The discovery of life beyond Earth would shake up our view of humanity’s spot in the universe, but it most likely wouldn’t seriously threaten organized religion, experts say.
Religious faith remains strong in much of the globe despite scientific advances showing that Earth is not the center of the universe, and that our planet’s organisms were not created in their present form but rather evolved over billions of years. So it is most likely that religion would also weather any storms induced by the detection of E.T., researchers say.
“I think there are motives that we may well initially believe there are going to be some troubles,” mentioned Doug Vakoch, director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, Calif. “My personal hunch is they are most likely not going to be as extreme as we may initially consider.”
The Bible, Koran and other sacred texts of the world’s main religions tension God’s special concern for humanity and for Earth. So the discovery of aliens — microbes on Mars, say, or signals from an intelligent civilization in another solar system — may appear threatening, by implying that we and our planet are not all that special.
But our species has had a lot of time to get used to this idea. Nicolaus Copernicus made maybe the first potent case for it in 1543, when his seminal work “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres” showed that Earth revolves about the sun, rather than the other way about.
“We have not been the center of the universe for a whilst now — four centuries,” mentioned panelist Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute.
And recent alien planet discoveries continue to remind us of this truth.
Sources and more information: