Re: SETI sci.astro.seti newsgroup created
Mon, 1 Nov 1999 19:38:07 -0800

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky, <>, writes:
> wrote at 2:40 PM:
> >
> > Who cares what the religious think?
> wrote at 1:32 PM:
> >
> > I don't see how you avoid this slippery slope once you assent to the
> > view that ETs are among us. Is there anyone here who denies the truth
> > of biblical miracles yet maintains that there is a real probability that
> > extraterrestrial intelligences are monitoring us right here and now?
> > How can you reconcile these views?
> Actually, how can I reconcile *your* views is the main question going
> through my head right now. First you write that we shouldn't believe in
> ETI because religions could abuse the concept

That wasn't my point at all. I care nothing about the approach of traditional religions to this question. My point is to suggest that the views of many Extropians may not be consistent.

The possibility which some list members have advanced, that ETs may well be in our vicinity, observing and possibly interacting with us, is inconsistent with another belief many of us share: that traditional religions are absurdly false, as are claims of leprechauns, UFO abductions, prayer healing, and other forms of pseudoscientific claptrap.

> and then you ask me who
> cares what the religious think? If we're going to think on that level,
> then the probability of ETI is totally independent of who abuses the concept.

You replied that believers in the Judeo-Christian tradition would view such an interpretation of religious miracles as blasphemy. No doubt this is true, but irrelevant. I assume none of us falls into this category. It is our own beliefs which I want to investigate and test, not those of religious fanatics. In particular, I want to know whether we can consistently adopt the view that ETs are here and still strongly disbelieve in religion. This is the proposition I challenge.

> I have no interest in hypothesizing that miracles are the results of
> extraterrestrials playing games. This sounds to me either like a theist
> rationalizing a slide into atheism, or like an atheist who still hasn't
> emotionally let go of a religious upbringing.

It doesn't sound like either one to me. Rather, it seems to be the position forced on a rationalist who looks at the Fermi paradox and concludes that ETs are here and have been here throughout human history. Since they have the power to perform most of the miracles which have been claimed over the years, we can no longer rule them out on the grounds of impossibility. This is the position which I am arguing that an Extropian must take who chooses this way out of the Fermi paradox.

> A real atheist would tell
> you that the miracles are simply fictions, and a real theist would tell
> you that the miracles are the direct intervention of the Creator, who is
> the unique creator of all reality, and who obeys Damien Broderick's Law
> ("Gods are distinct from creatures"). And I would tell you that any
> explanation that tries to compromise between those two extremes will be
> as flat wrong as a compromise between chemistry and alchemy. Humans
> compromise. Groups compromise. The truth doesn't care what you think.

The proposition that religious miracles are due to scientific interventions by advanced ETs is hardly a compromise between the atheistic and religious views as you have defined them here, but this whole semantic issue is irrelevant.

My ultimate point is the same one I have made in other contexts. We have had tremendous success througout history by removing supernatural elements from our explanations of the universe. Adopting the view that ETs are here and manipulating our world is a giant step backward. Posting to the web to implore ET to respond is simply a form of prayer. I don't believe this has any place in a modern, rationalistic approach to the universe.