As humanity’s efforts to find out more about space heats up, NASA has hired a priest and other religious experts to help earth dwellers prepare for the possibility of life from another planet.
Okay, this sort of sounds like a really bad sci-fi movie, but I suppose there’s been worse ideas out there in Hollywood. However, this isn’t Hollywood — it’s actually happening right now.
NASA is hiring the help of 24 theologians as part of a plan to work out how the world’s different religions would react to news about extraterrestrial life. I mean, we’ve see it in films. People tend to lose it — their minds, that is — when the extraterrestrials touch down.
Definition: “A theologian is someone who studies the nature of God, religion, and religious beliefs.”
So, one of these British clergyman is Reverend Dr. Andrew Davison, a theologian at the University of Cambridge, and he also got ahold of a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Oxford.
According to The Daily Star, the reason NASA is hiring the experts now is because of advances in humanity’s efforts to find life in the great unknown.
There are a wide range of new missions in the works right now, and their goal is to further our understanding of space. One of those missions is the James Webb Telescope, which began its mission on Christmas Eve. Another is the European Space Agency’s Rosiland Franklin rover, built in Stevenage, and it takes off sometime in 2022. The Rosiland Franklin will drill into Mars’ surface looking for fossilized microbes in a “direct effort to detect traces of life.”
So, back to priests working with NASA, though. The whole operation was held at the Center for Theological Inquiry at Princeton University in New Jersey, and they spent time mulling over questions about how life from another planet may impact how folks think about gods and creation.
Rev. Dr. Davison believes the prospect of finding a life that’s out of this world is becoming more and more likely. In his book, Astrobiology and Christian Doctrine, he asks questions about whether God could have created life elsewhere in the universe.
According to the New York Post, Davison’s book notes that a “large number of people would turn to their religions traditions for guidance” if extraterrestrials were found, and what that means “for the standing and dignity of human life.”
“Detection [of alien life] might come in a decade or only in future centuries or perhaps never at all, but if or where it does, it will be useful to have thought through the implications in advance,” Davison writes.
“Consider the implications of applying the tools of late 20th [and early 21st]-century science to questions that had been considered in religious traditions for hundreds or thousands of years,” said Carl Pilcher, the former head of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute.
He also believes it is important that regardless of whenever alien life is found that the implications have been thought through in advance.