NASA asked 24 of the world’s leading religious experts and scholars, or theologians, for help figuring out how people are going to react if aliens exist. This bit of news coming right after the successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope — which is supposed to uncover more than we’ve ever known about our universe — is suspicious to say the least. I don’t know, it feels preventative. Prescient, maybe?
Really, it could just be that NASA is quietly having a kick-ass year, as Time reports. Maybe there was a budget surplus, so why the hell not hire experts in theology? Having an idea of how people will react if they’re told intelligent life exists outside of Earth is probably useful.
One of those experts, Rev. Dr. Andrew Davison, is writing about his research among those 24 religious scholars and his work, Astrobiology and Christian Doctrine, will be published in 2022.
Dr. Davison explained his research with NASA and the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, in a statement shared by the University of Cambridge where he teaches:
‘My project is easy to define. I am researching and writing a survey of the main topics in Christian belief – what is sometimes called ‘systematic theology’ – from the perspective of life elsewhere in the universe.
I see my main task as identifying, and working with, parts of the theological tradition that could bear directly upon the topic, even though they have not yet been brought to bear. In thinking theologically about life elsewhere in the universe, there has been a tendency to pick up mainly on passages from previous theological work where other life has been the topic under discussion. I want to move beyond that, and join the discussion to a much wider range of material and perspectives...
I have also been thinking about the doctrine of creation, especially in terms of how it deals with themes of multiplicity and diversity.
In other words, maybe Ridley Scott was onto something with the engineer/Jesus thing in Prometheus? I still think nobody beats Stanislaw Lem’s take on intelligent life in Solaris. And Lem was quite the gearhead, so he wins.
In any case, NASA’s 24 theologians reportedly concluded that people, whether religious or not, are probably ready to hear that intelligent life is out there without it blowing away their minds or their beliefs, according to the Times UK.