Re: SETI sci.astro.seti newsgroup created

Robert J. Bradbury (
Tue, 2 Nov 1999 11:03:22 -0800 (PST)

On Mon, 1 Nov 1999 wrote:

> 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.

Wouldn't it be cool if leprechauns really did exist?

They say the "statues" that guard the path to enlightenment carry the names "Confusion" and "Paradox". An enlightened extropian (me?) can simultaneously hold onto the Paradox that ETs may be among us and be throwing down a miracle from time to time *and* disbelieve traditional religions.

> 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.

It depends on the purpose of an individual's belief and/or the purpose of the religion. If you want to believe in "God" or a creator, I'd say you would be better off betting on ETs (particularly until the biologists or bioastronomers come up with better evidence for how life self-started here on Earth). If you want to believe in "salvation" from "death", I'd say you would be better off betting on cryonics and nanotechnology. If you want to believe in paradise on Earth, nanotech looks like a sure thing. If you want to believe the universe was "created" by "God", I would offer instead even odds on (a) multiverses, (b) quantum fluctuations leading to the big bang, and (c) an SI creating a workable universe to tunnel some information into.

You can also view religions as being quite valid if the local ET/SIs who set up our game as an experiment have a really sick sense of humor.

> 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.

Yep, you cannot rule out the miracles as "impossible". But I would say you get into a highly improbable situation trying to justify when violating the Prime Directive is allowed. We could have an interesting time writing up "Escape Clauses for the Prime Directive". Better get Obie Wan Burch to put that one on his to do list.

> 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.

Yes, because we have gained increasingly greater abilities to "see" things at larger and smaller scales (telescopes & microscopes). Now, as we are about to *DO* things at increasingly larger and smaller scales (nanotech and astroengineering) we may have to take a step back and reinterpret some of our "simple" assumptions. But rational thinking has done this throughout history.

> Adopting the view that ETs are here and manipulating our world is a
> giant step backward.

They may be here but may not be "manipulating". You have to hold onto both possibilities. Since most of the "miracles" are unlikely to be verified, you can only say "They could be here and may or may not be performing miracles" until evidence becomes available to dictate which way the pendulum goes.

A rational thinker must hold *all* the possibilities until the evidence is in (that *is* extropian).

> Posting to the web to implore ET to respond is simply a form of prayer.
Only if you believe ETs are Gods... :-)

> I don't believe
> this has any place in a modern, rationalistic approach to the universe.

I would offer that the evidence for "No God", i.e. athiesm is weak. The question revolves around "What is God?". If I choose to define "God" as the creator of Earth (an alien ET SI running an experiment performing an occasional miracle) then there isn't much evidence available to say that isn't true. If I choose to define "God" as the creater of the Universe (an SI in an alternaverse creating our universe with a stacked deck of fundamental constants and laws and tunneling into our universe in the the first moments of the big bang to recast his accumulated knowledge as variations in the matter density), there isn't much evidence against that either. Finally, if I choose to define "God" as the computer on which this entire simulation of an artificial universe is running unbeknownst to us, we are once again up against a lack of evidence to the contrary.

I'll freely admit that these things don't seem probable to me but proving them "out of the question" seems difficult to me so I tend to call myself an agnostic rather than an athiest.

If rational extropians want to disassemble traditional religions I think it needs to be done via a route other than asserting "there is no God".

Apologies if I've ruined anyone's day.