How to answer believers in aliens, and should we?
Published: 11 August 2007 (GMT+10)
Richard S, who had heard Gary Bates speak recently in the US, asks some questions about answering those who believe in aliens.
Just a note to let you know how much I appreciated Gary Bates’ presentation at 2 p.m. today, and his kindness to deal with my challenges in our personal conversation afterward.
Thank you all for bearing with the arduous work of traveling to and all over the U.S. to help get this information to us all.
Dear Mr. Bates,
I am reading your book and finding it to be quite well written and argued. I particularly appreciate the efforts to cite sources for facts and arguments.
Psychological insights into UFO-alien beliefs
Yesterday I spoke to a secular psychologist to ask about his experience and understanding about why some people believe in conspiracy theories or UFOs or aliens, etc. In his 30 years experience, he has come to the conclusion that beliefs in such things are a psychological mechanism to create a physical, external factor upon which to fasten the general ‘free-floating’ anxiety that they feel.
This is not confined to non-believers. Many Christians have conspiratorial notions and can end up being anti-establishment for its own sake as a result (compare our views on global warming and environmentalism, vaccination and moon-landings for example and see Conspiracy and doomsday scenarios).
Thus, instead of focusing on or preoccupying with the fear of death, for example, older people may select a belief system that puts the enemies ‘out there’ ... or the deliverers ‘out there’ ... and thereby place their anxiety into an external concrete place. Even if the outside factor is beyond their control, these people find some emotional relief because the origin of the anxiety is more concretized and not uncontrolled and floating inside them.
It simply fills the ‘God-shaped void’ that Christians often speak about, and provides artificial meaning and purpose to life. It is another way of answering the big questions of life such as ‘Where do I come from, Why am I here, and Where am I going to (is there life after death?). Secular psychologists recognise this desire in most humans but often suggest evolutionary explanations for such needs in man. Many reject the Bible because they think science has shown it to be outdated. See later.
Strong Beliefs Despite Evidence
I am dealing with a couple of relatives who take what I consider an odd position. They say they cannot put full trust in the Bible and in Jesus, because they don’t believe the Bible is true in every respect (e.g. Garden of Eden story), and thus they cannot rely on it.
If people believe the first book of the Bible to be wrong, then why should they trust the rest of its claims about hell or salvation, for example? Jesus said in John 3:12, ‘I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?’ The problem is a foundational one for them and their worldview will play a part.
They further say that the preachers (of all denominations) claim to have special knowledge, while these preachers do not have verifiable knowledge, yet these preachers shout and exhort people to adopt the preachers’ views about Creation, Jesus, Salvation, etc. So, these relatives say they cannot accept Christianity in full. They don’t grasp the notion that Jesus died for our sins and theirs. They don’t accept that there is one personal God—they prefer a view that ‘the Universe’ or ‘Quantum Physics’ has the answers.
Once again, it could be highlighted that the preachers are starting from a biblically-based worldview, and your relatives could be shown that they are also starting from a philosophical position. The universe could not have made itself and quantum physics cannot provide the answers (see this Q&A about multiverses and quantum fluctuations; the former proposes unobservable entities so is not scientific, the second is a bluff that doesn’t explain what was there to fluctuate). The assumptions made in trying to explain the origin of the cosmos are just that—assumptions. So both views are based on axioms that cannot be proven or tested.
At the same time—these same relatives will believe just about anything they read in a magazine or Internet post about aliens, crop circles, government conspiracies, medical health and drug conspiracies, all on the say-so of some anonymous or obscure writers.
This is consistent with their evolutionary worldview—once again not based on ‘the evidence’ but instead on the interpretation of the evidence. And as GK Chesterton reputedly said, ‘When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing—they believe in anything.’ For more on this effect, see: Antidote to superstition: Nonsense thrives wherever the Bible is weakened.
These relatives cannot be brought to their senses by logic and evidence. (I have tried.)
This is a small sample group, but of course some do respond with logic and evidence. With others, emotionalism plays the significant role in their decision-making, so I do understand. However, regardless of whether it ‘works’, the Bible commands Christians to give reasons (1 Peter 3:15) and demolish arguments against Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). We should not be discouraged. The reality is that many will reject Christ (’broad is the way that leads to destruction’ Matt 7:13), but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to reach people. In any case, it is the Holy Spirit who converts people, not us.
The reason this is true, according to my psychologist friend, is that these beliefs allow the believers to externalize their anxiety.
See more later, but trying to prove something just with ‘evidence’ rarely works, if this implicitly accepts the opponent’s presupposition that truth is decided by autonomous human reasoning apart from divine revelation. The truth I am specifically talking about here is the revelation that God is the Creator and that the Bible is His Word (and it is ‘powerful’; Heb. 4:12). When dispelling the myth that aliens are visiting and overseeing our evolution, we can use biblically coherent logical, scientific arguments to show that this is a myth based on emotionalism and / or the desire for such things to be true.
Using ‘evidentialist’ reasoning (no Bible) can concede a major point, namely the false idea that there is such a thing as neutrality when it comes to origins. Evidence is not neutral because when it comes to the ‘science of the past’ we are working in the realm of beliefs. One cannot put the past in test tube. We all deal with the same facts ‘in the present’ seeking to explain their origin in terms of our beliefs about the past.
Using ‘proof of Creation’ or the Bible, is like trying to find the magic bullet that will stop them in their tracks. We need to deal with underlying philosophical beliefs. E.g. you could ask them how a supposed evolutionary origin of man can provide the presuppositions needed for science to work.
I have not finished your book yet, Mr. Bates, so perhaps your book does deal with this phenomenon. In any event, I thought it might be useful to you to consider that the believers of the alien intrusion (and such) are already predisposed and eager to find supernatural or extraterrestrial explanations for their anxiety.
I think that even early in the book, and all the way through, I make the point that a ‘pre-belief’ is constantly at work. As I said in my talk that you heard, it is ultimately a worldview issue. What they believe about where they came from determines how they view their existence and what they believe about where they are going to when they die, for example. If people believe in evolution, then many don’t have a problem with thinking that older, wiser aliens might have evolved elsewhere.
The supernatural myth that cures anxiety
Now you may have a better sense of my standpoint in the discussion we had back a few weeks ago. There are people who will say:‘Okay, fine, I have a belief in UFOs and alien-deliverers, etc., that lacks conclusive evidence. But you Christians are in a similar boat. You have beliefs in a God, Jesus, Resurrection, etc., all based on some but not conclusive evidence.’
You could challenge such an opponent with the following:
- How did life arise from non-living chemicals, as evolution teaches? Attributing life on earth to aliens merely places the problem back one step, a curious blind spot of the likes of the late Francis Crick (see Designed by aliens?).
- How do you explain the origin and growth of Christianity without the Resurrection, because there are at least 17 factors that meant Christianity could not have succeeded in the ancient world unless this really happened (see The Impossible Faith: Or, How Not to Start an Ancient Religion).
In fact it is fallacious to argue like this hypothetical opponent, claiming that the evidence is equal without dealing with the specifics.
‘All you want to do is replace my mythology with your mythology. Yet your mythology is hurtful, cruel and eternally punitive, whilst mine is all-loving, so mine is actually preferable to yours.’
Actually, both sides of the coin can be argued. Some might say that neither has conclusive evidence or both sides may claim that they have lots of evidence (even if it is anecdotal or circumstantial). Once again, all evidence is interpreted within your framework of belief. This cannot be emphasised enough, and once again, it is why arguing the evidence as if there is a neutral framework has little success with these types of folks.
In our discussion, you told me that this above argument is not made. I begged to differ, and I still differ. The above argument is made, although perhaps not by the writers and leaders of the ‘UFO and aliens’ crowd.
I think you’ve misunderstood. My recollection is that you were basically saying to me, ‘Why debunk aliens because folks will say the creation myth is no better?’ That is why I pointed out that not many people actually make this argument. But what you are arguing encompasses a wider field altogether. Hearers of our message often mistakenly think that we are trying to prove our faith or the Bible with scientific evidence. What we are actually trying to do is to show people that we all start with a presupposition based upon our worldview. Do you recall how I showed the difference between operational science and historical science? What we then attempt to do is show how our interpretation of the scientific evidence supports the biblical creation view better, which then acts as a foundational platform for the rest of Scripture such as the New Testament claims about Christ.
In our experience, anti-evolution materials that do not use the Bible are overall much less effective. This is because the conflict is not over scientific facts fundamentally, but over the presuppositions that determine how we interpret those facts. The Bible provides the correct presuppositions about the past, enabling us to understand the scientific data correctly. If a person doesn’t accept the Bible as being inerrant revealed truth from God, then, since all beliefs about the past are equally impervious to scientific proof, there is no imperative for them to relinquish their evolutionary beliefs, even though biblical creation explains the bulk of the scientific evidence more plausibly.
That is why we consider it important to take a presuppositionalist approach, rather than an evidentialist approach, as some others do, trying to prove the Bible true through science. Besides the presuppositionalism vs evidentialism article linked to previously, another excellent article on this is The earth: how old does it look?
We only need to look at the inconsistencies in the other religions (see for example Holy books? Which one are you going to trust?). Regardless of what faith one follows; claims about healings, changed lives or even prayers being answered are not proof of the truth of someone’s religion. They are experiential, and because we Christians believe in a supernatural world we know these things can be counterfeited (cf. Deuteronomy 13, 2 Corinthians 11:14).
This then leaves people without a reputable filter for evaluating their experiences or their beliefs. The experience itself often become the filter for their belief. I.e. ‘I know what happened to me was real therefore it is true.’ Or, ‘I know evolution is true therefore aliens must exist.’ They are extrapolations of experiences or a belief system. But we can demonstrate that experiences can be deceptive, and secondly, that a belief about aliens is a non-testable hypothesis. Read more about these types of experiences at Aliens, evolution and the occult.
The big question is, ‘Which belief system is the best one to have?’ This is where Christianity can be shown to be the better alternative hands down. For instance, we can demonstrate how no one is capable of fulfilling the law and that with works-based religions no one has a guarantee of making Heaven, Nirvana, Paradise or some Utopian planet that the aliens are going to place us on. However, Christianity explains that the very Creator Himself (John 1:3,14), recognising our helplessness (Romans 5:8), stepped out of Heaven down to us, and paved the way for us to be reconciled to Him. He did the work for us ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no-one can boast.’ (Eph. 2:8–9). As a belief system alone, Christianity is eminently superior to other religions. Faith in the Creator is the ultimate because only the Genesis Creator can have the power to save you.
I have met literally dozens of experiencers and there is no point saying that their experiences are not ‘real’, because they might be—in the sense that something happened to them. But the question I challenge them with is ‘Are they really aliens? How can you be sure?’
People are led astray by the strength of the experience or sighting but when you can show them what is happening to them and the lies they are told, many wake up and can be shaken out of it. It is nonsense to claim that the alien saviours are all loving etc. For example, if they are here to look after us, don’t they know the traumatic effect that kidnapping people in the middle of the night has upon us? The fruit of such experiences is in keeping with the deceptive nature of it, and as I showed in my book and my talks, this is not just my opinion. The leading UFO researchers over the years have shown these experiences to be deceptive and harmful.
When I can show folks that this is the demonstrable fruit and not just some Christian ‘nay saying’, it can be very powerful. And moreover, I can then demonstrate according to my biblical worldview that such things as their experiences / sightings can also be explained. So we are both back to interpreting the evidence according to our worldviews. Then if I can demolish their evolutionary preconceptions, such as the big bang and biological evolution I can shake their own foundational worldview of where aliens come from in the first place.
Secular psychology deals with the matter by lumping all religious or quasi-religious/spiritual longings into the category of efforts to relieve anxiety, nothing more. The anxiety is real, so the explanation has some attraction.
Of course, and it has some merit. As I have said there is the God-shaped void in each one of us. But it is not that alone. Fallen entities also know this about each person and can use it to ensnare people and keep them away from the one true God of the Bible. The Scriptures tell us that men prefer darkness rather than light (John 3:19) and therefore have the potential to be led astray. Believing in some weird cultic religion might give someone a sense of being extra special or unique and having a higher calling or purpose to life, or of being superior through having special knowledge unavailable to the masses. This is often what experiencers are told by the fallen entities.
I already have some thoughts about how to suggest that the Bible-based ‘myth’ is more than an arbitrary or comforting set of beliefs.
And that is what Creation Ministries does.
I also have an initial explanation for why the emotional desire to relieve anxiety is consistent with the operation of the Holy Spirit.
Still, if you have already given this problem some thought, or would like to refer me to others’ works, I’d be very interested. This issue ties into the UFO-aliens subject because it relates directly to why some people so strongly want to believe in UFO-aliens, even against physical evidence or against the God of the Bible.
As I’ve said, peoples’ presuppositions play a part whether it’s the view that aliens are real or the view that we are just evolved pond scum. Almost everyone has considered the question of ‘Why am I here’ and ‘What’s it all about?’ The answers to such questions do not come from physical evidence that somehow ‘magically’ speaks for itself. Worldviews and experiences play the major roles in shaping someone’s perception of reality.
All Good Things in Him,
All the best