The Future, The Cosmos, and The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence


welcome back.

I’m reading an article titled, Cosmological Challenges: Are we alone, and Where? The author is Martin Rees, former professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge.

The next frontier for the next fifty years in science, he claims, is to “seek firm evidence for, or against, the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence.”

Are we alone in the universe and thus destined to “seed” life throughout the cosmos? Or are we part of an even larger story of intelligent life in the universe?

In 5 billion years when our sun dies, and humanity is spread out throughout creation, diversifying as a species over the aeons? Will we discover that we have always been alone?

What do you think?

How do the scriptures inform your thinking here?

  • Are you open and excited by this search?
  • Are you incredulous and certain that mankind is alone?
  • Where do most of the people we’re trying to reach land on this issue?

Updates: Apply now for the 2007 cohort of the International Mentoring Network
Register today for the IMN regionals —Chattanooga, Detroit, Montreal, Providence

See you in the Mystic,

Alex McManus

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8 thoughts on “The Future, The Cosmos, and The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

  1. You know, I’m pretty neutral on the issue from a theological standpoint. CS Lewis’s space trilogy has always been an intriguing perspective on the subject.

    Scientifically though, you look at the universe, and we’re just about the most unlikely thing you can imagine. The other planets they find evidence of aren’t anywhere near the same size or makeup needed to develop life. And even if life was present near a volcanic vent or something, the conditions needed for creatures more complex than microbes have to be even more astoundingly rare. Look at how scared everyone is of global warming – the balance of gases alone is fragile.

    People usually assume that the universe is just so big that there has to be someone else, but really, if you don’t believe that God put us here, you should probably be amazed that we exist at all.

  2. Ditto on Daniel’s last paragraph there.

    But (not disputing Daniel, but those to whom he refers) it has nothing to do with the vastness of the universe. It has to do with the creativity of God and his apparently insatiable desire to have more kids.

    Actually, either one of those is reason enough to expect that God would create other sentient races in other places and other times.

    Divine hyper-creativity assures us that none of the other sentient races will be very similar to the rest in biology or culture (I like David Brin’s and Robert Forward’s portraits of alien races because of their radical but very plausible alienness).

    Divine love assures us that all the other sentient races will have their own adoption drama, alien in context but very familiar in content.

    This is why I, like Wernher von Braun, am eager to discover any other sentient race(s) close enough to us in time and space to discover something about them. (I harbor little hope for actual contact, I admit) They will know the same God I do.

    …but how will they, on balance, have responded to the One who created them and loves them? Might they be angelic… demonic… or like us, a tangle of both?

  3. Nic,

    David Brin? Robert Forward? You’ll have to bring me up to speed on these writers. Your comment about the “alienness” of Xtra terrans is quite provocative, friend.

    Thanks for the input.

  4. I agree with Nic and Daniel.

    I think your question, Alex, about how those we are trying to reach stand on the issue is an important one. I hate to generalize by generations, but it seems that the baby boomer generation, firmly ensconced in the “prove it” scientific mentality of modernism, believe nothing until it is shown them. I and some (not all) of my friends, on the otherhand, would like to believe in the possibilities. I think we are moving towards a different state of mind, and with that, a different view on extraterrestrial intelligence. It seems incredible, to me, that there would not be some form of life on another planet– although it may not be life as it is scientifically defined at the moment.

    I believe Carl Sagan (for a heathen, he was a remarkably good Christian!) made an important point in his book, Contact. And that was that, as a human being spends more and more time in space, they come to see that political lines seem artificial, and cultural barriers exaggerated. I have experienced this in my own life, as well.

    Until I went to an all-State 4-H event, I was from Fairfield Township, not Cincinnati. Until I went to a National 4-H Leadership conference, I was from Cincinnati, not Ohio. Until I went to England to visit my Aunt, I was from Ohio, not the USA. Until I went to Mexico and Guatemala, I was from the USA, not from an Anglosaxon western culture.

    When we finally meet people from other planets, Planet Earth will finally be our home, and all mankind our family. And if that is the only thing we gain by the search for life on other planets, perhaps it will be worthwhile. Because when we are all one people, it begins to seem ridiculous that eighty percent of the world should have to make do with twenty percent of the resources; that children in Africa should starve or die of water-related illnesses when children in other parts of the world have x-boxes and cell phones.

    If God is involved in all parts of the universe, and I firmly believe that he is, then shouldn’t the study of it bring us back to the motivation of the creative force that started it all and what keeps the earth– and all other planets and galaxies– spinning: Love?

  5. Having been weened on Star Trek (we were born the same year) I cannot help but be carried away by the possibilities of extraterrestial discovery. In all honesty, it was probably Star Trek that first taught me the benefits of global perspective, racial equality, and the value of embracing instead of fearing “alien” cultures. Certainly, I first learned what a mission statement was from Captain Kirk (that’s Captain Church for you non-scottish types), “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before”. Amen! I have to admit that, years before I met Christ, Star Trek probably primed me for appreciating the apostle Paul.

    All of this to say, I love the vision of an ever-expanding humanity, seeding the universe and filling creation. And there’s no question in my mind that some forms of life exist elsewhere. But here’s the rain on my parade …

    First, I am led by my current understanding of scripture to believe that human sin has had universal ramifications. If this is true and if statements like “all creation groans” are not meant to be simply terra-centric then I confess, I hope there isn’t sentient life out there that my actions have somehow cursed with the entropic principle. To all of my extraterrestrial readers, I’m truly sorry.

    Secondly, I honestly find myself hoping that most of our exploration of the universe occurs post-glorification for I fear that in simply leaving the planet we will not evade the great darkness which follows us. A united earth sounds beautiful, but not if we’ve merely shifted our prejudices, oppressions, injustices and wars to a planetary scale.

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