In a new blog post, Galileo Project founder and UFO hunter Avi Loeb went further down the path of spirituality, openly comparing his search for alien life to the Torah and arguing that the true purpose of science, like that of religion, is to be humbled and awed by powers greater than oneself. The post comes just days after Loeb revealed that the head of the Pentagon’s UFO program arrived at Loeb’s Massachusetts home and personally suggested that the government wanted him to look into faulty claims of UFO sightings in Ukraine. Yes, the government is once again patronizing ufologists with spiritual ideas about quasi-divine aliens. That always goes well.
Loeb, an ersatz philosopher overly enamored of existentialism, begins by laying out his premise that spirituality is individual while science is collective:
Whereas the spiritual experience is fresh and unique to an individual, the scientific experience is universally shared by all scientists once discovered. The dialogue with God is an “I and Thou” experience, unique to the individual, in Martin Buber’s existential philosophy. The bending of light by clusters of galaxies implies the presence of dark matter to all scientists who adopt Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity.
Loeb unconsciously adopts a particularly modern view of spirituality, one usually associated with Protestantism and the New Age in the West. Spirituality was traditionally a collective experience mediated through ritual and community, both in its pagan and Catholic forms, before Protestantism argued for a direct relationship between each human and God.
Another difference involves the nature of evidence. In science, reliable evidence must be quantitative, reproducible and collected by instruments which are fully calibrated and under control. However, spirituality revolves around the human experience and does not rely on instrumentation as the mediator of revelations.
Again, Loeb adopts a rather modern definition of spirituality. Traditional faiths drew direct lines of evidence between relics, artifacts, signs, and wonders and the divine forces they proved. Whether these were the bones of Greek heroes, the foreskin of Jesus, miraculous healings, demonic possession, or the monstrous or wondrous births, these were the “evidence” of faith, measured by the best science of its time. That such wonders faded before better instruments doesn’t negate that they were once considered verifiable evidence of faith.
Loeb then discusses a rabbi’s Yom Kippur essay celebrating Loeb’s extraterrestrial and existentialist musings as a reflection of eternal divine truths. This leads Loeb to hammer home his recurring theme, that humans are inferior, arrogant sinners who need guidance from above:
What unifies spirituality and our scientific study of the Universe is a sense of awe and humility. No, we are not at the center of the stage and we arrived to the cosmic play after 13.8 billion years, so how can we imagine that the play is about us? Indeed, the Earth-Sun system is not unique or privileged. But many of us still insist on owning the last territory on which our ownership was not disputed as of yet: “Yes, we are the only sentient beings in the Universe.”
He no longer bothers to hide the tacit equation he has frequently made between A.I. and E.T. on one hand and God and the angels on the other. He has dressed up old Abrahamic ideas about humility and prostration before God in technological guise and sought ways to ritualize his philosophy of self-abnegation by displacing a God he seemingly does not believe in with beneficent, all-powerful aliens and A.I. that he believes “will serve as our tutor, bringing the next Copernican revolution.”
But there is no guarantee aliens will be benevolent, or that A.I. will be moral. When these technological powers order some future Abraham to sacrifice his son, can we trust that these alien intelligences will stay his hand? Loeb is sure they will. I’m not so certain.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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