Skip to comments.Theology professor asks: Are we alone in the universe?
Posted on 11/04/2011 7:57:09 PM PDT by Alex Murphy
Plenty of people throughout history have pondered the possibility that extraterrestrial intelligent life exists on a planet other than Earth, but how does that relate to Christian theology and teachings?
The idea that life could exist elsewhere and how it might relate to Christian and Catholic beliefs will be the topic of a free lecture Tuesday at St. John's Seminary in Camarillo. The Rev. Dr. Thomas O'Meara, retired University of Notre Dame theology professor and nationally renown author and speaker, will present his lecture, "Christian Theology and Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life," at 7 p.m. Members of the public are welcome.
O'Meara, a Dominican priest and professor emeritus of theology at Notre Dame University in Indiana, said the recent and frequent discovery of so many other planets outside our solar system has raised the possibility that extraterrestrial intelligent life exists elsewhere.
"We have entered a new world," he said, quoting the opening remarks for the lecture he will give during his first visit to Ventura County. He will discuss ongoing scientific attempts to examine the stars, planets and outer space, and to look for life on other planets.
"Since 1995, 645 planets have been discovered outside of our solar system: 50 in late September, of which 16 are like Earth. NASA has launched a telescope, Kepler, to study 155,000 suns to find what are now called 'exoplanets,' " he said. "The big new breakthrough is that the universe is so huge and it has so many galaxies with so many billions of stars that it seems kind of unlikely we are all alone. Believers by and large don't have any problem with this.
"Church authority has not made any decisions in this area. They couldn't say anything about this because the Christian revelation isn't about other galaxies; it's about Earth. Jesus and the Bible have to do with Earth.
"A theologian would not presume to decide whether there are other intelligent beings in the universe. Neither theologians nor astronomers should dictate to the divine power. You can't tell God what God can do. ... Other galaxies might produce stars and planets far in the future. God could be preparing intelligent civilizations long into the future," he said.
O'Meara taught at Notre Dame from 1980 to 2007. Recently, he has been a visiting professor at St. Joseph's Theological Institute in South Africa (2005), at the University of San Diego (2006 and 2008) and at Boston College (2007-2008). He has contributed numerous articles to popular journals and has written more than a dozen books, including "God in the World: A Guide to Karl Rahner's Theology" (2007), "A Theologian's Journey" (2002), "Theology of Ministry" (1999) and "Thomas Aquinas: Theologian" (1997). Early in 2012, Liturgical Press will publish his latest book, "Vast Universe. Extraterrestrials and Christian Revelation."
"A theologian would not presume to decide whether there are other intelligent beings in the universe. Neither theologians nor astronomers should dictate to the divine power. You can't tell God what God can do. ... Other galaxies might produce stars and planets far in the future. God could be preparing intelligent civilizations long into the future," [The Rev. Dr. Thomas O'Meara, a Dominican priest and professor emeritus of theology at Notre Dame University in Indiana] said.
“The great dragon was hurled downthat ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”
“But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”
“Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspringthose who keep Gods commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.”
God created the heavens AND the earth. If he chose to create others and keep it to himself, I’m not going to make any demands for answers.
Personally I’m not really concerned about intelligent life in the universe because I think it would be more of an impediment to exploration than anything.
I fail to see how other beings in the universe would invalidate the possibility of their being a Creator.
It should actually increase the possibility, especially if those other beings have similar beliefs to our own.
How is it even remotely possible that we're alone?
And who’s to say the ‘intelligent life’ are MORE intelligent than we are....here on earth. Liberals will say there is, of course. We should all be ‘exterminated’ and are ‘not worthy’.
Bring in the population control.
My feelings exactly.
"Since 1995, 645 planets have been discovered outside of our solar system: 50 in late September, of which 16 are like Earth. NASA has launched a telescope, Kepler, to study 155,000 suns to find what are now called 'exoplanets,' " he said.Thanks Alex Murphy.
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Question: Why is Carl Sagan so lonely? (pick one)
(a) Sagan is lonely because, as a true devotee of science, a noble and reliable method of attaining knowledge, he feels increasingly isolated in a world in which, as Bronowski has said, there is a failure of nerve and men seem willing to undertake anything other than the rigors of science and believe anything at all: in Velikovski, von Daniken, even in Mr. and Mrs. Barney Hill, who reported being captured and taken aboard a spaceship in Vermont.
(b) Sagan is lonely because, after great expectations, he has not discovered ETIs in the Cosmos, because chimpanzees don't talk, dolphins don't talk, humpback whales sing only to other humpback whales, and he has heard nothing but random noise from the Cosmos, and because Vikings 1 and 2 failed to discover evidence of even the most rudimentary organic life in the soil of Mars.
(c) Sagan is lonely because, once everything in the Cosmos, including man, is reduced to the sphere of immanence, matter in interaction, there is no one left to talk to except other transcending intelligences from other worlds.
-- from Walker Percy's Lost In The Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book
With the exception of G_d, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, multitudes of dead saints occupying heaven and untold millions of angels, I would suspect we are alone in the universe.
I feel alone in the Universe.
In the Genesis story, the Earth was created on Day 1 before all other planets, stars and our moon etc on Day 4. Earth is unique and is at the centre of all that God created. And that uniqueness is centred around the creation of mankind.
In Peter 3:7-10 it is stated that God will destroy this present universe and create a new heavens and Earth. Everything in the entire universe will be destroyed and that includes Earth. If one believes in intelligence elsewhere in the universe, that would imply that their future and timetable for their lives is inextricably linked to God's timetable for Earth. Would that make any sense? That the lives of these other intelligent beings in other worlds would be created by God but have their lives tied to the failures and sin of the people that God created for Earth?
Would it make sense for God to create intelligent beings on other planets but mankind ruler over them? Psalms 8:3-6: Thy heavens, the work of the Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou has ordained
Thou dost make him [man] to rule over the works of Thy hands, Thou has put all things under his feet.
Because the rest of the universe wants absolutely nothing to do with us. And quite frankly, I do not blame them.
And yet we are effectively and practically alone.
The distance is insurmountable in a thousand lifetimes.
You may be right, and you may be wrong. All I can say is, whatever the truth is, it doesn’t impact my faith at all. I’m not going to pronounce that I know the answer with certainty. If the Bible is silent on the subject it’s because God didn’t see it as something important to give us information on (just like He didn’t see fit to give us great detail on what Heaven would be like). It’s enough that I know Heaven is and know what salvation is and what Jesus did for me.
The Bible’s focus is man’s creation and the earth, neither another’s creations nor any other place. The Bible doesn’t talk about atoms or gravity waves either, so I assume your position is that they don’t exist either.
Just because a creation exists and is sinful doesn’t lend credence to the notion that another creation existing is also going to sin.
From what I’ve seen on planet earth I would make any bets that there’s intelligent life out there either.
The cynical human in me agrees, and believes strongly that if aliens are foolish enough to come here, they deserve whatever happens.
My heartfelt, mind-deep believing Christ-follower that knows the real meaning of hope refuses to pretend to limit God. Our wild imaginations can barely grasp what He has said and written, let alone accept the evidence of things not seen.
The child in me that wil one day come before Him, on the other hand, can’t WAIT to find out what He has in mind!! :)
It had worried me for a long time. I could hear his voice,
... the total number of stars in the universe is greater than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the planet Earth.
I heard Carl Sagan repeating those words again recently when I looked along a surf beach on the Taranaki coast. Later that evening I looked up at the sky. We are fooled somewhat. Our eyes can only resolve about 5000 of the brightest stars, mostly close to our Sun, and typically within 1000 light years (1 light year is the distance light, travelling with a velocity of 300,000 kilometres per second, covers in 1 year).
Our Galaxy however, is probably greater than 100,000 light years in diameter. Hence we can resolve only a very small fraction of our Galaxy with our eyes. As well, whilst our view of the brightest stars is a magnificent panorama we do not get any sense of depth or relative distances of stars. For example, the two bright stars close together, alpha and beta Centauri, (commonly called The Pointers because they guide us to the nearby Southern Cross) are at very different distances. Rigil Kentaurus and Hadar (their common names) are 4.3 and 490 light years distant, respectively. Hardly neighbours! In contrast we now know there are Far more Galaxy's than grains of sand on all the beaches on Earth. Recently a probe sent in space in 2007, just passed Pluto, took one more picture deep into the cosmos with its infrared telescope, the results are in. In just that one picture, a computer counted 2,357,344,234,939,888,102,300,639 galaxy's besides our own Milky Way. If we multiply all the stars in just our universe times the number of universes in just one narrow picture from the probe, I would not have time in the rest of my life to write the number on paper. In 2079 the probe will finally pass Hadar, snap a picture beam it back, we will receive it in 2098. Traveling at 210 thousand miles per hour the probe passed by the sun using its whipping power to increase its speed from a mere 28,000 m.p.h., the ion engine then pushed the probe to around 721,000,000 miles per year. One thing we learned from the probe photo is even our most powerful orbiting telescopes with their super powerful range, only see about 1/10,000th of the distance of the pluto probe photo. I thought about this, accessed the super computer on campus, entered some equations and after 2 days the computer answered. If we counted all the grains of sand on the earth, the moon, all our planetary neighbors, and the sun, (based on their mass) we would only be about 1,000,000,989 to equaling just 1% of the galaxies found by the probe.
would = wouldn’t (I make my own point)
“God created the heavens AND the earth. If he chose to create others and keep it to himself, Im not going to make any demands for answers.”
Yup. Just because the Bible is the Word of G_d doesn’t mean he’s told us everything he knows. I seem to recall reading about a guy who thought he was going to find out everything G_d knew, and it ended badly.
Other models of the Universe (essentially ignored because they contradict the ever-changing Revealed Truths of Modern Science) such as the Plasma or Electric model of the Universe, conceive of space and time in radically different ways. The reality is, aside from our grandiose theories imagined from the myopic perspective of a tiny speck of dust in the vast universe, we really know very little about the nature of Reality.
Fortunately God - and I for one find it impossible to imagine the Universe without the infinite love and goodness that characterizes God - has spoken, sometimes "through a glass darkly" but nevertheless we can know some things, even imperfectly.
My own view is that "eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the mind of men" what lies "out there." I believe that infinitely wondrous things await those who love Him.
Well, it is REMOTELY possible, if you know what I mean. Everything in that picture is a few billion years old.
He should ask himself the question:
Where was I before I was born?
IIRC, Carl Sagan was an atheist.
To possess all that vast cosmological knowledge and believe it all to be be nothing but random collisions of insensate molecules, including one’s own very existence,
Now THAT’S loneliness!
...they’re out there........waiting...waiting...
bump bkmrk for Sunday study...Thanks Alex.
But what if he's not Mormon?
He used to be an atheist, today he is a believer.
Scientology here they come
I don't see how this follows. The Bible says nothing about the Western Hemisphere, and yet we can't infer that intelligent life doesn't exist here.
There are even huge amounts of things that Jesus said and did, that are not mentioned in the Bible. So many things, St. John says, that if they were all written, the earth could not hold all the books.
Some Bible scholars interpret null and void, not as if there’s nothing there, but what the earth was originally before God worked on it, an ice ball or a planet like Venus.
It’s possible that Moses, in vision, was standing on the Earth when it looked more like Venus and wrote down what he saw as God did His work.
For example, when God cleared the clouds and let the sun and stars lights finally shine through, to Moses that may have looked like God created them right then, when it was simply that they were not visible on the Earth until then.
“He (Carl Sagan) used to be an atheist, now he is a believer.”
THEOLOGICAL MONEY QUOTE OF THE YEAR!
You, my FReeper, just took Richard Dawkins and knocked him for a row of ash cans, because the atheist cannot will the end of his own existence, as there is a Someone Who alone can decide the atheist’s fate.
Thank you, sir, thank you, tomorrow’s Sunday worship has been immeasurably brightened!
Then provides his own answer; it is unknowable, but please attend my conference anyway.
"It must be so" is not a very good scientific argument.
When God says ¨We¨ in Genesis, it´s been said by some rabbi that He was talking to the animals. Though I wonder that He wasn´t including the different inhabitants of the universe at that time...and if He has created since.
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