Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)

7/18/2012 (3 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 (3 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'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More Europe

Romans not enthusiastic over Pope Francis' declaration of a Jubilee Year in Rome Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Jubilee Year was officially declared by Pope Francis in Rome, as it expected for millions of pilgrims to gather around the city to observe the celebration. However, Romans are less enthusiastic and more worried, as Rome is in crisis following the discovery of ... continue reading


French locals not happy about King Salman of Saudi Arabia's three-week Riviera vacation Watch

Image of King Salman visits the Riviera Beach in France together with 1,000 of his entourage.

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The King of Saudi Arabia, King Salman was scheduled to arrive in France Friday for a holiday trip at the Riviera Beach. The King was expected to arrive together with 1,000 of his entourage. MUNTINLUPA CITY, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - King Salman's visit was ... continue reading


Islamic State may use store-bought drones to launch terror attacks at British sporting events Watch

Image of ISIS could easily get its hands on cheap drones, with more than 127,000 being bought and sold on online auction site eBay in the last year alone.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Drones, unmanned aerial devices that can now be commercially purchased by civilians, may be used by Islamist State for terrorist attacks at British sporting events. The sick terror group would use the devices to drop explosives on to playing fields, and use the ... continue reading


New financial rules reveal Vatican had a billion euros off the books Watch

Image of The statements were prepared by the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, the Vatican's budget management office.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Holy See reports €1 billion in net assets never before reported, and in a consolidated form. This was part of the revelations that came under new reporting procedures more in line with international accounting standards. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


Romans lose hope for city, fear mayor is too weak to conquer political scandals Watch

Image of

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Arrests of powerful political figures in Rome continuously add up. After discoveries of corruption and mafia linkages, Romans feel more burdened over their falling apart home. Although the current mayor proved to be free from any criminal accusations linked to ... continue reading


Horrific female genital mutilation becomes shocking factor in many areas of England Watch

Image of Despite there being a lot of cases against FGM in England, there have been no prosecutions.

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Due to mass immigration, female genital mutilation (FGM) has made its way to the United Kingdom. Female genital mutilation is the practice of cutting off a girl's clitoris and labia before stitching up the vulva. According to recent reports, this damaging practice is ... continue reading


Quran manuscript, at 1,500 years old, may be the oldest one discovered to date Watch

Image of The leaves of parchment date back to A.D. 568 and A.D. 645.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

After initiating radiocarbon dating, measuring the age of the parchments organic materials, researchers are confident they have found the oldest surviving copies of the Quran. University of Birmingham scholars in the United Kingdom say the parchment was produced within ... continue reading


Prince George turns two! Take a look at some of our favorite moments from the royal toddler's life Watch

Image of Prince George in December 2014.

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Prince George, the firstborn of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, turned two recently and reportedly celebrated with a private tea party at his home in Norfolk. The young, cheeky prince has been in the media spotlight ever since the announcement of Kate's pregnancy. ... continue reading


Shocking footage of horrifying MH17 airplane crash captures HUMAN BODIES falling from the sky (VIDEO) Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An amateur video, shot with a mobile phone, was released over the Internet revealing horrifying and disturbing moments from the MH17 crash in a Ukrainian field. The video was shot by a traumatized couple who witnessed the victims fall from the sky. The shakey footage ... continue reading


Islamic State suspected of using Bosnia-Herzegovina village to train terrorists Watch

Image of Militant Islam was little known to Bosnia's mostly secular Muslim population until the 1990s Balkans wars, when Arab mercenaries turned up to help the outgunned Bosnian Muslims fend off Serb attacks

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A quaint village in mainland Europe is feared to have become entrenched by the dreaded terrorist group Islamic State. Osve, in Bosnia-Hercegovina, is believed to being used to train jihadist terrorists. Everyone there is "ready to respond to the summons to jihad (holy ... 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, Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38
16 Moses did this; he did exactly as Yahweh had ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 84:3, 4, 5-6, 8, 11
3 Even the sparrow has found a home, the swallow a ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:47-53
47 'Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 30th, 2015 Image

St. Peter Chrysologus
July 30: St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church ... 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