NASA used religious experts to predict how humans might react to aliens

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Two dozen theologians took part in a program partly funded by NASA to research how humans may respond to news of intelligent life on other planets, according to religious scholar who says he was recruited .

Reverend Andrew Davison, University of Cambridge, told The Times UK in a recent interview that he was among 23 other theologians in a NASA-sponsored program at Princeton University’s Center for Theological Inquiry from 2016 to 2017.

Davison said he and his colleagues examined how each of the world’s major religions would likely react if they were made aware of the existence of extraterrestrials. His own work has focused on the connection between astrobiology and Christian theology.

Will Storrar, director of CTI, said NASA wanted to see “serious studies published in books and journals” addressing “the deep wonder and mystery and implication of finding microbial life on another planet,” reported the Times.

In a report Posted on the Cambridge University School of Theology blog, Davison said his research focused primarily on the concept of Christology, or the study of who Jesus was as human and divine.


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“Perhaps the most important question that arises is whether one would answer theologically the prospect of a life elsewhere in terms of many incarnations, or just that of which theologians speak in Jesus,” he wrote to the ‘era. “I also reflected on the doctrine of creation, particularly in terms of dealing with the themes of multiplicity and diversity.

Davidson added in the blog post that his research has not been limited to religious texts, around which other research on the topic of extraterrestrial life has tended to focus.

“In thinking theologically of life elsewhere in the universe, there has been a tendency to primarily pick up passages from earlier theological work where the other life has been the subject of discussion. I want to go beyond that and join the discussion on a much wider range of materials and perspectives, ”he wrote.

“Perhaps the main finding I would report on so far is finding out how often theology and astrobiology have been a popular topic of writing for at least a century and a half: in monthly magazines, for example,” he added.

Davidson’s next book, “Astrobiology and Christian Doctrine,” due for publication in 2022, will cover some of his work with CTI and NASA, the Times reported.

According to part of Davidson’s book obtained by The Times, “a lot of people would turn to the traditions of their religion for advice” if ever aliens were discovered.

“Detection [of alien life] could happen in a decade or only in the centuries to come or maybe never at all, but if or where it does, it will be helpful to have thought through the implications beforehand, ”writes Davison.

NASA’s astrobiology program provided partial funding through a grant to CTI in 2015, with the agency-funded portion of the project ending in 2017, a NASA spokesperson confirmed to Changing America. NASA was not directly involved in the selection of researchers for the study.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include a response from NASA.


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