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What do new astronomical discoveries tell us about God?

What do new astronomical discoveries tell us about God?

The recent discovery of a cluster of planets similar in size to Earth, orbiting a small sun light years away from our own, has reinvigorated the discussion of whether we are alone in the universe.

But is that the question we should be asking? For those of a theological bent, the answer has always been that we are not alone: God is with us. For some, then, the question becomes: what if God is not with us alone?

The prospect of other, intelligent life in another, unknown region of creation is clearly fascinating to scientists and theologians alike. Emily McFarlan Miller, of the Religion News Service, quotes an Episcopal priest who bridges both worlds.

“I have always seen the search for life elsewhere to be an opportunity to understand basically the way we relate to the universe — sort of our location,” said the Rev. Lucas Mix, an Episcopal priest and astrobiologist who has a doctorate in evolutionary biology.

“My greatest hope would be that we find life somewhere else because when we find life somewhere else, we can start to talk about what it means to be alive and not what it means to be us.”

Throughout the history of theology, Mix said, Christians have swung between the idea that Earth can be the only inhabited planet because God favors humans, and its counterpart, that to assume Earth is the only inhabited planet is the height of human pride because God is limitless and all-powerful.

Read more at RNS. What would it mean for your faith if we were to find out that we are not the only “people” in creation?


Featured illustration: “This artist’s concept appeared on the February 23rd, 2017 cover of the journal Nature announcing that the TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultra-cool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it. Any of these planets could have liquid water on them. Planets that are farther from the star are more likely to have significant amounts of ice, especially on the side that faces away from the star. 
The system has been revealed through observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the ground-based TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope) telescope, as well as other ground-based observatories. The system was named for the TRAPPIST telescope.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at Caltech/IPAC. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.”


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Susan Weikel Morrison

If we ever do encounter intelligent life somewhere else in the universe, let’s hope we don’t try to impose our human/Earth-centric religious views on them. That would be the height of hubris!

Sean Storm

It is mathematically impossible for Earth to be the only planet with humanoid-based life in the entire universe.

Bill Moorhead

No, it’s not mathematically impossible. However, I think one can reasonably argue that it is statistically very highly unlikely that Earth is the only planet etc. (“Among the billions of galaxies there _must_ be…” does not logically or statistically follow.) What do you mean by “humanoid-based life”? Intelligent life need not be humanoid; in fact, that seems unlikely, and we cannot exclude the possibility that intelligent life forms might be very much unlike us. Or is your definition of “humanoid” not biological/anthropological (the usual meaning of “humanoid”), but philosophical/theological? That would be a different question.

Mike Kozak

Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.
-Albert Einstein

Lawrence Graham

“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold,” certainly takes on another meaning – proving yet again that the Scriptures are truly universal.

Harvey Ray

First, there seems to be in this article the assumption that there would be a notion of a god in the first place. Second, if intelligent life is found on another planet, another factor to ponder is what will that life form/s have developed in their history to explain the mysteries in life that “we” call God? There are after all a number of differing opinions already present with a truly inclusive “us” right here on this small dot in space. We should consider that means to our faith here and now.

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