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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Astronomical "science": creatures on Mars? NASA, "origins" – Luther's judgment

Franz Pieper took note in 1896 of the industrious nature of a certain astronomer looking for inhabitants on Mars.  Some may laugh at this now, but what do they say about the efforts by NASA (and SETI Institute) to travel into space to discover "the origins of the universe"?  Do they not laugh at this?  Perhaps we need to listen to two Christians speaking (blogging?) on this topic, even if it is from 1896 (and earlier):
Translation by BTL, emphases are from original Pieper text, highlighting and hyperlinks are mine.)

A contribution to the astronomical "science".
by Franz Pieper
Chicago, Ill., July 22.  A special dispatch from Boston, Mass, reports: [Percival] Lowell, Boston's famous astronomer, is currently on the way to Flagstaff, Arizona, at the head of a extremely important astronomical expedition. The purpose of this is to make observations concerning the planet Mars and, if possible, to obtain fully valid evidence that Mars is inhabited by highly organized creatures.  Mr. Lowell has for several years dedicated his studies to Mars and in 1894 he sketched a very complete map; and his information, that the canals observed on Mars are the work of purposeful working creatures and not the fruit of lifeless natural forces, has caused a great sensation among the Europe's astronomers.  As a result of this, the observations which Mr. Lowell intends to make now is awaited by astronomers of the whole world with great suspense.  The editors of a local newspaper remark: It is not true that Lowell was the first and most prominent in the claim that Mars had to be inhabited by intelligent beings. The main observers of Mars and the main advocates of the view that it was inhabited by intelligent beings were the Italian Schiaparelli and the French Flammarion, before Lowell.  Luther writes: "It is not possible that Nature will be recognized by reason after the fall of Adam which has blinded them, recognized further than experience or divine enlightenment gives.  So restless reason cannot remain silent and be satisfied because it wants to know everything, like a monkey; this is why she puffs up, and muses and researches further than is commanded her, and despises what has been given her by experience or from God; nor takes what it seeks for.  So fools work in vain with all their studying and knowledge. Therefore it has come that the people, because they despise the natural art or could not attain to it, have divided into countless groups and sects.  Several have written of the earth, several of the waters, some this, some that, so that the making of books and of studies is without measure.  Finally, when they were tired of study here on earth, they ascended to heaven and wanted to know the nature of heaven and the stars, of which nevertheless no experience of it may ever be had.  There they have overcome with quite free power to fictionalize, lie, deceive, and say whatever they pleased of the innocent heaven.  For as one says: Those who lie about distant lands, lie boldly so that they cannot be denied with experience.  So also because nobody may reach to the heavens and verify through experience their teaching or point out their error, they are free to lie with complete confidence that no one will challenge them." (St. Louis ed., vol. 11, col. 301, paragrs 18-19; cp. Am. Ed. vol 52, pgs 164-165)  – Franz Pieper.
= = = = = = = = = = = = says this about the sensation of Percival Lowell:
In hindsight, Lowell's claims of intelligent life on Mars were outlandishly speculative. But his conclusions joined a chorus of false impressions about Mars that predated him by centuries and lasted well beyond his death in 1916.
As late as 1924, earthlings listened for radio signals from Mars -- at the request of the U.S. government. And in 1938 Orson Welles' radio antics frightened thousands of listeners into believing Martians had invaded, first targeting New Jersey.
Nowadays we know the canals don't exist and that there are no invading forces, of course. would use the label "outlandishly speculative", essentially vindicating the judgment of Martin Luther (and Franz Pieper) on man's reason after the fall of Adam.  But would also definitely NOT use that term on themselves or on NASA in relation to the mission to discover the "origins of the Universe".  And what about the attempts to continue to find at least the beginnings of life on Mars by scientists...  certainly that is not "outlandishly speculative", is it?
     Having been trained in science and engineering, I fondly recall the teaching about the "Scientific Method" in my youth.  Wikipedia speaks of it this way:
...based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.
Hmmm... since the 17th century... could it be the light of the Reformation moved "science" from the days of "alchemy" to the the days of "scientific method"?  Oh, but surely we aren't allowed to attribute today's advances in science to the Reformation, are we?  But who would deny that man's experience in science has advanced tremendously since the days of Luther and also Franz Pieper?  Traveling in space, even to the Moon, nanotechnology, and a myriad of other studies of science.  But every time they speak of "evolution" or try to "explain the origin of life in the universe" or of the universe itself, then Christians can only repeat in their hearts what the Bible teaches on these matters and then recognize that this folly of man is no different than those who held the notion "that Mars had to be inhabited by intelligent beings".
     Surely the SETI Institute speaks for NASA when they state their mission:
"Our mission is to ... explain the origin ... of life in the universe..."
And to NASA and SETI Institute, Martin Luther's judgment continues to apply:
Those who lie about distant lands, lie boldly so that they cannot be denied with experience

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