Von Daniken’s Delusion: Do Aliens Exist?

Von Daniken’s Delusion: Do Aliens Exist? January 26, 2015

Photo: YouTube screencapture
Photo: YouTube screencapture

To bring everyone up to speed, in my previous post I explained my agenda. My wish is to explore Erich von Daniken’s book Chariots of the Gods.


It’s very clear what von Daniken’s position is: Human beings were influenced by other-worldly beings in our past. In order for him to suggest such a claim, he begins Chariots of the Gods with a chapter titled, “Are There Intelligent Beings in the Cosmos?” It is my contention that his agenda goes as such: “If I can show there is a possibility for life to exist elsewhere, then my further claims regarding alien life are correct.”

In his opening paragraph, he writes:

“Because no homunculus from another planet is on display in a museum for us to visit, the answer, ‘Our earth is the only planet with human beings,’ still seems to be legitimate and convincing.”

From here, he almost seems to attempt to make a case for something rather strange: The possibility of intelligent humanoid life existing elsewhere. For someone ignorant of our evolutionary past, this idea may well be probable. But he doesn’t allow himself to chase that idea down the rabbit hole entirely. Instead, he makes the case for the plausibility of intelligent life existing elsewhere, no matter the physical characteristics of the organism itself.

He writes:

“Astronomer Harlow Shapley estimates that there are some 10^20 stars within the range of our telescopes. When Shapley associates a planetary system with only one in a thousand stars, we may assume that it is a very cautious estimate. If we continue to speculate on the basis of this estimate and suspect the necessary conditions for life on only one star m a thousand, this calculation still gives a figure of 10^14. Shapley asks: How many stars in this truly “astronomical” figure have an atmosphere suitable for life? One in a thousand? That would still leave the incredible figure of 10^11 stars with the prerequisites for life. Even if we assume that only every thousandth planet out of this figure has produced life, there are still 100,000,000 planets on which we can speculate that life exists. This calculation is based on telescopes using the techniques available today, but we must not forget that these are constantly being improved.”

He goes on to write:

“Without quoting fantastic figures or taking unknown galaxies into account, we may surmise that there are 18,000 planets comparatively close to the earth with conditions essential to life similar to those of our own planet. Yet we can go even further and speculate that if only 1 percent of these 18,000 planets were actually inhabited, there would still be 180 left!”

He also quotes Willy Ley as telling him:

“The estimated number of stars in our Milky Way alone amounts to 30 billion. The assumption that our Milky Way contains at least 16 billion planetary systems is considered admissible by present-day astronomers. If we now try to reduce the figures in question as much as possible and assume that the distances between planetary systems are so regulated that only in one case in a hundred does a planet orbit in the ecosphere of its own sun, that still leaves 180 million planets capable of supporting life. If we further assume that only one planet in a hundred that might support life actually does so, we should still have the figure of 1.8 million planets with life. Let us further suppose that out of every hundred planets with life there is one on which creatures with the same level of intelligence as homo sapiens live. Then even this last supposition gives our Milky Way the vast number of 18,000 inhabited planets.”

Even by his own hand, von Daniken admits his position is unfavorable, as you may have recognized reading through Willy Ley’s quote; it takes a grand number of assumptions and suppositions to conclude that intelligent life probably exists elsewhere in the universe.

Yes, it is very plausible for life to exist elsewhere. I, as an atheist, have used this argument against theists in order to demonstrate how unlikely it is we’re not alone in the universe. But, the fact of the matter remains: We have yet to document the existence of such beings in a scientific manner, and with that I can’t say for certain we are or aren’t alone. And up until that point, there’s very good reason to be skeptical.

So, does alien life exist? Statistically speaking, yes.

Could this alien life possess physiological characteristics with intelligence similar to humans? Probably not.

At the end of this brief chapter, von Daniken alludes to his next jump:

“We–the paragon of creation?–took 400,000 years to reach our present state and our present stature. Who can produce concrete proof to show why another planet should not have provided more favorable conditions for the development of other or similar intelligences? Is there any reason why we may not have “competitors” on another planet who are equal or superior to us?”

Might I remind everyone: The burden of proof requires the one making the positive claim to provide substantiated evidences. Let’s see where von Daniken takes us next.

Next Blog: Setting the Stage


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