Across the Universe– Is There Intelligent Life Out There?

One of the questions human beings have pondered for many centuries is— Are we human beings alone in the universe? By this was meant— Are we the only intelligent life in the universe? I forego the debate about whether there is even intelligent life on earth itself. Recently, it has often seemed the answer to that question is a big fat NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Besides the warring madness of our species, we also seem to be the only creatures on our planet who insist on fouling our own nest with garbage, pollution, waste etc. And then we compound the problem by denying climate change, or at least denying we are responsible for it due to our addiction to fossil fuels. This word just in—- fossils belong in museums, and should not be used for fuel! But I digress.

In the first place, it seems to me far too narcissistic to declare emphatically ‘we are the only intelligent species in the universe’. First of all, how in or out of this world could we possibly know that? The vast majority of the universe we haven’t explored, indeed the vast majority of our own solar system we haven’t explored! Secondly, it beggars belief that God would create this huge universe, and only make one planet in one solar system in one galaxy inhabitable and having intelligent life. Believing that is a classic case of narcissism. I much prefer the vision of C.S. Lewis who suggested in his space trilogy (see That Hideous Strength etc.) that if there is indeed intelligent life elsewhere, God and God in Christ have been there as well. The better question would be— are we the only fallen race of intelligent beings (using the term intelligent loosely, since I said ‘fallen’– which behavior does not suggest intelligence if there is an almighty God who holds us accountable for our actions)?

In the second place, there is actually some indirect evidence for intelligent life elsewhere. Say what you want about UFOs, but there is so much of that kind of evidence, that I don’t think it can all be dismissed as: 1) actually secret government tests and aircraft; 2) figments of imaginations that have smoked too much dope; 3) atmospheric anomalies; 4) a hoax perpetrated by the Russians, and so on. More interesting to me would be the comparing of the evidence for extra-terrestrial life with the evidence through human history for angels. The quantity of evidence for both these things is considerable, indeed I would dare say there is more evidence for angels than aliens. But precisely because of our vast ignorance on all such subjects, dogmatic pronouncements do not serve anyone well, because what tends to happen, is, as soon as we dismiss something, like angels or aliens or actual miracles, God allows us to see further evidence for such things.

As with so many things in life, there is plenty of evidence for such things, but no air tight proof. Are there things in the universe that can’t be scrutinized under a microscope? Of course there are. For example love would be such a thing, or guilt would be such a thing. And as C.S. Lewis told us long ago in The Problem of Pain, pain is something very strange indeed. I mean, nerve endings are one thing— pain is another. Doctors can’t open you up and find pain. Some kinds of pain are purely mental or emotional— like the pain that literally takes you over when you suddenly lose a loved one. Scientists may find an empirical cause of some things we call pain, but they’ve not found pain itself. My old philosophy prof at Carolina, E Maynard Adams was a deep thinker. I loved his classes. One day he talked about the case of a person who had a pain in his leg, only, he didn’t have a leg any more! Yet still his senses were telling him there was a pain down below the knee, when that part of his anatomy was long gone, having been amputated. He raised the question— So….. was there a pain in the man’s leg, or would it be better to speak of his leg being ‘in the pain’, pain being a large category of reality which is not simply empirically verified or subject to scrutiny?

Certainly, one of my favorites of all of the Bard’s plays is Hamlet. And there is of course this famous line of Hamlet’s in the play: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

I completely agree with Hamlet on this. This is my reply to the Luddites of this world who want to reduce reality to only its empirically provable residue, or who want to publish fake news about history, including the absurd notion that Jesus never existed and miracles CAN’T happen, or the invincible ignorance of some in my own tribe of Christians who want to argue, against all the good empirical evidence, that the world is a mere 6 or so thousand years old. To those who keep saying such things I remind them that God is not honored by fake news about his magnificent creation and his capacity to surprise us with new things. To all these people I say— Your vision of reality is too small, too cramped, too narrow, and TOOOO Wrong (as opposed to that great Aussie pronouncement— ‘Too right mate’). The only proper way to approach life is to be open to learning new things about reality all the time. One must be open minded, while not being naive, not lacking in critical thinking, or as my granny used to say— ‘don’t be so open minded that your brains fall out!’ Amen Granny. Any posture towards reality requires a certain amount of faith. Even scientists have to have faith that their sense perceptions are more often than not reliable, and that their methodology can produce accurate results.

I leave this meditation for your contemplation by sharing with you the musical meditation of John Lennon entitled ‘Across the Universe’. As it turns out, he was quite wrong that ‘nothing’s going to change my world’. Mr. Chapman did, sadly.

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