A few months back we looked at a fascinating statement made by Richard Dawkins that went something like this:
"It could be that at some earlier time somewhere in the universe a civilization evolved by probably some kind of Darwinian means to a very very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet."It's a good thing Dawkins chose to utter this heresy in Ben Stein's Expelled documentary, since it's a lead pipe cinch that none of his followers would go anywhere near the film. But an anonymous tipster wrote to me and turned me onto this cheeky bit of naughtiness in Dawkins' bestseller, The God Delusion. In Chapter 5 the professor muses upon the 'cargo cult' phenomenon, which was so crucial in the life and work of Erich Von Daniken:
In The Life of Brian, one of the many things the Monty Python team got right was the extreme rapidity with which a new religious cult can get started. It can spring up almost overnight and then become incorporated into a culture, where it plays a disquietingly dominant role. The 'cargo cults' of Pacific Melanesia and New Guinea provide the most famous real life example.After recounting how these cults arose out of tribal peoples' contact with advanced technology they had no exposure to, Dawkins starts to get quite cheeky indeed:
The entire history of some of these cults, from initiation to expiry, is wrapped up within living memory. Unlike the cult of Jesus, the origins of which are not reliably attested, we can see the whole course of events laid out before our eyes (and even here, as we shall see, some details are now lost). It is fascinating to guess that the cult of Christianity almost certainly began in very much the same way, and spread initially at the same high speed.Now, it all undoubtedly slid past his readers, but Dawkins is saying here that Christianity "began the same way" as the cargo cults. Which, as he exhaustively explains in this chapter, arose from native peoples' exposure to superior alien technology (the aliens being Europeans in this context). As he says here:
It seems that in every case the islanders were bowled over by the wondrous possessions of the white immigrants to their islands, including administrators, soldiers and missionaries. They were perhaps the victims of (Arthur C.) Clarke's Third Law, which I quoted in Chapter 2: 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.'Now isn't that a fascinating little juxtaposition? Quoting the author of the the world's most acclaimed Ancient-Astronaut narrative (2001: A Space Odyssey, for those new to all of this) shortly after claiming that the cult of the god-man Jesus "began the same way" as the cargo cults! As Eric Idle once said, "Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Say no more, say no more."
And just in case you missed Richard's inference the first time, he repeats it:
Fourth, the cargo cults are similar, not just to each other but to older religions. Christianity and other ancient religions that have spread worldwide presumably began as local cults like that of John Frum.The cargo cults which- and I'll state this until the cows come home- began when a primitive people encountered a technologically superior civilization.
After making quite a bit of the cargo cults, Dawkins then writes:
I don't want to make too much of the cargo cults of the South Pacific. But they do provide a fascinating contemporary model for the way religions spring up from almost nothing.Which, as Richard goes to great pains to explain, were the result of contact with a technologically-superior alien civilization.
What a cheeky little devil, indeed!
Or maybe not. We've already discussed the directed panspermia theories of Francis Crick, and yet another prominent British scientist is wandering off of Randi's Reservation:
One suggestion, by the physicist and cosmologist Paul Davies, is that life might have arrived here from the planet Mars, which was once rather more benign than Earth, being smaller and receiving fewer 'hits' from space debris.Which people like Richard Hoagland have been saying for nearly 40 years now. Now, I'm sure there will be those who'll tell me what Dawkins et al really mean, but for now I'll have to be content to go by what they actually said.
In which case, we are all Martians and should be looking for fossils of our ancient ancestors on the Red Planet.
Davies, whose new book, The Eerie Silence, comprehensively tackles the question of ET, thinks that perhaps a radio search is not the way to go. Maybe, instead, we should look for direct evidence that aliens have visited our neck of the galactic woods in the past.
UPDATE: And lo and behold the Daily Mail has this article today: "Aliens have been trying to contact us by cosmic Twitter, scientists claim." Thanks to Reader David.
SYNC LOG UPDATE: Dawkins appears at The Amazing Meeting this week in Las Vegas (basic admission: $425). The writer opens his piece with some odd non-sequiturs about hot-tubs, Greek philosophers and bathhouses. Somewhere, Eric Idle is smiling.
Which reminds me, I wonder when Randi will bring the TA!M to Jersey...