We love it when he does that.

Discussion (58)¬

  1. Guy Roukaerts says:

    Having grown up in a catholic family, school etc., I always doubted the teachings, and became agnostic once out of parents’ home. This was a question I always asked myself then. Firmly atheist now.

  2. Laripu says:

    Pope Francis has indicated that if a Martian wanted to be baptized, he’d do it.


    I suppose the Church is still atoning for the treatment of Galileo. On the other hand, if extraterrestrials were intelligent enough to get here, I imagine they’d be intelligent enough to find religion funny. Maybe they’d read this strip. Maybe they already have. 😉

  3. M27Holts says:

    I dug out an old VHS t’ther day. It was made in1988 about the seer called nostradamus. The interesting part of the programme was when the “nostradamus” experts were asked to predict the future using the quatrains that they hadn’t retrospectively fitted to past events…the results were hilarious as none of them actually predicted the trade centre destruction, nor lady diana death or the covid outbreak….all of which have been retrofitted to quatrains AFTER the event….who would have predicted that?

  4. hotrats says:

    The Quran contains all the knowledge in the universe, if you squint hard enough.

  5. Jesus F Iscariot says:

    Cowpersons Roy Rogers and Dale Evans used to sing:

    Jesus loves me
    Yes I know
    For the Bible
    Tells me so.

    Verse about circular reasoning not included.

  6. M27Holts says:

    You can have cowboy, cowgirl and reverse cowgirl…trust me…

  7. Donn says:

    If the imams needed a verse or two, to keep the train running, that would be a lot more stringent requirement than we’ve held the Christian theocracy to. Their particular document the new testament doesn’t so much get tangled up in who’s who and what’s where. I can’t imagine them having a bit of trouble finding a use for extraterrestrials.

  8. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    What Jesus has failed to take into account is that any genuinely intelligent creature would not fall for his salvation nonsense. It takes a truly dumb animal to be so easily fooled.

  9. Donn says:

    One potential problem – the extraterrestrial isn’t necessarily mortal. That’s how sentient life works here, but I can’t think of any reason it needs to be that way, in principle. That could raise some serious theological questions.

  10. Jveeds says:

    Who’s to say the Jesus death and resurrection was for Earth only? If there actually was such an event (and such a person/god) the resurrection could have been for the entire cosmos. After all, why keep re-staging it every time some life form decides to go awry on Mars…or Mongo or Krypton?

  11. M27Holts says:

    When the factory ships arrive I’m definately going to quote from “Dog Soldiers” as the bug eyed aliens prepare us for termination…”I hope I give you the shits…”

  12. Donn says:

    I saw an interesting presentation in the local university’s “observatory” dome, zooming out from Earth, solar system, galaxy … and quite a ways farther, to the point where I started having some problems with suspension of disbelief. That seems like the already existing fundamental challenge to earthly religions – the larger perspective, wherein our world is so absurdly insignificant.

  13. Son of Glenner says:

    Laripu: If the First Parents of an alien race had obeyed the rules set out by their god, instead of rebelling, like our Adam and Eve, then the aliens would not require Jesus for salvation, nor baptism by Pope Francis.

    As a child in the Forties, I remember seeing, in a Walt Disney comic, a retelling of the Garden of Eden story in which the Tree of Knowledge produced pork chops rather than apples. I think Adam was represented by Brer Rabbit, but I may have got that bit wrong. I know that rabbits are not big fans of pork chops, Bugs Bunny preferred carrots.

  14. Interesting, the reference to “Lord of all the Worlds” in Surah Fatiha is used by Ahmadiyya Islamic tafsir to indicate that there ARE other worlds and that we will very possibly run into alien life forms, thus, further affirming the Qur’an. Of course, such commitments to the unfalsifiable are nothing new for religion. If no aliens show up, they win. It’s still too early. If aliens do show up, they will also claim victory.

  15. Son of Glenner says:

    ReasonOnFaith: Good-looking avatar! Reminds me of when I was about 30.

  16. MattR says:

    Donn: “potential problem – the extraterrestrial isn’t necessarily mortal… I can’t think of any reason it needs to be that way, in principle.”

    I might disagree. Reproduction is probably necessary for evolution, and with no death there can’t be reproduction (otherwise finite resources would run out – population mechanics). Ergo Mr and Mrs Alien DO require saving by OSJ. On the other hand, I suppose there could be immortal microscopic blobs out there that spontaneously came into existence like the original life on Earth, and who the big J would want to save… except he can’t because they don’t give a sod about death or anything else for that matter, being microscopic blobs with no central nervous system nor any means of getting to church.

  17. Donn says:

    It’s hard to say what’s out there. Evolution via reproduction gene shuffling and natural selection is a powerful principle that might well arise independently, but it seems a little rash to suppose that it’s the only way any kind of evolution can work anywhere in the universe. Will our species evolve further in that way, via natural selection? At the moment that seems rather stalled by societal effects. Some time in the next say 10,000 years, we might find ourselves in the position of being able to live forever – via science, not random chance genetics and natural selection.

  18. M27Holts says:

    Would binary sexual reproduction always be necessary? Could it be possible that aliens are hermaphrodites? Or even life on swingerton 5 where the keeper of the eggs has to be inseminated six times by different gene donors in order to become the sweller of the belly? Who knows..

  19. HaggisForBrains says:

    M27Holts, try reading The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov, for an interesting take on an alien race with three sexes.

  20. Son of Glenner says:

    Binary sexual reproduction is the simplest and most economical mechanism for reshuffling of genetic material, essential for evolution. This need not require separate sexes. Hermaphrodite species are numerous and successful on this planet, so hermaphrodite intelligent aliens are quite plausible. It is genetically better if hermaphrodites have some way to make cross-fertilisation more likely than self-fertilisation, so the alien hermaphrodites could still enjoy sex as much as humans do, but a solo ET stranded on Earth could always f*** theirself!

    Here endeth the biology lesson.

  21. Marcus says:

    I suppose there could be immortal microscopic blobs out there – Actually an interesting concept that could solve your immortal being reproduction and death problem because there is nothing to say that the constituent parts of an immortal being cannot be reproducing and dying. Thus if your blobs congregate and have specific functions like ants do in an ant colony this being could have a central nervous system and be sentient.

  22. Troubleshooter says:

    Perseverance is the least of their problems. J&M might give some serious thought to correcting all the demonstrable contradictions and general screw-ups that their respective holy books have to start with. Of course, they WON’T do that, claiming all the time that their scriptures are perfect … even when they disagree with each other!

    ?? And the beat goes on … and the beat goes on … ??

  23. Someone says:

    Interesting addition @Son of Glenner. You may have pointed out the way to ensure Hermaphroditic species would ensure sexual reproduction. If the female and male bits (or 0 and 1, or in and out, or whatever and the t’other) were physically incapable of reaching each other on a lone individual, that would ensure there wouldn’t be any (unassisted) auto-reproduction. Our own evolution would seem to argue somewhat against that, since the male is a modification of the female organs, but other species do have the male bits a good bit further away from where the female organs are located, so maybe.

    Though to imagine the look on the first responders face, after they draw weapons on the alien and say, “go fuck yourself.” The alien, turns to them, tears streaming down their face and replies, “I CAN’T!” Then they run away like a teen tantrum, slam the ramp on their craft and fly off sulkily. Earth gets flagged as biggoted and emotionally hostile on the galactic mesh. We’re left alone, not believing another loon about contact, and never able to make contact via SETI cause they just refuse to talk to us.

  24. samhuff says:

    In Reply to HaggisForBrains

    IIRC the Title is “Against Stupidity the Gods Themselves Contend in Vain” a quote from Frederich Schiller

    The only book where Asimov wrote touching romances and sex scenes, not so much with those of the humans.

  25. Donn says:

    Sure, an intelligent colony could arise out of earth-style reproductive evolution operating on the member organisms. That goes to show that in principle, only change is necessary. In our system, we have to die because change happens only the transition from one individual to the next.

  26. jb says:

    With all this talk of hermaphroditism I can’t believe that no one has brought up The Left Hand of Darkness!

    Personally it’s a bit of a mystery to me that hermaphroditism isn’t the dominant mode of sexual reproduction in higher animals. It has all the advantages of sexual reproduction over asexual reproduction, but you have twice the number of individuals that are capable of actually producing offspring. That seems like a big advantage! And yet the vast majority of higher animals have distinct male and female sexes. There must be a good reason for this, but I don’t know what it is.

  27. Jim Baerg says:

    Donn: See this ‘Scale of the Universe’ web page

  28. Donn says:

    Lots of things have no good reason.
    Some advantages:
    1. not self fertile
    2. sexual dimorphism – specialization within the genome
    3. simpler physiology – fewer organs to support (malfunction/cancer seems to be particularly high for primary and secondary sex organs)
    4. up through fish, reproduction tends to be high volume external; a pair of hermaphrodite salmon carrying an equal load of roe and milt would need to go through a somewhat more complicated process to deal with the non-self-fertile requirement.
    5. pleasing to God.

  29. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Donn, re. your #4: it needn’t be too complicated, plants manage it all the time. All it would require in salmon would be a hormone-controlled time-release system. So long as no individual can release eggs and milt simultaneously then there would be little-to-no risk of self-fertilisation. A salmon would release eggs then swim away to another salmon’s eggs and then release milt.

  30. M27Holts says:

    Whattabout Tribbles…aren’t they born pregnant? A bit like girls from salford.. 🙂

  31. Donn says:

    Re #4 – Yeah, I know, that’s what I’m saying – it’s more complicated. Maybe not “too complicated” if you’re really keen to have both sets of reproductive organs in each individual, but it’s an issue with external fertilization. Plants are often self fertile.

  32. postdoggerel says:

    free parking at salford quays
    is where the problem lays
    in the boot or the dicky
    too many a quicky
    gave rise to a genital phase

  33. Betty Green says:

    > Donn > Many animals mature slowly and need protection and feeding. Binary reproduction caters for one provider/one protector balanced life chances.

  34. HaggisForBrains says:

    OK samhuff, I’ll bite. The book is titled The Gods Themselves. The three main sections are titled:

    I Against Stupidity…
    II …The Gods Themselves…
    III …Contend in Vain?
    And now I’m going to have to re-read it yet again 🙂

  35. samhuff says:

    Yes, I got the title wrong. According to Wikipedia, In his autobiography, Asimov stated that the novel, especially the second section, was the “biggest and most effective over-my-head writing [that I] ever produced”.[9]

    AFAIK, the second section contains his most touching sex scenes, including the last one from Oden’s triad which I felt as pathos.

    Oh well, if it gets the story read or reread it’s good coming out of my mistake.

  36. Son of Glenner says:

    M27Holts: In the real world, “water-fleas” (Daphnia sp & similar) can be “born pregnant” at the height of the breeding season. That is achieved by parthenogenesis; males are not even around at that time, they only start to appear near the end of the breeding season when encysted eggs are produced, which can withstand adverse conditions until beneficial conditions return.

    I don’t know whether Salford qualifies as an adverse or a beneficial environment.

  37. Donn says:

    Betty Green – yes, that’s a large part of what I had in mind with #2 (specialization.) It comes up too late in the evolutionary diagram to explain the phenomenon, but could partly account for why it occasionally shows up in fish and reptiles but never seems to catch on very widely in vertebrates, unlike molluscs etc.

  38. M27Holts says:

    Eh Donn? Molluscs? Anybody mentioning them loses the argument. 🙂 and salford is definately adverse for life…look at somebody the wrong way or mutter molluscs and you are likely to be removed from the gene pool before you get to knee-tremble some of the local jelly-tots…

  39. Son of Glenner says:

    Donn: You are right, hermaphrodite fishes exist, but not hermaphrodite mammals and birds. Also, as far as I know, insects, spiders, crustaceans and other arthropods always have separate sexes, although some female insects can produce viable offspring from unfertilised eggs, eg honey bees, also stick insects.

    In terms of numbers of species, insects greatly outnumber other animals. If there are life forms on other planets, they are probably more likely to resemble beetles than to resemble us.

  40. Son of Glenner says:

    Come to think of it, there are an awful lot of molluscs too, so, if not beetles, the aliens might resemble octopuses rather than resembling us. Or snails. Or oysters!

  41. Rrr says:

    Oyster: It’s our world! (Contrary to the common saying.)

  42. Donn says:

    Sci-fi writers are often drawn to the octopus option. The problem with most of the alternatives is size – for good reason the larger arthropods and mollusks are confined to the water. So if the intelligent being isn’t built like our vertebrates, it might very well be some kind colony intelligence – and potentially immortal.

  43. M27Holts says:

    When it all comes back to it. Physics is the main detemining factor. But intelligence needs the means to manipulate the environment to make tools….but I’m sure that natural selection is always going to favour those species who can use tools to dominate it’s environment…I do like oysters tho…and snotty egg…

  44. Son of Glenner says:

    Donn: Good point about size, and support of large beasties by water. (Witness the blue whale.) However, planetary size and therefore gravity will vary, even on otherwise Earth-like planets. Of course, weird (to us) life forms may also evolve on planets which are nothing like Earth. Colony intelligence is a possibility for practically any basic body design. Here on Earth, it can be seen well developed in some insects and in rudimentary form in some birds and mammals (including us!).

    I think the reason sci-fi writers often go for the octopus option is because the octopus is so very unlike us but still shows a fair degree of intelligence.

  45. Paul Seed says:

    Some species do the weirdest things.
    Aphids, for instance, hatch out when conditions are right, female and already pregnant with biological clones of themselves. They then feast on the sap of the growing plants and produce some 5 generations of extra aphids – massive population explosion. Then conditions change – spring is over – food is in short supply and the 6th generation is all male. There follows sex, and a last round of eggs (not clones this time), designed to last 9 months or so until winter has come and gone. And it all starts again.

  46. M27Holts says:

    When I was growing up…my next door neighbour (a middle aged spinster) used to spend a lot of her time waging chemical warfare on the aphids on her roses….she must have killed millions….

  47. Laripu says:

    Son of Glenner, I have a dim memory of reading a Christian sci fi trilogy in which a character named Ransom had to save some race on either Mars or Venus, as in the Jesus story. But the other of the two didn’t require saving, because they didn’t break god’s restriction. I think one of the books was called Perelandra.

    I was a teenager, but I was already thinking that it was fantasy, not science fiction, because sci fi had to say least pretend to be possible.

    On the other hand, I also remember reading a work of scholarship that would have been better classified as science fiction.

  48. Jim Baerg says:

    That was definitely the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis.
    ‘Out of the Silent Planet’ Ransom on Mars. Mars didn’t need saving
    ‘Perelandra’ Venus. Ransom has to prevent the equivalent of eating the apple
    ‘That Hideous Strength’ Set on Earth. Memory is vaguer, likely because it is the weakest of the three.

  49. M27Holts says:

    Aye. That bicameral mind book (if my memory does not trick me) is very hostile to evolution by natural selection. So since evolution is true his hypothesis is built on sky hooks…and He was clearly a young world creationist and thus it is a work of fiction….

  50. Son of Glenner says:

    Laripu/Jim Baerg: In my teens & early twenties, I read a lot of sci-fi. I remember picking up that C S Lewis trilogy and feeling rather cheated when I found it was Christian allegory rather than “proper” sci-fi. I also found the author’s imagined alien races pretty lacking in creative imagination.

    I had similar feelings about “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, also by C S Lewis, but with no pretensions to be sci-fi, just to be a children’s story. It too turned out to be Christian allegory.

  51. Son of Glenner says:

    Paul Seed: The life history of the aphids you describe is very similar to that of the Daphnia water-fleas I mentioned previously. But Daphnia are crustaceans, living in freshwater lakes and ponds, aphids are insects, living on the rose bushes of M27Holts’ neighbour. So not closely related.

    This, boys and girls, is an example of convergent evolution, like mammalian bats and insect butterflies both having wings (but structurally very different) and being able to fly.

  52. Donn says:

    “The Sparrow” is another notable sci-fi treatment of the business of bringing Jesus to the benighted aliens. Definitely not C S Lewis.

  53. jb says:

    James Blish wrote a fair amount of Catholic themed science fiction, e.g., A Case of Conscience and The Day After Judgment.

  54. Donn says:

    I’ve read the Day After Judgement. It’s kind of a joke. I mean, it’s neither classic sci-fi nor an interesting exploration of anything else, it’s just a kind of wacky fantasy yarn. Niven & Pournelle’s “Inferno” overlaps a little, where it draws on the Dante material, and while kind of drawing a blank on theology it might qualify as interesting exploration.

  55. M27Holts says:

    I think that atheist science fiction is superior to those books you.mentioned. I liked Greg Bear’s two books on the possible outcome of a superior technological power destroying all other threats to them in the galaxy…

  56. Donn says:

    I’m kind of stumped – atheist science fiction?

    Suppose some of us don’t believe in the Loch Ness Monster, and name this posture “no-ness”. How would I go about categorizing no-ness fiction – everything that doesn’t depend on a belief in the Loch Ness Monster? Seems like it ought to be more identifiably related to the concept, like … stories about Loch Ness where there’s no Monster? I don’t know Greg Bear’s stuff very well, too bad since he lives somewhere around here – looking him up, wikipedia reports that he’s a theist.

    For my contribution, here’s a passage from something I was reading yesterday, John Brunner “Web of Everywhere” – the main character is cleaning up a residence where some people died violently long ago:
    He didn’t bother to rehearse any prayers as he consigned the bodies to the skelter. In Northern Europe these people would presumably have been either atheist – in which case they wouldn’t have cared – or Christian. As a moderately devout follower of the Way of Life Hans regarded Christianity with the same revulsion he felt for black magic.
    Let their evil lord claim his own.

    The “Way of Life” isn’t explored in depth, maybe something like Taoism; all we know is it’s a rejection of the god religions after things went very badly. (Post-apocalypse setting.) It’s unclear whether they believe in improbable things (i.e., it’s a real religion.) It’s unclear why people finally wised up to the unfulfilled promise of religion, instead of what seems more likely, believing even more fervently the less it pays off.

  57. M27Holts says:

    I reckon his theism is a tool to hide his non belief for commercial purposes…admitting atheism is the US of A is worse tham being a satanist to a lot of yanks…has a politician come out yet in the theocracy of america?

  58. Donn says:

    There are a few – wikipedia has a page devoted to the subject, for various countries. Likely many of them became known as such after their term of office, but there are indeed openly atheist politicians in office in the US. And a science fiction writer doesn’t need to play that game. Ever hear of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Harlan Ellison, Ursula Le Guin, Larry Niven? Bear apparently doesn’t care if he’s a freak, I think it’s fair to take him at his word – whatever it means.


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