A priest, a rabbi and an imam are among 24 theologians hired by NASA to prepare humanity for the growing possibility of alien contact.
University of Cambridge religious scholar, Rev Dr Andrew Davison, who also holds a doctorate in biochemistry from Oxford, has been working with the NASA-sponsored programme at the Centre for Theological Inquiry at Princeton University in New Jersey.
The group aim to assess how religions would react to the existence of extraterrestrial life and how such a discovery could potentially impact the concept of God and creation.
Could God have created life elsewhere in the universe? How would it impact the biblical creation story? Would religions have to rewrite their doctrine?
In his forthcoming book, Astrobiology and Christian Doctrine, Davison considered the possibility of God creating life elsewhere in the universe. He noted that “non-religious people also seem to overestimate the challenges that religious people... would experience if faced with evidence of alien life.”
“The headline findings are that adherents of a range of religious traditions report that they can take the idea in their stride,” he added.
If extraterrestrial life were to be discovered, a “large number of people would turn to their religions traditions for guidance”, according to The Times.
Carl Pilcher, former head of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, explained that theologians were hired to “consider the implications of applying the tools of late 20th (and early 21st) century science to questions that had been considered in religious traditions for hundreds or thousands of years”.
He addressed the “inconceivable” idea that Earth is the only planet with life on it, saying: “That’s just inconceivable when there are over 100 billion stars in this galaxy, and over 100 billion galaxies in the universe.”