Exobiology

Are we alone in the universe? The answer is every day growing more and more certain that we are not. Humanity may experience shortages of many things, however, pride is not among them. For millennia we’ve been convinced of our own superiority and, of late, we’ve become convinced that we must be as good as it gets. We’ve mastered logic and our material world. We’ve sent probes to land on Venus and Mars, and flying by just about every other planetary body close enough to reach. We sure are smart. So it stands to reason that we are the brightest beings in a universe that we tell ourselves is infinite. A recent article on Exobiology that my wife pointed out to me on The Conversation, traces the history of the idea of life outside the earth. Not surprisingly, the idea has its origins in religious thought.

Giordano Bruno was an early modern Dominican who was burned at the stake for his heresies. Like his near contemporary Galileo, he was fascinated by the sky and postulated that the world up there could be full of life. A church increasingly under pressure from the pesky Protestant movement had no time for flights of fancy among the faithful. No, religion at the time wanted its feet planted on solid ground. The only life up there was angels and God. Still, the idea had been broached. Since the world’s major religions have been geocentric, as a rule, they’ve had a bit of difficulty adjusting to the idea of the other other. God as other is one thing, other creatures as other is quite another. How do earth-bound religions account for the possibility of life in space? This is not merely academic fancy at play. We will almost certainly discover life elsewhere—whether it comes to us (or already may have), or we go to it (which might take a little longer), we will discover that a universe that is infinite has infinite possibilities. Will religion keep us grounded?

596px-Apollo_11_bootprint

Ironically, one of the areas where science and religion have broadly agreed is in the superiority of humankind. Both remain staunchly geocentric. Religions and tend to say we’re sinful, but other than that, pretty much the best the earth has to offer. Although biologists say evolution is non-teleological, they still have a hard time imagining something more advanced than us. We are pretty self-absorbed. Meanwhile, we are discovering water is likely not unique to earth. Rocky planets seem to be the rule rather than the exception. And there are billions and billions of stars in our own galaxy alone, among billions of others. What are the chances we’re alone? Virtually none. Here is one place that both religion and science might learn a lesson based on early spiritual teachings. In the face of the unknown, humility is the most logical response. I’m impressed in how far we’ve come in the last several millennia of civilization. I think, however, that we’d better be prepared to meet exobiology with a realization that Genesis 1 was only the beginning.

4 responses to “Exobiology

  1. Since time immemorial, “Star People” – Just sayin’.

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  2. I watch all these “The Universe,” and “Cosmic Front,” so forth and so on. And I have quite a few years on this planet. Spiritually speaking, in my life, I believe the Universe is conscious. I say that because of what I’ve experienced getting from the universe spiritually, and personally.

    I grew up with “(G)od. and I studied (G)od, and I am sober, so my God, the universe, always provides. I’m fairly certain that we as humans are connected to this grand universe unconsciously, there is a connection that exists, it is there working behind the scenes, directing the show, contrary to our arrogant beliefs, and when we realize it, it works to our advantage.

    I know that there has got to be more than what we can see, and experience. If we are reincarnations of people from the past, and we are spiritual beings having a human experience, then the question is, where did we come from and how did we get here? They say we are star stuff, which means, we came from “out there!” So there must be something greater than ourselves out there. Something non-corporeal.

    It knew how to make us, and we were made. Isn’t it arrogant to say that, No there is nothing out there, and we are the best it gets? The universe is clearly alive, to me, and I don’t have all the answers. But 47 years later, the universe is good to me, and it sustains me. The universe is quite a big place, for us to be the only living beings in it. just saying …

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  3. I wrote my extended response to your post above on my blog, and I linked back to you as well. You might want to come take a read. thnx,

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  4. Thanks, Brent and Jeremiah. To quote one of my favorite winter movies, The Thing from Outer Space, “keep watching the skies!”

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