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By Jonathan Kane

Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham, whom I previously discussed in my post here, has been in the news again this week.  This time it is for his comments about NASA's search for extraterrestrial life, which for theological reasons Ken Ham thinks is a waste of money.  Some of the news articles covering his comments about this are here, here, here, and here.

These articles have displayed some obvious outrage at Ham's conclusions, but it's also worth noting that Ham has argued the media are misrepresenting what he said in his original comments.  So instead of presenting the summary that news articles have given, it's best to closely examine what he actually said:

And I do believe there can’t be other intelligent beings in outer space because of the meaning of the gospel. You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation.

News articles summarized Ken Ham's comments as saying that it's not worth searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, because any intelligent aliens will be going to hell regardless of what we do.  It appears that what he actually said is that if there were intelligent aliens, they would be sinful and unable to be saved, and that therefore intelligent aliens must not actually exist.  Is that any better?

Most of the bloggers and journalists complaining about these comments have focused on one aspect of them in particular: that this is one of the best demonstrations of the way Ken Ham's particular brand of Christianity impedes the progress of science.  However, his comments bothered me for a different reason.  Although I'm not a Christian, I was one for about two-thirds of my life, and was fairly well-versed in Christian theology before I deconverted.  It's still very easy for me to look at the world from a Christian perspective, and when I do that in this case, I can see that none of what Ken Ham is saying is supported by anything in the Bible.

One clue to this fact is that although Ken Ham's blog post contains citations to six different Bible verses, he does not have a citation for his central premise--that any aliens that are intelligent would be affected by Adam's sin.  There are two verses in the Bible which could be taken to discuss this concept, both in the book of Romans, but neither of them says what he seems to think they do.

One such verse is Romans 8:28: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time."

There's more than one possible interpretation of this verse, but there are a few things that it definitely doesn't mean.  It does not mean that every living thing in creation is sinful and would require salvation.  Taken literally, "all of creation" would mean every living thing in the world, but it's almost universally accepted among Christians that salvation isn't a requirement for other species of animals, not even especially intelligent animals such as elephants, dolphins and chimpanzees.  Therefore, either the phrase "all of creation" is not being used in a literal sense here, or the pains being referred to in this verse are something other than sin itself.  One interpretation of this verse (not the only interpretation, but the one that I favored) is that it's referring to the pain humans inflict on the rest of the world through our destruction of the environment.

The other verse, and probably the more important one, is Romans 5:12: "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—"

The word that Paul uses for "people" in this verse is the Greek word anthropos.  This word is sometimes translated as "men", but what it means more precisely is "humans".  If he had been referring to more than just humans in this verse, there is a different Greek word which would have been more appropriate, demos.  Demos has a more general meaning of "all people", and is the root of the English word democracy.

The Greek word for "world" that Paul uses in this verse is kosmos.  This is a cognate of the English word cosmos, so at first blush it could seem to support the idea that Adam's sin affected the entire universe.  However, that isn't what this word means in Greek.  Kosmos is the same word used in 2 Peter 2:5, when describing what Noah's flood covered.  While creationists typically interpret this verse to mean that the flood was global in extent, kosmos in this context clearly is not referring to the entire universe.  Even creationists who believe in a global flood do not generally argue that Noah's flood also occurred on Mars, Venus, and planets outside the solar system.

Ken Ham seems to be completely unaware of the branch of Christian theology known as exotheology.  Exotheology concerns what God's relationship would be like to intelligent aliens, if they exist.  While it is considered possible that sin exists on other planets also, in exotheology it is almost universally-accepted that alien species would not be affected by human sin.  This article describes the perspective of the Vatican's chief astronomer, which is that if intelligent aliens have not committed their own original sin, they would most likely exist in a state of full friendship with God.  More recently, Pope Francis has suggested that even if aliens have sinned, they could still potentially be baptized and be saved.  This article isn't clear about the theology behind the Pope's comments, but the idea seems to be that even if Earth is the only planet on which God the Son was incarnated, his sacrifice atoned for sins everywhere in the universe.

It's important to recognize that this isn't a new idea among Christians, or one that's limited to Catholicism.  The same idea has also been presented by C. S. Lewis, who's almost certainly the most highly-regarded author of Christian apologetic fiction in history.  Although Lewis is best-known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, he also is the author of an earlier trilogy of books that are based around the concept that intelligent life exists throughout the universe in harmony with God, and that Earth is an exception that has rebelled against him.  The first of these novels, Out of the Silent Planet, was published in 1938.

By contradicting C. S. Lewis about this issue, Ken Ham is much further out on a theological limb than he's ever been while discussing evolution.  While C. S. Lewis stated in some of his letters that he did not believe evolution was incompatible with Christianity, he generally was not a participant in the debates among Christians about this topic.  On the other hand, exotheology clearly is a topic that C. S. Lewis felt strongly about, and his space trilogy is arguably his most famous fictional series outside of Narnia.  There obviously are a substantial number of Christians in the United States who agree with Ken Ham's opposition to evolution, but in his rejection of exotheology he might be very close to alone.

Ken Ham's comments about this, and their incompatibility with the past 80 years of mainstream Christian apologetics, are in my opinion worth publicizing.  While it probably will not appreciably reduce the number of American Christians opposed to evolution, it is one of the best demonstrations Ken Ham could have provided that on matters of theology, he doesn't have the slightest clue what he's talking about.
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:iconpaleo-king:
Paleo-King Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
"News articles summarized Ken Ham's comments as saying that it's not worth searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, because any intelligent aliens will be going to hell regardless of what we do."

Ken Ham really needs to try for a Darwin Award, he isn't doing mankind any good in his present form. Ken Ham should be more worried about intelligent aliens sending him to hell. If alien life can truly be defined as "intelligent", chances are it's already much more intelligent than humans and far beyond our level of technology. As in, you try to hit them over the head with a Bible and they just vaporize you instead. I'd like to see him preach the gospel to "all creation" here on earth before pontificating about his chances with aliens. Start with monkeys and work your way down to less intelligent life like reptiles, fish, crabs, slugs, etc... after all they all must be sinners right? Lets see how thirsty any of them are for salvation.

Now while the potential for existence of alien life does make many religions uneasy, the fact is there's no point in speculating "is it a threat to the integrity of my beliefs" until we actually FIND intelligent life. And even if you do, it doesn't make every religion false. Perhaps they had their own equally valid prophets and revelations so many eons ago too. It that turns out not to be the case... then good luck with your apostasy! But only then. Not sooner. In other words, everyone calm the **** down!

(Part of me is actually hoping intelligent aliens - if they exist - are NOT hyper-religious, or at least not in a universalist "one faith fits all" sense, because the last thing earth needs is crusades/inquisitions on an intergalactic scale launched by a far superior-tech civilization... or worse yet, Ken Ham-type aliens who conclude humanity is beyond salvation and should just be exterminated... have none of these nutjobs ever played Halo???)
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:icontheubbergeek2:
theubbergeek2 Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2014
It's not just Christianity that have creationism to name that ill - it is slowly growing in the land of Islam I heard. A famous turkish author, by example...
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:iconzgmf-x42s:
ZGMF-X42S Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014
Ken Ham is clearly a degenerate mystic, and like all degenerate mystics, they seek to keep us chained and ignorant.
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:iconasanbonsam:
Asanbonsam Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2014
How is it possible to make yourself look more and more of an idiot like Ken Ham does all the time?
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:icontraheripteryx:
Traheripteryx Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Ken Ham shows again, that the average HAMburger is more intelligent and independent, than him.
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:iconzaubererbruderasp:
ZaubererbruderASP Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I don't think the NASA gives a fuck about what this guy says :D
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:icontraheripteryx:
Traheripteryx Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Eben. Wie kann man diese Witzfigur auch nur im geringsten Ernst nehmen? :D
Wenn's ihm nicht gefällt, kann er doch 'ne Arche für SEIN GELD bauen. ;)
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:iconzaubererbruderasp:
ZaubererbruderASP Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Das fänd ich cool. Dann würd ich mir doch glatt auch ein Schiff kapern und ihn überfallen
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:icontraheripteryx:
Traheripteryx Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Heyho! Ran an die Schätze dieses Narren! Johoho!
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:iconzaubererbruderasp:
ZaubererbruderASP Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Arrr
Sailing the seven seas 
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:icontraheripteryx:
Traheripteryx Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Ahoi!
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:iconsekele:
Sekele Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014
"Suffer Not the Xeno to Live!"
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:iconspinoinwonderland:
SpinoInWonderland Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014
Ken Ham is just uber butthurt that his views are wrong in both scientific and spiritual sense.
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:iconthemorlock:
TheMorlock Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014  Student General Artist
Exotheology. That's a new word for me. I love it.
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:iconagahnim:
Agahnim Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014
Are you familiar with C. S. Lewis's space trilogy?  I think you'd enjoy it, even though the science in it is outdated by today's standards.  Out of the Silent Planet was one of my favorite novels when I was a teenager, and in my opinion it's better than any of the Narnia books, even though it's not as famous.
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:iconthemorlock:
TheMorlock Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Student General Artist
I am aware of it, but I haven't read it. I was never a huge fan of Narnia, though.
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:iconloth-eth:
Loth-Eth Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
The Bible is nothing but fairly tales. The Bible is a bunch a bullshit. Because, there is no god.
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:iconsameerprehistorica:
SameerPrehistorica Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2015  Hobbyist
Giggle 
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:iconrodlox:
Rodlox Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014
i think I read once, C.S.Lewis remarking that we best be careful when we walk on other worlds, lest we be the cause of the Fall in aliens.

hm, when I read the title to this post, I thought "oh goody, Ham is saying God isn't able to make aliens"  (always dangerous, telling God what He can't do)...drat.
:)
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:iconagahnim:
Agahnim Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014
i think I read once, C.S.Lewis remarking that we best be careful when we walk on other worlds, lest we be the cause of the Fall in aliens.

Yep, he seemed to be quite concerned about that possibility.  The second novel in his space trilogy, Perelandra, is almost entirely about the danger of that happening.
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:icondoctormo:
doctormo Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Keep Hamming it up. :-)
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:icongodofwarlover:
godofwarlover Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014
Fuck Ken Ham
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:icondarquewanderer:
darquewanderer Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014
What's a Ken Ham? And why is he important to the universe?
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:iconrodlox:
Rodlox Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014
Monty Python has a song about it...something about sacredness.
Reply
:iconpeteridish:
PeteriDish Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
ken ham strikes again huh? :/
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