NASA Hires A Priest And Theologians To Help Us Cope With Finding Alien Life

NASA's James Webb telescope preparing for its mission
As NASA’s latest telescope makes its way into the cosmos, the space agency has already turned to religion to help people deal with the possibilities. Expecting to find life in other planets, NASA enlisted the help of 24 theologians to begin preparing people with the anticipated discovery.

Most US Christians don’t believe there could be life on other planets. They insist the Bible rules that possibility out. However, top theologians disagree. In 2008, the Vatican’s chief astronomer claimed there is no conflict at all between believing in God and in the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

The agency hired the 24 theologians to take part in a program at the Center for Theological Inquiry (CTI) at Princeton University in New Jersey. The goal of their efforts were to assess how humans might react if alien life is found on other planets. Particularly, they hoped to determine how such a discovery might impact people’s ideas of gods and creation.

Among the theologians was the Rev Dr Andrew Davison, a priest and theologian at the University of Cambridge. The British priest holds a doctorate in biochemistry from Oxford. In a blog post at the University of Cambridge, Rev Dr Davison wrote, "Religious traditions would be an important feature in how humanity would work through any such confirmation of life elsewhere."

Andrew Davison NASA
Andrew Davison - Starbridge Lecturer In Theology And Natural Sciences

Davison is also set to publish a book on the subject in. 2022. Titled Astrobiology and Christian Doctrine, the book notes that the world is getting closer to making the discovery of extraterrestrial life. In the book, Davison also points out that "adherents of a range of religious traditions report that they can take the idea in their stride."

Other 'believers' in academia agree the possibility of discovering life on other planets is real. Duilia de Mello, astronomer and physics professor at Catholic University, told The Washington Post, "If we are the products of creation, why couldn’t we have life evolving in other planets as well? There’s nothing that says otherwise."

Still, there is dissent on the issue. The president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Albert Mohler, said in a 2008 interview there is no possibility of life on other planets. Acknowledging that Scripture doesn’t rule out the chances of some form of life elsewhere in the universe, Mohler insisted that "what we are told is that the cosmos was created in order that on this planet Jesus Christ, in space and time and history, would come to save sinful humanity."

Time will tell. The James Webb Telescope, described as a time machine that can help reveal ancient secrets of the universe, is on its way to explore space. It will be used to look back at some of the first galaxies ever born, more than 13.5 billion years ago.

All images courtesy of NASA