The X Files returns: is the truth still out there?
The X Files was a hugely successful American television series which ran throughout the 1990’s. The X Files were unsolved cases involving paranormal phenomena. The show prompted many questions about the existence of aliens and if we’re alone in the universe.
With the return of the X Files to our TV screens earlier this year, we held a Logos Live forum and the episode has just been broadcast/podcast. You can check it out here.
We interviewed two scientists, Dr and Dr Smith: Dr. Christina Smith (PhD in Astrophysics from Swinburne University) and Dr. Michael Smith (PhD in zoology from the University of Melbourne).
We had a fun and fascinating conversation about science, UFO's and the truth.
So what do scientists make of the thousands of UFO sightings reported each year?
There are thousands of UFO reportings each year and the National UFO Reporting Center, a leading US based UFO investigation group receive over 500 reportings per month. Apparently they have had over 90,000 reported UFO’s since the centre was established in 1974.
So what do scientists make of these reportings?
Well, as Christina suggested, not a great deal. As she pointed out, the SETI program (Seach for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) is a valid and important scientific program. The scientists who work on this program use very sensitive radio telescopes and any activity on any radio frequency will be detected. Hence any alien activity close to our planet would most likely be detected.
Moreover, the vast distances that alien craft are required to travel and the associated fuel requirements render interstellar travel extraordinarily difficult. Also, as Christina and Michael suggest, if an alien visitor has gone to all that trouble of travelling that distance (and even bringing chess to the world) then why don't they stick around and make more substantial contact? Or play more chess?
Now this does not rule out the presence of intelligent alien life in the universe - it is just unlikely that we have frequent contact with aliens.
Does Ezekiel see a UFO?
The vision of the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, recorded in Ezekiel chapter 1, is sometimes suggested that rather than a vision of God, instead he witnessed a UFO. For example, in Ezekiel 1:4-5 Ezekiel describes an immense cloud with flashing lightning and a brilliant light and the centre looks like glowing metal. Which could seem like a descending UFO. And then later in verse 16 where he describes wheels and a craft which seems to rise and fall at will.
Yet whilst it is clear that Ezekiel "sees" something remarkable, and even with similar rendering it similar to a UFO.
Michael and Christina point out that Ezekiel also uses imagery and ideas resonant within an ancient cultures. These creatures are described in verses 10-11 as having multiple faces and wings. As Christopher Wright acknowledges these 'bullmen; are 'found in various postures over a wide spectrum of ancient near-eastern cultures and historical eras' .
The comparisons continue to break down as the 'alien', the one coming with the appearance of the glory of the Lord, begins to speak in Chapter 2. The 'alien' seems to have a remarkable awareness of the history and situation of Israel and Ancient Near Eastern culture.
Hence rather than seeing an alien, the imagery and description of Ezekiel's vision reveal that he is seeing God himself - the Jewish God appearing before him in Babylon. This vision is made more stark by the imagery Ezekiel sees, which is usually associated with other pagan and Babylonian deities.
So it seems that whilst Ezekiel's vision is remarkable - it would be even more remarkable to be an alien from an alien planet in an alien craft.
What difference to the Christian faith would it make if there really were intelligent aliens?
Interestingly Michael said that the presence of intelligent alien life would represent a greater challenge to his science than his Christian faith. It would allow another 'data set' to examine how life got started and the processes involved in life formation.
Yet the presence of intelligent alien life would also open up a series of philosophical and theological questions (which at this stage are simply hypothetical). For example, would aliens see the kalam cosmological argument as an argument for the existence of God? Or would they possess the Moral Law as Francis Collins ponders in The Language of God (p.71)?
Moreover the privileged place of humanity within the universe may be questioned. Within Christianity, humanity is special. Humans are created in the image of God, how would intelligent life relate with this concept?
Yet the supreme importance and 'specialness' of humanity is demonstrated in the incarnation. As John 1:14 says,
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
God becomes a man. Could God become other alien life forms as well? It is not immediately apparent how that could happen.
Is the incarnation, the idea of God becoming human, a form of alien visitation?
So is the incarnation a form of alien visitation?
As Christina said in the Logos Live interview, alien implies unfamiliarity, yet the Scriptures tell us that Jesus was the creator of the earth and all things. Hence God becoming man is not so much an alien visitation but a creator writing himself into the story. The incarnation means that God is no longer distant, but has come near and has become one of us.
So is the truth still out there?
So is the truth still out there?
Michael and Christina pointed out that the scientific "truth" is still out there. There are many truths about the cosmos and the existence of extra-terrestrial life still to be discovered.
Yet the Truth has been revealed - it is no longer out there but it has come here. John 1:14 demonstrates Jesus as the revealer of 'Truth'. John 1:14 says,
We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Scientific truth may still be out there, in the incarnation, Jesus has become one of us, and revealed himself as the truth. Thus in Jesus our quest for 'truth' is ended as he offers life, hope and meaning.
 Christopher Wright, The Message of Ezekiel, p.47.