Other inhabited worlds, and the implications of finding one.

This is profoundly important.

Well it is to me and Jean and, I suspect, it will be to many other people.

I am an atheist. So is Jean. We have been all our lives. I think that many of you who follow this blog know that. The love that we have for our dogs, and all our animals, plus the beauty that is all around us in nature is enough. (Now I am not naive enough to realise that there are many, literally millions, that don’t have the same fortune in their lives.)

The Conversation recently republished an essay by David Weintraub that was first published in 2014. It is at the core of our existence and I am delighted to have the permission to republish it for you.

ooOOoo

Is your religion ready to meet ET

By
 Professor of Astronomy, Vanderbilt University

November 5th, 2014

Square away your personal philosophy now; proof of life beyond earth is coming. Stargazing image via http://www.shutterstock.com

How will humankind react after astronomers hand over rock-solid scientific evidence for the existence of life beyond the Earth? No more speculating. No more wondering. The moment scientists announce this discovery, everything will change. Not least of all, our philosophies and religions will need to incorporate the new information.

Searching for signs of life

Astronomers have now identified thousands of planets in orbit around other stars. At the current rate of discovery, millions more will be found this century.

Having already found the physical planets, astronomers are now searching for our biological neighbors. Over the next fifty years, they will begin the tantalizing, detailed study of millions of planets, looking for evidence of the presence of life on or below the surfaces or in the atmospheres of those planets.

And it’s very likely that astronomers will find it. Despite the fact that more than one-third of Americans surveyed believe that aliens have already visited Earth, the first evidence of life beyond our planet probably won’t be radio signals, little green men or flying saucers. Instead, a 21st century Galileo, using an enormous, 50-meter-diameter telescope, will collect light from the atmospheres of distant planets, looking for the signatures of biologically significant molecules.

Astronomers filter that light from far away through spectrometers – high-tech prisms that tease the light apart into its many distinct wavelengths. They’re looking for the telltale fingerprints of molecules that would not exist in abundance in these atmospheres in the absence of living things. The spectroscopic data will tell whether a planet’s environment has been altered in ways that point to biological processes at work.

What is our place in the universe? Woman image via http://www.shutterstock.com

If we aren’t alone, who are we?

With the discovery in a distant planet’s light spectrum of a chemical that could only be produced by living creatures, humankind will have the opportunity to read a new page in the book of knowledge. We will no longer be speculating about whether other beings exist in the universe. We will know that we not alone.

An affirmative answer to the question “Does life exist anywhere else in the universe beyond Earth?” would raise immediate and profoundly important cosmotheological questions about our place in the universe. If extraterrestrial others exist, then my religion and my religious beliefs and practices might not be universal. If my religion is not universally applicable to all extraterrestrial others, perhaps my religion need not be offered to, let alone forced on, all terrestrial others. Ultimately, we might learn some important lessons applicable here at home just from considering the possibility of life beyond our planet.

In my book, I investigated the sacred writings of the world’s most widely practiced religions, asking what each religion has to say about the uniqueness or non-uniqueness of life on Earth, and how, or if, a particular religion would work on other planets in distant parts of the universe.

Extrasolar sinners?

Let’s examine a seemingly simple yet exceedingly complex theological question: could extraterrestrials be Christians? If Jesus died in order to redeem humanity from the state of sin into which humans are born, does the death and resurrection of Jesus, on Earth, also redeem other sentient beings from a similar state of sin? If so, why are the extraterrestrials sinful? Is sin built into the very fabric of the space and time of the universe? Or can life exist in parts of the universe without being in a state of sin and therefore without the need of redemption and thus without the need for Christianity? Many different solutions to these puzzles involving Christian theology have been put forward. None of them yet satisfy all Christians.

Mormon worlds

Mormon scripture clearly teaches that other inhabited worlds exist and that “the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (Doctrines and Covenants 76:24). The Earth, however, is a favored world in Mormonism, because Jesus, as understood by Mormons, lived and was resurrected only on Earth. In addition, Mormon so-called intelligences can only achieve their own spiritual goals during their lives on Earth, not during lifetimes on other worlds. Thus, for Mormons, the Earth might not be the physical center of the universe but it is the most favored place in the universe. Such a view implies that all other worlds are, somehow, lesser worlds than Earth.

Bahá’í without bias

Members of the Bahá’í Faith have a view of the universe that has no bias for or against the Earth as a special place or for against humans as a special sentient species. The principles of the Bahá’í Faith – unifying society, abandoning prejudice, equalizing opportunities for all people, eliminating poverty – are about humans on Earth. The Bahá’í faithful would expect any creatures anywhere in the universe to worship the same God as do humans, but to do so according to their own, world-specific ways.

Light years from Mecca

The pillars of the faith for Muslims require the faithful to pray five times every day while facing Mecca. Because determining the direction of Mecca correctly could be extremely difficult on a quickly spinning planet millions of light years from Earth, practicing the same faith on another world might not make any sense. Yet the words of the Qu’ran tell us that “Whatever beings there are in the heavens and the earth do prostrate themselves to Allah” (13:15). Can terrestrial Muslims accept that the prophetically revealed religion of Muhammad is intended only for humans on earth and that other worlds would have their own prophets?

Astronomers as paradigm-shatterers

Philosophers and scientists have forced worldviews to adapt in the past.

At certain moments throughout history, astronomers’ discoveries have exerted an outsized influence on human culture. Ancient Greek astronomers unflattened the Earth – though many then chose to forget this knowledge. Renaissance scholars Copernicus and Galileo put the Earth in motion around the Sun and moved humans away from the center of the universe. In the 20th century, Edwin Hubble eliminated the very idea that the universe has any center at all. He demonstrated that what the universe has is a beginning in time and that, bizarrely, the universe, the very fabric of three-dimensional space, is expanding.

Clearly, when astronomers offer the world bold new ideas, they don’t mess around. Another such paradigm-shattering new idea may be in the light arriving at our telescopes now.

No matter which (a)theistic background informs your theology, you may have to wrestle with the data astronomers will be bringing to houses of worship in the very near future. You will need to ask: Is my God the God of the entire universe? Is my religion a terrestrial or a universal religion? As people work to reconcile the discovery of extrasolar life with their theological and philosophical worldviews, adapting to the news of life beyond Earth will be discomfiting and perhaps even disruptive.

ooOOoo

Now I don’t really want to open up the subject of religion but I will say that WikiPedia have a great entry about the subject. My own view is that a few hundred years ago, when life was a lot more mysterious and uncertain, believing in life after death made some sense.

But we know a lot better now despite death still being a certainty.

Brandy!

Dogs don’t need religion!

20 thoughts on “Other inhabited worlds, and the implications of finding one.

  1. I cover the paranormal & have studied UFOs for quite some time. My personal belief system is we are not alone & we have been visited in the past. The unfortunate part, we are getting disclosure in piece meal but if a UFO were to contact us, I fear we wouldn’t even try to understand it. We would just choose to annhilate it. Great read!

    Like

    1. Susan, I read your comment and then was silent in thought for quite some time. Part of me wanted to open up the conversation and learn much more from you and part of me realised that this was the wrong place to do it, essentially the wrong means of communication, because we need a more interactive style. Essentially a telephone call perhaps?

      Like

    2. Hi Susan, I have also studied UFO reports over many years. I believe that there are many people who talk themselves into having seen or experienced things. There are also many publicity seekers and charletons who make and have made various claims. However, there are also some highly credible accounts and detailed investigations of very unusual aerial phenomena, which have caused me to believe that it’s quite possible that we have been visited by entities from another world. ( Especially if you consider that the idea of self replicating A.I. entities would overcome the problems of time and distance that biological entities would encounter.) Why then haven’t they made official contact? One possible answer is that they are still getting to know us, since we are so backward in technology and presumably in psychology and in interpersonal relations. They know that our minds will be ‘blown’ and that there will be many people unable to cope with the new reality and the challenges to their religions and world views. Perhaps they are waiting for us to develop some resilience in this regard? Another possibility is that they don’t have good intentions regarding humans on Earth and are secretly planning something? Perhaps they are just disgusted or bored by what they’ve seen and have moved on?
      I’m not saying that I definitely believe in ET visits to our planet, only that I’ve got an open mind and that they can’t be ruled out. To anyone who is an out and out skeptic and who says it’s not possible, I remind them that it was only a mere 110 or so years ago that people were saying the same thing about the possibility of aeroplane flight. And only 130 years ago since the development of electricity.

      Like

  2. Great article. There’s little reason why the universe wouldn’t be teaming with life. Why we haven’t detected it is another question altogether, and most of the possible answers are pretty horrible.But by Neptune’s Great Beard, it would be wild to be around to hear the news, and then watch human’s response.

    In other awesome news: China has officially de-listed dogs as ‘livestock’! Here is the email sent to me this morning.

    The Chinese government has officially delisted dogs as livestock and declared them companion animals — a move that could signal the beginning of the end for the brutal dog and cat meat trade.

    While this is not an outright ban on dog meat, only “livestock” may be legally sold as food, which means dog meat restaurants, markets and slaughterhouses are now technically operating illegally.

    Of course, the law is meaningless unless it’s enforced. As the horrific Yulin Dog Meat Festival approaches, we hold our breath to see if the government will step in to stop the slaughter.
    LFT welcomes China’s momentous step forward in acknowledging dogs as companions, and now urges them to explicitly ban dog and cat meat and strictly enforce their new laws.

    Now is the time to keep up the pressure. If you haven’t yet, please sign Lady Freethinker’s petition to call for a permanent, nationwide ban against all dog and cat meat in China.

    Like

    1. Thanks John, and, yes, we have signed the petition. But back to the main subject, it would be the most wonderful of days when the news is that there are other intelligent species from another planet and we have proof. I’m 75 but fingers tightly crossed that this will happen while I am still alive!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Here’s some recent information on SETI, and the new technological advances and data resulting from the Breakthrough Listen initiative.
    https://earthsky.org/space/seti-breakthrough-listen-new-technologies-and-strategies
    https://breakthroughinitiatives.org/news/28
    https://breakthroughinitiatives.org/initiative/1
    On a personal note, I’ve rejected religion and any belief in a loving, all powerful God, for the following reasons –
    – the problem of evil/ suffering, (especially suffering resulting from natural, non human causes) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil
    – the immense size of the Universe and what is known about it so far (a pretty bleak and desolate place)
    – the strong need for some humans to control and have power over other human beings -religion and made up stories being one very effective way
    – the inability of humans to deal with the finality of death, and
    – strangely…the fact that dinosaurs are known to have been on this Earth for about 175 million years before their extermination by an asteroid. Whereas humans have only been here for a mere fraction of that time. Why would god create creatures like that and have them last so long when presumably his main goal all along was to create humans in his own image? What WAS he thinking?!! Did he get bored with the dinosaurs he created and send an asteroid to destroy them? 😄

    Like

  4. PS I just LOVE that photo of gorgeous cuddly Brandy!!!💚 I do hope for the sake of other civilisations (possibly) out there, that they have dogs.

    Like

  5. It may surprise you or not Paul… I have followed the UFO community for as long as I remember.. Ever since being a child and a UFO incident over our village as a group of us children were playing in the fields… 🙂
    I could go in depth further but that may well offend those who believe deeply in their religious beliefs..
    I believe in Unconditional Love… as being the Source… The Prime Creator… No one judges… No one rewards.. I believe in the Universal Laws.. Not the rules laid down in a book…

    Though don’t get me wrong here.. I studied the bible in my youth I was Christened in the C of E. I later went to the Methodist Church where I was in the choir, right up until my late teens.. I studied the New Testament, and believe their was a person who came whom we called Jesus that came to show us LOVE… I later followed the Spiritualist Path way, The Tao also interests me… And the teachings of Buddha… The Eight Fold Path..

    Whom was it that at the time were called the False Gods… And if Aliens had landed.. ( which I am convinced they did )-And are still mingling somewhere deep LOL.. they would be seen as Gods.. One only has to research some of the Ancient paintings which depict what I can only describe as a UFO.. https://www.history.com/topics/paranormal/ufo-sightings-renaissance-artists-video The Burning bush also comes to mind…. 🙂
    That is not the same as the Source of ALL Creation…
    I think though we may all be pleasantly or shocked in surprise revelations in the not too distant future… When we learn that the secret space program is far in advance of what we the general public have been told… And off world locations are already visited and not merely via the means of space craft, but portals…
    Now I really see you shaking you head Paul at me… and saying now i know Sue has lost the plot… hahaha….
    Well you see, this knowing i often speak of… goes way deeper than any rabbit hole.. 🙂

    Much love Paul and Jeanie.. So loved reading the above share.. thank you for visiting also.. It was really good to see you over at Dreamwalker’s again..
    Take care of yourselves and all your four legged friends.. 🙂 🙏

    Like

    1. Sue, the last thing that I would do, or Jeannie come to that, is to ridicule your lovely long comment. I think that despite the level of science, and knowledge, in these times, we have a very long way to go to achieve a comprehensive understanding in many fields especially in the area of space. I also think that much research is private which, by definition, is not available!

      Like

    2. Hi Sue, A great share – you may very well be correct in your views.
      As far as UNCONDITIONAL LOVE is concerned, I reckon DOGS are a great example of this, don’t you?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I so do Marg, they are the examples to follow.. 🙂 Living in the moment, not worrying about yesterday or tomorrow… Just in the NOW… Have you read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle… 🙂 another great read.. 😀 🙏

        Like

      2. oh… Maybe you meant the Power of Now… I was perhaps thinking of the Essay The Coronation… I left a few quotes on Pauls post.. but I visited a few of his today … Sorry if I have got confused…

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.