Paul Rosiak (02/18/04)
After the very interesting debate with Brown University Chaplain Janet Cooper-Nelson, I started to notice what seemed like a pattern in the debate over finding life on different planets and how it would affect the grand scheme of religion. Depending on the religion, it seems that most agree that such a finding would have a great impact on the belief system, and in some cases may make religion less credible as a guide or answer to life. With religion, we then carry into the debate over human specialty and how many of our religions view humans as under God in the hierarchy of specialty . What would happen if we found other life forms that may be superior to us?
Initially, when I started to think about this topic I automatically thought that religion would be in chaos if we found other life forms outside of our spectrum, but after thinking about it and discussing it with some friends, I feel as if this is not as big of an issue as it first appears to be. I think in some cases we are over analyzing the science vs. religion (or the correlation of science and religion) scheme in the respect that in the long run, whether or not we find life, those two themes will remain untouched.
If we look at some past historical moments where religion battles science or simply when they contradict each other, there is always this initial idea or worry by the people that one will outweigh another. The scientific theory of Darwinism, for example, threatened many different religious views about our origins of man. People who held strong religious beliefs would in no way accept what these crazy scientists were saying, while scientists believed their strong evidence was all they needed. How can anyone ever prove either of the two sides wrong? Does scientific data outweigh biblical texts? There is simply no answer to this problem.
I believe that the response that Geoff Stetson's friend gave exemplifies what I mean when I argue that religion will remain untouched. He said that even if they did find life on another planet we would still be in God's image. The only time we should even start to feel threatened is if we were to find life forms equal or superior to ours (thus threatening our human specialty ego). Obviously if we found life that is not as advanced as ours, the hierarchy would remain the same (Humans under God) and religion would not be affected. In the end, he said that he personally did not feel that we will ever find life on another planet, and even so (if that life would be superior or equal to humans) he would still look to Christ as his guide. I think that clearly paints the picture of what would happen in the long run if we were to find life.No matter how advanced the life we find will not affect people's religious beliefs. After the first initial fright or panic, I feel religion will not be affected. All religions, as well as the sciences, are an effort and desire to make sense of things. The only thing that separates the two is that science is an ongoing process while religious texts have everything already figured out everything (in some respect). The sciences are discovering new things day by day in the endless knowledge that awaits us, while religion remains stolid and a guide when people feel lost in their lives. I feel that nothing will ever change that; it didn't in the past, and it won't in the future.