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.