comes off as surprising to some. Christians have an answer to the question of Meaning? What is the Christian answer here?

We were made to be in relationship with God.

Does that seem too simple? It really isn't. To make the most sense of this, we have to go back to the beginning. Before that, really.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

There's No Place Like Home

"Howdy neighbor!" Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser
I've got another post in the works on topic of Meaning, but it's been almost two weeks since my last post went up, and I wanted to break the silence with something that's a bit easier to write.

There's been quite a bit of news about the universe lately. First, there was the short-lived bit of excitement about SETI detecting a radio burst from deep space. Then we detected an "Earth-like" planet around our closest neighboring star, Proxima Centauri. A scientist even wrote a recent piece for the Boston Globe about directed panspermia, the theory that life on Earth originated, indeed, was specifically seeded, from extraterrestrial sources.

Most of this is nonsensical. The SETI signal is most likely Earth-based interference, or at the very least random noise amplified by natural phenomena. Proxima B, even if it's located in the "Goldilocks zone," is unlikely to be able to support life as we might appreciate it for all kinds of reasons.  Even the author of the panspermia piece recognizes that it's not a particularly compelling theory, and it only moves the goalposts when working out the problems with the chemical origin of life. (That's a topic I've been meaning to address someday.)

Still, people get very excited about the idea of life on other planets. It's certainly been a staple of science fiction since the genre came about. Given all the recent talk related to that idea in the news, I wasn't surprised to see this article: What will it take for humans to colonize the Milky Way?

Thursday, September 01, 2016

RPG a Day - Post Mortem

I started doing the "RPG a Day" activity as a way of jump-starting the writing process. You might notice the blog's been a little thin on content the last few, erm . . . years.

Well, it was certainly successful on that score. My enthusiasm for writing has been reinvigorated, although I can't say my time available for such things is any more abundant.

I'm rather proud I managed to put something up every day but the last for this. I'd been writing several of the posts at a time and scheduling them to go out, but that last one just got away from me.

In any case, I'm hoping 2016 will look better for the blog from here on out. I've been having enjoying writing my "Chasing the Wind" posts, and I hope to do a lot more with that. I've got several other ideas I've been percolating as well. No politics, though. Not that I have nothing to say on the current state of things, but it seems like a moot point; of all the voices clamoring for attention out there, I have nothing to offer that others won't say in more detail or more eloquently.
Here's to 2017.