Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)

7/18/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

What are the implications of discovering extraterrestrial life?

Scientists are atwitter over the notion that we may discover life in elsewhere in the universe sometime within the next century after Jocelyn Bell Burnell, a British astrophysicist, spoke at a conference in Dublin, Ireland. 

The Logos, Christ, through whom the Universe was created.

The Logos, Christ, through whom the Universe was created.

Highlights

By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/18/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Europe

Keywords: extraterrestrial, life, God, science, astronomy, Catholic, belief, faith, aliens, discovery, WOW signal


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "I do suspect," Burnell told the conference, "we are going to get signs of life elsewhere, maybe even intelligent life, within the next century."

Burnell bases this conclusion on anticipated technological advances and current success in identifying planets that could harbor life around nearby stars.

For most astronomers, the thought that life exists elsewhere in the universe is a foregone conclusion - they're just waiting for the proof. Given the size and scope of the universe, and what has already been observed, odds are that intelligent life must certainly exist elsewhere. 

Of course, this raises a number of questions. For example, why haven't they contacted us yet? Do we see any benefit in communicating with an alien civilization? Would it be safe? What are the theological implications of discovering extraterrestrial life? And what about all those UFOs?

The late Arthur C. Clarke, quoted in an article on The Daily Galaxy, once explained why we have not likely communicated with aliens, "The fact that we have not yet found the slightest evidence for life -- much less intelligence -- beyond this Earth, does not surprise or disappoint me in the least. Our technology must still be laughably primitive, we may be like jungle savages listening for the throbbing of tom-toms while the ether around them carries more words per second than they could utter in a lifetime."

In other words, we probably have no contact with such civilizations because we remain in our technological infancy. 

Time is another reason we may have not made contact with a universe teeming with life. Carl Sagan once remarked that it was time, not distance, that made communication virtually impossible. Since communications can travel no faster than the speed of light, a conversation with an intelligent neighbor just a few hundred light years away would take a millennium or more just to exchange a greeting. And in that time, entire planets could go extinct through catastrophic events that are either stellar, or self-imposed. Meanwhile intelligence likely takes billions of years to evolve on a planet, making it rare. And there is no proof as of yet that intelligence has any long-term survival value, something that's needed to raise one's species to the level of interstellar communication. 

Last year, Stephen Hawking made headlines when he panned the optimism that some have for making contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. Drawing comparisons between the Native American experience, he suggested that extraterrestrials who could be combing the galaxy for habitable planets might not be benevolent and instead could cast covetous eyes on our vibrant, water and resource-rich planet. If so, communicating our presence could be inviting our extinction. 

There are theological questions as well. So far, man's relationship with God has been confined largely to explanations of our origins and our purpose on Earth. What happens to that understanding in a universe that is filled with intelligent life?  Research by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency that develops advanced weapons technology for the military, concluded that Christians would take the news hardest because the Christian belief system does not readily allow for the existence of other intelligent beings in the universe. However, this conclusion is disputable.


Several protestant Christian traditions, along with other world religions, do make allowances for the notion that we might not be alone in this universe. The LDS Church, the Mormons, believe in a universe populated with intelligent life. They claim to be Christian, though many Christians disagree because they do not affirm major doctrines in the ancient Creeds of the once united Christian Church.

The Catholic Church maintains an observatory and supports robust astronomical programs in its universities. The Catholic Church also counts scientists, astronauts, and cosmologists in her membership. The Church affirmed in 2009 that "that the existence of extraterrestrials does not preclude a belief in God."

Many pastors, priests, ministers and Christian church leaders do not see any conflict between the teachings of scripture and the existence of extraterrestrial life. Indeed, just as scripture does not address the existence of the dinosaurs (in any significant detail) - yet remains reliable and true on those subjects it does address -  so it will remain to believers if there were a discovery of extraterrestrial life. 

Christianity could easily accommodate the existence of life outside planet Earth. God's wisdom need not be limited to the human experience. After all, God is the creator of the universe and certainly has reason for all creation - even if that understanding remains beyond our full grasp. 

Finally, some may ask about UFO's and if they do not count as evidence of extraterrestrial life already. As far as mainstream scientists are concerned, UFO's are not verifiable evidence of life because the sightings and experiences claimed by many cannot be scientifically verified. In nearly all cases, scientific scrutiny has revealed mundane, terrestrial origins for such experiences. 

The only possible exception appears to be the WOW! signal intercepted by SETI researchers in the 70's. To this day the nature of the signal remains unexplained although it is largely agreed to be extraterrestrial in origin. Because the signal has never been heard again, it cannot be scientifically verified as actual evidence of anything and it remains an anecdote. 

Still, the possibility is out there, just out of grasp. If Brunell is correct, our children and grandchildren just may have the answer to a question that has been asked since we realized that space is far greater than our minds can readily imagine. 

 

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for November 2014
Lonely people:
That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.
Mentors of seminarians and religious: That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.



Comments


More Europe

Evangelical, Missionary Pope Francis Calls Europe to Return to Jesus Christ and Christian Roots Watch

Image of The European Parliament building

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

I believe that Europe has many resources for going forward. It's like a sickness that Europe has today. A wound. And the greatest resource is the person of Jesus. Europe, return to Jesus! Return to that Jesus whom you have said was not in your roots! And this is ... continue reading


Father William Nolan appointed by Pope Francis as Bishop of Galloway Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has appointed Father William Nolan, vicar general of Motherwell, as Bishop of Galloway. Father Nolan says he is "over-awed" by the appointment. He has served in the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes, East Kilbride, for 20 years. Nolan will replace ... continue reading


Rome's Colosseum to host cultural events again Watch

Image of Occasional concerts are held inside the Colosseum but the rebuilding of the arena's wooden flooring would allow more frequent events.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It once hosted bloody sports galore, with gladiators fighting to the death as well as Christians being thrown to the lions. Now, Rome, Colosseum will begin hosting less blood-soaked events. Italy's culture minister has given the green light for special events ... continue reading


Pope Francis appoints Robert Sarah to head the Vatican's congregation of liturgical practices Watch

Image of Robert Sarah, the 46-year-old president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, has been named by Pope Francis to head a congregation on liturgical practices.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea has been appointed the new head for the Vatican congregation that oversees and determines the liturgical practices of the Catholic Church world wide. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis made the appointment on November ... continue reading


SCARY VIDEO! What the heck blew up in Russia's sky? Was it a meteor or something stranger?! Watch

Image of A still taken from footage of the phenomena that took place in Russia on November 14.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What was the mysterious phenomena that occurred in Russia and was witnessed and captured on camera by dozens of motorists? It appears that nobody knows for sure, and even experts are left scratching their heads while they struggle to find reasonable explanations. ... continue reading


Who really was Jack the Ripper? New evidence points to one man Watch

Image of A criminologist from England may have new evidence that points towards the real identity of Jack the Ripper.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A new theory about the identity of infamous 19th century London serial killer Jack the Ripper may explain why the murderer was able to elude contemporary and modern authorities for so long and escape justice. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Dr. Gareth Norris, a ... continue reading


Which countries drink the most beer? Our list may surprise you! Watch

Image of Beer is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Who still drinks beer?  Beer is one of the most widely consumed beverages, behind water and tea.  Beer is also a Catholic tradition, alongside wine-making, and has been widely practiced in monasteries, especially in Europe. Now, a list has emerged detailing ... continue reading


To raise money for the poor, Pope Francis to raffle gifts Watch

Image of The tickets are only a modest 10, but this includes a new Fiat Panda 4x4, with all optional extras.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Talking the talk, walking the walk: Pope Francis has done it again. The pontiff is raffling gifts that have been given to him in order to raise money for the poor. Posters announcing the raffle have gone up all over Vatican City. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Russia could destabilize Eastern Europe if Ukraine left unchecked, Merkel warns Watch

Image of It's exceedingly tough talk from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She says that Russia's annexation of Crimea and subsequent destabilization of eastern Ukraine

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It's exceedingly tough talk from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She says that Russia's annexation of Crimea and subsequent destabilization of eastern Ukraine "called the whole of the European peaceful order into question." Adding to the gloomy outlook was a ... continue reading


The Pope Who Builds Showers for the Poor under St Peters Rattles our Comfort Zones Watch

Image of Pope Francis embracing Jesus in the face of the poor

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Those who love the poor - like Jesus loved the poor- are an instruction manual for the rest of us. They are a sign of the kingdom, making it present in their wake. We have such a man in this Pope named Francis. He recognizes that poverty is more than a lack of ... continue reading


All Europe News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 20:1-4, 11--21:2
1 Then I saw an angel come down from heaven with the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 84:3, 4, 5-6, 8
3 Even the sparrow has found a home, the swallow a ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:29-33
29 And he told them a parable, 'Look at the fig tree ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 28th, 2014 Image

St. Catherine Laboure
November 28: St. Catherine Laboure, virgin, was born on May 2, 1806. At an ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter