Monday, May 15, 2006

A thoughtful response to Küng's pessimism

Review of Küng’s Der Anfang aller Dinge, section D, part 2.

This post is not a direct continuation of my review of the book, as much as a reflection on the previous.

I thought it was necessary, for some of us who love our Star Trek, Stargate, Star Seife-Sud Mädchen, Babylon 5, X-Files etc., may be somewhat disappointed by Küng’s pessimism on the question of extraterrestrial life. This is true, of course, especially for those who have gone to the trouble of learning Klingon – though I must say, the words ‘shoot’, ‘bullet’, ‘quickly’, ‘head’, ‘put’, ‘out’ and ‘misery’ spring to mind when I think of such folk.

Is it not possible that the conditions Küng prescribes for life (cf. p. 152-53) are simply too inflexible? And besides, what about the vast areas of unobserved universe which maybe could support life as we define it?

Keith Ward, formerly Regius Prof. of Divinity at the Uni of Oxford, recently asked: ‘Who knows what forms the divine Word may take in other star-systems and created universes?’. He answers (and I’m not sure what I think of this yet): ‘It will not be the human Jesus who is at the centre of cosmic salvation. It will be the limitless divine Word. For us humans, Jesus is that Word. He is the Word in human form. But the forms of the Word may be many, and unimaginable by us’ (What the Bible Really Teaches, London, SPCK, 2004), p. 60-61. It is the word ‘unimaginable’ in this sentence I want to stress. Perhaps unimaginable life forms have developed in places that look to us as hostile to life, at least life as we can define it. It is perhaps in anticipation of such objections that Küng first, in this chapter, attempted to define ‘life’ (reproduction, mutation and metabolism).

Nevertheless, I suggest that the existence of alien life indeed helps to explain many a metaphysical dilemma. In fact, I would even be as bold as to deduct that in a solar system not too far away, there probably exist aliens of phenomenal intelligence and hyper-light speed travel, who only have one leg, can’t knit, have a tendency to steel, and suffer from some form of diarrhoea. ‘Why?’ you ask. Well, how else can one explain the worldwide phenomena of the mysteriously missing single sock, and the sometimes all too empty loo roll next to the toilet? The little bastards beam in next to our washing machines, lurk around until a pile of socks is left around, nick one, then hop off to the bog to wipe their little bottoms with our loo roll, before speeding back to the mother ship.


At 5/16/2006 4:00 AM, Anonymous Steve Sensenig said...

I may have missed you already covering this, so forgive me if I'm looking really dumb right about now.

My thoughts are that we assume too much when we assume things about extraterrestrial life. For example:

1. If there is extra-terrestrial life, who says that they need salvation? Maybe they didn't fail their equivalent of the Garden of Eden test and enjoy unfettered interaction with God?

2. When we look at our ability to exist in the conditions of planet Earth, and marvel at how perfectly suited we are for it, it seems to me that we are arguing circularly. The conditions are perfect for us to exist because we were created to exist in these conditions! If God created life on another planet, He would create it to exist in those conditions. So the fact that we have a planet perfectly suited for us proves nothing beyond the intelligence of the Creator in putting the right creatures in the right environment.

I voted "Probably not" in your survey, but on some days, I lean toward a higher probability. Not because of the missing sock and empty roll issues, but I definitely got a kick out of reading that!! Rather I lean toward a higher probability because I love thinking outside the box, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if God had other races on other planets somewhere. He's a BIG God, and it's a BIG universe.

I think it's a rather egotistical proposition (and one centered around us, not God) to assume that He created this entire universe and only created one race to fill one small planet in one small solar system of one small galaxy within that huge universe.

Fun stuff to read and think about (the whole topic, not just the sock/roll stuff)

steve :)

At 5/16/2006 5:21 PM, Anonymous Claire Joy said...

I agree with everything Steve said. Especially the part of how insufferably arrogant we are to think God would limit creativity to such a thankless species as homo sapiens.

At 5/17/2006 1:01 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Steve,
I'm totally with you on all that. Nicely put.

And so's Claire, so we must be right - three witnesses and all.

At 5/17/2006 8:59 PM, Anonymous Petra said...

Isn't this the idea C.S. Lewis based his Narnia books upon? That in other worlds, God would send His Only Son in another form?

At 5/22/2006 7:23 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Petra, nice association! Not thought of that! Perhaps!

At 7/21/2006 4:24 PM, Anonymous ntWrong said...

I'm a latecomer to this post, but you've just linked to it again.

I was also thinking of C.S. Lewis, but the series you want here is the sci-fi trilogy, "Out of the Silent Planet", "Perelandra", and "That Hideous Strength". There Lewis directly explores the theme of non-human life on other planets, where no fall has yet taken place, and where Christ's redemption might have to take a different form than it did on earth.

(I found the third book to be a disappointment, and it's now rather dated, but the first two are fascinating.)

At 7/23/2006 12:53 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Thanks for that, Q.
I have read very little of Lewis, so thanks for the tips.


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