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Aliens as missionaries

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.
Steve3007
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Aliens as missionaries

Post by Steve3007 » November 22nd, 2018, 9:59 am

I find this story fascinating:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/ ... lare-jesus

A Christian missionary visits an isolated tribe who have lived, almost completely independently from the outside world, for possibly thousands of years. Most visitors to their island are met with arrows. This missionary was no exception, but he was determined to bring to them what he clearly thought was an essential message about Jesus, even if it meant his own death. And it did. They shot him dead.

I wonder if there's a chance that a future alien signal detected by SETI, or an actual alien visit, might be motivated by the desire to spread their own version of "the good news" in a similar way, and I wonder if we'll shoot them with arrows.

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Re: Aliens as missionaries

Post by Eduk » November 22nd, 2018, 12:39 pm

I thought that was a fascinating story too. Certainly I have heard of these 'lost' tribes in various areas on the earth but I must admit that if I stumbled upon one I would find it quite surreal to be shot by arrows (well perhaps not in the moment, I would be more likely to be quite petrified but you get my point). It's like I technically know it's real but I don't really believe it.
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Re: Aliens as missionaries

Post by Steve3007 » November 22nd, 2018, 12:52 pm

Yes, I like the story of how they apparently shot arrows at helicopters. All we need now is for an extremely valuable mineral to be found on the island, for them to paint themselves blue, and we've got a real life Avatar.

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Re: Aliens as missionaries

Post by Belindi » November 22nd, 2018, 6:43 pm

The dead missionary's relatives are reported as having forgiven the killers. It's relatively simple to forgive people who may be viewed as a force of nature.

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Re: Aliens as missionaries

Post by Alias » November 22nd, 2018, 11:21 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
November 22nd, 2018, 9:59 am
I find this story fascinating:
A Christian missionary visits an isolated tribe who have lived, almost completely independently from the outside world, for possibly thousands of years. Most visitors to their island are met with arrows.
The idjit knows this: he is NOT WANTED - and goes there anyway. Gets away with it once and does it again. Insists on martyrdom. I'm not even sure his god can overlook this much hubris.
I wonder if there's a chance that a future alien signal detected by SETI, or an actual alien visit, might be motivated by the desire to spread their own version of "the good news" in a similar way, and I wonder if we'll shoot them with arrows.
Why should people with space travel capabilty be as stupid as that missionary?
If they come, they won't come in a canoe; they'll come in fully shielded, maybe cloaked, craft with remote weapons-locating-and-disarming equipment.

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Re: Aliens as missionaries

Post by Greta » November 23rd, 2018, 2:31 am

Yes, that's fascinating. I love these plucky people! A happier ending would have the missionary leaving chastened rather than killed but who can blame them?

The tribespeople must have observed what happens when the "machine people" take over a place. They kill, enslave and impoverish the people and take the land of their ancestors and destroy their remains. The Sentinelese are clearly highly aware of their imperilled situation. They are making this final brave stand against the invasive tide of humanity.

Yes Steve, we would no doubt shoot at the aliens, complaining how they have no right to interfere with Earthling worship etc. The fake news crowd would chime in and sully them with wild rumours. Then NASA managers would claim an alien had been caught sharing a joint with Elon Musk and are thus they are too unreliable and naughty to believe.

If aliens are out there, they would surely not bother making overt contact because we are not mature enough to deal with it, just as we are perhaps not mature enough to leave relative wildernesses in peace.

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Re: Aliens as missionaries

Post by LuckyR » November 23rd, 2018, 3:08 am

Of course it is possible it could happen like that, but if a people can tackle interstellar travel yet still be stuck worshipping cloud fairies, that just seems too weird.
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Re: Aliens as missionaries

Post by Steve3007 » November 23rd, 2018, 7:48 am

Belindi wrote:The dead missionary's relatives are reported as having forgiven the killers. It's relatively simple to forgive people who may be viewed as a force of nature.
I think this is one of the interesting philosophical issues that the story touches on: questions of moral relativism, the extent to which moral codes are specific to a particular culture and the extent to which moral responsibility is assigned.

If we really do view a tribe like this as a "force of nature" then we are effectively placing their actions in the same category that we would normally place the actions of tigers or earthquakes. But, unlike with tigers or earthquakes, we often tend to refrain from passing moral judgement on these people's actions not because we think them amoral (like tigers and earthquakes) but because we consider whatever moral codes they might live by to be their own business. Their island. Their rules.
Alias wrote:The idjit knows this: he is NOT WANTED - and goes there anyway. Gets away with it once and does it again. Insists on martyrdom. I'm not even sure his god can overlook this much hubris.
If he absolutely believes, without question, that he has a moral duty to bring the good news about Jesus to peoples who haven't yet heard it, and that not doing so would leave these people at a great disadvantage, should we judge him negatively for that?
Why should people with space travel capabilty be as stupid as that missionary?
If they come, they won't come in a canoe; they'll come in fully shielded, maybe cloaked, craft with remote weapons-locating-and-disarming equipment.
The man himself may have come in a canoe, but he came from a society whose technological level, compared to that of the islanders, is perhaps analogous to that of aliens visiting us. I presume they shot arrows at helicopters because arrows are all they have and, never having experienced any such thing, they would genuinely not know what it is or how to deal with it.

Maybe some lone alien, driven by his culture's equivalent of religious zeal, might strike out in the space-faring equivalent of a canoe? Maybe, as in this case, he/she/it would be violating some kind of non-interference rule but would see him/her/itself as following a higher calling.
Greta wrote:Yes, that's fascinating. I love these plucky people! A happier ending would have the missionary leaving chastened rather than killed but who can blame them?
It's difficult to see how anyone other than their own moral arbiters could blame them.
The tribespeople must have observed what happens when the "machine people" take over a place. They kill, enslave and impoverish the people and take the land of their ancestors and destroy their remains. The Sentinelese are clearly highly aware of their imperilled situation. They are making this final brave stand against the invasive tide of humanity.
Yes. In a way, I wish I'd never seen Avatar, because its obvious heavy-handed allegory keeps coming back to mind!
Yes Steve, we would no doubt shoot at the aliens, complaining how they have no right to interfere with Earthling worship etc. The fake news crowd would chime in and sully them with wild rumours. Then NASA managers would claim an alien had been caught sharing a joint with Elon Musk and are thus they are too unreliable and naughty to believe.

If aliens are out there, they would surely not bother making overt contact because we are not mature enough to deal with it, just as we are perhaps not mature enough to leave relative wildernesses in peace.
Maybe. I was interested in the report that nobody outside the tribe can understand their language - not even people from similar tribes nearby. The missionary bloke apparently tried to echo their word-sounds back to them as a form of greeting. (They apparently laughed.) This is what it is often proposed we would have to do if we received an alien signal. Bounce it back as a way of saying "we heard you".
LuckyR wrote:Of course it is possible it could happen like that, but if a people can tackle interstellar travel yet still be stuck worshipping cloud fairies, that just seems too weird.
It doesn't seem particularly weird to me. We've started to tackle interplanetary (and limited interstellar) travel, but we still have religions.

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Re: Aliens as missionaries

Post by Eduk » November 23rd, 2018, 8:01 am

Of course it is possible it could happen like that, but if a people can tackle interstellar travel yet still be stuck worshipping cloud fairies, that just seems too weird.
Doesn't seem weird at all to me.
If we really do view a tribe like this as a "force of nature" then we are effectively placing their actions in the same category that we would normally place the actions of tigers or earthquakes.
The argument presented by the BBC (so probably wrong in some way) was that being exposed to modern pathogens would likely wipe the tribe from the face of the earth. In this way there is little we could do as imprisonment for crimes would basically be the same as the death penalty.
Also if you view their territory as sovereign then it's hard to argue against their 'rules'. I wouldn't do with the North Koreans would do but I'm not in a position to imprison their leadership.
If he absolutely believes, without question, that he has a moral duty to bring the good news about Jesus to peoples who haven't yet heard it, and that not doing so would leave these people at a great disadvantage, should we judge him negatively for that?
Yes because believing things without sufficient evidence is morally wrong.
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Re: Aliens as missionaries

Post by Steve3007 » November 23rd, 2018, 9:47 am

Eduk wrote:Also if you view their territory as sovereign then it's hard to argue against their 'rules'. I wouldn't do with the North Koreans would do but I'm not in a position to imprison their leadership.
But, in the case of North Korea, even though we're not in a position to imprison their leadership, we do generally feel free to pass moral judgement on them don't we? We hear stories of concentration camps in which three generations of an entire family can be imprisoned and abused because one member of that family spoke out against the government, and we condemn it.

Why do we consider that to be different from a small isolated tribe like the Sentinelese? Is it simply the size of the society? Or is it that we think the (reported) actions of the North Korean government contravene some underling moral principle which we regard as universal which we don't think the killing of visitors with bows and arrows by the Sentinelese contravenes?

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Re: Aliens as missionaries

Post by Eduk » November 23rd, 2018, 11:12 am

Why do we consider that to be different from a small isolated tribe like the Sentinelese? Is it simply the size of the society? Or is it that we think the (reported) actions of the North Korean government contravene some underling moral principle which we regard as universal which we don't think the killing of visitors with bows and arrows by the Sentinelese contravenes?
Yes good point. I guess I personally consider such a tribe to be so handicapped as to not deserve the same moral judgement I might express towards N Korea leadership.
Besides their shooting this guy wasn't totally unreasonable as it is illegal for this person to approach them (for his and their protection). They possibly don't know this, but maybe they do?
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Re: Aliens as missionaries

Post by Alias » November 23rd, 2018, 11:17 am

Steve3007 wrote:
November 23rd, 2018, 7:48 am
[The idjit knows this: he is NOT WANTED - and goes there anyway. ]

If he absolutely believes, without question, that he has a moral duty to bring the good news about Jesus to peoples who haven't yet heard it, and that not doing so would leave these people at a great disadvantage, should we judge him negatively for that?
Of course we should. He failed; had good reason to expect to fail, so he committed suicide, upon which his god is said to frown.
He was too deluded to live. If he hadn't done this, he's have walked off a skyscraper believing he could fly... or something. Let's just hope he didn't multiply before he was returned to sender.
[Why should people with space travel capability be as stupid as that missionary?]
The man himself may have come in a canoe, but he came from a society whose technological level, compared to that of the islanders, is perhaps analogous to that of aliens visiting us. I presume they shot arrows at helicopters because arrows are all they have and, never having experienced any such thing, they would genuinely not know what it is or how to deal with it.
And we would shoot missiles at spaceships. Whether the aliens would then shrug and go away or retaliate and phaser us back to the stone age, we have no way to predict.
Maybe some lone alien, driven by his culture's equivalent of religious zeal, might strike out in the space-faring equivalent of a canoe? Maybe, as in this case, he/she/it would be violating some kind of non-interference rule but would see him/her/itself as following a higher calling.
Then he/she/it dies. Let's hope he/she/it hadn't passed his/her/its compulsion on to any little aliens.

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Re: Aliens as missionaries

Post by Greta » November 23rd, 2018, 4:35 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
November 23rd, 2018, 7:48 am
The tribespeople must have observed what happens when the "machine people" take over a place. They kill, enslave and impoverish the people and take the land of their ancestors and destroy their remains. The Sentinelese are clearly highly aware of their imperilled situation. They are making this final brave stand against the invasive tide of humanity.
Yes. In a way, I wish I'd never seen Avatar, because its obvious heavy-handed allegory keeps coming back to mind!
Well, thanks very much. I had not thought about Avatar until now :)

These guys had better hope someone doesn't find valuable materials under their island or it's game over.
Steve3007 wrote:
November 23rd, 2018, 7:48 am
Yes Steve, we would no doubt shoot at the aliens, complaining how they have no right to interfere with Earthling worship etc. The fake news crowd would chime in and sully them with wild rumours. Then NASA managers would claim an alien had been caught sharing a joint with Elon Musk and are thus they are too unreliable and naughty to believe.

If aliens are out there, they would surely not bother making overt contact because we are not mature enough to deal with it, just as we are perhaps not mature enough to leave relative wildernesses in peace.
Maybe. I was interested in the report that nobody outside the tribe can understand their language - not even people from similar tribes nearby. The missionary bloke apparently tried to echo their word-sounds back to them as a form of greeting. (They apparently laughed.) This is what it is often proposed we would have to do if we received an alien signal. Bounce it back as a way of saying "we heard you".
Given our inability to get along with our neighbours, the chances of a sensible global response to aliens is minimal. If we can't decipher the language of a simple tribe, what hope will we have of understanding hyper advanced aliens? If we see a craft coming towards us and we can't effectively communicate with it, the response will be obvious, especially if there's a Red POTUS.
Steve3007 wrote:
November 23rd, 2018, 7:48 am
LuckyR wrote:Of course it is possible it could happen like that, but if a people can tackle interstellar travel yet still be stuck worshipping cloud fairies, that just seems too weird.
It doesn't seem particularly weird to me. We've started to tackle interplanetary (and limited interstellar) travel, but we still have religions.
Ha! The gulf between our "interstellar travel" (two probes abandoned before they even reach the Oort Cloud and the controlled visitation of other worlds by sentient agents is surely greater than that between the developed world and the Sentinelese.

There's plenty of time to drop off religion like a vestigial tail by the time our cyborgs or sentient AI start regular trips around the local galactic region, if we last long enough to develop to that extent, of course.

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Re: Aliens as missionaries

Post by Belindi » November 23rd, 2018, 5:06 pm

Steve wrote:
Belindi wrote:
The dead missionary's relatives are reported as having forgiven the killers. It's relatively simple to forgive people who may be viewed as a force of nature.
I think this is one of the interesting philosophical issues that the story touches on: questions of moral relativism, the extent to which moral codes are specific to a particular culture and the extent to which moral responsibility is assigned.

If we really do view a tribe like this as a "force of nature" then we are effectively placing their actions in the same category that we would normally place the actions of tigers or earthquakes. But, unlike with tigers or earthquakes, we often tend to refrain from passing moral judgement on these people's actions not because we think them amoral (like tigers and earthquakes) but because we consider whatever moral codes they might live by to be their own business. Their island. Their rules.
I agree Steve. However not only what you said ("Their island. Their rules") but also that each and every society has its moral code that is peculiar to itself. The 'inbuiltness' of a moral code in each and every society is the force of nature that I had in mind. Peoples are unlike tigers and earthquakes in that their moral cultures more than any other attribute define them as peoples. So the missionary was killed not so much by individuals but by a moral culture.

By contrast with the people of North Sentinel Island, Daesh is an evil culture because oppression is its moral code.I think there is a principle here, it's not killing that's evil, it's oppressive ideologies where the evil is.

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Re: Aliens as missionaries

Post by ktz » November 25th, 2018, 2:23 am

Viewing this episode from the context of a readthrough of Guns, Germs and Steel, I'd imagine that you don't get a culture of shoot-on-sight without some sort of terrible occurrence in the past being passed down through their culture. I imagine the Sentinelese, with an estimate of their culture's longevity on Wikipedia being placed at 55000 years, probably fought off their share of Maori and Cortez/Pizarro-like invaders in their time.

With regards to alien missionaries, I think you could make the case in our vulnerable position as a single-planet species to adopt a Sentinelese attitude towards contact. I'm reminded of a story someone posted on Reddit -- what if the first message we receive from aliens is, "BE QUIET OR THEY WILL HEAR YOU"?
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