Harold L Armstrong’s Argument Against Corporal Living Beings Living Outside Earth

The June 1970 edition (Vol. 7 No. 1) of the Creation Research Society Quarterly stressed cosmology.

One of journal’s contributors was Harold L. Armstrong (1921-1985). Armstrong was an early member of the Creation Research Society and a Professor of Physics at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He began the Quarterly’s first regular column, “Comments on Scientific News and Views,” in 1967. He replaced that column with the better known “Panorama of Science” column in 1973. He was elected to the Creation Research Society’s Board in 1970 and continued to serve in that capacity until his death. He also served as the third Editor of of the Quarter from June 1974 to March 1984, contributing many articles and book reviews.

Henry M. Morris, then President of the Creation Research Society, called Armstrong’s paper “an excellent article on the improbability of corporeal living beings on other planets.” The introduction to “Are There Corporeal Living Beings Outside the Earth?” gives a brief outline of its arguments:

“The question, whether there are corporeal living beings elsewhere than on the Earth, is investigated with the help of information both from observation and from Scripture. Within the solar system, the evidence from observation alone shows fairly conclusively that there is no extraterrestrial life. Beyond the solar system, observation provides little evidence one way or the other. Scripture, however, and especially certain parts dealing with concepts of the fall and redemption, provides strong evidence to show that there are no rational corporeal living beings outside the Earth. And, again on grounds of Scripture, it is suggested that if there are no rational beings, then there are likewise no irrational beings.”

The paper is actually divided into three sections of proposed evidence against extraterrestrial life, from general observations, scientific observations and Scriptural observations, respectively.

Armstrong’s General Observations Still Rely Upon an Argument from Silence.

His general observations contain the most lucid presentation of the question of extraterrestrial life as a part of the creation/evolution dichotomy that I have encountered thus far:

“It is often said that out of so many (assumed) planets around the various stars, there must be more than one with living beings. But back of this is an unproven assumption. It must be supposed, either that other planets, like the Earth, were created to be inhabited, or else that living beings will somehow “arise” wherever there are favorable, or not too unfavorable, conditions. But there seems to be no evidence in Scripture (the only possible source) for the first supposition; and observation and investigation really gives no support to the second. …[If] it came about by design, well then, in order to discuss the matter we must know what the Designer intended. And clearly a designer could do something just once, if he so chose; there was but one Parthenon.”

Of course, the flaw in his argument is that the creation of extraterrestrial life need not be recorded explicitly in the Bible in order to happen. The Bible contains the truth that “all things” were created by God, so if aliens exist, God created them. There is no explicit mention of the creation of terrestrial planets as such Mercury or Mars (including exoplanets) or microbes in the Bible either, and yet they exist.

From the Middle Ages onward, theologians began speculating about a plurality of alien worlds based as they attempted to comprehend God’s creativity, wisdom, omnipotence and wisdom in light of the expanding universe in which the Earth was no longer the physical center being revealed through telescopes.

As to the latter argument that “a designer could do something just once, if he so chose; there was but one Parthenon,” it seems rather inconsistent with God’s revealed character to make such a claim in light of the diversity and creativity we see displayed in creation. And point in fact, the Parthenon’s architects were Iktinos and Callicrates. Iktinos was also responsible for the Temple of Apollo at Bassae and the Telesterion at Eleusis. Callicrates was responsible for the Temple of Athena Nike, also on the Acropolis with the Parthenon, among other projects. My point is that designers tend not to create only one work.

Armstrong’s Scientific Observations are an Appeal to Ignorance

Armstrong’s scientific considerations amount to an appeal to ignorance. We haven’t found alien life yet, either in our own solar system or elsewhere. Since we have explored so little of the universe and haven’t even really ruled out the entirety of our solar system, such arguments can be readily ignored.

Armstrong’s Scriptural Considerations are Classic Examples of Preaching to the Choir

His Scriptural considerations are the meat of his paper:

“Those of us who believe seriously in Scripture must inquire whether there is anything there which might throw any light on the question under discussion. Some have thought that Scripture does, indeed, contain hints of living (and rational), beings on other planets.”

So far, so good.

“For instance, the “other sheep, which are not of this fold.”11 However, if the other folds are planets around other stars, it is hard to see how they and this Earth could be consolidated into “one fold.”

This argument is poorly considered. The rest of John 10:16 says that anyone who gets saved becomes a part of a single flock with a single shepherd. This is what happens spiritually but not necessarily physically. In other words, all Christians are not required to form or join a commune. When location is no longer an issue, a consolidation of Terran and extraterrestrial flocks is not difficult to comprehend in the slightest.

It seems easier, and indeed more common, to suppose that “the other sheep” were the Gentiles. Or they might have been people in the New World; or the lost tribes, in view of Ezekiel 34: 11-31, and 37:15-28.”

This is dissemblance. If extraterrestrials were discovered, we would most certainly affirm that this verse extended to them.

“There seems to be nothing in the account of Creation which tells us anything about the matter; the fact that the stars were created ‘for
signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years’ perhaps does not necessarily preclude
other uses.”

In fact, we’ve put a man on the moon and robots on both Mars and a comet. We know they are more than pretty lights by which to mark the times.

“If ‘all flesh,’ in the account of the flood means all, everywhere, there seems to be no notion of corporeal beings elsewhere than upon
the Earth.”

This is theological overreach at its worst. Creationists have long affirmed that the context of “all flesh” in these passages denoted air-breathing land animals, so there are already limitations on “all things.” Likewise, no one says that the Flood extended to the entire universe. Are we sure this article suffered peer review?

“Again, there are passages such as: ‘The heavens, even the heavens, are the Lord’s but the Earth hath He given to the children of men.'”

Psalm 155:16 neither sets man’s boundary to Earth nor sets the boundary of life to Earth.

“But it seems to be in the New Testament that we shall find most of the evidence, and it may be presented in the following formulation.
The whole universe, in some sense, needs redemption. ‘The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now.’

Moreover, this state of affairs is the result of Adam’s fall. ‘. . . by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” (In the Greek, “world” is “cosmos”).”

Not all of creation requires spiritual redemption. Plants and animals suffer, degenerate, decay, and die. They do not need their souls saved despite the fact that they regularly kill other organisms. They do what they do as the result of the Fall. But no theologian would argue that they need to repent and accept Christ as their Savior. Only members of Adam’s bloodline require spiritual redemption.

We see then that there are universal effects of the Fall and what we might call sanguine effects of the Fall that only apply to Adam’s bloodline. Whether aliens require spiritual redemption is predicated whether they fell, either on their own terms or by having Adam’s fallen nature imputed to them even though they are not part of his bloodline.

“Now if the universe was made for Adam andhis descendants, such a state of affairs can be understood; but if there be, on other planets, other races of beings, who never had anything to do with Adam, it is hard to see how his fall would have affected them. “And if not them, surely not the whole universe, in which they would presumably have as much of a share as we.

It’s hard to see? Then let me enlighten you. This is an argument from personal incredulity supported by a false appeal to equality. They don’t have as much share as we. Adam was given dominion over all creation. A king and his kingdom are not equals. When a king falls, his entire kingdom is effected. A poor decision of state can lead to war, famine, etc.

He then tries to eliminate the idea of unfallen aliens.

“But it is also hard to believe that there is, somewhere, a race which, never having had anything to do with Adam, has not fallen. This situation was suggested, I do not know how seriously, in stories by C. S. Lewis.) But “the whole creation groaneth,” and “. . . there is none righteous: no, not one.“ So if there are any rational beings elsewhere in the universe,
they need salvation, even as we do.”

The context of his quotation, “there is none righteous; (Psalm 14:3; 53:3. cp. Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:20) is that God looked down from heaven upon the children of men (bene adam) and saw this state of affairs. So the context is Adam and his bloodline. This means that Armstrong failed to establish that all extraterrestrials must needs be sinners.

In his next section, “Importance of Salvation on Earth,” he goes over some of the more common geocentric Gospel objections to intelligent alien life.

“Now any salvation must be through the Son, for “there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved,“ and “. . . it pleased the Father . . . by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself . . .” Moreover, it was through His death, for “. . . without shedding of blood is no remission. . .“ However, the Son did not shed His blood on each of untold myriads of planets, for “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many,” and “. . . Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once. . .”
If, on the other hand, there should be any fallen beings somewhere on other planets, it does not seem that God would just leave them utterly to their doom, for He is “. . . not willing that any should perish. . .”; rather His purpose is that “. . . He might gather together in one all things in Christ. . .” So rational beings outside the Earth, if therebe any, are to be redeemed (some of them, anyway), and redeemed through Christ’s sacrifice here on Earth, at Calvary. But that would seem strange. It seems to be considered fitting that the redemption be by One Who, in the human sense, was descended from Adam. “. . . since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection from the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Also, it seems to be important that the Son, in His incarnation, was “. . . made of a woman, made under the law. . .“

In the light of all this, the most likely conclusion from Scripture seems to be that there are no rational (corporeal) beings outside the Earth.”

We note that he ignores the fact that he proposes that aliens fell through Adam’s sin, that their fallen nature was imputed to them apart from being a part of Adam’s physical bloodline. If the fallen nature of the First Adam can be imputed to them apart from his bloodline then salvation by grace through faith in the Last Adam can likewise be imputed to them. All that would be required is special revelation, and God is more than capable in this area.

None of this requires Christ to be born, sacrificed and resurrected on another planet.

Oblivious to the fact he has not actually ruled out the existence of rational, corporeal beings from another planet, he attempts to go a step further to rule out all extraterrestrial life.

“In that case, we might venture to suggest that there are not many irrational beings. For it seems to have been Gods purpose to put rational beings in charge of His Creation, to “. . . have dominion . . . over every living thing that moveth. . .” This argument might, perhaps, not exclude a few bacteria or lichens. It may be that, on questions of this sort, we can reach only probable conclusions.”

You see how he dissembles on that argument, realizing that he is likely committing overreach.

Harold Armstrong and the UFO Phenomenon

He then turns his attention to the UFO phenomenon:

“It may be proposed that there must be rational corporeal living beings somewhere outside the Earth, for they have visited us, e.g. in flying saucers better called “unidentified flying objects” or simply UFO’s. However, the evidence for UFO’s is certainly not conclusive.”

I will grant him that.

“Even if it be granted that UFO’s are real, it does not necessarily follow that they have come from outside our Earth. It is difficult to imagine a technically advanced race living on any of the other planets of the solar system.

As for other planets, if there be any suitable ones, belonging to other stars, the problem of getting here from such distances would surely be very great. So the reality or otherwise of the UFO’s has no necessary bearing on the question under consideration.”

OK, so he notes that they could be terrestrial UFOs. He does not specify whether he believes this means they are man-made or from cryptoterrestrials; however, given his conclusion, it seems unlikely that he considers the latter. Essentially then, he suggests that it is conclusive that if UFOs exist, they’re all man-made.

After this brief comment, Armstrong summarizes his points:

“In final conclusion, then, it may be said that such evidence as may be obtained, 1. from general considerations, 2. from scientific observations, and 3. from Scriptural considerations are against the existence of rational corporeal living beings outside the Earth.”

We are forced to disagree. His general considerations amount to an argument from silence. His scientific considerations are an argument from ignorance. His Scriptural considerations are based on various logical fallacies as well. The question of rational corporeal living beings remains very much open

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