NASA asked theologians for their help to study how other worlds would respond if they were discovered with sentient life. This will also examine the impact of such an event on deep-rooted beliefs regarding creation and divinity.
The US space agency has recruited some 24 scholars so far to participate in a program at Princeton University’s Center of Theological Inquiry (CTI) in New Jersey. The center – which received a $1.1 million NASA grant in 2014 – looks to build “bridges of understanding”Between academics from different disciplines and scientists as well as policymakers “global concerns.”
The Daily Mail reports that the program is allegedly designed to answer big-picture questions. “what is life? Is it possible to live? What is the boundary between human and alien life? What are the possibilities for sentient life in other places?”
Last week, CTI Director Will Storrar told The Times that NASA’s goal for the program was “serious scholarship being published in books and journals”Address the “profound wonder and mystery and implication of finding microbial life on another planet.”
“We may not discover life for 100 years. Or we may discover it next week,” a NASA expert told the paper, which added that the agency’s growing “astrobiology”Department has searched for answers to old questions for over 25 years.
Andrew Davison is a Cambridge University priest and theologian who has a PhD on biochemistry. He was one of the participants in CTI. Davison, who was part of the program’s 2016-2017 cohort, noted in a blog post that “religious traditions”These were “important feature in how humanity would work through any such confirmation of life elsewhere.”
This is why [religion] features as part of NASA’s ongoing aim to support work on ‘the societal implications of astrobiology,’ working with various partner organizations.
The Times also heard from other religious leaders, such as the Bishop of Buckingham Alan Wilson and Rabbi Jonathan Romain, Maidenhead Synagogue’s Rabbi, and the Imam Qari Asim, the Makkah Mosque, in Leeds. They said that the discovery of alien life would not affect Christian, Jewish and Islamic teachings.
Meanwhile, Carl Pilcher, a former head of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, said that the agency was “giving an increased emphasis to questions which before the 20th century had largely been the preserve of philosophy and theology and religion.”
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