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Will Religion Survive the Discovery of Life in Space?

As you may know, astronomers for several decades have been finding planets outside of our own solar system. The total number found so far is, I believe, over 400.

For reasons having to do with the discovery process, most of those are very large planets. Also, most of them are too close or too far from their suns to be able to have liquid water, which is believed to be vital to the existence of life. Therefore, so far there haven't been any earth-like planets found where life could exist (according to our understanding of how life can form and even exist). But even within our own solar system, some of the moons of Saturn or Jupiter might be able to support life.

In any event, it is probably only a matter of time before planets similar to our own Earth are found. Of course that does not mean that they will be found to have life, let alone intelligent or highly evolved life.

But also, astronomers have been speculating about intelligent life outside of our own earth for a long time; and the famous, late Carl Sagan in fact proposed a formula for calculating the likelihood of extraterrestrial life given the enormous number of galaxies, each with many stars, and many stars no doubt having planets.

So if you want to believe the speculation and calculation, they're out there--though we have not yet contacted them. (Some people of course believe they have visited us.)

Well, if we do ever confirm the existence of creatures like ourselves (or not) elsewhere in the universe, that will pose a problem for religion. Christianity holds that God sent his Son to Earth. Did God send the same son--or anyone else that he progenerated--to other planets? If not, why was Earth singled out? Can we assume that somehow Earth is special in God's sight and was singled out for the blessing of having His Son sent to us?

So the eventual discovery or confirmation of life elsewhere should, in principle, pose a problem for religion--at least for Christianity. But you know what? I think it will survive. Some sci-fi writers have even speculated that Christianity will simply send missionaries and export its religion throughout the universe, just as it did all over the Earth.

Tags: astronomy, extraterrestrial, life

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So we're NOT special?

All this misery over a lousy apple?!  Could God be any more petty?  Get over it already!

The best part of this story?  I once heard someone argue that "scientific evidence" led them to believe the fruit in the garden wasn't an apple... it was a peach!  HAHAHAHAHA!  XD

Yes, there will even be some who deny such a discovery, even if introduced to them. But you already know that, don't you. I am sure you are fully aware how many demented, delusional, purposefully ignorant people there really are in this world. You would just really like someone to disagree with you and make you feel better about humanity and the society we all live in, I am sure, and I really wish I could but...

I CANNOT!
Religious fanatics will ignore anything that contradicts their beliefs. That is why religion still exists today. People would rather live in ignorance than open their eyes to the truth. That 1) we are not alone. It is physically impossible that, out of all the planets we are discovering that can sustain life, we are alone. 2) If God did exist why would he create such a vast universe with only one planet out of trillions that has intelligent life forms? It wasn't a god that miraculously spawned everything into existence. It was a series of events over billions of years and chance that created life. A chance that can happen over and over again without the consent and guiding hand of a god.

And you would think he would make us the center of everything.  As it is, we are the center of nothing.

Astronomy already poses problems for Christianity and has for some time now. Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was a Unitarian minister, gave a sermon in which he said:

I regard it as the irresistible effect of the Copernican astronomy to have made the theological  scheme of Redemption absolutely incredible. Sermon CLVII, 1832, preached May 27, 1832

The problem lies in getting Christians to recognize that, as Richard Feynman put it, "The stage is too large for the drama." They are emotionally attached to their beliefs and that makes it difficult to change even in the face of new evidence.

Exactly. He'll we barely broke free from the Dark Ages where Christianity banned almost all sciences. As a matter of fact Galileo was thrown in jail for even suggesting that the sun was the center of the solar system as opposed to earth being the center. The thought of what Christians and other religions would do at the proof of extraterrestrial beings is just scary.

It is too strong to say that Christianity banned almost all sciences. The dispute was over the authority of scripture as interpreted by the church and the authority of observation.

There is a continuing controversy going on about the contributions of Christianity to the rise of science. On one side are those who claim that science became the dominant mode of thought for understanding nature only by breaking free from Christianity and on the other side are those who believe that scholastic philosophy in the hands of Aquinas and others set the stage for rational investigation of nature. It's hard to get an objective reading on this question.

The Galileo case is complex and open to different interpretations. One test of the Copernican geocentric system that would have verified it was parallax in the position of stars seen from earth at different points of its orbit. Galileo tried hard to discover this parallax and could not. His telecopes were not good enough and the parallax is quite small.

The result of his failure was that there existed scientific reason for doubting the Copernican system. Bessel found the parallax of 61 Cygnus only in 1838 and measured it at about 1/3 second of arc, not far from modern measurement.

There is no doubt that some Christian institutions safeguarded and maybe even advanced learning. There were the medieval monks who copied some classical manuscripts (while destroying some others that they regarded as pagan or heretical). And Renaissance Italian scholars learned Greek and translated some classical manuscripts. And Islamic scholars--maybe this is not relevant here but I want to give them their due--also did a lot to preserve and pass on classical learning.

On the other hand, there is quite an opposite tradition. Carl Sagan, in his great TV series Cosmos, talked about how a Christian mob in Alexandria killed the female  philosopher and mathematician Hypatia (ca. AD 350–370–March 415). And, aside from any suppression of science or knowledge by the Pope and the Church more generally, when Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain completed the Reconquest of Spain from the Moors, one of the first things they did was to burn most Islamic manuscripts (except some medical treatises).

Not to mention so much medieval suppression of learning by the Inquisition when it was accused of being heretical.

Certainly the preservation of Greek science by Islamic scholars is an important historical fact that had great influence on later developments in science. Our word algorithm comes from the Persian mathematician Al-Kwarizmi, c. 825 AD, who gave the first complete solution of quadratic equations.

Hell* ironic huh lol.

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