Belief in Aliens as a Naturalistic Superstition


Where belief in supernatural phenomena clashes with our understanding of the nature of things, we likely consider ourselves to be shielded by scientific education from what natural sciences reveal to be no more than figments of imagination and remnants of an ancient world. The author of an article about vampires in St. Charles Herald of September 6, 1884, thus speaks like a true naturalist when he discusses “a revival of the old superstitions of blood-drinking bats and men” and remarks that “certainly no more extraordinary or appalling belief ever troubled men’s wits. […] That the dead returned from their graves to prey on the flesh and blood of the living should have ever been believed by thousands of people sounds incredible.” Unlike those for whom it is not only conceivable but inviting to believe that the universe is permeated by forces that transcend natural laws—be they benign or demonic—the naturalist’s imaginary life only finds its gratification within the immanent sphere of the natural; his understanding regarding the origin, the span, and the terminus of reality is confined to the universe understood as a totality regulated by laws of physics and chemistry, which together produce material events governed by rules of causality wherever the necessary conditions for such events are met. Anything that is conceivable without contradiction with naturalist instincts and common sense ceases to be a ‘mere’ figment of imagination and attains a claim to possible existence, however minimal or hypothetical that claim to existence may be. Hence the conceivable possibility of time-travel, parallel universes, the simulation-hypothesis, and extra-terrestrial civilizations, as opposed to the non-existence of vampires, witches, ghosts, fairies, and angelic or demonic forces. From a naturalistic perspective, the first series of entities is said to be ‘hypothetical’, whereas the second is called ‘superstitious’.

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