Aliens and faith: NASA recruits theologians to learn how religions might react to an encounter with beings from space

The  US space agency  (NASA) has been seeking advice from theologians, priests and other experts in the faith, in order to anticipate how the eventual encounter with  intelligent alien races  could impact human religions.

According to an article published in the British newspaper The Times, 24 experts among Catholic priests, evangelical pastors, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and even some representatives of African religions are participating in a survey published by the agency. The idea is to stipulate ways in which religions can prepare for a “third-degree encounter”, which may come to challenge some doctrines of faith.
Illustration shows gray-bodied aliens, slender bodies and long arms coming out of a flying saucer and waving at humanity

Encounters with aliens, for now, are still in the realm of fiction, but experts anticipate that the mere appearance of an extraterrestrial race could challenge religious tenets (Image: DanieleGay/Shutterstock)

“I am researching and writing a study on major topics of the Christian faith – what is often referred to as ‘systematic theology’ – from the perspective of elsewhere in the universe,” said Andrew Davidson, a researcher in Christian theology at the  University of Cambridge , PhD in biochemistry by the institution and one of the experts consulted.

“I’m thinking about this in light of doctrines that talk about creation, sin, the person and work of Jesus Christ, redemption, revelation, eschatology, and so on,” he commented.

According to Davidson,  who has a book  on the relationship between faith and extraterrestrial life due out in 2022, when faced with an alien encounter, most people would “seek direction in their faith.”

Another survey published in 2017 states that people who do not have a strong adherence to any specific religion, but who bring a sense of spirituality of their own, are the most likely to believe in the existence of an alien race. The research establishes that belief by faith and belief in extraterrestrial life can stem from the same human impulse to “find meaning”.

The research  is the result of a partnership between NASA and theologians at the Center for Theological Research (CTI), located in New Jersey, USA. According to the center’s director, Will Storrar, the expectation is that it will generate “serious academic work being published in newspapers and books”.

The details of the survey have not yet been released.

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