The SETE Institute: A modest proposal
I was thinking about the suggestion in Ask the Patriarch 86 that I am being evasive when I answer "Do you believe in God" with an "I don't know if there is a god."
Why do some people think the question absolutely must be answered?
There's another question to which I honestly answer "I don't know." That is, "Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? And when that question is asked, and I admit this is something on which I find insufficient evidence on which to make a decision, no-one ever accuses me of being evasive or less than honest in my answer. Not knowing in this case is perfectly acceptable.
Admittedly there are those who are adamant that extraterrestrial intelligence exists. And there are others who are equally certain it does not. Both sides have arguments to support their position. Some of those arguments are even rational. But there is no pressure on the rest of us to take sides on the issue.
The question of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is considered open. It is also considered worthy of investigation and the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute has been set up to to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe. And it conducts its research applying the scientific method.
Given all the mutually incompatible varieties of religious belief, surely it is in the interests of all believers (as well, perhaps, in the interest of skeptics) to scientifically investigate the origin, nature and prevalence of deities in the universe. This way, perhaps, believers can protect themselves from false doctrines which would take them in the wrong direction in the afterlife - if there is such a thing.
The time has come for a SETE (Search for Evidence of a Theological Entity) Institute to apply the same rigourous scientific standards to religious belief that are being applied to the possible existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. I would not even object if some tax dollars were spent on this. The government has wasted money on worse projects.
And until the SETE Institute finds god, I am content to remain an agnostic.