You Won’t Believe The Cosmology

You Won’t Believe The Cosmology August 1, 2015

angel-ufo-cosmology

I shared the above Ziggy cartoon once before. But having happened across it again, I was struck by the subversive message of the cartoon. An alien that looks like an angel talks to Ziggy, a human, and then expresses amazement to another of his alien race at the cosmology humans have come up with. The reference is presumably to a religious system that views these aliens as supernatural beings, messengers of the divine.

I think the “ancient aliens” idea is so popular precisely because it provides a way to keep “angels” and “gods” within the framework of a scientific cosmology.

But I suspect that anyone looking back on the “ancient aliens” idea from the perspective of our distant future will likewise scoff at the cosmology some had come up with.

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  • bmk

    It’s an interesting counterpoint to the devil-ish alien Overlords from Clarke’s Childhood’s End.

  • arcseconds

    I think you’re wrong about the attraction there James.

    ‘Ancient aliens’ people don’t care about established science: they play as fast and as loose with science as they do with archaeology and ancient texts. I think the attraction is firstly to have a romantically exciting worldview (which nevertheless seems explanatory), secondly to be in the in-crowd that know so much better than everyone else, and thirdly to stick it to the establishment.

    This particular variety of fringe beliefs packs a double punch of iconoclasm: they get to stick it to both science and religion!

    • AlwaysOneEyeOpen

      arcseconds, I think both you AND James aren’t grasping what’s actually motivating those among the public who take the ‘ancient aliens’ hypothesis seriously (as opposed to those who hawk books about it on talk shows, whose motivation might well be strictly mercenary).

      Many people who harbor increasing doubts about the validity of the Bible as adults but who grew up in a highly religious environment– exposed so constantly to the many appealing and colorful stories and characters of both Testaments that they became a part of the fabric of their lives– find it hard to simply dismiss every supernatural element (which after all are the ‘sine qua non’ of these tales: the stories are rendered meaningless without them) as pure inventions of the Bible’s authors.

      It’s much easier psychologically for them to instead adopt an intermediate position– these events happened, but not exactly in the way originally thought: it wasn’t God but technologically sophisticated aliens. In this manner, the Bible-doubters could very swiftly and inoffensively ease their way to the full-fledged non-believer status which is their goal– the ‘ancient aliens’ idea allows them to never have to, in essence, call their ancestors ‘a bunch of LIARS’. And it also very nicely eliminates the problem of explaining all the ‘eyewitnesses’ to the miracles– they were indeed witnessing something that to THEM appeared miraculous.

      And I should point out that while you and I (and James) consider the ‘ancient aliens’ hypothesis simply silly, this basic idea– i.e. primitive people who are suddenly confronted by a very technologically advanced group of strangers ascribing divine attributes to these strangers– is not just plausible but something that happened quite recently historically. And it’s well-documented.

      I remember reading in one of Richard Feynman’s books (I refer to the Nobel Prize-winning physicist) about the Cargo Cults– isolated Pacific Islanders who were suddenly exposed (for the first time) to the developed world during World War II when both the Japanese and the Allies used these islands for military purposes–and the islanders quickly elevated the dazzling newcomers to the status of gods.

      • arcseconds

        What do you regard as the difference between your position & James’s?

        My experience is as I’ve indicated. The ancient aliens people I’ve met seem part and parcel of the fringe belief crowd, and there’s little love lost between them and traditional Christianity.

        And surely the sine qua non is actually God? That’s certainly stressed by traditional Christianity, and less traditional Christians often retain God and jettison the miracle stories. I’m pretty sure most of them would agree thinking that the miracles are the important part in and of themselves is missing the point.

        I’m not saying that you’re wrong, perhaps we’ve experienced different ancient aliens people. One thing they probably have in common is a love of the fantastic.

        There are indeed examples of people encountering cultures with significantly higher technology. The history of European exploration & colonisation furnish many examples, and is well known by everyone, I think. Captain Cook was thought to be a god by the Hawai’ians.

        So I think it is likely enough alien visitors would indeed be interpreted as gods.

        Are you also maybe suggesting there’s an argument from analogy here? Just as pacific islanders were visited by outsiders they misinterpreted, humanity in general may have had an analogous experience?

        • AlwaysOneEyeOpen

          Hello, arcseconds! I infer from your ‘nom de internet’ that you believe in examining things in fine detail, as you have done with my comment, and I’ll respond in kind.

          You first ask, “What do you regard as the difference between your position & James’s?”

          James said, “I think the “ancient aliens” idea is so popular precisely because it
          provides a way to keep “angels” and “gods” within the framework of a
          scientific cosmology.”

          My position is that those who PASSIONATELY embrace the ‘ancient aliens’ idea (as opposed to the mere dilettantes you’ve apparently met) are NOT trying to extend the scientific framework of the world so that it embraces ‘angels’ and ‘gods’ (as James believes) but rather are desperately trying to find an effective yet palatable way to jettison the strict RELIGIOUS framework of the world that dominated their childhood and still lingers, increasingly unwanted by them, into their adolescence or beyond. Unlike James, I don’t believe they have the slightest intellectual commitment to (or, in fact, any real knowledge of) science–science is merely a useful tool in this particular circumstance to help them achieve their goal of escaping what they regard as the chafing fetters of orthodox religion. But they cannot do so as long as they believe that there is a personal God– as opposed to a mere ‘abstract Philosopher’s God’– in fact, a VERY personal God who directly, even routinely, intervenes in individual human lives and who, eventually, would literally punish them in Hell for the apostasy they are contemplating.

          You say, “And surely the sine qua non is actually God? That’s certainly stressed
          by traditional Christianity, and less traditional Christians often
          retain God and jettison the miracle stories. I’m pretty sure most of
          them would agree thinking that the miracles are the important part in
          and of themselves is missing the point.”

          No, for these traditionally-brought-up Christians that I’m speaking of, who are now trying to escape the choking constraints of the very punitive Christianity of their youth, the sine qua non is not merely “God” but an intervening, personal God. Their logic is simple to construct: if God performed the many miracles of the Old and New Testaments, then He may or may not intervene in the lives of ordinary people today, to reward or punish them (the key here is that He COULD– the very real possibility would exist, and that’s something they’d have to worry about), BUT if God didn’t actually perform ANY of the miracles described in either Testament– either because such a God was a total invention of the Bible’s writers or because such a God was just an ancient alien mistaken for God– then there’s no obvious reason to believe in a God who responds in any way to ordinary people today.

          The notion, arcseconds, that “thinking the miracles are the important part…is missing the point” is itself missing the point from the perspective of the ‘ancient aliens’ believers that I’m talking about. To them, a Christianity that is simply well-designed moral guidance for human beings but without any DIVINE ENFORCEMENT MECHANISM (which is a logical consequence, in their minds, of a miracle-less Christianity, as I pointed out in the last paragraph) is not something they would feel compelled to take seriously.

          And that’s just what they want– not to have to take Christianity and its commandments seriously. And the easiest way for them to achieve that is via the ‘ancient aliens’ deconstruction of the “miracles” as acts of God.

          You say, “Are you also maybe suggesting there’s an argument from analogy here?
          Just as pacific islanders were visited by outsiders they misinterpreted,
          humanity in general may have had an analogous experience?”

          Well, I introduced the analogous situation with the Pacific Islanders just to remind you and James that while the three of us all dismiss the ‘ancient aliens’ notion as HISTORICALLY ridiculous for many reasons, it’s not THEORETICALLY absurd at all at the level of a ‘basic idea’, and so I can understand how strictly-raised Christians seeking to liberate themselves might utilize it to attain their eagerly-sought freedom.

  • Matt Hickman

    I take it as the aliens being dumbfounded by the wrong-headedness of our science and its theories of the origin of the Universe.

  • Phil Ledgerwood

    I’m not saying it’s aliens, but….