My son sent me an article about NASA hiring theologians and asked whether I was interest-
ed? Of course! I could do it ‘on the side’. 😉 It turned out to be a programme a few years back
of gathering 24 theologians to look at the social implications of astrobiology.
It seems that the project is one of ‘getting in early’. No one knows whether life outside of our
planet might ever be discovered or it could be discov-
ered next week and the project is considering how
people would respond to the news. One response
would be that religious people would turn to their reli-
gions for guidance about many things not least of
which is what does our life mean to us? Do human
beings have dignity, value, meaning, and purpose?
Many religions are silent on the matter but while they
can give a speculative answer today, tomorrow the
answers might have to be grounded in a new reality.
Then there is the Fermi Paradox which says that
maths and probability suggest that there is life ‘out
there’ – with over 100 billion stars in this galaxy and over 100 billion galaxies in the universe,
it’s ‘got to be there’ – but our experience is that there is no other life in the universe. Where is
everybody?! (Why haven’t they visited?) And there are some religious perspectives that say
that there cannot be any life outside the Earth.
So in all this … good on NASA for doing some forward thinking and I look forward to stretch-
ing the grey matter on the topic as I look forward to what we can learn about time and space
and about anything. (The world – the universe – is an amazing place!)
My hunch, at the moment, is that a discovery of life outside of the Earth will only confirm what
people already believe. Those who say that there is no god will continue to say so. Those
who say that there is a God (or gods or a force or energy of some kind) will continue to say
so. For Christians, the reality of God – the ‘foundation’ of our relationship with God is not
Genesis or creation accounts (Job 38,39 or Psalm 104 can be good to unpack) – the founda-
tion is that God has entered our world himself to rescue us from the mess we have made. It is
when we have Christmas and Easter understood, when we relate to Jesus and follow him
then we can ‘look back’ and ‘look forward’ from his ascension for the bigger picture – that no
matter how big the universe is or what is in it, God cares for us personally. His actions give us
– indeed each person from conception – dignity, value, meaning and purpose.
Some people might fear that as more and more knowledge is learnt, human beings become
smaller and smaller. I think that as more and more knowledge is learnt, the love of God in
Jesus Christ is getting greater and greater.