The Mars rover Curiosity has discovered organic compounds on Mars. The evidence may be a sign of extraterrestrial life but does not yet support any conclusions. But for the sake of this discussion, assume that microbial life is about to be discovered on Mars.

1. How important is such a discovery? Will most folks see this as a big deal?

2. How does it change the conversation between atheists and religious apologists?

3. What are the implications for science and reason, theology and dogma, and the word of "holy" books?

4. Would we see Martian Life Deniers join the ranks of Evolution Deniers, Climate Change Deniers, and Holocaust Deniers?

I'm curious to hear the thoughts of the Think Atheist community.

Tags: Mars, biology, evolution, science

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Thou protesteth too much, my overly-presumptuous friend; although I was for most of my life a Christian believer, I am here in Think Atheist as a non-believer, to receive moral support and contextualization for my loss of faith.

There was no presumption, Darrell. You self-identify as a Christian under 'Religious Status' on your page. 

In my above response, I approached nothing “from the wrong angle”: 

Of course you did. You wrote: "[C. S. Lewis] debunks the idea that such a discovery would immediately ‘disprove’ God or the Bible." Theists routinely employ the 'Prove there is no God' routine: an intellectually dishonest attempt to shunt 'burden of proof' onto atheists. 

[C.S. Lewis] does indeed find no contradiction between extraterrestrial life—even intelligent life—and the Bible.

The Bible states explicitly that God created Heaven and Earth, and Heaven is a dome with lights affixed to the underside. Lewis can't touch extraterrestrial life without ignoring that the Bible implicitly says Earth is the only terrestrial anything.  

Aristotle wrote, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”. That’s what I just did above, see?

Admittedly I did not until you just now explained. You were playing devil's advocate. You don't buy Lewis, you're only presenting his ideas here. I get it now.  

So please keep your ‘magical gnomes’ to yourself, and open up your mind.

My mind is open, just not so much that my brains fall out. But thank you for the advice. Mine in return: don't announce yourself as a Christian and present Christian arguments without a 'devil's advocate' disclaimer attached, unless you're prepared to be taken for a Christian. 

And sheesh, find some more convincing evidence than the ‘discovery’ that the sky is not a solid dome; that one is not going to persuade anyone who understands poetry and figures of speech.

Christians insist the Bible is the perfect and true word of God. The Bible is wrong about the sky dome. Therefore, on that alone, the Bible is flawed and false. If you find that neither convincing nor persuasive, it's not due to some incongruity of the point, but rather your own resistance to it.     

I think what he's trying to point out is that most (and my most I mean a small majority of) people don't take the creation myth to be absolutely 100% accurate. They read it as a metaphor that in a poetic way tells that God is the creator. Even the Catholic church teaches that it's simply a story and not to be considered as a portrayal of how the Earth and universe truly came about.

Considering that Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 of Genesis give two different accounts, it's hard to see how they even manage to think there is something real to it at all even metaphorically.

The Bible doesn't say scripture is a mixture of truth and error, and that some parts are metaphors and others are literal. The Bible quite literally says every word is flawless, perfect, trustworthy, and unchanging.


"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him." - PRO 30:5

"The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple." - PSA 19:7
 
"By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before Me every knee will bow; by Me every tongue will swear." - ISA 45:23
 
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." - 2TI 3:16,17
 
 
The Bible also says God uses His magical powers to ensure nothing can ever be added or taken away from scripture. Anyone who does is going to hell. This is one of the reasons why Evangelicals-- the largest Christian denomination in the U.S.--  aren't so keen on the Catholic church. Who are Catholics that they'd dare to modify God's own words? 

"Do not add to His words, or He will rebuke you and prove you a liar." - PRO 30:6

"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book." REV 22:18,19


And Jesus himself doubled down om this notion: he specifically said not the teeniest part of God's Word can change until the end of the world. 


"I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." - MAT 5:18

 

 

I'm not sure if you aren't getting the point or just think it's inconsequential.

Point:

It's silly to try to get someone to not believe in something they already don't believe in. Pointing out the fact that the sky is not a solid dome is not going to change the perceptions of someone who already doesn't think of the sky as a solid dome. They'll just say, "Yeah, I know." Likewise, pointing out to someone that there is alien life on another planet won't matter one bit if they already think that life on another planet doesn't contradict their religious beliefs. C. S. Lewis would be one of those people.

That's what Darrel was trying to say.

What I said in my very first post on this thread is that people will rationalize what ever they can to fit their world and worldview. That's why so many Christians if pressed would say that the word of God is unerring, yet still say that some parts of the creation myth aren't correct with the world as it is. They pick and choose what they think is "true" and what isn't. (My friend calls them buffet Christians.) The whole thing is just an exercise in cognitive dissonance.

So you can try to argue with a Christian all you want to that because the story of creation is wrong therefore the Bible is not inerrant, but you won't convince anyone that the whole Bible is wrong that way. You'll just change what that person picks and chooses is true.

I'm not sure if you aren't getting the point or just think it's inconsequential.

It's inconsequential. Yes, a minority of Christians acknowledge Biblical cosmology is disproved. But that wasn't the argument Darrell presented.

That's what Darrel was trying to say.

I responded to what Darrell was actually saying: the discovery of extraterrestrial life would not disprove God and the Bible

Of course it would. Bible cosmology according to God's word is already disproved many times over. The discovery of extraterrestrial life would be just another nail in the coffin. That's the point.

Naturally, most Christians take Genesis literally, resist evidences to the contrary, and pick-and-choose the rest. You seem to be saying this means it's pointless even to present the case at all. Are you?

Win or lose, some battles have to be fought. I say: lay bare the incongruity when you can. Otherwise, you acquiesce that willful ignorance is a trump card which invalidates points and renders the entire conversation worthless. I refuse to accept that.

You can refuse to accept it all you want to, but some people are unconvinceable and you'd just be wasting your time, which could be better spent on someone who can be convinced. I'm a fan of picking and choosing my battles.

You can refuse to accept it all you want to, but some people are unconvinceable and you'd just be wasting your time, which could be better spent on someone who can be convinced.

I didn't refuse to accept that some people are unconvinceable. I refused to accept willful ignorance as a debate tactic. Once the debate is joined do you fold when the other guy trots it out? 

I'm a fan of picking and choosing my battles.

So am I. Debating religion with a stranger on a city bus is a waste of time. Debating religion online in a topical public community with a thousandfold membership is worthwhile. Your readership is comprised of those who agree, those on the fence (including my new friend Darrell), and the unconvinceable. 

Debate effectively before an audience of the persuadable and some will learn and be persuaded. A good way to do that is exposing the incongruities of the unconvincible.

You think that the early church needed a review of the creation story, just to make sure the peeons got the bad details right? They can't have the peeons believing the wrong details, or thinking for themselves, without the priest class to hold their hand?

It was a sad moment for me while in time share catholic school, when I was drilled by the nuns and fellow students for reading a book on basic chemistry..;p(

It could take a while for the catholic church to respond. In 1992 they finally admitted that Galileo was right.

But Mother Theresa, the closet atheist, gets a fast-track to sainthood. 

Oh and as to how important this discovery is?   Not an earth shattering revelation by any means.  "Organic molecules" is a long, long, long way from "life."  They've found them in interstellar dust clouds, and it's hard to imagine a less likely place to find life simply because the density is so low.

The questions are regarding a hypothetical discovery of microbial life on Mars, not the actual recent discovery of organic molecules by Curiosity (although this was the inspiration). 

"But for the sake of this discussion, assume that microbial life is about to be discovered on Mars."

Wouldn't a discovery like that have huge implications? 

If the life is native to Mars then we are not alone in the universe. But the discovery of ancient non-native Martian microbes, or even ancient microbes with a shared Terran-Martian legacy would be pretty amazing. 

What if they discover Martian life that originated on Earth but ended up on Mars through meteor strikes millions of years ago? What if they discover evidence that early microbial life on Earth actually originated on Mars?

Then we would know nature is capable of transporting microbial life (or the ingredients for it) across vast distances of space.

 

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