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Is There Life Out There?


by Leon Keith Jackson

The UFO and ETI challenge in a Christian perspective
, International Director of 
3 April 2004 @ CDPC

Introduction

The air was teeming with anticipation as Stuart begun his presentation. The many views sat unseen in the mind of the audience, a fundamentalist viewer or two perplexed that CDPC would even host such an event as this, many post modern youth curios to hear another X-file's like conspiracy theory and the average CDPC thinking Christian, wondering if he is going to call it all a hoax or blame it on the devil.

Stuart begin by taking us down memory lane recalling the 1960's when Gene Roddenberry launched the popular series 'Star Trek' that begin the worldwide interest in this phenomenon. But the interest in the phenomenon had begin earlier. Most people narrow the beginning of the modern rash of UFO sightings down to a day in 1947, on June 24 to Kenneth Arnold who observed, from his private plane, nine disk-like, silver objects flying in formation over Mount Rainier, Washington and he described them as "flying saucers". Later as Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt coins the phrase "UFO" to replace the term "flying saucers" to try and diffuse the sensationalism on this matter, but despite his efforts the media in the US hype it up and he gets almost 40 reports of sightings a day.

Stuart then proposes that popularity of ET's and UFO's because they carry with them some profound questions like;

"Are these our ancient ancestor's coming to visit us?" 
"Does this mean that we are not alone in the universe?" 
"Is the answer to humanity's meaning and purpose found in this phenomena?"

Is there life on other planets?

The recent reports from Mars have stirred up the people's curiosity and an incredible interest in the presupposition to the existence of water on Mars. The media tends to draw very quick and very speculative conclusions (great leaps of faith) on very minimal data, and their speculations are often contradicted later after the full cycle of scientific analysis has taken place. Because of this, we must learn to differentiate between 'Science' and 'Popular Science' - between the objective empirical or logical results and the marketing hype designed to bring about a desired end from the masses, a form of modern media psychosis.

Stuart goes on to quote Dr. Hugh Ross (and will do so throughout his talk) who is a bachelor of science and physics from the University of Columbia and had his masters and PHD from the university of Toronto and who runs a Christian Apologetics website and ministry called Reasons to Believe.

Science and Science Fiction

He starts of with a quote from OS Guinness that goes, "not everything that can be thought, can be done". And Stuart uses that to preface this series of empirical scientific arguments from Hugh;

The argument from Physics

How realistic is the notion of interstellar (between planetary systems) or intergalactic (between galaxies) travel?

Distance problems. A good dose of Science fiction make most people ignorant of the fact that (a) the laws and constants of physics set hard limits on any significant space travel by intelligent physical beings; and (b) no amount of technological capability can overcome such limits. Not only does the facts show us that the nearest feasible life forms are a minimum of 50 light years away, but should they be able to travel that distance they would have to dodge the gravity and deadly radiation of neutron stars, supergiant stars, nova and supernova eruptions, and even the remnants of such eruptions. They would also have to avoid the gas, dust, and comets so dense in the spiral arms and they would have to stay in the plane of the galaxy for any departure from the plane would expose the travelers to the deadly radiation that streams from the galactic core. Maneuvering to avoid hazards would extend the minimum distance to an estimated 75 light-years.

Speed problems. To summarize this the laws of physics forbid any chunk of matter from traveling faster than the velocity of light. Serious difficulties arise, however, long before an object reaches that speed. At the velocity of light, the energy required to move a specified mass is infinite, and in a spacecraft, this would result in a gigantic craft so that the mass of a craft and its propulsion system rises geometrically relative to the mass of the payload. Now, as our craft gets so big, it becomes even more vulnerable to space debris. And at the speed of light, the damage done to the craft upon collision with the debris will be astronomical because the damage upon impact increases with the square of the velocity increase.

To protect against damage from space debris, a spacecraft may use armor which will mean more mass, resulting in a need for more propellant to move the added mass. More propellant means more propellant to move the extra propellant. Thus, the problem escalates. And to try to slow the travel down to save on the mass of the craft will pose other threats, such as being a slower moving target for debris, comets and other obstacles. Also the faster the craft, the more its exposure to radiation as the particles associated with radiation (e.g., protons, neutrons, electrons, heavy nuclei, and even photons) cause erosion to the "skin" and components of the craft. Also worth the mention here is that the life span of these aliens must be able to accommodate travel time that would take human beings generations to accomplish.

Hugh goes on to argue against the Loopholes in wormholes theory and to point out other problems. His full argument can be seen online.

Carbon Chauvinism

Hugh says that he uses the scientific approach called "the process of elimination" to answer the question Is there a place where extraterrestrials could live in the universe? Over the years, science has made some significant advances. "The number of candidates for life sites within the Milky Way grows smaller each day," says Hugh. At one time, biologists speculated that extraterrestrial life forms might be based on exotic chemistry, not carbon as earthly life is. But today the conclusion is that all conceivable life forms must be carbon-based (a view called 'Carbon chauvinism'). And if life forms exist on other planets, they must be planets like Earth, orbiting a star like the sun in a galaxy like the Milky Way. "Ongoing research shows that this seems less possible as each year passes," says Hugh.

Worldview

At this point Stuart comes out of the Scientific run down of Hugh Ross (that might have given some a headache by then) and introduces the concept of 'Worldview'. "The way we interpret data, is dependent on our worldviews. C S Lewis defined a worldview this way, "a worldview is not what you see, it's what you see with". A predisposed worldview limits ones view of every angle of the truth."

The Postmodern Reaction

This point from Stuart could not have been more timely, as the Postmodern upbringing in me, shouts out in my mind, "Who says it has to be a carbon based life form? Who says it has to conform to our understanding of physics?" and what I only dared to think, another young man actually voiced out to Stuart in question.

Stuart proceeded to establish these points to dispel our Post modernity;

  1. To believe that somehow the very science and physics we did not invent but discovered, changes in different locations in the universe is a gigantic leap of faith, that is contrary to the evidence that shows us otherwise. Our space exploration is only possible by this science.
  2. To believe in a non-carbon based life form is to believe in a life form that is either paranormal or inorganic (like Silicon)

Now, I know I run the risk of over simplifying this, but it dawns on me that the only other options I have if I reject the empirical evidence before me that is disqualifying the extraterrestrial option is to either believe that there are aliens who are machines or ghost!

Stuart moves on from this with this comment, "A believer in UFO's and ET visitations to earth are sometimes believers by faith, and will not yield to any amount of evidence contradictory to their faith, and will in response to these scientific arguments give hypothetical arguments for these creatures having different technologies, materials and physics than that which we now understand. These arguments for extra terrestrials are really just a form of modern Gnosticism, invoking a higher knowledge to powers beyond the human race."

Make no mistake about it, to believe in extra terrestrials is a step of faith, not science!

Conspiracy theories

"Fueled by popular movies like the X-files, the conspiracy theories like Roswell and Area 51 live on as empirical truth in the hearts and minds of many.

Mark T Clark, a fellow of the Claremont Institute and Director of National Security Studies at California State University, San Bernardino says that conspiracy theories of alien visitation to the United States are not feasible in the context of its time and political climate. The explosion of UFO sightings happen after the 50's, and all throughout the Cold war tensions between US and the USSR. A UFO could not land in the US without being detected and apprehended as a military threat from Russia. Responding to the proliferation of UFO reports and sightings, the US invested billions into enquiries such as project Sign in 1947, project Grudge in1949 and finally project Blue Book to close up all investigation from 1947 till 1969.

The second failure of the conspiracy theories is in the exaggerated secrecy they credit the government for having that's never been possible in the history of the world. Also in a conspiracy, the truth comes out over time, but the UFO evidence has yet to emerge.

The conspiracy theories in this instance are urban legends that has great resonance with people who want to believe, for philosophical dispositions they have."

UFO's had two sons, IFO's and RUFO's

So since science rules out the extra terrestrial, how do we deal with the existential question of human being beings encountering UFO's? Let's get back to Stuart;

Studies show that 90% of these reports can be ruled out on the basis of science alone. This assumption is the result of data and analysis through interviews, research, visits to locations and data gathered from electronic equipment. False assumed UFO sightings are in these instances (Called IFO's, Identified Flying Objects) : 
1. Misidentified or misunderstood natural phenomenon 
2. Misidentified man-made phenomenon (classified military vehicles and weapons) 
3. False and freak images produced on high quality instruments (ghost images on radar) 
4. False data produced from faulty instruments or harsh conditions 
5. Human error - false memories and inaccurate or exaggerated witness information
6. Hoaxes, pranks and frauds
7. Chemical imbalances and/or intoxication leading to hallucinations

And example for this is a man that was knocked down unconscious, by a low flying supersonic jet. He woke up a few days later with a memory of being knocked down by a UFO.

To add to Stuart's note here, the FBI published their last known study on this matter called the Project blue book, that was a systematic study of Unidentified Flying Objects conducted by the United States Air Force in the 1950s. The results of this study show that there were a total of 12, 618 reported UFO sightings from 1947-1969. And out of that 701 (approx 5.5%) remained unsolved by the FBI at the closing of the Blue Book in 1969.

That leaves us with a good 5%-10% group that is classified as the Residual UFO's, or RUFO's.

Once we eliminate explained and explainable UFOs, the remaining reports are referred to as "residual UFOs" or simply RUFOs. Consistently, UFO investigators have found that residual UFOs make up around 1-5% of reported UFO cases and none argue that it is 0%. If even 1% of UFO reports of the last 5 decades were unexplained, then that would mean at least 100,000 RUFO encounters! 

Summary of what we learned so far

Before we go on, let's just establish what we have learned so far;

  1. An ET being able to visit earth in a UFO would have to have to be of a form and substance and have technology that defies our current understanding of science and physics
  2. There is no Scientific reason to believe that there is a creature separated from us by distance that is not subject to our understanding of the laws of science and physics that as far as we can empirically judge, is consistent throughout the universe
  3. "To persist therefore in believing in UFO's and ET's is caused by a philosophical and religious predisposition rather than a faithfulness to Science"
  4. Forget about the conspiracy theories, there is no reason to believe them
  5. The reality of the belief in UFO's today are caused by the widespread experiences of individuals having encounters with this phenomenon
  6. Investigation upon this individuals show that 90%-95% or them are IFO's and the remainder is classified as RUFO's that must be addressed.

UFO sightings, a tale of two Hypothesis

There are those who try to explain this phenomenon away in a naturalistic context, like the late Carl Sagan, suggest that what is really going on in relation to alien abductions is some sort of mass psychosis, hysteria, or hallucination. These explanations simply aren't true to the data collected from the witness accounts and interviews. As Stuart says;

"Jacques Vallee who has examined hundreds of these cases and interviewed alleged abductees said that there is little agreement from the scholars on the what happened, how to evaluate the details or what they mean."

The Inter-dimensional Hypothesis

Stuart then asks,"What if the RUFO's are not coming from a distance of space somewhere else in the universe but from another dimension? Suppose a creature can transcend the four familiar dimensions of Length, Height, Width and Time? The Bible has a good track record in scientific evidences, telling us that time was finite before it was even discovered. And in the biblical view of reality there is revealed to us a spiritual dimension, that is the only logical hypothesis to deal with this whole question of RUFO's.

While a purely naturalistic approach to this UFO question can only answer 90% of its occurrences, an opinionated, pragmatic or purely existential approach that compromises good science and logic can lead us into dangerous or futile speculations.

And this suggestion is not a exclusive claim. There have been two prominent Scientist in this field, which two suggestions along this line. One was Jacques Vallee, the councilor for the Society for Scientific Exploration who says that the UFO is "paraphysical" in nature - which is to say that it may represent an intrusion from another dimension, or a temporary construct of matter generated from energy controlled by a natural or intelligent source. Researchers who follow Vallee's example often draw parallels between folkloric accounts (such as those of elves and fairy apparitions) and modern UFO events, and hold that the UFO phenomenon may simply be a modern guise for a phenomenon which has been present since long before the modern UFO era.

Other researchers draw parallels between the behavior and appearance of UFOs and their occupants and other areas of study loosely referred to as "paranormal". John Keel is one of the most well known of this school, and his work has attempted to unify apparitions, "monsters", contactees, the Men-In-Black phenomenon, and cases which suggest direct intervention by the UFO source in the lives of witnesses. In the view of researchers such as Keel, the phenomenon is almost infinitely malleable, has extensive knowledge of individual humans and human history, and has both good and evil aspects which are reflected in the behavior of its manifestations.

"Most of us know just enough science, to hurt us. We must beware that we don't draw premature and unwarranted conclusions. The Biblical approach allows us to embrace the best of scientific logic on one hand, and the metaphysical understanding and Theological insight that brings a holistic answer to this question."

Alien abductions and communications

Stuart concludes; "Scientist John Birdmore (Mack?) puts together this list of what the alien abductees have in common after their experience; 
1. They become more spiritual in their outlook 
2. They begin to identify a supernatural force behind the universe 
3. They begin to hold religious views that are more synchronistic and pluralistic 
4. They develop paranormal powers such as Out-of-body experience and telepathy 
5. They change their world and life views

Many of the popular abduction movies we have seen have been based on these witness accounts that are used to propagate a powerful message - that we aren't alone, and wrapped in this is the possibility of finding the answers to origin, meaning, purpose and destiny in a non-Christian context.

Then they are those who claim to be channels of communication between the alien beings and the listening humans. They history of occult possession or writings like that of Madame Blavatsky's, you will find virtually no dissimilarity between those occulting or new age practices and the alleged channeling to communicate with alien beings. These occurrences are no new event in the history of the world.

We must avoid the error of reducing complex phenomenon to simple explanations as much as we must avoid making it so complex, that the genuine mystery disappears."

I heard an Interview with Harvard psychologist, Richard McNally, about his research into false alien memories, concluded after interviewing hundreds of alien abductees that they tended to have involvement in the new age and occulting practices. Though McNally holds on the "Hallucinations during sleep paralysis" hypothesis, his honest survey confirmed our hypothesis that at the root of some of this UFO and ET encounters, are demonic beings as explained by the scriptures.

A Christian conclusion from the data

Stuart then ends with this exhortation;

We must face these challenges as Christians, that this phenomenon poses on us;

  1. The issue of Biblical revelation, summed up in the historical person of Jesus Christ, is it true or false? The alleged ET and UFO encounters have been documented to having denied the gospel, distorted the gospel or out rightly replacing the gospel with some new revelation. Why this preoccupation on their part with the gospel?
  2. If spiritual warfare as taught in the Bible is consistent with the Inter-Dimensional Hypothesis, then what responsibility do we have as Christians in terms of steering clear of this distraction and helping others out of it?
  3. The apologetic question - the human quest for origin, purpose, meaning, transcendence, immortality and destiny. There is in us, a longing for God and this whole phenomenon is pitted to try and take His place.

The entire story of UFO's is a complete narrative. It's a full fledged worldview like Islam, Hinduism or Christianity. It attempts to tell of our origin, problems, redemption and future hope in competition with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As I got up from the talk, I walked away feeling very satisfied that the issue was dealt with in a holistic manner, and that cognitive and spiritual elements were all categorized and dealt with accordingly, in the manner of good Christian apologetics. 

 

Recommended additional reading:

1. Dr. Hugh Ross's website : www.reasons.org 
2. Pro ET Hypothesis website : www.ufoevidence.org
3. Jacques Vallee; Forbidden ScienceMessengers of Deception or Dimensions 
4. John A. Keel ; Our Haunted Planet 
5. Various Abduction Theories 
6. Hugh Ross' full article against the feasibility of UFO visitation 
7. John Mack's .- The Alien Abduction Phenomenon 
8. The answer to The Roswell incident 
9. FBI documents of the Enquiries done into UFO's