More on ET
Answers to comments below:
It’s true that many modern philosophies predicate humanness on the ability to reason. St. Thomas predicates it on the possession of a rational soul, which is different.
Zach: Agreed. Any stick will do to beat the Church.
Joel: I’ll be willing to change my opinion when we establish a thriving metropolis in Antarctica, which is infinitely easier than establishing a serious, self-supportive colony on Mars or the Moon. As to hearing from ET, my mind is strongly persuaded by Rare Earth (the book, not the rock band) that the Drake Equation is all wet and intelligent (and even multicellular) life is a lot rarer than you’d think from watching Star Trek. We are all alone–existentially speaking. If there’s somebody out there, we’ll never know it, I reckon. Your remark “As thought experiments go, speculation about extraterrestrials have been (for me, anyway) a devotional exercise” is, for me, telling since I believe aliens fill, in a secular age, the imaginative and emotional niche that was once occupied by angels and demons. The irony, of course, is that angels and demons are real, whereas nobody has ever really met an ET. But we are driven to fill the space in our imaginations willy nilly. Another proof that when people stop believing in God they don’t believe in nothing, but in anything.
Same with eschatology. Colonization of the stars and contact with ET fills (sort of) the vacuum left by modernity’s abandonment of the true eschatological hope of the return of Christ. Sooner or later, it will become evident to Saganite types that this hope is as chimerical as the Marxist hope of the Withering Away of the State. I wonder whether that will prompt a return to Christian hope or simply lead to final despair?
Chris: I think it more accurate to say that Christ’s incarnation and redemption had repercussions throughout the cosmos. Scripture says that creation has been subjected to futility *by God*, not by us. This does not mean, however, that we must of necessity assume that an alien race is fallen. Indeed, we are the only fallen creatures we know, except for the demons. Not all angels are fallen and therefore they require no redemption. So when you ask, “Now, what if ET beings have rational souls? If they are not fallen, how are we to reconcile this with the universal impact of Adam’s sin?” I reply: “Easy. ET is not human. Adam’s sin communicates original sin only to Adam’s race, not to all creation. My dog is not fallen. Neither is my guardian angel. My dog suffers from the effects of a wounded creation, but he doesn’t sin. Indeed, if St. Thomas is to be trusted (and I’m not sure I do here) my dog is not a candidate for eternal life or eternal damnation. (For myself, I am skeptical that the redeemed creation will be so dull as to not include the animal kingdom somehow.) But the fall of Adam communicates *sin*, not mere “damage” to us. It does not make sinners of oysters, angels–or ET.
One last note: secularists who are certain that the discovery of non-human intelligence elsewhere in the cosmos would spell the ruin of provincial dumb little Christianity need to reflect on the Sunday school lessons they snoozed through in sixth grade. What do they suppose an angel is?