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Sci-Fi, ETs, and the Ways of God
By Gary F. Zeolla
A massive earthquake strikes the floor of the Pacific Ocean. As a result, rock layers said to be 900,000 years old are exposed. SeaQuest DSV investigates. As the sea vessel descends into the chasm, an alien space ship is discovered! Apparently, a million years ago extraterrestrials (ETs) traveled to earth but crashed into the ocean. An officer exclaims, "Spectacular proof we are not alone!"
Many members of the SeaQuest crew are disoriented. Lieutenant O' Neil is even ready to leave the SeaQuest because, as he puts it, "I was always taught to believe we were the whole deal. That life topped out with man. But now it's like ... it's like, my beliefs are unraveling."
However, Captain Bridger asks Dr. Westphalen, "You know who's not phased one iota by all this?" She replies, "Lucus" (the only teenager on board). The captain continues, "His generation grew up expecting this. - Not a revelation, a confirmation." When Lucus first saw the alien ship, he simply said softly, "This is the coolest thing I've ever seen."
The Popularity of Science Fiction
The above scenario occurred on NBC's SeaQuest DSV at the end of the 1994 season in an episode titled, "Such Great Patience." It illustrates an important point: young people today very often assume there is life on other planets, even intelligent life.
One of the reasons for this assumption is the current popularity of science fiction programming. The reason this popularity is pertinent is the story line of many Sci-Fi shows are dependent on the existence of ETs.
Think, for instance, of older TV programs like: Lost in Space, Space: 1999, Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and even Superman ("It's Superman! Superman, strange visitor from another planet ..."). Through reruns on "The Sci-Fi Channel" and other stations these and similar TV programs are popular today among young people.
More recent TV shows with ET story lines include: Babylon 5, X-Files, Earth 2, and Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. And there's the movies: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, ET, the Star Wars trilogy, the four Alien movies, StarGate, the Superman movies, and Independence Day just to name a few.
Then there's the king of Sci-Fi: STAR TREK! - four TV series (The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager), along with eight Star Trek movies.
Altogether, the world has seen hundreds on-screen hours of the Star Trek universe. And the adventure continues with new shows and in reruns galore!
Needless to say, all this programming can influence the minds of viewers. As Erin Gray ("Wilma" in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century) says, "I think science fiction can make us think in different ways" (from a "Sci-Fi Channel" commercial). But are these different ways of thinking in accordance with the thoughts and ways of God? (see Isa 55:7-9).
This article will begin to explore this question by looking at the basic assumption of much Sci-Fi programming: the existence of extraterrestrials, especially intelligent ETs.
Three "Proofs" for the Existence of ETs
1) THE VASTNESS OF THE UNIVERSE:
"Class M planet" is a term familiar to Star Trek fans. It refers to a planet on which humanoid life could exist. In his original proposal for Star Trek to NBC in 1964, Gene Roddenberry described his basic assumptions behind this idea.
He wrote, "THE SIMILAR WORLDS CONCEPT: Just as the laws of matter and energy make probable other planets of Earth's composition and atmosphere, certain chemical and organic laws make equally probable wide evolution into humanlike creatures and civilizations with points of similarity to our own" (quoted in Shatner, p.32).
Noted scientist, Carl Sagan, expressed similar sentiments, "In a universe of 100 billion galaxies, each of which have a few hundred billion stars, the idea that our sun is the only star with an inhabitable planet is laughable. Where do we come off to imagine we're the only kind of life in the universe?"
Sagan further wrote, "because the chemical evolution that produced life on Earth exists throughout the know universe, the probability for intelligent life elsewhere is 100 percent" (quoted in Sippert, p.237).
So both Roddenberry and Sagan believed life on earth came to be via natural processes and evolution. Given this presupposition, they thought it is "probable" or even "100 percent" probable intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe. Sagan indicated this conclusion is true since there are billions and billions of stars. Or, as the idea is commonly expressed, "The universe is so vast there just has to be life elsewhere."
But what if life here did not originate via natural processes? What if it began via the supernatural act of a Creator? Then talk of the "probability" of life elsewhere becomes meaningless. All that matters is what this Creator chose to do.
Scripture teaches that the earth was created to be inhabited (see Isa 45:18). But it is silent on the existence of life elsewhere. Maybe God created life on other planets. Or maybe the vastness of the universe may simply be designed to bring glory to the Creator (Psalm 19:1). The Bible simply does not say one way or the other, nor would it be expected that it would.
2) ANCIENT ASTRONAUTS:
Most episodes of Battlestar Galactica open with the dramatic proclamation, "There are those who believe life here began out there." This claim is re-enforced in an intriguing episode of the series. In this episode, the "Galactica" visits the home world from which the twelve colonies of their civilization set out from. Earth is believed to be the lost thirteenth colony.
The episode was filmed on location in Egypt, among the pyramids. In this way, the appearance is given that monuments "here" were built by beings from "out there."
A similar idea was promoted by Erich von Daniken. In Chariots of the Gods? and later books he claimed ancient monuments like the pyramids were built by visitors from outer space. But how reliable is this "ancient astronauts" theory?
Carl Sagan and other scientists have been trying for years to find evidence for the existence of ETs. But in reference to this thesis, Sagan laments, "If there was good evidence that in the past we were visited by such beings, our task would be immeasurably easier. But unfortunately THERE IS NO SUCH EVIDENCE" (emphasis added).
And Sagan writes about von Daniken's books themselves, "I know of no recent books so riddled with logical and factual errors as the works of von Daniken."
One such error von Daniken makes is to not mention evidence contrary to his thesis. Sagan gives an interesting example, "... there are inscriptions in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics on individual massive stone blocks which constitute the great pyramid reading the rough equivalent of 'My goodness, we did it! Tiger Team 11.'"
Sagan comments, "This seems an unlikely inscription by a group of interstellar spacefarers; but it is an extremely human response" (pp.xi-xiii).
What make this particular omission interesting is how it relates to the 1994, NBC show, "Ancient Mysteries." The program also claimed ETs built the pyramids. But one of the evidences given was the claim there are no Egyptian hieroglyphics relating to the building of the pyramids!
In addition to these factual difficulties is the problem with the underlying presupposition of those who promote "ancient astronauts" theories. Sagan astutely says, "Essentially, von Daniken's argument is that our ancestors were too stupid to create the most impressive surviving ancient architectural and artistic works" (p.xii). But were our ancestors really so "stupid?"
At the beginning, humanity possessed intelligence. Upon creation, Adam and Eve were able to understand commands from their Creator (Gen 1:28-30; 3:2,3). And they were able to engage in intelligible conversation (Gen 3:1-5; 9-13). Further, Adam was able to name all the animals (Gen 2:19,20). And these names were probably more than mere titles but indicated something about the animals (see Gen 2:23; 3:20). This would have been a rather substantial classification system.
Also, pre-flood human beings lived almost 1000 years (Gen 5:3-27). And they continued to live for centuries even after the flood (Gen 11:10-23). Living so long would enable people to acquire great amounts of knowledge and abilities. And, at that time, "the earth had one language and one speech" (Gen 11:1). So information could be easily exchanged between different people groups.
All of these factors would have enabled our early ancestors to have great capabilities. A couple of biblical examples of these capabilities can be seen in the building of Noah's ark and of the Tower of Babel (Gen 6:14-22; 11:1-4). And the various archeological evidences used to "prove" we were visited by ancient astronauts are really proofs of this high intelligence of our ancestors.
"But in the course of time instead of evolution taking place, degeneration or loss of scientific knowledge took place.... In many cases advanced know-how and knowledge disappeared completely for centuries and centuries" (Sippert, p.23). This degeneration occurred due to the effects of sin progressing throughout the human race. And it took the advent of Christianity for this deterioration to be able to begin to be reversed.
As Francis Schaeffer wrote, "Christianity was necessary for the beginning of modern science for the simple reason that Christianity created a climate of thought which put men in a position to investigate the form of the universe" (p.225).
3) CLOSE ENCOUNTERS:
Steve Rubin writes in Sci-Fi Entertainment magazine, "Nearly two decades after Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released, mankind is still waiting for 'official' contact from outer space. Unofficially, though, thousands of people already believe we've been visited and studied" (Vol.I, No.1, p.37).
Are all these claims of "close encounters" with UFOs and ETs actually due to natural phenomena, overactive imaginations and the like? In many cases the answer is surely "yes" - but not always. As the title of a book by David Wimbish puts it, Something's Going On Out There. But just what is this "something?" That's the important question.
While "channel surfing" a while back, this writer caught part of a talk show on close encounters. A secular psychologist was making an interesting observation. She said she did not believe these supposed encounters were real because they simply sounded like claimed encounters with angels and demons in past centuries.
Since she was assuming these angelic and demonic encounters were unreal, to her these parallels "proved" ET encounters were also unreal. But if one starts with the presupposition angels and demons are real, quite a different picture emerges.
Could ETs be angels? Paul wrote, "But even if we or an angel from Heaven preach a gospel to you beside what we preached to you, let him be accursed" (Gal 1:8; MKJV).
What did Paul preach? - "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel that I preached to you.... that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again according to the Scriptures" (1Cor 15:1-4).
But what is the message of the ETs? Clifford Wilson and John Weldon report that a common teaching found in "UFO Contact Phenomena" is a, "Denial of Christ's sacrificial death for salvation." So the ETs deny a central element of the Gospel of salvation. Therefore, they cannot be angels sent by God (see Heb 1:14).
If they are not angels of God, could ETs be fallen angels (i.e.. demons)? Wilson and Weldon list 32 other parallels between "Occult, Psychic, and Parapsychological Literature" and the "UFO Contact Phenomena."
These parallels include: the teaching of reincarnation, the denial of other essential doctrines of Christianity, trance states and/or loss of consciousness, abilities in a wide range of occultism (including automatic writing, clairvoyance, supposed communication with the dead, astral projection, levitation), and appearances of mysterious fires.
And how trustworthy are the ETs? "All too often contactees have been tricked, lied to, deliberately misinformed, made to look like fools, ruined psychologically, driven insane, and had their lives disrupted" (Wilson, pp.125,191-194). Wimbish further relates, "Those who have been 'visited' have expressed fear, nervousness, and a desire that the strange events would end."
Moreover, "Today's 'contactees' tell of creatures so ugly you wouldn't want to meet them in a dark alley. In fact, even if you met them in the middle of a bright, sunny afternoon, they would make your skin crawl and your stomach churn." But these creatures do generally come in the dark, in private, and in isolated places.
And finally, "Those who become deeply interested in UFOs almost always wind up interested in the occult. Not only interested, in fact, but deeply involved" (Wimbish, pp.14,15,59).
So the thoughts and ways of "ETs" are not in accordance with the thoughts and ways of God (Deut 18:9-14). This all indicates that "close encounters" with supposed ETs are actually encounters with demons (Isa 8:19-22; John 3:19-21; 8:44; 10:1,10).
Conclusion and Implications
The basic assumption of Sci-Fi, the existence of intelligent ETs, has been shown to lack empirical support. So Sci-Fi must remain what it is - science FICTION. When viewed in this light, Sci-Fi can be an exciting form of entertainment. And SCIENCE fiction can spark an interest in actual science among young people.
However, a problem comes in when people take Sci-Fi too seriously and begin to assume a Star Trek type of universe actually exists out there. This supposition can lead them to accept any "strange visitor" as being "from another planet" without considering another, more dastardly possibility.
Lastly, why are people so anxious to find life on other planets, especially intelligent life? One reason could be a sense of loneliness on the part of many today. But even without ETs, it still is true, "We are not alone." This is so since, as indicated above, angels and demons exist. And more importantly, God exists. And to the person who feels alone in the universe, the Bible promises:
LORD is near to the broken-hearted;
and saves those who are of a contrite spirit"
(Psalm 34:18, MKJV).
Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light
Sci-Fi, ETs, and the Ways of God. Copyright © 1999 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.zeolla.org/christian).
The above article originally appeared in Darkness to Light
newsletter in 1995.
It was posted on this Web site in July 1996 and updated March 1998.
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