Ken Ham v The Aliens
I WAS reminded today of one of the finest atheist science fiction stories ever written – The Streets of Ashkelon by Harry Harrison – after I was sent a link to a report about the latest ravings of creationist Ken Ham.
Ham asserted that US space programme was a waste of money because any alien life that scientists found would be damned to hell.
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. Jesus did not become the ‘GodKlingon’ or the ‘GodMartian’! Only descendants of Adam can be saved. God’s Son remains the ‘Godman’ as our Savior.
For those of you not familiar with Harrison’s 1962 story – which has also been published under the title An Alien Agony – here, briefly, is the plot:
An atheist merchant/trader, John Garth, is the only human on an alien planet where the native Weskers, intelligent but painstakingly literal-minded amphibians, live in what seem to be utopian conditions. These Weskers have no concepts whatsoever of gods, nor religion, nor sin. Garth gradually teaches them how to apply scientific methods in their approach to life.
One day Garth is surprised by the arrival of a missionary – father Mark – who is intent on proselytizing to the natives. Despite Garth’s best efforts to dissuade him, even at the point of a gun, the missionary is on a one-way journey to “save souls” and eventually convinces them of the “truth” of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.
But, having been taught to apply scientific tests to hypotheses, the Weskers seize the priest and crucify him in accordance with what he taught them about the Gospels. Their hope is that he will miraculously rise from the dead three days later and thereby redeem them.
Three days later, after Father Mark has been buried and the hypothesis disproved, Itin, leader of the Westers, asks Garth what went wrong:
Then we will not be saved? We will not become pure?
“You were pure,” Garth said, in a voice somewhere between a sob and a laugh. “That’s the horrible ugly dirty part of it. You were pure. Now you are – ”
“Murderers,” Itin said, and the water ran down from his lowered head and streamed away into the darkness.
Harrison wrote the story – read it in full here – for a Judith Merrill-edited anthology which was to contain original stories that all violated societal taboos in some way: When Merrill’s project fell through, Harrison approached other markets; however, no American publisher would accept a story that portrayed a heroic atheist and a naive, foolish missionary, and so Harrison approached British markets instead. Streets was not published by an American company until six years later.
The story has since been reprinted over 30 times in 14 languages, in anthologies and also academic textbooks. Science fiction critic Paul Tomlinson, who helps run Harrison’s official website, has estimated that it is Harrison’s most widely published story … and the saddest.
Anyway, back to the bonehead Ham, who argued that:
Secularists are desperate to find life in outer space as part of their rebellion against God in a desperate attempt to supposedly prove evolution.
Life did not evolve but was specially created by God, as Genesis clearly teaches. Christians certainly shouldn’t expect alien life to be cropping up across the universe. Now the Bible doesn’t say whether there is or is not animal or plant life in outer space. I certainly suspect not.
But regardless of whether there was life in outer space, Ham asserted that it could not be truly “intelligent”.
Would a list of intelligent life forms on earth include Ken Ham? I seriously doubt it!
UPDATE: It has just been reported that a sinister evangelical group, which has launched a campaign to convert children to Christianity at public spaces and schools in Oregon, has close ties with Ham.
The Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Good News Club claims most people become Christians between ages 4 and 14 years old, so they target children with the message that all people are sinful and that only Christian faith will save them from hell.
The fundamentalist group is associated with Ham and his Answers in Genesis ministry, which claims their mission is part of a spiritual battle dating back to the temptation in the biblical Garden of Eden.
If all life arose by natural processes, and there was no God, why would people even care what others were taught? After all, for the secularists, when they die they will cease to exist – and in their belief system, they won’t know they even existed – so why should they care what is taught to children?
My favourite alien, Paul, would have a thing or two to whisper in Ham’s ear.
Hat tip: Angela K.