aliens vs. god, the rematch
Weird Things readers know that I haven’t been too kind to the ancient astronaut myth which holds that humanity was either created, or guided by the advanced technology of ancient alien species. I’ve called it highly improbable and rejected the idea of alien intervention in our affairs and monument building both on Earth and on other planets of our solar system. But as strange as it may seem, tales of alien creators can play a useful role during a discussion about the scientific method and plausibility in today’s world.
According to a recent Pew poll, some 63% of Americans believe that animals and plants existed in their current form since their appearance or were divinely guided. The analysts politely state that “evolution is being debated.” Under no obligation to be as nice, I’ll put the real implications of this poll in black and white. Almost two thirds of the American public believe that digging for fossils and sequencing DNA to compare animal species to each other is a quasi-religious idea while magic is a perfectly sensible explanation of how living things came to be the way they are today. When we compare these findings to similar international surveys, we find that the U.S. is dead last in the Western world in its population’s acknowledgment of science. So if magic could be a perfectly reasonable explanation for the development of living things, why not aliens?
Even though the probability of us being born in an alien lab are zero to nil realistically speaking and the speed with which life arose and spread on our planet seems to indicate that organisms can emerge given the slightest source of food and solvents, it’s not completely impossible. The alien astronaut theory is so convincing to many precisely because it doesn’t violate any laws of physics, biology or chemistry. It’s like a story about a guy down on his luck deciding to spend a few dollars on a lottery ticket because that’s all he has left and winning the $375 million jackpot the next day. The odds? Staggeringly against it. Does it violate any known law or scientific rule? Not at all. Now a guy down on his luck praying for $375 million and having this money fall into his backyard from a cloud overhead like mana from the heavens? Not going to happen.
Yet, people who would argue that humans were designed by aliens are considered freaks while devoted creationists who believe that humans were crafted by magic either from dust or by the metaphysical processes only a deity knows how to invoke, aren’t just considered saner, they’re the norm about 63% of the time. Interestingly enough, creationists can and do apply Occam’s razor to stories about alien designers but leave it behind for magic when it comes to questions of evolution, genetics and biology.