Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Extraterrestrial Life: The Final Blow against Theism.

I recently came across an article on the Internet about a search that is underway by cosmologists for Earth-like planets outside our solar system. Actually, the existence of extrasolar worlds themselves was predicted decades ago and was finally confirmed in the 1990's. Since then, hundreds of such celestial objects have been found, but none with characteristics need to support life, at least as we know it (nor for that matter has SETI [Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence project]).

Yet life is amazingly adaptable. Living creatures have been found here on Earth existing in conditions that were once thought impossible to support any life at all such as at the bottom of the ocean where the atmospheric pressure is so intense that it would crush humans in an instant, and in volcanic settings with temperatures as high as 400 degrees centigrade. And given the unimaginably large number of stars in the universe (more than all the grains of sand on all the beaches in the world), the odds are that some do have life on them, maybe even civilizations superior to ours. Even within our own solar systems, there are potential sites besides Earth that have conditions conducive to life, e.g. Titan (one of the moons of Saturn) and Mars. So it may be just a matter of time before we find extraterrestrial life in one form or another.

If and when in fact life is found on other worlds, how will theistic Earth-centered anthropomorphic religions handle such a discovery? Strangely, even the Catholic Church is taking an interest in this search (Why? Are they looking for new worlds to screw up?)

At this point it would be fair to ask that if there are other civilizations "out there", why have they not contacted us? A recurring theme in science fiction literature is that humankind is not yet ready for such communication as we are still too primitive and violent to interact with more intelligent species. Given man's track record, especially in the matter of religious conflicts, that may not be too far fetched. Who knows how believers will react when their geocentric god-rug is pulled out from under them? So maybe our planet is under some kind of "quarantine".

On the other hand, could the discovery of extraterrestrial life instead finally liberate humanity from the chains of religious fantasy and magical thinking that have plagued us for thousands of years? In turn could this break one of the greatest barriers that has separated humankind? Equally important, finding life on other planets may well give a renewed hope and meaning to life on our own.