Monday, January 25, 2010
What would be the theological impact if we found extraterrestrial life?
I just read a short piece on the BBC's website about how we're more likely than ever to find some sort of alien life forms off of planet earth. As Christians, what would be the impact on our theology? In particular, how would it impact our understanding of our uniqueness as creatures made in the image of God as distinct from the rest of the earthly creation? In popular fiction as well as in various 3rd kind encounters, not to mention abduction accounts, the aliens always look remarkably like us. I believe, by the way, that this is a typical anthropomorphism of our hopes and fears and most likely has no basis in actual reality, but ascribing humanesque qualities to otherworldly creatures. Since westerners largely don't believe in angels anymore, aliens have taken their place. Nonetheless, if there are planets orbiting other stars similar to our own sun that are themselves similar to our own planet earth, and the universe is as vast as we've come to understand, then it makes sense to expect that some form of sentient life forms must have developed on those planets as it has here. And since our planet and star seem to be relatively average in comparison to what we've discovered so far, it seems pretty obvious that it's just as likely that other worlds have evolved just as much as ours if not more so. So with this in mind, if (and I would say when) a new world is discovered that has biological life, what does that do to our understanding of the Biblical text? Are the Judeo-Christian scriptures able to handle this kind of development? I would say that it can. But then again, I'm a Christian. I would say that. Christianity, after all, survived the Copernican revolution. And it seems to be surviving the Darwinian revolution as well, though with some bumps in the journey. Will Christianity adapt to and survive the exo-biological revolution?