What If Evidence For Life Is Found On Mars?

Creationism, Evolution, and other science issues

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

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Post by John Bauer »

otseng wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 9:32 am I believe my position is based on a consistent interpretation of both Biblical and natural evidence.
Yeah, it's that biblical evidence part that I am most keen to observe. You said that "there is no explicit statement in the Bible that says God did not create life on another planet." All right, are there any implicit statements in the Bible that say this?

otseng wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 9:32 am Let's assume we did find life on another planet and Star Trek is true and ...
Well, we both accept the Rare Earth hypothesis, so let's instead assume that the universe is teeming with microbial life at best. No Vulcans, no Martians, no extraterrestrial civilizations. Just organic molecules, viruses, protists, etc. What would this picture do to Christianity or the Bible, in your estimation? Or is it just advanced intelligent life that's problematic?

otseng wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 9:32 am Abiogenesis and evolution is proven to be true.
Does this represent a problem for Christianity? Does biblical Christianity deny abiogenesis or evolution? I don't think so. Metaphysical naturalism, sure, but neither abiogenesis nor evolution necessarily entail that. For example, Denis R. Alexander is an example of a Christian with a biblical world-view who accepts abiogenesis and evolution. There is no necessary or inherent conflict—is there? I haven't seen any, at least not yet.

otseng wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 9:32 am Human life is not special and unique. There is nothing privileged about Earth.
Whoa, wait a second. Even if we did assume there are Vulcans and Martians, how does it follow that humans are therefore not special and unique and there is nothing privileged about Earth? That would follow only if God had a covenant relationship with them, too, but how could anyone possibly justify that premise? As far as I can tell, it's not justifiable. The only thing we can justify is the covenant relationship that exists between God and humans here on Earth, which (barring such a relationship between God and Vulcans or Martians) makes us special and unique on our privileged planet here.

otseng wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 9:32 am Thorny theological questions would also arise. Do Martians also have souls?
I don't think even we have souls, much less do Martians or Vulcans. (I take the constitutionalist view of Lynne Rudder Baker, an alternative to substance dualism.)

otseng wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 9:32 am 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?
The question presupposes that Vulcans sinned, a premise bereft of any warrant. I'm not saying it's impossible, only that there is no reason to suppose it. As I understand it, sin is a meaningless term apart from a covenant relationship with God, which (as far as we know) he has only with humans. No covenant relationship, no sin; no sin, no need for salvation, or an incarnate savior. That's why trees, earthworms, giraffes—all earthly creatures other than humans—are not characterized as sinners, for example, and why Christ became incarnate only in human form (despite the wide variety of life forms that exist on Earth). It seems, to me, that the same would apply to all extraterrestrial creatures in our Star Trek galaxy: No covenant, no sin, no incarnate savior. The relationship between them and God would be like that which exists between him and all other earthly creatures—direct and immediate.

otseng wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 9:32 am 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.
Until such an advanced civilization is found, that is (which is unlikely to happen in our lifetime anyway).

I don't know, I take pleasure in challenging my world-view in the thorniest ways possible, always trying to find its weak spots. I relish theological issues. I want to assume that the universe is teeming with all kinds of life (although I don't think that's true) and find ways to reconcile that with a biblical world-view—which is actually one of the least difficult issues I've confronted. Where my thinking is at currently, it would be weird if no life was ever found anywhere else, and it would not be devastating if advanced civilizations existed out there.

P.S. Thanks for engaging me in this enjoyable discussion.

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Update (January 4, 2021): I just want to reiterate these questions for which I am seeking an answer from Otseng:

1. Are there any implicit statements in the Bible that say God didn't create life on any other planet?

2. Assuming that the universe is teeming with microbial life at best—organic molecules, viruses, protists, etc.—what would that picture do to Christianity or the Bible, in your estimation?

3. Do you think abiogenesis and evolution being proven true represents a problem for Christianity?

4. If God has a covenant relationship only with humans, does that not privilege this planet and make humans special and unique?

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

Post #32

Post by nobspeople »

[Replying to John Bauer in post #30]
However, there simply would not be anything problematic for Christians about finding life on Mars
Are you saying every single Christian on the planet would be OK with this?
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?
I would suspect some people who teach from the bible - those chosen by God many claim - would need to understand this as they teach EVERYTHING, not simply the earth, was created by God with most referencing the bible itself to validate their claims.
Additionally, the bible does speak about things outside the earth (Heaven, the heavens, hell, etc) which seems to nullify your claim about 'only speaking about the earth'. Granted, it's not likely people who wrote the bible knew of other planets, stars, galaxies, etc. so I wouldn't expect them to speak to these things. But that hasn't (and doesn't) stop leaders of the faith to speak to those things.
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...
That an opinion of fact? Are you speaking for the billions of people on the planet or just you and your POV?

Additionally, here are some interesting links for your reading enjoyment with differing views:
https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2009A ... R/abstract
"The discovery of extraterrestrial life would be another scientific development - similar to evolution - that essentially de-centers humanity. For some Christian perspectives this de-centering may be problematic..."
http://nautil.us/blog/how-will-our-reli ... alien-life
"Many Roman Catholic leaders take the possible existence of aliens seriously, and they tend to agree that ET is sinful. Yet they disagree on why ET is sinful and whether he should attend Roman Catholic Mass if he lands on Earth."
"Most fundamentalist Christians are committed to a literal interpretation of scripture. Since there is no mention of extraterrestrials in the Bible, they conclude that this proves the absence of any such beings in the universe. For this reason, first contact with an alien would obviously generate a major headache for Creationists."
"There are a few reasons to believe that Judaism would outlast a first encounter."
http://www.vaticanobservatory.va/conten ... igion.html
"Would the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence – aliens – affect your faith? - The first and most important fact we have to confront in the whole question of “extraterrestrial intelligence” is this: we don’t know..
Fr. Ernan McMullin, a philosophy professor at Notre Dame with a background in physics, has discussed the possible impact on Christian theology of discovering extraterrestrials, and he concludes only that it would certainly inspire theologians to develop new ways of thinking about topics like original sin, the immortality of the soul, and the meaning of Christ’s redemptive act. But, as he points out, there is already a voluminous literature, and hardly a consensus, on these points among theologians even today, without ETs!"

Seems faith and the interpretations of what one or two people (there simply would not be anything problematic for Christians about finding life on Mars) have on a book written by men don't always link up fully successfully with all the views of all believers across this planet.
Last edited by nobspeople on Mon Jan 04, 2021 9:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
Have a great, potentially godless, day!

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

Post #33

Post by otseng »

John Bauer wrote: Sat Jan 02, 2021 4:06 am Yeah, it's that biblical evidence part that I am most keen to observe.
Since this is the Science and Religion subforum, a separate thread in Christianity and Apologetics would be more appropriate for this.
Well, we both accept the Rare Earth hypothesis, so let's instead assume that the universe is teeming with microbial life at best. No Vulcans, no Martians, no extraterrestrial civilizations. Just organic molecules, viruses, protists, etc. What would this picture do to Christianity or the Bible, in your estimation? Or is it just advanced intelligent life that's problematic?
Finding only single cell organisms would have less theological issues. It would be an interesting scenario if the universe was teeming with microbial life, but the only multicellular life is on Earth. It would point to the Earth being special. Why would complex life only be on our planet among all the planets in the universe?
otseng wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 9:32 am Abiogenesis and evolution is proven to be true.
Does this represent a problem for Christianity?
In general, no. Christians can hold to abiogenesis and evolution and still be completely doctrinally sound. Accepting abiogenesis or evolution does not disqualify anyone from being a Christian. But my personal belief is abiogenesis and macroevolution are not compatible with the Bible.

It's like we're players at a blackjack table. We both hold hands that are under 22 are so we're both still in the game, but we don't know who will win until the very end when all the cards are revealed. For me, I'm so confident of my hand that I'm willing to go all in.
otseng wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 9:32 am Human life is not special and unique. There is nothing privileged about Earth.
Whoa, wait a second. Even if we did assume there are Vulcans and Martians, how does it follow that humans are therefore not special and unique and there is nothing privileged about Earth? That would follow only if God had a covenant relationship with them, too, but how could anyone possibly justify that premise? As far as I can tell, it's not justifiable. The only thing we can justify is the covenant relationship that exists between God and humans here on Earth, which (barring such a relationship between God and Vulcans or Martians) makes us special and unique on our privileged planet here.
That's an interesting idea, but leaving aside theological arguments, from a naturalistic perspective, if Star Trek is true, then I believe the Rare Earth hypothesis is disproven.
The question presupposes that Vulcans sinned, a premise bereft of any warrant. I'm not saying it's impossible, only that there is no reason to suppose it. As I understand it, sin is a meaningless term apart from a covenant relationship with God, which (as far as we know) he has only with humans.
Interesting argument also, but best to discuss elsewhere.
P.S. Thanks for engaging me in this enjoyable discussion.
I feel you are quite knowledgable in this area, so the feeling is mutual. O:)

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