Is there intelligent life out there?
I think life existing somewhere in the vast universe is more than probable, but I also think we haven’t found it yet. I don’t know anything about those beings outside of my hunch that they exist. How much accurate conversation can we have about it? We could make up theories and fill in the blanks and debate those things until the end of time, and we do….but what difference does it make? Those arguments aren’t based on reality. I can’t prove they exist. You can’t prove they don’t. And, you can’t convince me of your conspiracy theories on how the government already knows they exist and they live among us, either. In the end we all just believe what we believe.
I raised the eyebrows of a few friends a while back when I wrote a post about burden of proof as it relates to the existence of god. I said it didn’t matter. Don’t get me wrong; I feel strongly that the burden of proof does fall on those who make a claim that god exists- assuming they are asking us to believe it.
If I told you that space aliens were visiting me and guiding my life and that they had a plan for all of us? I would expect you to be skeptical. If I wanted to convince you, the burden of proof would be on me. But in the end we would each still believe what we believe no matter how convincing our arguments may be. It’s exhausting. And so I have saved myself a lot of grief by ignoring burden of proof discussions. Until now.
I came across a Christian blog post today and was surprised at my interest in responding to it. Truthfully, it was probably less because of proof claims and more because of the whole miracle thing. Outside of their existence being in a constant state of question, I have never known what relevance god and miracles have to each other. If one hallucinates the image of a dead person they are more likely to believe in the afterlife, too. Humans have made a tradition out of jumping to conclusions. And to be fair, god is my personal favorite.
My thoughts couldn’t be summed up in just a few lines, so I decided to write my own post on the topic. Not to convince anyone of my thoughts on god, but rather to put into words why asking me to convince anyone would be unreasonable. Here is what the blogger wrote:
Atheists like to use the phrase, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. This phrase seems to suit the atheist well when he is the one defining what “extraordinary” is. But if a theist was to assert that the atheist’s proposition that in all the universe on all the planets among all things and beings seen and unseen that there was nothing among all of them that was or could be categorized as “god” – was an even more extraordinary claim than the theist claiming that God did exist, then the burden of proof could be placed on the atheist to provide “extraordinary evidence” that a God does not exist. This flawed argument of claim vs evidence is used to discount the existence of miracles and the ‘super’ natural altogether when in reality it is just a matter of defining “extraordinary” which in the case of miracles is as ordinary as many of the claims of the skeptic.
The trouble I have with this is that as an atheist I find there are countless extraordinary unknowns (by any definition you like), and I cannot simply apply god wherever uncertainty exists. God is in your equation, not mine. I know you don’t fully understand what that means, so let me explain. Because it is so much more complicated than not believing.
My initial moment of doubt was born out of a realization that Christianity has too many answers for things we cannot yet have answers for. Human error is weaved throughout its tradition, making it difficult to know what is real and what is not, or to even want to know. But there doubt was, and ignoring it would be to ignore the truth of god; which I believed was bigger than any human interpretation of god. So I had to follow it.
I didn’t doubt god at this time, only Christianity’s version of him. What then was god? To find him I had to start again at zero. You have to understand that from this point on I could no longer accept god as the default answer for anything. Especially miracles and the supernatural. If it can be attributed to god, why can’t I attribute it to something else that isn’t yet definable?
That’s a question I will be answering forever.
I am looking at the world with an assumption that god isn’t real. Why? Because to find what’s true I must eliminate every uncertainty and go forward from there. It isn’t that I have ruled god out, it is just that I have yet to find a reason to give an unknown god credit for anything when there are billions of other unknowns that may also be responsible. The theory of god no longer holds a higher rank than any other idea I can imagine, because I can’t justify making it so.
What is god, anyway? At what point does a thing become god? I can’t even answer that. Do you know why so many atheists call themselves agnostic atheists? The available information brings us to the conclusion that there is no god, but there are so many unknowns that we must remain open to all possibilities. When I was a Christian, being open to all possibilities was not an option. There were no unknowns. Therefore, Christianity ceased to be an option for me.
So when you say that “the atheist’s proposition that in all the universe on all the planets among all things and beings seen and unseen that there was nothing among all of them that was or could be categorized as god,” and you consider this an extraordinary claim? You’ve missed what atheism is entirely. You aren’t even in the ballpark.
In all the universe there exists unlimited mystery, at least for now and for us. How can I know that and choose god out of thin air? That’s what it feels like. I don’t know how to make that choice over any other possibility. All mystery weighs the same and I have no list or definition for what “all” even means, let alone god. And you know what? That is so much more intriguing than any god I have known.
It would be irresponsible for me to apply someone else’s version of god everywhere and stop searching for more. Looking for the truth about god is what brought me here in the first place. He may not exist, but even if I am wrong I am closer to it than I have ever been before. I still know nothing about god. The difference is that I am now aware of it. And that’s one step closer to something, even if I never figure out what that something is.
My claim is that the possibilities are overwhelming, making god as we have defined him unlikely. Your claim is that there is only one answer and you have found it. In all the universe on all the planets among all things and beings seen and unseen…. you hold the answer to it all: god. And not just any god, but your specific god. I lost him a long time ago and there is no hope of going back. If god does exist I don’t think I will recognize him at all. I doubt he will recognize me, either. But I am guessing it won’t matter (and guessing is all I can do).
Asking me to prove god doesn’t exist is asking me to prove a convincing amount of uncertainty does exist. Well, here I am. I’m filled with uncertainty. It turns out that my existence is far easier to prove than the existence of god. What do I win? I am not asking you to believe what I believe. You can and will believe in whatever makes sense to you. And I am not asking for proof unless you are asking me to agree with you.