August 5, 2020

What Do Humanoid Aliens Reveal About Our Gods?

alien in ufo

Have extraterrestrial beings the Earth? I should probably re-phase the question to make it clear that I am not particularly interested in whether "ancient" aliens might have visited the Earth and built various things long before humans were created by the Christian god. Something more like this might be better: Have aliens visited the Earth sometime between 1950 and today? I picked 1950 because I've been told that was when America was "great," and I needed to pick a date. Many people, including some atheists, believe they have. Are they right?

Come to think of it, I'm not sure I find that question terribly interesting either. If they have, we don't have much evidence that they have. It is probably better to assume that they haven't until that changes. That said, the question about whether aliens have visited us does raise a related question I find more interesting. Why is it that almost all the accounts of aliens involve humanoid creatures? Whether we're talking about the classic "little green men" or the more modern gray aliens, they are all humanoids.

Why do I find this so interesting? I see no reason to think that aliens from outer space would necessarily be humanoid. They could be micro-organisms similar to bacteria or a virus, and they could be all sorts of other things that bore little resemblance to the human shape. Does our insistence on depicting them as humanoid reflect a failure of imagination, or is something else going on here?

As you have probably guessed, I think we depict aliens as humanoid for the same reasons we have depicted most gods as having human personality traits if not human-like forms. We are the ones creating these things, and we are creating them in our image. Much of this probably does have to do with a failure of imagination. We don't have a lot of experience interacting with formless beings made of energy, for example. When we create aliens, gods, and whatever else, we draw on what we know. It should not be a surprise that the results end up being so similar.

The Christian notion that a particular god created us in its image is laughable. None of us are invisible. It seems so obvious that we have created this god in our image. It may not share our form, but it certainly shares our psychology. It even shares several of our least desirable characteristics.

I suspect our depictions of aliens work in much the same way. Why is it that so many of the alien abduction stories involve probing? Might it be that we've had experience being probed by medical practitioners? Might it be that if we were to encounter a strange and unidentified being, our scientists would almost certainly end up dissecting it? Again, we are drawing on our experiences to fill in the details of our creation.

Perhaps the first extraterrestrial visitor will not even be sentient in the way we think of sentience and will not communicate with us at all. Instead, it could be something that hitched a ride to Earth on a meteorite and works much like a virus, systematically destroying us. Were that to happen, we could be confident that religious believers would appeal to their gods for aid without wondering too deeply about why their gods allowed this tragedy to befall us.