OPINION: This article contains commentary which may reflect the author's opinion
Priests are needed for a number of life-changing events – baptism, marriage, and funerals, to name a few. Is it really necessary for NASA, the world’s top space agency, to employ a priest? Is there something they expect to happen?
As it turns out, they are.
Reverend Andrew Davison and 23 other theologians have been recruited by NASA to study how humans would react to intelligent life on another planet, according to the British newspaper The Times. Do they know something we don’t?
The book, titled “Astrobiology and Christian Doctrine,” will be published in 2022 and will contribute to a joint effort by NASA and Princeton University’s Center for Theological Inquiry to assess how humans will react when other intelligent life forms are discovered.
With a doctorate in biochemistry from Oxford and a master’s in theology from Cambridge, Davison is well qualified for the position. According to Davison, the “most significant question” is how theologians react to the notion of “many incarnations of Christ” in the universe, which is a claim he made in a blog post for the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge.
CTI and NASA’s collaboration is timed perfectly. The James Webb Space Telescope, which was successfully launched on Christmas, can analyze the atmospheres of planets in remote star systems to determine whether they could support life. Compared to Hubble, the $10 billion project will be 100 times more powerful.
The Times newspaper has reported this week that scientists at Cardiff University have suggested that the ammonia present in the atmosphere of Venus could have been created by living organisms. Apparently, this is just one circumstance among many in our solar system.
Despite the fact that no one is sure when or whether extraterrestrial life will be found, there is a strong probability that humans are not the only living creatures in the universe.
In an interview with The Times, Former NASA Astrobiology Institute head Carl Pilcher said it is “inconceivable when there are over 100 billion stars in this galaxy and over 100 billion galaxies in the universe.”
Is there any connection between this and religion? Aren’t there irreconcilable differences between religion and science? Fortunately, Davison is proof to the contrary.
In an effort to explain how evolution would proceed in a divinely ordered universe, Teilhard de Chardin used the phrase “everything that rises must converge”. The Big Bang theory was first proposed by a Catholic priest, Monsieur George Lemaître.
Contrary to common belief, science and Christianity do not conflict. Stephen Meyer’s latest book, “The Return of the God Hypothesis,” has become a bestseller. In his book, Meyer presents a scientific argument for God’s existence based on breakthroughs in physics, biology, and cosmology.
In his book, Davison writes, “The headline findings are that adherents of a range of religious traditions report that they can take the idea [of extraterrestrial life] in their stride.” Rabbi Jonathan Romain from Maidenhead Synagogue and Imam Qari Asim from the Makkah Mosque in Leeds both agreed that the discovery of alien life would be absorbed into Christian, Jewish, and Islamic teachings.
When creation is seen as a generous gift from God, it “would apply equally to … whatever other life there might be in the universe,” Davison remarked.
An exaggerated form of pride characterizes those who would be disturbed by the discovery of extraterrestrial life. Humans are the only ones who are saved by the grace of God? That is such hubris. A theoretical physicist and Anglican priest named John Polkinghorne states that “If little green men on Mars need saving, then God will take little green flesh.” Davison quotes Polkinghorne in his book.
It is important to remind the atheists that God does not need them to exist. In fact, it is the other way around. This is a practical if blunt, reminder from Pascal’s Wager.
According to the wager, if you believe in the Christian God, but He does not exist, you live a moral life and do good in the world by causing as little harm as possible by loving your neighbor as yourself. If you refuse to believe in God and live your life however you please, and God exists, you will suffer eternally.
Having presented his argument, Pascal concluded, “Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.”
Is there extraterrestrial life? There is only one God and he is all-powerful. He is able to create life anywhere he wishes. He does not need human permission to do so. Dr. Davison and the other 23 CTI theologians understand this.
The night sky is full of stars so pay attention to them. They are the grandeur of God.