Religion and Life on Mars (Again)

Religion and Life on Mars (Again) November 27, 2019

First, the news that an entomologist claims to have spotted insects on Mars. Take a look at the images and judge for yourselves.

Now, for a recent IO9 article:

What about implications for religions? Would finding alien life cause a mass crisis of faith?

“Unfortunately, I’ve spent years working through these questions,” said Weintraub. “My 2014 book, Religions and Extraterrestrial Life, is devoted entirely to how religions of the world would react. The short answer is that some already believe in ET (e.g., Mormonism, Bahá’í ), some simply assume such life likely (Hinduism, Buddhism), some think that ET is God’s business, not ours (Judaism), and some (mostly conservative Christian denominations) would have big problems.”

Since certain religious groups already deny the veracity of dinosaur fossils, however, it’s not a stretch to imagine that they would also refute any evidence of alien life.

What would your reaction be? That of your religious community if you have one? I think there will be denial of such a discovery, and it may not all come from religions. I also expect the denial to overlap largely with other forms of science denial, in particular young-earth creationism. Proponents of Intelligent Design might point to it as evidence in support of their own stance – just as they also cite the lack of evidence of life elsewhere as purportedly proof that life cannot begin or evolve significantly through natural processes and thus requires a Designer/Tinkerer. Viewpoints that cannot be falsified will incorporate new information in some way, but whether in this particular instance they will deny the validity of the discovery (as they do with some science) or accept it and point to it as proof they are right (as they do with other science) is anyone’s guess.

Again, what do you think will happen in various groups if conclusive evidence of the existence of life elsewhere in the universe is discovered? What possible responses can you imagine that might buck preconceptions and stereotypes about those groups?

These are not new questions but they are worth asking again (and again) as the study of exoplanets progresses, and as we further explore Mars (looking in new places that may preserve evidence of life, and making new discoveries whose current mysteries will eventually lead to new understanding), as well as efforts to giver closer study to other planets within our own solar system.


Religion and Aliens: How Extraterrestrial Life Might Affect Religious Beliefs

The website for NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover

Also of related interest, I am struck by the use of a screenshot from the movie Knowing in this blog post about aliens and angels, with apparently no awareness that the movie includes a famous depiction of Ezekiel’s vision, indicating the influence of the thought of writers like Erich von Daniken and the ancient aliens phenomenon on the movie. See also:

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