Home » Extraterrestrial life, News » If you were a space alien, how would you answer alien hunter Seth Shostak’s two questions?

If you were a space alien, how would you answer alien hunter Seth Shostak’s two questions?

It’s Saturday night, so we are considering “What SETI Guru Wants to Know,” courtesy Creation-Evolution Headlines (May 18, 2012): As a consulted for a new Hollywood space opera, Battleship, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence’s Seth Shostak wants them to tell him,

But if it ever got to a point where you could get into a conversation and ask questions, my two have always been: do you have music and do you have religion?

I wouldn’t ask about physics because we could eventually figure that out, but those two questions are things only they would know.

What do readers think the aliens would say in reply?

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17 Responses to If you were a space alien, how would you answer alien hunter Seth Shostak’s two questions?

  1. This reminds me of a passaage from C.S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet:

    “Ever since he had discovered the rationality of the hrossa he had been haunted by a conscientious scruple as to whether it might not be his duty to undertake their religious instruction; now, as a result of his tentative efforts, he found himself being treated as if he were the savage and being given a first sketch of civilized religion — a sort of hrossian equivalent of the shorter catechism.”

  2. 2
    David W. Gibson

    Depending on how alien these aliens might be, these terms may be hopelessly untranslatable. If the aliens do not use sound to communicate, how would music translate. If the aliens are near-mindless workers of a hive mind, would anything we know as religion possibly make sense to them, and vice versa?

    I think Shostak is making what I call the Star Trek Error – visualizing aliens as humans with makeup.

  3. They could all simply be tone-deaf, as some humans are, and thus not have music.

    I rather doubt that anything hive-minded would still be interested in communication outside of the hive, except at the direction of the queen. The independent minds in a hive-minded species would be small (one per hive), and thus their technological level would be far behind ours.

  4. Since Shostak is the head of SETI, he’s probably thinking that we first discovered the aliens because they were transmitting radio signals, which would indicate that they at least had the technology to make radio trasmitters.

  5. First, Seth just wants to know stuff about them that science cannot answer- oh wait, there can be knowledge without science? Yes, there is.

    As for what the aliens would say, it would all depend on if they had religion and music.

  6. 6

    If christianity is true they wouldn’t exist.
    If they have religion then how was it revealed to them?

    I say music is just human thoughts expressed in lingering emphasized tones and words. Music is not a different thing from regular thinking or talking.
    so they would have music is they think and speak with words which are segregated combinations of noises.

    They ain’t there and they ain’t coming!

  7. “If christianity is true they wouldn’t exist.”

    I disagree. I don’t think that God is limited in that way.

  8. Can you imagine spending your whole life looking for aliens?!

    It must be a bit discouraging. Wonder what motivates him to get up every morning and keep on searching.

    Sounds like a boring life to me. I guess he has to fantasize about meeting aliens to keep himself from going crazy. Probably also helps with funding. He needs some way to try and keep up the appearance of hope and keep people interested in his doomed search.

  9. 9

    Collin
    Its doctrine in evangelical Christianity that since the universe is a decaying and death place and this only because of Adans sin and ours then other beings elsewhere couldn’t be under the curse fairly.
    Impossible for others to be out there.
    The universe should be just seen as unused real estate for original man who was to live forever and by this time or a million years from now would be counted in the zillions or so.

  10. I always thought that Adam’s sin applied only to this planet. But then again, I’m a mormon, so my doctrine is surely different on this score.

  11. “If christianity is true they wouldn’t exist.”

    I’d be curious to see a passage, any passage, from the Bible that precludes the possibility of other inhabited worlds. I don’t doubt that some Christians think we are alone, but that is based on (questionable) interpretations of small passages or simply on an assumption that we are alone.

  12. 12

    Eric anderson
    The bible’s theme is of a disaster happening with the curse.
    The universe became a decaying dying place.
    Otherwise intelligent beings out there would not die or need to avoid asteroid collisions.
    Its impossible for life out there not to be living in the decaying death state we are and the universe.
    In fact the universe shows things banging into each other which could not happen in a perfect state of order.

    Then we only are intelligent because we are made in Gods image and therefore other beings would have to be likewise.
    Such a project is unlikely.

    Jesus Christ coming into the world means such a need excludes other life in the universe.

    The universe is just empty space for the original mankind who would never of died and breeded greatly.
    Elbow room for eternoty. was needed.
    Space is the original eternity .

  13. Robert,

    I appreciate you laying out your views, but the Bible certainly does not state that there is no other intelligent life in the universe. As a result, what you have presented is a series of assumptions/interpretations about doctrine that are not necessarily universally held by all Christians and do not flow necessarily from the Bible. Indeed, if we were to take a poll I think we’d find that many Christians are perfectly comfortable with the idea of other intelligent life beyong Earth.

    I don’t mean to denigrate your or anyone’s religious viewpoint. Just pointing out that it is not correct to say that the truth of Christianity rules out the possibility of other intelligent life in the universe.

  14. 14

    Eric anderson.
    its fine for Christians to think what they will if they see the bible is true.
    interpretation is fine.

    I do still see that the fall and so death from Adam means without this there would be no death.
    So others in space would not know death or brought death about by some like sin .
    Yet the universe shows its a disaster. its all about stiff destroying other stuff.
    The universe is in a state of decay and death.
    So affected by the fall of man.

    To have innocent life out there affected by us in such a great way seems impossible.
    so its impossible for life to be out there.

    Then remember we are made in Gods image and thats the only reason we are intelligent.
    Then placed in a natural order of biological systems.

    This going on elsewhere?
    Naw.
    Anyways the curse issue makes it impossible.
    just empty space for a original eternal living humanity to find elbow room.

  15. Thanks, Robert. I don’t typically get into the religious discussions on UD as I prefer to stick to the science. Also, I don’t want to denigrate anyone’s religious belief. However, I do think it might be helpful just for me to understand your position to lay out the train of thought and the various assumptions.

    For sake of argument I’ll assume that (i) the Bible represents an inspired word, and (ii) that the Bible has been translated faithfully into English from the Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, etc. With that background, let’s look at the additional premises/assumptions in the chain of reasoning:

    I do still see that the fall and so death from Adam means without this there would be no death.

    Assumption:

    No death without the fall.
    What about the plants, seeds, fruits that Adam and Eve were eating? Were there no small animals with short lifecycles; no bacteria that reproduced and died in the process of maintaining the Garden, aiding digestion, etc.? Might “no death before the fall” refer just to humans?

    So others in space would not know death or brought death about by some like sin .
    Yet the universe shows its a disaster. its all about stiff destroying other stuff.
    The universe is in a state of decay and death.
    So affected by the fall of man.

    Assumption:

    ‘No death before the fall’ applies to the whole universe.
    Isn’t it possible that it applied just to this Earth, the Garden of Eden, or some other jurisdiction smaller than the whole universe that would be relevant to Adam and Eve and/or Moses, the writer of the history?

    To have innocent life out there affected by us in such a great way seems impossible.
    so its impossible for life to be out there.

    Assumption:

    God wouldn’t have done it that way because it would be unfair.
    What about all the people on this Earth affected by Adam and Eve? Where is the fairness in that? BTW, I don’t personally think it is unfair. I’m just pointing out that the same reasoning can apply to people on this planet who are distant from Adam and Eve in space and time, as it can to other people on other planets who are also distant from Adam and Even in space and time.

    Then remember we are made in Gods image and thats the only reason we are intelligent.
    Then placed in a natural order of biological systems.

    This going on elsewhere?
    Naw.

    Assumptions:

    (i) The only intelligence is intelligence in God’s image.
    This might be true, but is not proven. To the extent that any animals exhibit “intelligence” then we have the possibility of creatures with intelligence that are not made in God’s image. Further, if God can create creatures and embue them with capabilities, including a certain degree of intelligence, then presumably he could create intelligent life that does not resemble Himself physically.

    (ii) God is not creating beings in His image elsewhere.
    Well, that is the question, isn’t it. The Bible certainly doesn’t say that there are no other planets with life on them. We have a Being that, given what we can see about this planet and all the grand diversity of life upon it, loves to create things — unusual things, wonderous things. He has the vast cosmos on which to leave his artistic and creative mark. And we have the audacity to suggest that He should limit himself to one tiny speck in one tiny corner of this limitless canvas?

    We may not have any definitive reason to say one way or another, but it seems to me that, rather than seeing God’s creations as limited to this Earth, a Christian who views God as the Grand Creator of the universe would have just as much reason — indeed more reason — to think that His creative activity is being expressed in more than just one small corner of the grand universe.

  16. 16

    Eric Anderson

    no death would refer to living things. The ark took creatures and not plants or bacteria.
    I don’t know if there was bacteria as if it was before there was death there would be other processes.
    living eternally is a profound biological ability.
    It would be weird by our standards.

    The bible insists the world groans and decays and dies just because of Adam.
    It surely meant that before Adam ther was no death.
    this is a conclusion and not a assumption.

    Being made in gOds image is only in our spirit/soul. Not physically.
    Its impossible to have intelligent life without being made like a thinking being like God.
    This is a clear conclusion and why we live forever and are judged.

    anyways death is in the universe because its smashed up quite a bit. The mood has crators and these impacts would be a problem to undying life out there and their homes.

    Before Adams sin the world was perfect and without death.
    god did not make a bloody world for man to watch.
    It became that way after the curse and a new world will replace this one.

  17. I don’t know if there was bacteria as if it was before there was death there would be other processes.
    living eternally is a profound biological ability.
    It would be weird by our standards.

    Fair point. I agree we really don’t know the particulars of the biological processes that would be involved with an “immortal” body. But Adam and Eve apparently ate things and, therefore, had some kind of consumption and digestion. At the very least it should give us pause before we assume that there was no death of animals, plants, microscopic creatures — no death of any kind.

    The bible insists the world groans and decays and dies just because of Adam.

    Yes. The world. Not the solar system, nor the galaxy, nor the universe, but the world. Beyond the world is an extrapolation.

    It surely meant that before Adam ther was no death.
    this is a conclusion and not a assumption.

    Perhaps. But the Bible doesn’t say there was no death, thus it is open to interpretation.

    By ‘assumption’ I was pointing out that this is one of the assumptions you used in determining that there is no life beyond Earth.

    Being made in gOds image is only in our spirit/soul. Not physically.

    Again, that is one possible interpretation, but by no means the only one, or even most likely one. Certainly if what the scriptural author meant was “character” or “likeness of soul” or something else along those lines, he could have said so. In addition, there are several passages which suggest that being made in God’s image refers to physical appearance. This point highlights, however, the fact that one of the most challenging aspects of scriptural interpretation is determining what is to be understood literally what should be understood figuratively.

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