Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A quantum of umbrage: What are you, cracked?

In the beginning, there was Ken Ham of the creationist shop Answers in Genesis, also head of the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky. He was an anti-science loon, but no one outside of his little fundamentalist niche had any idea who he was. And it was good.

Then Bill Nye unwisely agreed to <airquotes>debate</airquotes> Ham, an otherwise-pointless exercise in which Nye's credentials and name recognition gave Ham the PR boost he needed to attract attention with silliness like this.

And last week, when Ham should have been whiling away his time doing the daily crossword in pencil and waiting for the phone to ring, he uncorked this bit of wisdom.
On Sunday, Ken Ham, president and founder of the creationist organization Answers in Genesis (best known for debating Bill Nye), wrote a blog post calling for the end of the U.S. space program.

Why? Well, according to Ham, who also runs the Creation Museum in Kentucky, there’s no point in spending money on finding extraterrestrial life for a couple of reasons: First, the search is a deliberate rebuking of God, and second because aliens are already damned to hell.

“I’m shocked at the countless hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent over the years in the desperate and fruitless search for extraterrestrial life,” Ham wrote.

“Of course, secularists are desperate to find life in outer space, as they believe that would provide evidence that life can evolve in different locations and given the supposed right conditions!” Ham continued later in the post.
Apart from the fact that it's not very many degrees of separation from this argument back to the one that the church used to condemn Galileo when he got crossways with them, at least we can take comfort from the fact that no one in any authoritative position today will bother to get themselves tied up in the question of whether or not extraterrestrials have souls as Christians understand the notion. Right?

Sigh. Apparently not:
Pope Francis has said that he would be willing to baptise aliens if they came to the Vatican, asking “who are we to close doors” to anyone - even Martians.

In a homily yesterday dedicated to the concepts of acceptance and inclusion, Francis recalled a Bible story about the conversion of the first pagans to Christianity, according to reports on Vatican Radio.

He said Catholicism was a church of “open doors”, and that it was up to Christians to accept the Holy Spirit however “unthinkable” and “unimaginable” it appeared.

Describing how, according to the Bible, Peter was criticised by the Christians of Jerusalem for making contact with a community of “unclean” pagans, Francis said that at the time that too was “unthinkable”.

“If, for example, tomorrow an expedition of Martians came to us here and one said ‘I want to be baptised!’, what would happen?”

Clarifying that he really was talking about aliens, the Pope said: “Martians, right? Green, with long noses and big ears, like in children’s drawings.”
Well, as long as the "unthinkable" and "unimaginable" aren't extended to include ordaining women, I suppose it's okay.

Actually, many people think it's more likely to be Zeta Reticulans than Martians when the aliens come, although I'm sure for many Christian Americans it doesn't matter as long as they're not Guatemalans, Nicaraguans, or El Salvadoreans.

But I'd like to imagine that all of this fooforaw about whether aliens have a soul would display at least the Scholastic dignity once given to debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. But it doesn't even clear that bar, first of all because of all the other things to which many of these folks are eager to ascribe souls – and religious rights under the Constitution.

But mainly because it all feels just too much like this:
Vern: Do you think Mighty Mouse could beat up Superman?

Teddy: What are you, cracked?

Vern: Why not? I saw the other day. He was carrying five elephants in one hand!

Teddy: Boy, you don't know nothing! Mighty Mouse is a cartoon. Superman's a real guy. There's no way a cartoon could beat up a real guy.
Which actually, come to think about it, sounds a lot like Ken Ham debating Bill Nye.

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