Featured Post

God, Aliens and Evidence

I have a friend of whom most writers here know, who believes in God. Not only does he believe in God, but he asserts he has good evidence for that position. He’s also aware of the arguments from the atheist/skeptic side and his position is that the burden they demand of theists is unfairly and unreasonably high. He likened it to demanding the believer invite you over to his kitchen and show you God, right there in the kitchen cabinet.

You have probably seen the news of Harry Reid’s 20 million dollar project to study these strange things that have been observed in the sky. For the past few years, I’ve taken note of these sightings and the way in which skeptics have responded. I’ve often noted that the skeptics who demand God in your kitchen cabinet also demand something similar with UFOs.

If we can see that mothership hovering over the White House and staying there for long, semi-permanent periods of time (or hovering over Big Ben and Parliament, in the words of Clark Griswold, “look kids, Big Ben, Parliament, mothership”) that would satisfy the skeptics. But the way in which this game apparently works, these things, after being observed for brief instances, zip away. Thus, in a game of cat and mouse, we may be dealing with something so much more advanced that it’s destined to win and therefore not give the evidence that would satisfy the skeptics’ scrutiny.

By the way, I’m a Gemini which means I have a split personality. Part of me wants to believe, the other side — the skeptical side — thinks it’s horseshit. So you can call me “1/2 a skeptic.”

I was pleased to see how atheist and skeptic Neil deGrasse Tyson handled the matter in part because it confirmed my earlier analysis about skeptics and burdens of proof. He was confronted with evidence. He didn’t try to deny or discount the evidence. And he didn’t try to explain it away. When it comes to the “intelligent alien” hypothesis, he basically noted, like demanding to see God in your kitchen cabinet, contact me when I can go out to dinner with the intelligent alien. Bring it into Times Square for everyone to see (just not during Comicon where it would blend in).

So what were these things then? Tyson gave the right answer: I don’t know. It’s a mystery. I hope to get more evidence on the matter in the future. He didn’t shoot too far and say, “it wasn’t aliens, it was weather balloons.”

I myself will not commit, as it were, to any position other than interested agnosticism on the matter. The skeptical side of my personality demands this.

What about burdens of proof? It seems to me the person making the affirmative claim has the burden; though, in fairness, burdens should be shared jointly by both sides. The person who asserts either, “it was aliens” or “it wasn’t aliens” each has a burden. I get out of it easier because I make no such affirmative claim.

To analogize to debates over belief in God, we often see claims about providing negatives. And we know absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But we don’t have absence of evidence here! Rather we have evidence. Just that which isn’t sufficient to meet the professional skeptics’ demand for proof.

But I do like to speculate. Aliens from outer space are a possibility. Or perhaps from another dimension. Or perhaps it’s us from the future — time travel. Some religious fundamentalists think they are demons. And if so, it might stand to reason, they are the good angels too. That’s how they “get around.” Or as I have speculated it could be us, but a remnant that lives on from a past advanced civilization that destroyed itself. The Atlantis Hypothetical. The fact that advances in technology lead to nuclear weapons is reason itself to explain why such a remnant would opt NOT to do what the inventors of technology from Western Civilization have: Publicize it; expand it; spread it; attempt to universalize it.

This is just a fraction of the endless possibilities. Some of the possibilities are seemingly inconceivable or not yet conceived. But there is the question of Occam’s Razor. And let me deal with a common response along that line: These are things that are explainable by currently existing, known human technology. Military air crafts, drones, weather balloons.

But the former director of the government program has shot down that claim:

“These aircraft — we’ll call them aircraft — are displaying characteristics that are not currently within the US inventory nor in any foreign inventory that we are aware of,” [Luis] Elizondo said of objects they researched.
He said the program sought to identify what had been seen, either through tools or eyewitness reports, and then “ascertain and determine if that information is a potential threat to national security.”
“We found a lot,” Elizondo said.
The former Pentagon official said they identified “anomalous” aircraft that were “seemingly defying the laws of aerodynamics.”
“Things that don’t have any obvious flight services, any obvious forms of propulsion, and maneuvering in ways that include extreme maneuverability beyond, I would submit, the healthy G-forces of a human or anything biological,” Elizondo said.
Now, it’s possible that, not withstanding what is quoted above, present advances in human technological progress DO explain these things. But if so, it’s something not publicly known. It’s nothing that a corporation has invented, and has been granted a publicly approved patent for, which they are exploiting. Given what these things have been observed to do, if this is something terrestrial governments have been creating, they’ve been doing it in secret, which, by necessity, they are wont to do. (Top secret military stuff, etc.)
But because the advanced technology is a secret, it’s not something those of us who are not privy to it can explain.
And again, given what these things have been observed to do, if terrestrial governments have created this technology and kept it hidden from the public for confidential security reasons, that itself seems incredibly newsworthy.
So, I’m sticking with my official position of interested agnosticism on the matter.

Staff Writer
Home Page 

Jon Rowe is a full Professor of Business at Mercer County Community College, where he teaches business, law, and legal issues relating to politics. Of course, his views do not necessarily represent those of his employer. ...more →

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
Share

48 thoughts on “God, Aliens and Evidence

  1. The vehicles are Iranian. They recovered a downed Svingi battlecruiser from the Xratlac War and are set to wipe out Western Civilization. Every Western government knows this, but our leaders have been replaced with Paclix energy clones who are programmed to pretend the Iranian/Svingi threat isn’t real. They keep spending tax money on art, highway infrastructure, national parks, and STD prevention to distract us from the threat of Shia conquest and alien enslavement.

    Report

  2. 1. Are they UFOs? Yes, they are. UFO stands for “unidentified flying object.” Something in the sky we can’t readily identify. UFO does not mean alien spacecraft. Well, it could, but it could be a bunch of other things, too. Simply calling something a UFO means that the investigator thinks something was there and it can’t be identified.

    2. If I were still a pugnacious atheist, I’d jump at the protest that the theist show the atheist God right there in the kitchen cabinet — after all, if God is everywhere, He’s in the kitchen cabinet, too, because that’s what omnipresence is. But really, that’s a test if the theist’s construction of God includes the quality of omnipresence (which it need not, but the typical Christian construct includes this attribute), rather than a stratagem to directly move the ball forward on whether God exists or not.

    3. Which gets to the next question. A stereotypical UFOlogist is guilty not of fabricating evidence but rather immediately leaping to one of the least likely interpretations about that evidence and insisting that this is the truth. If it’s a binary choice between “little green men in flying saucers” and “weather balloon,” then “weather balloon” is almost certainly the most likely choice every time, and “weather balloon” is not the only non-spacefaring alien explanation for most UFO evidence. What lesson can we take from this about existence-of-God discussions? If the theist does have the burden of proof, but fears that the atheist insists upon too high a burden of proof then what is the appropriate standard? If the atheist is unconvinced by arguments that come down to, “Well, you exist and the universe exists,” which are either deployed in service of variations upon the transcendent, anthropic, or cosmological arguments, then it’s going to be very hard for the theist to point to other evidence regardless of the burden of proof.

    I’ve come to prefer the theist who says, “I may have the burden of proof here, but I don’t feel particularly compelled to address it — God’s existence is a matter of faith for me, and faith does not require evidence or logic. It requires love and acceptance.” At that point, I say, “Awesome! I don’t feel that faith. And if you’re willing to recognize that, we can disagree on this point and still be friends.”

    ADD: I’m willing to concede that I can’t know that God doesn’t exist, if the theist is willing to concede that she can’t know that God does exist. In that sense, we are all in the strictest sense of the word agnostics because the proposition is inherently unknowable and uncertain. If faith, without evidence, provides the theist with resolution to the issue, that’s a personal decision which neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket, so cool beans.

    Report

    • My initial thought on spending pocket change to identify UFO’s was, in fact, “Of course”.

      If there’s crap flying around in our airspace and we don’t know what it is, we should absolutely figure it out. People fly there. Whether it’s weather balloons, advanced aircraft from a very sneaky foreign program, actual aliens, or just weird weather phenomenon, we should figure out what it is, in case it gets in the way of airplanes, is up to something nefarious, or might fall down on people.

      Report

    • Point 3 may be the least appreciated point in epistemology. For example, consider the Roswell Incident. The government claimed that it was a weather balloon. Alien enthusiasts claimed that this was a lie and that the government was covering up an alien spacecraft. It turn out they were on to something, because the official story was a lie. However, what they were covering up was Project Mogul, an attempt to check whether the Soviet Union was testing nuclear weapons.

      This is the problem with finding anomalies in the official story. Sometimes those anomalies are nothing, sometimes there’s something but its not the something you thought. You can’t just spot an anomaly and immediately assume this is proof of your favoured hypothesis.

      Report

  3. When it comes to the burden of proof, I see the term used in two different ways:

    “Sufficient to get me to change my mind”
    “Sufficient to get you to change your mind”

    The burden of proof for the former? HUGE! Astronomical! You need to bend over backwards to find it and, even if you get something that meets my previous requirement, I have to apologize because my previous requirement was misstated and here’s the real and accurate one!

    The burden of proof for the latter? Well, I happen to have some with me right here. Let me link to it: it’s a list of logical fallacies. Here, let me say the name of some of them to you. What? You didn’t change your mind? Now you’re just being unreasonable.

    As such, I, personally, try to take the attitude “I know that your experience might be sufficient to get you to change your mind, but I hope that you appreciate that me hearing that you had your experience is not sufficient to get me to change your mind… but, for what it’s worth, I don’t see my not changing my own mind as evidence that you need to do much of anything at all.”

    But, I find, when I discuss the whole thing about the whole God thing, is that I *MIGHT* believe in a deity of some sort, it’s just that the definition that I’d be using would strike you as really uninteresting and so I might say “Yeah, I believe in god” and you hear “Yeah, I believe in GOD!” and those are two very different sentences that sound superficially similar when heard out loud and my meaning isn’t conveyed even though you might think it is.

    I’ll point to a comment thread that we had all the way back in 2009. Golly! 2009!

    Here’s a comment that I wrote then (edited ever so slightly for brevity):

    Did we ever get a working definition of “God”, by the way?

    For the most part, when I ask “what do you mean by ‘God’?”, it usually gets responses similar to the following:

    1) Of course you know what we mean when we say “God”, don’t be obtuse.

    2) Do you contribute anything at all to the discussion but threadjacks asking for definitions that nobody needs but you?

    3) I’ll condescend to answer your obviously trollish question and say that God is, erm, well, it’s a, erm, well… you know what, you are a troll and, with God’s help, I will endeavor henceforth to not feed trolls.

    4) I know It when I see It.

    5) I already defined it for you. (Sometimes it comes with a pointer to something that ain’t a definition, sometimes it does not come with such a pointer.)

    Given that those tend to be the definitions of “God” that I get, I don’t tend to see why “atheism” is necessarily a belief system in and of itself. It’s not like there’s anything to refute! And when someone says (let me quote it here to give the full effect):

    “But you do believe in your own existence, perhaps even dogmatically, which in the end is really the same thing. It really is two sides of the same coin, and both sides are necessary for either to exist.”

    One is stuck, at the very least, reconsidering one’s opinion on the legalization of marijuana.

    Give me a definition of “God”, and then we can have a discussion of whether the folks who don’t believe are “deniers” or what have you.

    At that point, Brother Scott Payne said this:

    For my part I think your question is perfectly valid and I intend on penning a post that in part attempts to answer just that question. I’ll leave it at that for now and offer that you keep a look out for said post hopefully later today, thereby making this comment more obnoxious than an episode of Lost, if ya know what I mean.

    And my response was:

    Dude, it ain’t obnoxious at all! (At worst, it’s a 6).

    (Aside: I don’t believe that Scott Payne ever published the post in question. I can’t find it, anyway.)

    And so I usually ask for a definition of God that will allow me to say “yeah! I believe in that!” or “no, I don’t really believe in that…” and I am silly enough to think that such a request for a definition is important because it’ll let us hammer out exactly what we’re talking about.

    Unfortunately, such requests usually morph into some seriously loosey-goosey definitions that make it difficult for me to really affirm one way or the other and I’m stuck saying “okay, that might exist… but so what?” and then we get into some weird territory again. I put it a way that I find easy to just cut and paste way back in 2012 when Brother James K posted his post on The Burden of Proof:

    My problem with the whole “opening up the *POSSIBILITY*” thing is that, sure, let’s say that I concede, for the sake of the discussion, the possibility that there is a deity.

    Now what?

    How then should we live?

    And then we start talking about specific traits of the various gods that we have conceded the existence of and now we’re in a place where we have gods that care about this, gods that don’t care about that, and gods that used to believe things but don’t anymore and it’s pretty bigoted that you keep bringing that up.

    I don’t mind acknowledging the possibility of there being a teapot out there. What I mind is the fact that we go from that to discussions of pork products and how, seriously, the tea in this teapot, were you to taste it, would make you never want to eat pork again.

    For the record, however, I am 100% willing to concede the existence of a deity that you would find fairly uninteresting.

    To shift this back from deities to aliens (ancient or otherwise), the aliens debate benefits from a bar that seems somewhat reachable without having to jump over the whole “eschatological verification” thing.

    Aliens could, in fact, show up. One thing that would prove it for me is that whole tumbling asteroid flying nearby start slowing down. There are a handful of arguments for why the asteroid might slow down that do *NOT* involve aliens, of course… maybe Newton was wrong not only on the really really big or the really really small but also in the whole “asteroid-sized” categories of stuff. No aliens required. Or maybe there’s a force acting on it that we don’t know about yet! Sure.

    That strikes me as less likely than aliens would be, though. (I’m pleased to say that I’ve read no reports of the asteroid slowing.)

    If the asteroid slows down, stops, and stuff leaves the spaceship to land on the planet? Not only should you crap your pants, but you should be willing to say “okay, I now have sufficient evidence for me to conclude that aliens exist.”

    The burden of proof will have been met.

    To flip it back around to God… there are a lot of really precise definitions out there that are pretty untestable until it’s waaaaaaay too late. For example: what would it take to happen to get me to believe that I was totally wrong about the whole Southern Babtists being wrong thing?

    Well, have you seen the movie “Thief in the Night“? It’d take something like that. It’d take something somewhat less specific and improbable (but still pretty specific and improbable!) to get me to conclude that Christianity-In-General was right (that is: allowing for Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants to all get close-enough-for-jazz).

    If you just want me to say, okay, but what about *GOD*?

    At that point I’m back to 2009. Do we have a definition? Maybe I do believe in God. Maybe I’m just using the word differently than you are. I’ll close with the questions I closed with all the way back in 2009:

    Let’s say that “God” is somewhat more than an amorphous concept that exists only in one’s head but something more like a Social Construct.

    If “God” is analagous to, say, Gender Roles, why should I care?

    I mean, Gender Roles exist. But so what?

    How is God not something to be overcome?

    Report

    • I suppose that yes, I’m as guilty as anyone of simply assuming that, in the context of a Western atheist interacting with a Western apologist, the “God” under discussion is Jehovah as described in the consensus of the various Christian Bibles. Which is pretty close to the Jewish or Muslim understandings of that God, YHWH or Allah as one prefers. We might be discussing the Deists’ Blind Watchmaker or something like that.

      But generally, it’s a Christian apologist defending the notion of the Christian deity so as to advance the claim of Christianity as the Truth. So we’re talking about a singular, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, omnipotent entity that created the universe and exists simultaneously within and outside of time-space as humans experience it.

      But you’re absolutely right, “God” might be different than this.

      Report

      • That’s why it’s so useful to hammer out what we mean by God.

        Maybe they mean the God of Spinoza. Hey! I believe in the God of Spinoza! If they mean the God of Thomas Aquinas, yeah. No. I don’t believe in the God of Thomas Aquinas (even taking into account the whole “straw” thing).

        Now if we want to jump to the juicy bits and just start arguing that people who don’t agree with our own personal moral intuitions are evil and probably want to see people like us wiped out, sure. We can do that. I don’t know why we need to bring God into it.

        Report

    • “If the asteroid slows down, stops, and stuff leaves the spaceship to land on the planet? Not only should you crap your pants, but you should be willing to say “okay, I now have sufficient evidence for me to conclude that aliens exist.”

      But will your children believe, or your children’s children, or your children’s children’s children?

      So what your telling me is that there was an object in the sky, a brief and fleeting visit to a remote place far from the centers of power and where only a few wise scientists would go, and afterwards the visitor vanished leaving behind the oddest artifacts, and verbal guidance on how to go from here… promising to return someday?

      And you’re telling me that someone will take your word for it 14’s of generations later? Intriguing.

      Report

          • This always struck me as an unnecessarily personalized argument.

            Much easier to just point out that Paul made no bones about how he deliberately fudged what he said depending on his audience with what they needed to hear and, from there, of *COURSE* things got out of hand.

            Why would you need to shift over to Jesus after that point? It’s Paul’s fault!

            Report

            • I’m not really sure I follow your logic… CSL’s argument here isn’t doctrinal or even really ontological… it is a very early example of pre-post-christian evangelization… for the people who already know “Jesus”, but are spiritual and not religious.

              Its not really an all purpose screwdriver, just the kind with the tiny head that you need once in a while to tighten your eyeglasses.

              Report

              • In the days of my youth (1987), I was lucky enough to spend a week helping out Josh McDowell and he explained the trilemma to me in person. (Non-Protestants might not find that as awesome as Protestants do, of course.)

                Now I’m willing to run with the whole “Legend” thing and see the Legend as fourth option that I can run with to deal with the trilemma.

                But now I realize that you were making a joke and I stomped all over it.

                I apologize.

                Report

                • Well, I greatly appreciate your evangelical literacy… having grown up Orthodox and Catholic, I have no idea what Evangelicals think or say… so possibly this thing we see as an eyeglass screwdriver was in fact a very important tool of apologetics for you in your youth… so for that I apologize.

                  {p.s. I googled Josh McDowell, and I still have no idea who he is was or would have been}

                  Report

                  • He is considered one of the Great Apologeticists. Or was, anyway. His “Evidence That Demands A Verdict” was required reading in my circles.

                    (It was during the “Why Wait?” tour that I hung out with him. This happened to also be the summer that George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” came out on the radio and he gave a short speech about “what we are up against” when we were driving in the van together to run some errand or other.)

                    Report

      • 14s of generations later, I’d like to think that the arguments for whether aliens really showed up would be more than “I know in my heart that they came here” vs. “I doubt that they were aliens… it was 2017… maybe it was special effects! Maybe it was only shown on computer screens but nobody actually saw the aliens! Maybe it was only a friend of a friend of a friend who did stuff but there were no first-person accounts!”

        I mean, the oddest artifacts would have to be pretty odd. “This is ring made from the gold taken from a gold plate that used to have the name of God written on it” would, in theory, be able to be tested whether it was gold or not.

        Let’s say that the artifact was more like the Mormon’s “seer stone“.

        What do I do with the information that this was, indeed, the stone that Joseph Smith used to translate the golden plates (that, sadly, were not stolen and melted down into jewelry but were taken back into heaven)? Do I look at the stone and say “well, there you go!”?

        Because my own personal inclination is to ask “um, how is it used?” and “could someone use it to translate something now?” and perhaps even “could they demonstrate how it is used and translate something now, in front of God and everybody?”

        Because, if the answer is “nope, they can’t”, then I don’t see any reason for me to change my mind about these things.

        Report

        • That’s because you come from the people of sola instagram.

          But seriously, I’m more interested in the idea that year 1 AC (After Contact) we’d all know what to do even a little bit. I mean, this thing happened, and we need to account for it… some will say this way, others that. 14s of generations later we’ll all conclude they were fucked in the head…. what with all the wars we fought over whether we should allocate resources to make ready for their return (hostile or hopeful) or go out and meet find them (hostile or hopeful). Eventually, why bother?

          Report

          • Yeah, but we can go back and look at what they said and see what we can learn.

            Okay, the thing about not eating rabbits is a little bit weird… the thing about eating pork can be explained away with an essay about trichinosis and how modern food production eliminates the thing that they were worried about us eating pork has been taken care of so… can we eat pork now or not? Was the shellfish thing important or not? I mean, I am allergic to shellfish so that strikes me as a good rule but is the reason for that rule the whole “deveining” thing or is there another reason?

            I suppose you could ask why I’m so worried about food taboos. It’s because I want to figure out the “why” behind the rules. Are the rules utilitarian? Because if the goal is avoiding trichinosis then, hey, we’ve got that covered. Is the goal more deontological? If so, I want to know why the hooves have to be cloven *AND* they have to chew the cud.

            If it’s one of those “shut up and do what you’re told” things, I’m not good at that.

            Report

  4. Burt Likko:
    I suppose that yes, I’m as guilty as anyone of simply assuming that, in the context of a Western atheist interacting with a Western apologist, the “God” under discussion is Jehovah as described in the consensus of the various Christian Bibles. Which is pretty close to the Jewish or Muslim understandings of that God, YHWH or Allah as one prefers. We might be discussing the Deists’ Blind Watchmaker or something like that.

    But generally, it’s a Christian apologist defending the notion of the Christian deity so as to advance the claim of Christianity as the Truth. So we’re talking about a singular, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, omnipotent entity that created the universe and exists simultaneously within and outside of time-space as humans experience it.

    But you’re absolutely right, “God” might be different than this.

    Yeah, I’m not sure if I can make sense of that. God is just a word. It means what we mean by it. If I decide to define god as a ham sandwich then god exists. Saying “god may be different than this” assumes there must be a Platonic essence that must be called god. But that may be just nit picking language use.

    If you are asking an empirical question about the universe then you need a definition precise enough to allow an observation of the truth. Any definition will do but the definition itself determines the question you are answering. If I define god as a ham sandwich I am asking a very different question than if I define god as super intelligent aliens.

    If you are not asking an empirical question about the universe then, well you have a problem.

    Aliens can be usefully and reasonably defined. The definition of god, whatever definition you choose, serves no purpose but to carry your philosophical baggage. It may or may not have empirical consequence as you choose. I think Christians have chosen poorly.

    Report

    • Hey, I like semiotics as much as the next non-specialist. “God” is “just” a word, yes, and words have conventional and broadly-understood meanings. If God is a ham sandwich, then I can state definitively that God is dead because I ate Him for lunch today. And now the discussion has taken on a tone of the ridiculous.

      Not many people are going to define God as a ham sandwich. And if we’re going to open up that definition that broadly then we are not going to progress our argument beyond the level of semiotics. And for THAT reason, I think you’re reading too much into my concession that it’s possible to define God as differently from the distillation of the seemingly prevailing Christian notion of what God is.

      Now, I agree that “If you are asking an empirical question about the universe then you need a definition precise enough to allow an observation of the truth.” Viewed through that lens, is there something deficient you see in my proposed definition of “God”? (“A singular, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolet, omnipotent entity that created the universe and simultaneously exists within and apart from time-space as humans experience it.”) For that matter, I’m interested in @jaybird’s evaluation of that definition as one which renders further discussion meaningful, and ‘s opinion as to whether I’m accurately describing the God he refers to in the OP.

      Report

      • I’m sorry, I’m completely lost here. I currently define a ham sandwich as an all-seeing, all-knowing entity that has created and watched humanity, and I don’t understand how you ‘ate Him for lunch today’.

        Most seriously, when you actually start dissecting things, _everything_ is hard to define. What is a ham sandwich. ‘It’s a piece of ham between two pieces of bread.’ Well, what is ham? ‘It’s a piece of meat from a specific animal.’ What is an animal? ‘An animal is just a classification of a type of living creature, erm, I guess I mean a formerly living creature that uses energy in a specific way, and a pig is type of that with a specific DNA sequence.’ What’s a creature?

        In fact, back up: Are you talking about physical objects? You know basically everything is subatomic particles/waves that can’t be created outside the birth of the universe and hence have been around forever, and all those ‘things you see’ are merely reflection of photons bouncing off of the outside of clumps of them, right? There are no such things as ham sandwiches, merely observations you think you see of something you’ve classified off random other groupings of information. (Or, at least, you claim that, although really you do not actually have that information and are just taking other people’s word for it.)

        The problem isn’t that words are just words, and that we can randomly define words to means different things, and then think we’re clever, and everyone else thinks we’re being silly and don’t understand the point of language.

        The problem goes far deeper than that, it’s that, fundamentally, there really isn’t any ‘there’ there to start with. Pretty much everything we conceptualize about the universe is just symbols and classifications, we have grouped that set of things into ‘a ham sandwich’ and that other set into ‘a door’ or ‘the color blue’ or ‘a sense of longing’ based on poorly done physical observations, and while all those ideas seem pretty useful at operating on this planet (and probably other planets), they are _starting_ at a point that is pretty disconnected from ‘how reality actually is’.

        I realize that’s pretty confusing, so let’s use, as an example, a video game you can type in a code and thus walk through walls. Except…no, you can’t. There is no you walking, and there are no things. A bunch of computer code will do one thing when you don’t type in a code, and another thing when you don’t. We perceive those things as the viewpoint character moving through objects, but that is completely unrelated to anything that is happening at all.

        Likewise, in the real world, we think ‘I cannot walk through a wall’, and while we sometimes wonder what we mean by ‘I’, we never seem to notice that ‘wall’ is not a real thing either, and ‘through’ is pretty hard to define also. Can we walk through air? No, we cannot, and for exactly the same reason we cannot walk through a wall..specific laws of physics keeps fermions from occupying the same space. We just _think about_ how we can push air out of the way, and how we cannot push ‘wall’ out of the way, weirdly.

        This isn’t to argue that it isn’t worth clarifying language problems, so we all roughly have some sort of idea of what invented concepts correspond to what invented mouth sounds. Everything’s already confusing enough to leave that layer as a point of confusion.

        Report

  5. Marchmaine:
    “If the asteroid slows down, stops, and stuff leaves the spaceship to land on the planet? Not only should you crap your pants, but you should be willing to say “okay, I now have sufficient evidence for me to conclude that aliens exist.”

    But will your children believe, or your children’s children, or your children’s children’s children?

    So what your telling me is that there was an object in the sky, a brief and fleeting visit to a remote place far from the centers of power and where only a few wise scientists would go, and afterwards the visitor vanished leaving behind the oddest artifacts, and verbal guidance on how to go from here… promising to return someday?

    And you’re telling me that someone will take your word for it 14’s of generations later?Intriguing.

    If the only evidence is testimonials from a handful of witnesses then they should not be believed. We have that kind of evidence now. I will need to see the images of the ship and tracks of its orbit along with images of the shuttle crafts departing. Along with an explanation of why nobody thought to snap a picture of an alien. And why so few witnesses for such an important event.

    Report

  6. If our current understanding of physics, astronomy, and biology is anywhere close to correct, then the universe might be infested with intelligent life. It might not, but nothing says it couldn’t be. But on the same proviso, it is next to impossible that any intelligent aliens have come to visit us. They would be too far away and couldn’t travel fast enough.
    So what is a more depressing thought: that we’re alone in the universe, or that we’re not but we’ll never be able to meet or talk to our neighbors?

    Report

    • It’s probably worth pointing out that FTL isn’t necessary for them to “visit”, after a fashion. Von Neumann probes offer a fairly efficient method of mass exploration even at slower-than-light speeds, and could conceivably continue their mission long after the extinction of their originating species. I think if we ever encountered an extraterrestrial craft, it’d be an unmanned Von Neumann probe; at the very least, it would certainly explain the described flight characteristics of the objects the Navy pilot claims to have encountered…

      Report

  7. Jon Rowe:
    I think you are making assumptions that the laws of physics to which you refer are complete in terms of what is discoverable.

    Maybe, but it is a little hard to get around the fact that faster than light travel is by definition time travel.

    Report

    • What a friend wrote on Facebook:

      “Well, nothing can travel at a speed faster than light, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get somewhere faster than light does. We know that wormholes and warp drives are theoretical possibilities but the energy requirements are currently both exotic and unobtainable. Will they always be? I suspect the likelihood is low that these are insurmountable obstacles.”

      Report

      • He’s not wrong. The whole light speed thing is Ye Olde Fashioned singularity in a graph. Graphing energy versus velocity, and the energy needs go infinite to reach c. I’m not sure what the heck happens on the other side of c in terms of energy.

        But you’ve definitely got that big infinity in the graph you have to side-step if you want to go all FTL.

        The Alcubierre drive works on paper (hey, they’ve even got the energy requirements down to a basketball sized mass of anti-matter), although stopping, turning, or even collapsing the warp bubble are all issues. (As is, you know, not frying inside the bubble) but it would definitely go FTL per our current understanding.

        It might also travel in time, as all FTL drives are also time machines, but it might not be a real time machine, it might be one constrained not to travel in time lest it explode. Or perhaps not. Best to try that out a few dozen light years away…

        I’m also kind of curious about mass and light speed. If you remove mass, you get to travel at light speed (you know, like photons) but aren’t there theoretical exotic matter states with negative mass? I wonder how that fits in there. Probably explodes.

        Report

  8. Gemini agnostic fist bump!
    I definitely grok the parallels between believing in aliens and believing in God.
    One dissimilarity between the two is that the faith in aliens generally makes far fewer demands on the believer than belief in God and this, indeed, parallels most of my experience with theodicies in that most of the philosophical arguments in favor of a God that rationally could be said to exist necessarily requires sanding off all the add-ons that religions typically tart God up in.
    One can make an argument that God might rationally exist or one can make an argument that Gods’ will is known and thus others (almost invariably others, rarely the self) must accommodate Gods’ will but I’ve not seen a successful (to me) argument that changes that “or” to “and”.

    Report

  9. Morat20:
    He’s not wrong. The whole light speed thing is Ye Olde Fashioned singularity in a graph. Graphing energy versus velocity, and the energy needs go infinite to reach c. I’m not sure what the heck happens on the other side of c in terms of energy.

    But you’ve definitely got that big infinity in the graph you have to side-step if you want to go all FTL.

    The Alcubierre drive works on paper (hey, they’ve even got the energy requirements down to a basketball sized mass of anti-matter), although stopping, turning, or even collapsing the warp bubble are all issues. (As is, you know, not frying inside the bubble) but it would definitely go FTL per our current understanding.

    It might also travel in time, as all FTL drives are also time machines, but it might not be a real time machine, it might be one constrained not to travel in time lest it explode. Or perhaps not. Best to try that out a few dozen light years away…

    I’m also kind of curious about mass and light speed. If you remove mass, you get to travel at light speed (you know, like photons) but aren’t there theoretical exotic matter states with negative mass? I wonder how that fits in there. Probably explodes.

    No, the light speed limit is not about infinite energy. It is about geometery. If you disappear from Earth and appear at some distant point in space/time faster than light could have made the trip then some observer in a different inertial frame of reference will see that as going back in time. It does not matter how you made the trip. What matters is the space like seperation of the points. By changing your velocity you can and making the jump from a different frame of reference you can get back before you leave, kill yourself thus never leaving so you can’t come back to kill yourself.

    All forms of warps and wormholes involve some form of unobtainum. The best argument that these forms of unobtainum do not exist is that they would allow time travel.

    Report

  10. He likened it to demanding the believer invite you over to his kitchen and show you God, right there in the kitchen cabinet.

    Let him pick the time, place, & setup. Let him define victory conditions, i.e. what his test is supposed to show and how often. The part where things typically fall apart is the test needs to eliminate fraud, self deception, and wishful thinking.

    If he can do this and is successful, then great, he’s proven God.

    If it’s something like what’s advertised every week in church, all 500 of the Fortune 500 companies will take notice, as will every alphabet agency in every country. His name will be recorded in history next to Einstein and Darwin. He’ll have invented a new field of inquiry, possibly even a new technology.

    ————————————-
    RE: Aliens

    I started out as agnostic and interested… but I read one of these articles and checked out the history of the scientist(s) involved. It was one of the paranormal “experts” who claimed Geller was the real deal and ditto about remote viewing.

    The paranormal field suffers from the problem that the better the scientist, the worse the results. Big impressive results go hand in hand with serious methodological problems, like giving the people being tested clues as to what the answers are until everything works.

    It’s been decades. Maybe now he leaves himself less open to obvious fraud, self deception, and wish fulfillment, but his history is stuffed full of those.

    What makes me dubious is if he’s the same as he was, then I’d expect him studying UFOs to result in exactly what we’re hearing.

    Report

  11. PROOF OF GENIUS CREATOR=uNiVerse is MOST IMPRESSIVELY DESIGNED DATABASE EVER & THAT TAKES FOCUSED EFFORT!! to be a billion spreadsheets deep into the millionth worksheet & still have data integrity doesn’t just happen, & all data in database MATTERS, IS ADDED IN & REVEALS ITS RELATION TO ALL DATA DATABASED, if designed correctly anyway.

    –intelligent life- ALL MATH/PHYSICS WE KNOW, WE LEARNED BY WATCHING STARS MOVE so any beings on any planet can become at least as intelligent as we are & EVERYTHING PROVES THAT LIFE CAN GROW IN EVERY KNOWN ENVIRO/CIRCUMSTANCE
    –Travel Faster than Light–if i’m on hood of car going 60mph & i jump forward FOR A MOMENT I’M GOING FASTER THAN 60mph so ship shot off of ship going close to speed of light would allow us to overtake lightspeed for moment BUT i believe space travel will be easier if we ride deep bass sound waves. ship rides the wave all the way to the nose-bleed section w/ pluck of few strings…

    Report

Comments are closed.