In what is probably the most preposterous move of my life, I am about to take issue with Stephen Hawking.
If you’re not familiar with Hawking, he a theoretical physicist who’s taught at Cambridge and Oxford, won nearly every award on both sides of the Atlantic, and is generally regarded by people who know such things as being The Smartest Man on the Planet, bar none.
Hawking is doing a new series on The Discover Channel entitled Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking. It debuted last night and his remarks about the possibility and nature of extraterrestrial life are all over the interwebs.
Being as highly credentialed as he is, and me with my bachelors degree in pastoral studies, I’m not going to tango with him on his data, but rather his assumptions, which seem to swing between odd and dismal.
On one hand, he suggests that if otherworld life forms do come to earth, they might come in the form of microbes or small animals.
On the other, he warns that this could be very dangerous, pointing out “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
Let’s combine these two thoughts for a moment. If I’m tracking with Dr. Hawkins (and admittedly, maybe I’m not…), his guess is that alien life forms would be not unlike the Gremlins, who would quickly steal our resources and gather us onto reservations stocked with small-pox infected bedding even as they preached the gospel. OK, I may be stretching his assumption, but that’s the furthest the logical extension of it.
My greatest snag with his assumptions comes from this quote: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.”
Wow. With that statement, Hawkins positions himself as the verbal antithesis of Thomas Kinkade. That’s some dark stuff….that if there is life in the universe, we’d best not answer the door when they come knocking because they might be a lot like us.
Maybe I’m seeing a different kind of human. Flawed? Very. Sinful? Totally. Depraved? Uhuh. But remarkably marked for potential redemption by the grandest form of Life in or beyond the universe. I see glimpses of that too – in the same flawed, sinful, depraved people. Goodness next to the horror, with grace all up in the gaps. I’m not saying man is essentially good, but rather that he can be good, and that goodness is a gift from another world.
Our differences probably boil down to this….my belief that for all of man’s faults, He is indelibly marked with the image of God. In a sense, the great Life Form that will come doesn’t resemble us so much as we – at are best, brightest, and most creative moments – resemble Him.
This ends my debate with Dr. Hawkins….I want to quit before he challenges me to a game of Trivial Pursuit.
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