May 4, 2009

Sagan Devolving, Part III

Carl Sagan, in many places, as most of us are aware, discusses his interest in extra-terrestrial intelligence. Sagan is confident that if man encounters intelligent beings from a distant planet, he will be able to communicate with them. He says, “I suspect we will have little difficulty in understanding each other on the simpler aspects of astronomy, physics, chemistry and perhaps mathematics.” However, I will very briefly describe inconsistencies in Sagan’s ideas about extra-terrestrial life and our presumed ability to communicate with E.T.

Sagan says,

“Intelligent organisms evolving on another world may not be like us biochemically. They will almost certainly have evolved significantly different adaptations—from enzymes to organ systems—to deal with the different circumstances of their several worlds. But they must still come to grips with the same laws of nature.” In addition, Sagan asserts, “I would certainly not expect their brains to be anatomically or physiologically or perhaps even chemically close to ours. Their brains will have had different evolutionary histories in different environments.”

Science assumes the orderliness of the universe. It is what makes science possible. Einstein once remarked that the most incomprehensible property of the universe is that it is so comprehensible. In Sagan’s materialistic worldview, the order realized in the universe came about by the ultimately random and chance activities of matter. Randomness and chance are responsible for the origin of life in its myriad of forms on Earth, as well as the appearance of human consciousness.

The materialistic view of the universe is a strange one indeed. Mindless matter, by irreducible chance and random activity becomes consciously aware of itself through the formation of human consciousness. The universe proceeds to study itself using a variety of scientific methods; views and photographs itself with electron microscopes and powerful telescopes in space, and so on. This is a highly anthropocentric view of the universe.

Materialism offers no reasonable explanation for how mere chance and randomness can account for the existence of intelligent life on Earth. Ultimately, the materialist accepts the situation on “faith.” It is a fundamental tenet of his atheistic faith. Despite the astronomical odds against self-conscious life evolving by chance, (not that rationality can actually be a product of biological evolution) Sagan thinks it is likely to have occurred more than once in the universe.

In a thoroughgoing materialism, contrary to the speculations of Sagan and his ilk, the chances of life evolving on other planets, that is, evolving to the point of rational consciousness, are just about zero, if not absolute zero. If the materialist were to engage in an honest critique of his own philosophical assumptions, he might realize there are no credible reasons consistent with his philosophical perspective for entertaining the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence.

It is only from a theistic view of a universe, a universe with purpose and design, that we can be logically and philosophically consistent in considering the possibility of intelligent life existing on other planets.

Sagan speculates that extra-terrestrial intelligence will have brains very different from ours, but we will still be able to communicate with them. If communication is possible, it is because reason is universal. Yet, Sagan’s materialistic view of the mind precludes this kind of universality. I must break off here, and leave the interested reader to reflect on Sagan inconsistencies.

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