Ken Ham and the Aliens

In a recent news article, Ken Ham noted the high level of belief in aliens in our society—and asked why some people are so ready to believe in aliens but reject God. Ham strays awfully close to a greater reality, seemingly without realizing it:

It’s interesting that so many people are willing to believe in alien life, for which there is no evidence. People often automatically assume, for example, that any pulsating light, signal from outer space, or unexplained flying object is from aliens, yet these same people will often reject the overwhelming evidence of God’s existence seen throughout what he has made.

This is such a strange parallel to make. Just last week the Friendly Atheist wrote about a picture that went viral because people said a moth caught in the foreground was an angel. This is nothing new. It doesn’t take much googling to find cases where people have claimed that light falling in a particular pattern or a glare on a camera are angels.

Human beings like patterns, and when we think we’ve found one (even if we haven’t), we like to attribute it to something. Sometimes that means we attribute it to supernatural religious forces—miracles, visions, angels. Sometimes that means we attribute it to other supernatural (or near-supernatural) phenomenon—ghosts, or aliens.

People’s readiness to believe they have seen evidence of aliens is ultimately the result of the same phenomena as their readiness to believe in angels. Consider—Ham states that many people “believe in alien life, for which there is no evidence,” and pans the various unexplained phenomena some people attribute to aliens. He is seemingly unaware that many religious individuals point to the same things (i.e. the phenomenon Ham here dismisses as “no evidence”) to buttress their religious beliefs.

If it is ridiculous to think something weird you see in the sky is a UFO (and it is), it is just as ridiculous to think something weird you see in the sky is an angel. Of course, the picture is not as simplistic as this (and it is possible that Ham is just condemnatory of angel sightings). When it comes to belief in alien life (and in the supernatural) there are (at least) two things going on.

First, there is belief in the possibility of a thing (God’s existence, or the existence of aliens) based on large-form reasoning. Ken Ham would say that the very existence of the universe is evidence of a creator God. An individual thinks extraterrestrial life is likely might argue that with billions of stars and millions of years of time, it’s unlikely that alien life hasn’t evolved somewhere.

Second, there is belief in the possibility of a thing (God’s existence, or the existence of aliens) based on individual, small-form incidences. A Christian might look at a pattern of light in a hospital—or a moth in the foreground of a photo—and see an angel. Someone who believes in aliens might look at a shape in the sky or an odd light at night and ascribe it to alien life.

There are studies that have looked at the impact of religious beliefs on belief in alien life. While their findings have varied, a number of studies have found atheists and agnostics more likely to believe one extraterrestrial life.

See this study, for example:

Belief in extraterrestrial life varies dramatically by religious affiliation (or lack thereof). Of those who identify as atheist or agnostic, 55% affirm a belief in extraterrestrial life compared to only 32% of Christians, meaning atheists and agnostics are 76% more likely than Christians to believe in the existence of life beyond our planet.

The study comes with a helpful graphic:

Unfortunately, the study does not break down the reasons for belief in extraterrestrial life. Based on the massive number of planets in our universe and the massive amounts of time that have passed, I personally think it likely that life has evolved in other places. However, I find all “evidence” of alien activity on our planet (UFOs, etc.) to be completely spurious and lacking in merit, and I do not believe any of it. A study like this, however, would lump me together with UFO conspiracy theorists.

Still, I find the study’s breakdown of belief in extraterrestrial life by Christian denomination interesting, for reasons I will explain in a moment:

While young earth creationists are not members of any specific denomination, the denomination in the list above that most likely to be young earth creationist is Baptist—these are the same individuals least likely to believe in extraterrestrial life. There is a reason for that, and it has nothing to do with seeing though UFO hoaxes.

Here is Ken Ham:

The Bible, in sharp contrast to the secular worldview, teaches that earth was specially created, that it is unique and the focus of God’s attention (Isaiah 66:1 and Psalm 115:16)Life did not evolve but was specially created by God, as Genesis clearly teaches.

If the earth was created within the past ten thousand years, and if God made the earth special and created humankind to serve as the focus of his attention, the existence of intelligent life on other planets makes no sense. Where would aliens a la the pictures we see of UFOs fit into God’s plan? They don’t. They don’t fit at all.

This is why, growing up in an evangelical home, I was taught that UFOs are demons in disguise, trying to confuse humanity so that when the rapture happens those left behind will assume that the world’s Christians were kidnapped by aliens.

But I digress.

Ham explains his opposition to aliens as follows:

Now the Bible doesn’t say whether there is or is not animal or plant life in outer space.  I certainly suspect notThe Earth was created for human lifeAnd the sun and moon were created for signs and our seasons—and to declare the glory of God.

In other words, the entire purpose of the universe is wrapped up in God’s plan for humankind. The sun, the moon, and the starts “were created for signs and our seasons—and to declare the glory of God,” and that alone.

Ham goes on:

And I do believe there can’t be other intelligent beings in outer space because of the meaning of the gospelYou see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universeThis means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvationOne day, the whole universe will be judged by fire, and there will be a new heavens and earthGod’s Son stepped into history to be Jesus Christ, the “Godman,” to be our relative, and to be the perfect sacrifice for sin—the Savior of mankind.

Jesus did not become the “GodKlingon” or the “GodMartian”! Only descendants of Adam can be saved. God’s Son remains the “Godman” as our SaviorIn fact, the Bible makes it clear that we see the Father through the Son (and we see the Son through His Word) To suggest that aliens could respond to the gospel is just totally wrong.

An understanding of the gospel makes it clear that salvation through Christ is only for the Adamic race—human beings who are all descendants of Adam.

It is possible that Baptists are less likely than Christians of other denominations to believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life based specifically on young earth creationist reasoning like that Ham outlines above. It is also possible, of course, that the numbers in the study were skewed in some fashion (the findings do not include the number of individuals in each category).

What’s that? You want to go back to the part about UFOs being demons in disguise? Sorry! You have The Google for that.

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