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RareDenver's avatar

Hey Atheists, if the existence extra-terrestrial life was somehow completely disproved, would you start looking toward religion?

Asked by RareDenver (13089 points ) December 14th, 2010

A conversation with my father in law (a buddhist) got me thinking about this. As an atheist I wasn’t sure how I would feel if it turned out we really were the only one’s in the universe that could even formulate these kind of questions and his insistence that he wasn’t a theist but still had religion got me thinking about this whole question I now pose to you good people.

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70 Answers

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Aren’t they separate topics? Am I missing something?

everephebe's avatar

If we’re completely alone, I find it even harder to believe in any religion.

Ivan's avatar

Learning of the nonexistence of extraterrestrials isn’t going to make me think “Ohhh, Noah really did gather up all the animals on an ark!”

6rant6's avatar

I don’t understand the connection, really. I’d sure be curious why we’re the only ones.

But I wouldn’t think, oh, those credulous folks who held fast to earth-centric universe, infalability of the Pope, and intelligent design [sic] must be right.

I am a scientist first, so I’d be interested in what came next.

timtrueman's avatar

That would be like saying, “we’ve discovered for sure there are no aliens, do you believe in Santa now?” There is no connection between religion and alien life in my mind.

6rant6's avatar

There’s also the problem of “proving” non-existence. You heard they just found four hundred septillion stars right? Didn’t know they are there, now they believe they are. So it would be hard to convince me there wasn’t life elsewhere; at best, “We haven’t found any.”

That being said, I would accept that there might be evidence which proved “non-existence”. That is the difference between faith and science at the core.

iamthemob's avatar

I can see how it could lead to people turning to religion. For me, though, it would weigh in on the opposite side of the conclusion. I mean, that seems like a ridiculously inefficient way to do it – all that space just to get us to happen here, now.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

If, hypothetically, it was possible to prove that there is no extra-terrestrial life, I would assume that science would be the field the proof would come from. In that case, the proof would have scientific reasoning behind it, and there would be a logical reason as to why we can be the only life-filled planet in the universe. If there was a logical reason, then I would not turn to religion, because the explanation would be right in front of me.

At this stage, the only thing that would make me turn to religion is finding out that there are predictions made by religion that come true at a 100% strike rate, and there being no potential physical explanation.

Vortico's avatar

It would all depend on the method of proving there does not exist extra terrestrial life. A feat like this would probably turn most people to religion because of the complete difficulty of checking all four hundred septillion stars. Proving that alien life is much easier—you must find a single example.

iamthemob's avatar

@Vortico – Beyond that…it would have to show conclusively that it never has existed and could never exist again.

marinelife's avatar

I don’t see the connection.

Trillian's avatar

What does the one have to do with the other?

downtide's avatar

I’ve already tried religion and found it totally lacking. So, no. I wouldn’t turn back to it, no matter what else in the universe was proved to be false.

the100thmonkey's avatar

No.

Why would uniqueness necessarily make us anything less than, well… unique?

If we are unique, it just makes us all the more special – the flip-side of the Copernican principle.

deliasdancemom's avatar

No I don’t think just us being in existance is proof for a creator

Winters's avatar

@everyonewhodoesn’tseetheconnection The connection (as lame as it may be) is that a few religions and denomination state that earth is the only place where life exists in the universe because god/the gods deemed it to be that way. So if Earth was proven to be the only place with life on it through out the Universe, I’m sure those whack jobs (no I’m not apologizing to you extremists) who spout that that is proof some higher being exists and would proceed to kill each other to see whose god is better.

And no, not even that would get me to believe 100% in a god.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I agree with @timtrueman and @iamthemob. For me, personally, one has nothing to do with the other.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

“Does not compute, does not compute….”

zophu's avatar

Some atheists believe in ET’s religiously. met more than one, i attract the strangest people

Seelix's avatar

I can’t imagine anything that would cause me to turn to religion.

ratboy's avatar

Looking toward religion as the culprit? Has religion killed off all other life in the universe as it threatens to do here?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

To all who do not see the connection:

Some young-earth-creationist Christians believe that life cannot exist anywhere else, because that would be proof that life can evolve in other places. And obviously we are the only place where life was created, since we are the only sinful race, because Jesus only died once, and life on other planets would also become sinful if we did. (If I remember rightly. Its been a long time since I read that crap.)

El_Cadejo's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh sooo they believe god made the ENTIRE universe for just us? I find that more outstandingly ludicrous than their ideas that humans walked with dinosaurs

timtrueman's avatar

OK, so I see the “connection” now but that’s like going from “we’ve discovered for sure there are no aliens, do you believe in Santa now?” to “do you believe in Santa?”—the answer is still “no”.

Cruiser's avatar

There is a whole warehouse full of aliens in Rome that the Pope and his heavies are having a harder time keeping a secret!! The truth will come out!! I know it will!!! You can’t hide this forever!!!! Free Julian Assange!!!!

Jeruba's avatar

What? No. I don’t see the connection.

(Why wouldn’t Jesus have to die once on each planet? I wrote that question in my journal when I was about 12.)

coffeenut's avatar

Could GOD be considered a extra-terrestrial?

syz's avatar

How do you prove a negative? And no.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@uberbatman No, like humans, the universe was made for God’s own pleasure. Apparently he likes looking around at what he made, contemplating his own awesomeness. Humans were made as other sentient beings so when God says “aren’t I just the best?” humans can reply “most definitely!” As for the evolution/ET link, see here. I’m still embarrassed that I used to read this garbage.

roundsquare's avatar

Interesting responses here…

The only connection I would make is through this logic:
Q: How likely is it that life begins at random?
A: I don’t know, but the more life we see, the more likely it must be.
Hey, it only happened once!
So that means something very unlikely happened!
It must be signs of an intelligent design (note, not the current ID fad, but as a general term).

Of course… the logic is completely flawed, but this kind of reasoning is common enough.

Afos22's avatar

Life will be found, and I still don’t believe in religion.

Trillian's avatar

@Afos22 You don’t believe in religion? It exists. Thats like saying you don’t believe in abortion. Abortion exists, religion exists. You may claim that you don’t practice religion, but to deny the existence of something that clearly exists is kind of silly.

roundsquare's avatar

@Trillian A bit pedantic, no?

El_Cadejo's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh hahah brilliant answer my fine sir. :P I didnt consider just how vein god is.

Afos22's avatar

@roundsquare I don’t believe in Trillian lol

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@uberbatman Thanks! Note that is only the extreme interpretation. Most Christians, as with most jellies, don’t see a connection.

ETpro's avatar

I don’t see how the existence of extra terrestial life bolsters atheism or how it would refute theism. It’s a separate issue in my mind.

Qingu's avatar

If we are the only living things capable of evolving in the universe then I would think it was even more important to live our lives morally and respectfully of nature… as opposed to living our lives according to the Bible.

zophu's avatar

@Qingu The Bible’s easier to read.

Qingu's avatar

What Bible are you reading? Most of it is an absolute pain in the ass to read!

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

I’m sorry, I don’t follow you. That’s like saying, “How can an ant carry 20 times its body weight, but root beer floats are still delicious?” Are the two even related?

Afos22's avatar

@papayalily I’m not sure I understand the details of your analogy. But hey, at least it isn’t cliche

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Afos22 It’s a line from How I Met Your Mother

poisonedantidote's avatar

Nop, I was an atheist before I considered the possibility of aliens, before I knew about evolution, before I knew about DNA, before I knew anything really, I was only 6 years old when i became an atheist.

My atheism was a direct response to religion alone. All I needed to make my mind up was being exposed to religion for the first time.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

It’s a false hypothesis. You can’t disprove either one. The best you could do is (possibly) prove extraterrestrial life.

I can’t prove that there isn’t an invisible pink unicorn in the room with you right now. Or in the room with me, for that matter. How could you possibly “disprove other life throughout the universe”?

Kardamom's avatar

No. One has nothing to do with the other. That’s like saying if you decided you didn’t like the room painted orange, would you go out for Chinese take out? One has nothing to do with the other. They are un-related.

Afos22's avatar

They do not have anything to do with one another. Its like if I said “do there pants make me look fat?” and john suggested that September should be abolished.

Summum's avatar

We are not alone but why would it change anything at all? There are billions of life forms out there.

ETpro's avatar

I suppose in @RareDenver‘s defense that if an alien intelligence arrived here tomorrow from some galaxy far far away, and promptly announced that Yahweh sent them, that would be a major game changer. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen, though.

mattbrowne's avatar

If I were an atheist and if the existence extra-terrestrial life was completely disproved, this would not be a reason for me to start looking toward religion.

6rant6's avatar

There’s also this….

In the history of the world, how many people have had visions – experiences where they reported being visited by a being of higher existence, like God.

How many of them were delusional? Pick your religion, and you can claim “holy contact” for all the ecstatic prophets you want to, but still the numbers overwhelming are in favor of the deluded ones.

So if I saw what I imagined to be irrefutable evidence (and all those deluded people felt that way), I can only hope that I will have enough left to say, “It’s probably just me.”

Of course with any luck, I’d be able to get a television show to evangelize my craziness. I’ve already got some great ideas for the telethon…

Lightlyseared's avatar

@ETpro They may come and do that just to screw with us for some alien intergalactic practical joke.

ETpro's avatar

@Lightlyseared Ha! Ehy not? This ET has a sense of humor.

cazzie's avatar

Nope. Certainly not.

josie's avatar

No. Don’t see the connection anyway.

RareDenver's avatar

For all those that don’t see the connection I’ll fill you in on my muddled thinking about the whole thing.

If it was proven that nowhere in the whole universe did even the simplest of lifeforms come into existence by natural means then, to me, it would make our planets abundance of life seem completely absurd in this vast emptiness and make me think that some agent may have sparked the existence of replicators here. Now I know there is a whole anthropic type argument that says that it only had to happen once for us to be here and ask these questions, but if it really did just happen once by natural means in this whole universe that is a bit weird, the universe is pretty pretty pretty big from my understanding.

I know that some people won’t agree with my train of thinking and that is fine but I hope it clears up why I asked the question and thanks for all the answers too.

ETpro's avatar

@RareDenver I have to agree with that sentiment. There is nothing in natural law that says there can never be a one-of. In fact, natural law is replete with one-of examples. But still, to find no analog for life anywhere in the vastness of this Universe would make me feel that for whatever the cause, life here on earth is EXTREMELY special.

I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that it had to mean there was a creator being, though. The problem is that a creator being would be even more EXTREMELY special and one-of than replicators popping out of the primordial soup on the nascent Earth.

Explaining one imponderable by positing an even greater imponderable is no explanation at all.

6rant6's avatar

@RareDenver Here’s the problem I have with your idea that a piece of evidence would make it clear to us that there is a god.

I live in a world where I see many, many people who believe that they see god, that god speaks to them. Only I see them killing each other and starting wars, and forcing child brides to marry old men – all because they think god was speaking to them. Even people who are not so vociferous in their beliefs are frequently at cross purposes on behalf of “god”.

So I look at them and I say to myself, “People who believe god talks to them are deluded.” So now if I pick up some piece of evidence and I begin to believe that piece of evidence is proof that god is out there, then – if I am still thinking rationally – I will say to myself, “Although this seems to point to a conclusion, I know from prior experience that people who believe that god has been revealed to them are almost always delusional. Therefore EVEN IF THERE IS A GOD it is more likely that I am deluded than that he is communicating to me.”

So seeing evidence that there is a god would make me more likely to seek mental health help than go to church. All this requires is that you recognize that you are as susceptible to aberrant thinking as the next guy. To think otherwise, I feel, is narcissistic and naive.

Can you see my point?

RareDenver's avatar

@6rant6 I’m not saying any piece of evidence of non-existence of ET would prove there is a god, I was just asking if it was there was that evidence would it make people think twice?

I myself am an atheist and very comfortable with my atheism.

6rant6's avatar

@RareDenver I see.

Well, certainly it would make me speculate as to what it means.

But in the history of human beings there have been so many mysteries that seemed “supernatural” at one time that succumbed to science, that one more puzzlement would hardly make me suspect the method was incorrect.

I would probably just figure I was born at the wrong time to see the answer to that one.

everephebe's avatar

@timtrueman I remember staying up as late as possible on x-mas to disprove Santa’s existence when I was quite young. At “Happy Hill.” I knew he was bogus. I don’t know why I didn’t do the same for god until much later, the narratives for both mythological beings are as silly (The Abrahamic God & Santa).

I think that it’s much more likely that aliens will completely disprove god, rather than the other way round.

roundsquare's avatar

Maybe this question is the same as:
If you flipped a coin 100 times and you got 100 heads, would that make you start believing in god? Or at the least, that something strange is happening?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I don’t think it will make one iota of difference. From my experience, it would be hard pressed to get an atheist to believe there were extraterrestrials; that would mean man is not the most intelligent in the universe and therefore, the hot shit. It would also mean this evolution thing was more than a unique fluke that only humans here on earth get to have.

ETpro's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I thought I knew how misinformed about atheists you insist on being, but you just pushed out into entirely virgin levels of idiocy. The ultimate of arrogance is insisting that this entire, incredibly vast and expanding universe made 13.72 billion years ago, and consisting of hundreds of billions of galaxies each with hundreds of billions of stars; was put here only for YOU, because you, among the 7 billion plus people living here today and the 107.6 billion who have been born, happen to be a Christian.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@ETpro The ultimate of arrogance is insisting that this entire, incredibly vast and expanding universe made 13.72 billion years ago, and consisting of hundreds of billions of galaxies each with hundreds of billions of stars; was put here only for YOU, because you, among the 7 billion plus people living here today and the 107.6 billion who have been born, happen to be a Christian.
I hate to make it sound this way, but what have you been smoking? I would never insist that I created anything as far as the world and the universe is concerned, I KNOW who did; but that is not the spirit of the question here. I answered it, sorry you do not like it. If I am wrong, I am giving you the opportunity to go on record: do atheists believe in extraterrestrials? If they don’t then would not that show more arrogance you claim other Christians and I have? If you are going to stand fast to evolution yet believe Earth is the only planet in, what did you say, 100 billion galaxies to win the life lotto, would surely be arrogant.

talljasperman's avatar

Only from sheer boredom.

ETpro's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Are you that unable to read? How does “was put here only for you…” get morphed into your claim that I said you created what is here? This is just childishness. I tire of talking to such a dogmatist.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

^^ 1001100 101 11001001 1101 010101 11010101 000 0010101 1111001 0100.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

^^ invalid input

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