What If Evidence For Life Is Found On Mars?

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Miles
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What If Evidence For Life Is Found On Mars?

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Post by Miles »

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On July 20, 2020 NASA launched a rocket to Mars carrying the new Perseverance rover whose job, after it lands on February 18, 2021, is to seek signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth.


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Should such signs appear and it's concluded that life did reside on Mars, would it threaten Christian beliefs?

"Passages like Genesis 1, John 1, and Colossians 1 clearly speak of God as the Creator of all things, and with no exception. Paul writes in Colossians 1:16 “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on Earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” If signs are found it's said they would only be of very small organisms. Nothing like trilobites or dragonflies. Yet if life did arise and then go extinct what's the message? Was it a failed attempt by god to get life going? Did it go so askew that god destroyed it? Did life on Mars simply run its course and peter out? Are the "signs" simply phony---scientists don't know what they're doing!

What do you see as the Christian response to evidence of ancient life on Mars?

Get your bets in now. The window closes Feb. 18, 2021.



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Re: What If Evidence For Life Is Found On Mars?

Post #21

Post by otseng »

John Bauer wrote: Mon Dec 28, 2020 11:59 pm
otseng wrote: Thu Nov 12, 2020 8:55 pm For myself, if any life was found on another planet that did not arise from Earth, I would then say Christianity would be based purely on blind faith.
I'm curious: How does this follow?
Disclaimer, this is only from my own perspective and does not represent anyone else's position.

I believe Christianity needs to harmonize with reality and the natural world. The Bible is not just a spiritual book that only makes theological claims, but the Bible should be consistent with the realities of the natural realm as well as the spiritual. Special revelation and general revelation should harmonize into a cohesive position. Not that we'll understand everything or that there won't be mysteries, but it should be a consistent package.

What if there is a conflict between a theological position and a naturalistic position? It could be the theological position is wrong or the naturalistic position is wrong or both are wrong. The skeptic would argue the theological position is wrong. And historically, this has often been the case. Theology has been having less and less claims on the natural world. There is some point where the retreating completely leaves the natural realm and then can only makes spiritual claims. At that point, theology would just be based on faith.

For me, the line in the sand is origins - the origin of the universe, life, and man. And the ultimate litmus test of this is finding extraterrestrial life that did not originate on earth.

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Re: What If Evidence For Life Is Found On Mars?

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Post by nobspeople »

[Replying to Miles in post #21]
Should such signs appear and it's concluded that life did reside on Mars, would it threaten Christian beliefs?
Maybe it should, but it won't. Christianity is vague and malleable enough to allow for just about anything. Christians will be able to explain it away and still save face.
If all else fails, they can rely on the old "God works in mysterious ways" or "Only God knows for sure". Or simply ignore it until someone comes up with an excuse that fits their designed belief system.
Have a great, potentially godless, day!

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Re: What If Evidence For Life Is Found On Mars?

Post #23

Post by John Bauer »

[Replying to otseng (Post # 22)]

I understand and agree with the idea that Christian theology should be consistent with the natural world. That is, in fact, a historical position within the tradition to which I belong, wherein we believe that God is the one author of both Scripture and nature—that is, special and general revelation, respectively ("God's two books"). Therefore, they will not disagree. If there is a disagreement between them, we can be sure that we've interpreted something about one or the other incorrectly.

What I don't understand is how God creating everything including all life on Earth is supposed to entail that life will not be found anywhere else in the universe, thus finding life on Mars would mean a conflict between biblical Christianity and the natural world. Telling people that I did X at a particular time and place does not, by itself, mean I've never done X anywhere else at any other time. The Bible says that God created all life on Earth but, as far as I know, it does not say he created life only on Earth.

Additional thoughts: "What if there is a conflict between a theological position and a naturalistic position?" you asked. "The skeptic would argue the theological position is wrong." Well, some skeptics would, yes. Other skeptics, and I hope most of them, would say the same thing you did, that "it could be the theological position is wrong, or the naturalistic position is wrong, or both are wrong."

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Re: What If Evidence For Life Is Found On Mars?

Post #24

Post by nobspeople »

[Replying to John Bauer in post #24]
The Bible says that God created all life on Earth but, as far as I know, it does not say he created life only on Earth.
Like you, I don't remember the details of if/where other life is created based on biblical references.
But, if the bible says "God created all life on earth" that could mean he didn't create life elsewhere. Which one could interpret in a couple different ways: 1) he only created life on earth and no where else (aka there's no life elsewhere) or 2) he created life only on earth (aka any other life elsewhere is created by another/others).
I doubt Christians would think #2 is accurate as that could easily make him less than they think he is (all powerful) unless they say being all powerful doesn't me the most powerful; it could mean 'just as powerful'.
But then, they'd have to deal with other aspects of God (first last beginning end et al). But again, they could counter that by saying being equal to other 'gods' (as it were) doesn't detract from God.
What we can only say honestly, is we don't know and those with faith will need to rely on their faith and those without faith will have to rely on their own, mindful interpretation.
Have a great, potentially godless, day!

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Re: What If Evidence For Life Is Found On Mars?

Post #25

Post by DrNoGods »

[Replying to nobspeople in post #25]
But, if the bible says "God created all life on earth" that could mean he didn't create life elsewhere. Which one could interpret in a couple different ways: 1) he only created life on earth and no where else (aka there's no life elsewhere) or 2) he created life only on earth (aka any other life elsewhere is created by another/others).
It also has to be considered that the people who penned Genesis (the original text it was assembled from) had no concept of other planets where life might possibly exist. They saw dots of light in the sky, including the two big ones (sun and moon), but doubtful had any concept that there might be other celestial bodies where life might exist as they had no idea what planets and stars actually were. Earth was considered the center of everything, with the dots of light in the sky put there for man's benefit. So leaving out any specific comments about the possibility of life elsewhere, beyond Earth, may simply be that the writers had no concept of it being a possibility and so did not address it in any way for that reason.

The Christian friends I've discussed this sort of thing with over the years mostly had the belief that humans were special creatures, different from any other living thing, and they believe that no intelligent life exists outside of Earth for that reason (and discard the notion that a god may have created humans elsewhere, although most couldn't describe why). So to them a distinction was made between intelligent, sentient life vs. microbial life. They'd be OK with the latter, but not the former, and most don't believe in the evolution of humans from earlier life forms so discard the idea that microbial life could eventually become intelligent life.
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Re: What If Evidence For Life Is Found On Mars?

Post #26

Post by John Bauer »

nobspeople wrote: Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:01 pm If the bible says "God created all life on earth" that could mean he didn't create life elsewhere.
I don't see how that conclusion would follow. Creating all life on Earth means that, whatever life is found on Earth, God created it. It does not mean he created life only on Earth. That conclusion requires an additional premise or two.

nobspeople wrote: Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:01 pm Which one could interpret in a couple different ways: 1) he only created life on earth and no where else (aka there's no life elsewhere) or 2) he created life only on earth (aka any other life elsewhere is created by another/others).
Option 2 is the same as Option 1, namely, God "created life on Earth and nowhere else," which is to say "only on Earth." Do you see it?

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Re: What If Evidence For Life Is Found On Mars?

Post #27

Post by otseng »

John Bauer wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 2:00 pm What I don't understand is how God creating everything including all life on Earth is supposed to entail that life will not be found anywhere else in the universe, thus finding life on Mars would mean a conflict between biblical Christianity and the natural world. Telling people that I did X at a particular time and place does not, by itself, mean I've never done X anywhere else at any other time. The Bible says that God created all life on Earth but, as far as I know, it does not say he created life only on Earth.
True, there is no explicit statement in the Bible that says God did not create life on another planet. My arguments for life not existing elsewhere is primarily extra-Biblical - abiogenesis, Rare Earth, Nature's Destiny and some others. These arguments also harmonize with the idea that God is the ultimate creator and humans are special. I also draw the line in the sand here to counter comments such as:
nobspeople wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 9:46 am Christianity is vague and malleable enough to allow for just about anything. Christians will be able to explain it away and still save face.
If all else fails, they can rely on the old "God works in mysterious ways" or "Only God knows for sure". Or simply ignore it until someone comes up with an excuse that fits their designed belief system.
I offer a position that can falsify my version of Christianity. Find any life that originated outside Earth, then the cohesiveness of my belief collapses. And I'm even willing to stake this forum on the line with this position.

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Re: What If Evidence For Life Is Found On Mars?

Post #28

Post by nobspeople »

[Replying to John Bauer in post #27]
I don't see how that (If the bible says "God created all life on earth" that could mean he didn't create life elsewhere.) conclusion would follow.
It's in the wording.
If it doesn't say created life everywhere, then that could mean only on earth. If God created all life everywhere, it could say that.
I don't mean that's the truth, but a case could be made in how the claim is worded.
Option 2 is the same as Option 1, (1) he only created life on earth and no where else (aka there's no life elsewhere) or 2) he created life only on earth (aka any other life elsewhere is created by another/others).)namely, God "created life on Earth and nowhere else," which is to say "only on Earth." Do you see it?
Again, it's in the wording. Specifically #1 speaks of Earth and no where or no one else and #2 speaks specifically about the potential of another creator.
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Re: What If Evidence For Life Is Found On Mars?

Post #29

Post by John Bauer »

otseng wrote: Thu Dec 31, 2020 9:40 am True, there is no explicit statement in the Bible that says God did not create life on another planet. My arguments for life not existing elsewhere is primarily extra-Biblical—abiogenesis, Rare Earth, Nature's Destiny and some others. These arguments also harmonize with the idea that God is the ultimate creator and humans are special.
You said that if we found life on another planet and it did not come from Earth, that would suggest to you that Christianity is "based purely on blind faith." Curious, I asked how you came to that opinion. You spoke of the Bible and how it should be consistent with the realities of the natural world. If we found life on Mars, that would be one of those realities the Bible would need to be consistent with—yes?

However, the Bible talks only about what God did here, on Earth. Did he create life elsewhere in the universe? The Bible doesn't say, one way or the other. And you agreed with this. "True," you said, "there is no explicit statement in the Bible that says God did not create life on another planet."

So that just brings us back to my original question, then. Why would finding life on Mars mean that Christianity is based purely on blind faith? Evidently, it's not because of anything the Bible says, so is there perhaps some Christian doctrine that would be contradicted by such a find?

Here is the point I am getting at (and I don't mean to belabor the point; I just want to be as clear as I can): If discovering life on another planet doesn't contradict anything in the Bible or any particular Christian doctrine, then it is not clear how it should follow that Christianity is therefore inconsistent with the natural world.

As you said, both abiogenesis and the Rare Earth hypothesis are extra-biblical (i.e., not derived from the Bible), and Michael Denton certainly was not presenting a Christian argument (I think he's agnostic). Would it be fair to say that this line in the sand is not only extra-biblical but also extra-Christian (i.e., not derived from Christian doctrine)?


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nobspeople wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 9:46 am Christianity is vague and malleable enough to allow for just about anything. Christians will be able to explain it away and still save face.
When people attempt to "save face," that means they are trying to avoid humiliation. However, there simply would not be anything problematic for Christians about finding life on Mars. Sorry, not sorry.
nobspeople wrote: Thu Dec 31, 2020 1:47 pm It's in the wording. If it doesn't say created life everywhere, then that could mean only on earth. If God created all life everywhere, it could say that.

I don't mean that's the truth, but a case could be made in how the claim is worded.
That would be an example of argumentum ex silentio, an incredibly weak type of argument at best and usually regarded as fallacious. Why would anyone expect to find a statement about God creating "all life everywhere" in a book that talks strictly about Earth—and written within a cognitive and cultural environment that lacked any concept of planets or solar systems and so forth? That kind of eisegetical and anachronistic expectation would probably be avoided by most intelligent people, I should think.
nobspeople wrote: Thu Dec 31, 2020 1:47 pm Again, it's in the wording. Specifically #1 speaks of Earth and nowhere or no one else and #2 speaks specifically about the potential of another creator.
Both options expressed the same idea, namely, that God "only created life on Earth" and "created life only on Earth." Consequently, these are not "a couple different ways" someone could interpret the Bible; it is a single interpretation expressed in a practically identical fashion.

This notion of an additional creator possibly being responsible for life we might find anywhere other than Earth? Nobody could interpret the Bible that way, for the rather obvious reason that the Bible mentions only one creator (God) and only one world (this one). A person could draw another creator into the mix, but he will not have drawn it from the Bible—and it was the Bible we were talking about. (link)

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Re: What If Evidence For Life Is Found On Mars?

Post #30

Post by otseng »

John Bauer wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 8:47 am Would it be fair to say that this line in the sand is not only extra-biblical but also extra-Christian (i.e., not derived from Christian doctrine)?
I wouldn't go that far. As I've mentioned, I believe my position is based on a consistent interpretation of both Biblical and natural evidence. And I believe it best fits all the evidence compared to any other position.

Let's assume we did find life on another planet and Star Trek is true and the universe is teeming with sentient life. It would mean several things. Abiogenesis and evolution is proven to be true. Human life is not special and unique. There is nothing privileged about Earth. Thorny theological questions would also arise. Do Martians also have souls? Does God love the Vulcans also so that Jesus died for their sins? Are there multiple types of incarnations of God among all the extraterrestrial civilizations?

However, if no life exists outside of earth, then it can be affirmed life, humans, and Earth are special. And it would fit the most natural reading of the Bible without having the theological issues.

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