Extraterrestrials invade Notre Dame: The truth is out therein the library
ljk4 at msn.com
Thu Aug 21 22:52:27 EDT 2008
Extraterrestrials invade Notre Dame: The truth is out there
in the library
By: Michael O. Garvey
Date: August 20, 2008
On March 13, 1997, thousands of people in Arizona, Nevada and the Mexican
state of Sonora reported the appearance of strangely mobile luminescent
formations in the night skies.
Among the witnesses of what soon became known as the Phoenix Lights was
Arizonas governor, Fife Symington, who first ridiculed the credulity of the
predictably ensuing throngs of UFO advocatesduring a news conference at
which he stood beside an aide dressed in an ET costumebut later admitted
that he had, in fact, seen something he thought otherwise inexplicable,
observing to a reporter that the universe is a big place. Were conceited
to think were alone.
Alone or not, we may be forgiven at least a degree of chariness when invited
to consider The X Files as anything more than light entertainment.
Nevertheless, the loony vulgarity of contemporary obsession with
extraterrestrial life can obscure the fact that this is an ancient and
respectable speculation which has interested even greater and perhaps less
credulous thinkers than Gov. Symington for more than two millennia.
Michael Crowe puts it wryly and arrestingly in the preface to his book The
Extraterrestrial Life Debate, Antiquity to 1915: A Source Book, which
recently was published by the University of Notre Dame Press.
Although making no claims about whether or not extraterrestrials exist, he
writes, I shall cite evidence to show that they have long since invaded and
that their effects can be uncovered by historical research.
Crowe, Notre Dames Rev. John J. Cavanaugh Professor Emeritus in Humanities
in the Program of Liberal Studies, is not talking about crop circles and
flying saucer wreckage in the New Mexican desert. He is talking about the
writings of Aristotle, Lucretius, St. Thomas Aquinas, Galileo, Kepler,
Pascal, Newton, Voltaire, Kant, Darwin, and Dostoevsky, to name only a few.
In fact, Crowe argues that the debate over extraterrestrial life is evident
throughout Western history and has involved half its most celebrated
intellectuals. In other words, already in the premodern period
extraterrestrials had made their entrance into terrestrial thought.
One fascinating conclusion Crowe draws from his research regards the 16th
century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, whom he holds responsible for the
extraterrestrial invasion of the modern era. It was the Copernican
displacement of the Earth from the center of the universe which unwittingly
opened the door an inch and allowed moderns to imagine a plurality of
To put the point differently, Crowe writes, the celibate canon of the
cathedral in Frauenberg acted in a manner that has left him open to the
charge that he is the father, or at least the grandfather, of Darth Vader,
ET, Alf, Mork and the whole tribe of extraterrestrials we know so well.
One early and enthusiastic reviewer of Crowes book was Steven J. Dick,
director of NASAs history vision, who praised the book for its arrangement
of material not available anywhere else. . . . Crowes purpose is to let
the reader see the original words of the authors who discussed other worlds.
. . . Such a source book serves an important purpose, and is ideal for
teaching and generating discussion in class. The subject is of increasing
importance as we find more and more about the possibilities of
extraterrestrial life through current disciplines such as astrobiology,
bioastronomy, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).
Indeed, Crowe will be using his new book to teach and generate discussion in
the University Seminar course he teaches each fall, The Extraterrestrial
Life Debate: A Historical Perspective.
One of my goals in the course is to present the students with the history
and present state of one of the great questions we have faced for 25
centuries and that continues to challenge us, Crowe says. I also hope
that the students will come to see an approach to this question very
different from what sometimes appears in the media, which at times tends to
treat this serious topic in a sensationalist manner.
In other words, I hope the students will see that science and scientific
method, good, careful scholarship and thought in a variety of disciplines,
can provide significant insights into this very complex topic. In fact, I
hope they will come to realize that this is true in regard to many other
issues, including those that the public learns about chiefly from
entertainment TV and popular journals.
Who knew those little green men were so erudite?
Contact: Michael Crowe at 574-631-6212 or Crowe.1 at nd.edu
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