Search of life on other planets somehow doesn’t meet, at first sight, with belief in the highest force, in God at all. And still many theologians have already opened hearts for perhaps existing aliens, the writer Brandon Ambrozino claims. In 2014 NASA has transferred 1,1 million dollars to the Center of theological researches, ecumenical research institute to New Jersey that that has studied “sotsiyetalny consequences of astrobiology”.
Some have been angered. The Freedom from Religion fund which calls for division of church and state, has threatened to file a lawsuit against NASA if the agency doesn’t withdraw a grant, and the agency, obviously, hasn’t reacted to these threats. And though the fund claims that their concern has been caused by mixture of the state and religious organizations, he has let know that he considered this grant waste of money.
“The science shouldn’t worry about how her progress will affect religious beliefs”.
The argument of fund, however, can come to naught when day when the mankind has to react to detection of aliens comes. Such opening will bring up a number of questions, going beyond science. For example, when we ask “what is life?”, we ask a scientific question or theological? Questions of an origin of life and its future very difficult also have to be studied in various disciplines. And here how we should react to detection of aliens enters.
And it is not just idle imagination: many scientists claim that detection of extraterrestrial life more a question not if and when.
There are several reasons to believe so, but main of them are related to the speed with which scientists discover planets outside our Solar system. In 2000 astronomers knew about 50 such exoplanets. By their 2013 already was 850, located in 800 planetary systems. This number can reach one million by 2045, David Vayntraub, the associate professor of astronomy at University Vanderbilta says.
“We quite reasonably can expect that the number of the known exoplanets soon will become, as well as stars, absolutely infinite”, he writes. From such discoveries made at the moment more than 20 exoplanets are located in “potentially manned zone” near the star and are similar in properties to Earth. Among such planets — well-known Proxima of b near Proxima of the Centaur.
It turns out that the further in space we can glance, the more at us appears confidence that our planet — not the only suitable place for life.
Behind some exceptions, the majority of discussions on search of extraterrestrial mind (SETI), as a rule, remain in the field of the exact sciences. But consequences of such search are beyond far biology and physics, reach the humanities and philosophy and even theology. As Karl Sagan noted, “space exploration leads directly to religious and philosophical questions”. We need to consider a question whether our belief, our religious beliefs will be able, to adapt to these beings — or our beliefs will be shocked to the core.
Before you skeptically twist lips, remember and take for granted that religions of various people are still driving forces in our world, whether it be the world or war, large or small cells of society, certain people or the whole countries.
Development of these questions can become “ekzoteologiya” or “astrotheology” as they are called by Ted Peters, honored professor of theology in the Pacific Lutheran theological seminary, reflecting on theological value of extraterrestrial life. Peters not only uses this term — 300 years ago he has for the first time appeared in work of 1714 under the name “Astrotheology, or Demonstration of Life and Attributes of God from Observations of Heaven”.
As far as we are unique?
What problems detection of reasonable aliens can lift? Let’s begin with questions of our uniqueness — a question which disturbs both theologians, and scientists. Search of extraterrestrial life is based on three principles as Paul Davies in the book “Whether We Are Lonely?” considers. First, it is the principle of uniformity of the nature which claims that the physical processes proceeding on Earth can be found everywhere in the Universe. That is the same processes which have given rise to life can happen everywhere.
Secondly, it is the principle of completeness which claims that everything that is possible, will be realized. For SETI the second principle claims that there are no obstacles for formation of life yet, it will be formed; or, as Arthur Lovejoy, the American philosopher who has invented this term spoke, “no original opportunity can be to remain not executed”. According to Sagan, it because “the life origin on suitable planets seems built in Universe chemistry”.
The third, the principle of mediocrity, claims that there is nothing special in the status of Earth or in her situation in the Universe. It can represent the greatest problem for the main Abrahamic religions which learn that people are purposefully created by God and hold a privileged position in relation to other beings.
Somewhat our modern scientific world has been created by recognition of our own mediocrity as David Vayntraub notes.
“When in 1543 Copernicus has thrown Earth into an orbit around the Sun, the subsequent intellectual revolution […] dared the remains of the Aristotelean geocentric Universe in a history ballot box”.
Copernicus’s revolution has laid the foundation for scientists like Davies who claim that ours “the typical planet is near a typical star in a typical galaxy”. Sagan emphasizes it even stronger: “We find out that we live on an insignificant planetka at the boring star lost in the galaxy hidden in some forgotten corner of the Universe in which there are much more galaxies, than people”.
But how the believer could reconcile it with belief that people are a masterpiece of God? How people can believe that they apple in the creator eye if their planet only one of billions?
Opening of reasonable aliens can render similar effect on Copernican self-understanding of the person. Whether will lead such opening to the fact that believers will feel the insignificance, and, as a result, will force people to doubt their belief?
Most likely, this fear is wrong. The statement that God participates in life of people, never demanded zemletsentrichny theology. Psalms, sacred for Jews and Christians, claim that God has named all stars. According to the Talmud, God flies for night of 18 000 worlds. And Islam insists that “everything that in heaven and on Earth”, belongs to Allah as it is told in the Koran that means that his rules extend far away from one tiny planet. The same texts opaquely let know that people have special value for God who, generally, is busy with many things.
Secondly, we don’t leave the word “special” only for not repeated, unique, separate phenomena. As Peters speaks, opening of life somewhere else in the Universe won’t compromise love of God to mortal life, “as the love of parents to the child won’t be underestimated because of the birth to this child of the brother or the sister”. If you believe in God why to consider that he is capable to love the only several star children?
Whether mention religious texts possible alien life? “That the main in religions”, the Catholic priest and the theologian Thomas O’Meara, “so writes this adoption of a certain contact inside and still outside human nature”. For Jews, Christians and Muslims it assumes a written revelation, though depends on concrete historical situations in which it occurred initially. The best theologians recognize these restrictions. Some of them, nevertheless, don’t recognize, and for them, along with similar him believers, opening of aliens can be disturbing.
Вайнтрауб considers that evangelists can have problems with search of extraterrestrial life as they follow the Writing with high degree of literalism. Their hermeneutical heritage leaves to Sola Scriptura of Luther, the Reformation war-call which confirms that “only the Writing” is necessary for God’s understanding of the plan of rescue. The evangelist Bill Graham who in 1976 has told National Enquirer that “firmly” believes that God has created alien life “far in space” will be a noticeable exception here. These believers claim that any other written work or the idea has to be estimated and have legal proceedings according to the Bible. Let’s take, for example, the theory of evolution of Darwin which some evangelists reject on the ground that according to the Bible God has created the world in seven days.
If you have asked one of such Christians whether he trusts in alien life, he first of all would try to remember that the Bible speaks about the God’s creation. Without having found any confirmation of alien life, he could conclude that people are lonely in the Universe. For some it follows from this that the Writing says that there is no intelligent life any more anywhere. Of course, he at the same time can remain open for detection of alien life, but he should reconsider a divine revelation not in the most convenient way: to release him with some epistemichesky humility.
Secondly, he will deeply think of the concept of the Embodiment according to which God completely and it is unique is embodied in the person from the first century by the name of Jesus from Nazareth. According to Christianity, rescue can be reached only by death and Jesus’s revival. All ways conduct to God and, in effect, pass through him. But what does it mean for other civilizations living somewhere else in the Universe and not suspecting about Jesus’s history at all?
Thomas Paine has brought up this question in the work of 1794, arguing on the multiple worlds. Belief in an infinite set of the worlds, Paine claimed, “does Christian system of belief at the same time small and ridiculous and disseminates it in mind as feathers in air”. It is impossible to confirm both at the same time, he wrote, and “the one who considers that he trusts both in that and in another, believes a little in both”. Unless it isn’t absurd to believe that God “has to give up care of all others” in the worlds which he has created to come and die in it? On the other hand, whether “is assumed we that each world in uncountable creation” has own versions of visits of God? If it is the truth, Paine draws a conclusion, then this person “won’t remain nothing else except how to travel from the world to the world in infinite turns of death with fleeting intervals of life”.
Briefly: if Christian rescue is possible only beings whose worlds have tested God’s embodiment, then it means that God’s life is spent for visit of a set of the worlds in space where he is quickly crucified and has revived. But it seems extremely absurd to Paine why he also rejects Christianity.
There is also other way to consider this question which hasn’t come to mind to Paine: perhaps, God’s embodiment in the history of Earth “works” for all beings in the Universe. This option is offered by George Koyn, the priest Jesuit and the former director of the Vatican observatory.
“How he could be a God and to leave aliens in the sins? God has chosen very specific way to wash away guilt of people. He has sent the only Son Jesus to them. Whether God for aliens has made it? It is deeply put in Christian divinity … a concept of God’s universality of atonement and even a concept of the fact that all creation, even inanimate, takes part somewhat in his atonement”.
There is also other opportunity. Rescue in itself can be exclusively terrestrial concept. The divinity doesn’t demand that we believed that the sin mentions all intelligent life in all Universe. Perhaps, people are exclusively nasty. Or, speaking to religious language, perhaps, Earth wasn’t lucky to become the only place where there were Adam and Eve. Who has told that our star fellows it is moral have fallen and need spiritual atonement? Perhaps, they have reached more perfect spiritual existence, than we have at the moment in our development.
As Davies notes, the spiritual thinking demands from animals to be at the same time self-conscious and “to reach I.Q. in case of which they can estimate consequences of the actions”. On Earth this type of knowledge exists at best several million years. If life exists in other place in the Universe, then it is very improbable that it is in the same stage of development, as we. And considering a huge interval of time of existence of the Universe probably that a part of other life is much more senior than us and is further on the evolutionary way. Thus, “we could expect that we are the least spiritually developed in the Universe”.
If Davies is right, then, unlike popular literary works, people won’t teach the star fellows about God. Training will proceed absolutely in a different way. Besides, other civilizations could understand Divine uncountable number of other methods, and all of them could be compatible.
But how about separation between faiths? How opening of aliens could affect a religious indentichnost? In the history of Philip Klass, “On Venus we have a rabbi”, at some point in the future the Jewish community on the planet Venus holds the first interstellar neozionist conference. Among attendees — a reasonable type of aliens by name “potatoes” who arrived from a far star of Riegel. Jews at a conference are puzzled with a physical type “бульб”, their gray spots and feelers. They decide that the potatoes can’t be people, so can’t be Jews.
It is decided to address rabbinic court to decide how Jews shall treat new visitors. What will be, they ask if once people find aliens who want to be Jews? Whether “We will tell: no, it is absolutely unacceptable?”
Rabbis draw a conclusion that this answer isn’t really good and propose to venerianets the paradoxical solution. “Here Jews — and here Jews. Potatoes will belong to the second group”.
The farce of this story amplifies the fact that we recognize that a certain tribalism is inherent in religion. The statement for any identity, accessory, can divide the world into groups: they and we. But with the participation of religion this separation happens in space measurement: we and they, and God on our party.
Perhaps, it is more complex challenge for Judaism and Islam, than for some forms of Christianity which pay less attention to daily rituals, than other religions. Islam demands from the adherents to follow certain standards of behavior during the whole year. During prayers it is necessary to look in the direction of Mecca and to pray five times in certain time during the day, physically kneeling down and biting the dust. In many religions the post and a pilgrimage to certain places is observed. But unlike Islam, the modern Judaism isn’t so tied to the place because of a tragic story with exile and diaspora.
What then is necessary to accept aliens in Earth religion? What will they need to do? To pray five times a day? Perhaps, their planet rotates not as ours, and days it is strong well — whether they will pray also often? Whether they will be christened? To take communion? To build tents to Sukkot? We in general represent that aliens will have a physical structure, like ours though there are no reasons it to believe. What to do?
Perhaps, it will seem someone a little frivolous ekzoteologiya, but here’s the thing: all our religious identity are concentrated on terrestrial. In it there is nothing bad. The religion is net human invention.
End of religion?
If we wake up tomorrow in the morning and we will see news that we came into contact with reasonable aliens how to react to it religions? Some believe that opening will establish us on the way which will lead to the end, to development of religion. One of the researches conducted by Peters showed that is twice more than not religious people, than religious, considers that opening of alien life will put an end to terrestrial religion (69% and 34% respectively).
But to assume that the religion is too weak to survive in the world with aliens, means to spit in the history person. Because this assumption underestimates “extent of adaptation which already took place” as Peters speaks. Behind the few exceptions — creationism, violent fundamentalism, same-sex marriages — religions often adapted without excess vanity to various paradigms which they faced. Of course, its universality and flexibility is the certificate of the fact that in religion there is something that resounds with people at the deepest level.
Some aspects of religion should be reviewed, but – No, O’Meara completely considers to refuse. “If life, a revelation, grace come to other worlds, in addition to Earth, it keeps within modest self-understanding of Christians” — and we can add, to self-understanding of any religions. Nevertheless it is not a question of addition or subtraction: it is method to see everything in a new way.
Many religions always considered that stars are named by God. Whether it will be so difficult to believe that God names also inhabitants of these stars? Or, perhaps, they name God?