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Prepare for contact
By Donna Anderson© 2010 Defender Publishing Group
In January, The Royal Society, the national academy of science of the UK and the Commonwealth hosted representatives from NASA, the European Space Agency and the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, during its 350th anniversary celebration. The event offered some dizzying intellects in the featured discussion, "The Detection Of Extraterrestrial Life and the Consequences for Science and Society." Lord Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society and Astronomer Royal, announced that aliens may be "staring us in the face"in a form humans are unable to recognize. Other speakers used words like "overwhelming evidence" and "unprecedented proof" to signify how close we are to making irrefutable discovery of alien life. Some, like Simon Conway Morris, professor of evolutionary paleobiology at Cambridge University, worried that contact with these unknowns might not be a good thing. "Extra-terrestrials might not only resemble us but have our foibles, such as greed, violence and a tendency to exploit others' resources," he said. "And while aliens could come in peace they are quite as likely to be searching for somewhere to live, and to help themselves to water, minerals and fuel."
Vatican astronomers likewise weighed in on this question, "Are we alone in the Universe," and their top scholars hinted that discovery of alien life, including intelligent life, might be made in the near future. Father Jose Gabriel Funes in a long interview with the L'Osservatore Romano newspaper said there is a certain possibility of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, and that such notion "doesn't contradict our faith."Another Vatican astronomer, Guy Consolmagno concluded that chances are better than not that mankind is facing a near-future discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence (Monsignor Corrado Balducci even went so far a few years ago to suggest that aliens were already interacting with earth and that some of the Vatican's leaders are aware of it).
"How can we rule out that life may have developed elsewhere," asked Funes. "Just as we consider earthly creatures as 'a brother,' and 'sister,' why should we not talk about an 'extraterrestrial brother'? It would still be part of creation."
Muslim and Jewish leaders joined Funes to say their religion could accommodate an ET reality, while a scholar for the Russian Orthodoxy excluded the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence.
The question of how the world's political and religious communities would respond if suddenly faced with visitors from beyond is something world religions and even the US Government has studied. Paul Davies of The Atlantic Monthly wrote in 2003 that the discovery of even a single bacterium somewhere beyond Earth could force mankind to revise its understanding of who we are and where we fit into the cosmic scheme of things. Davies speculated that such a find could throw the human race into a spiritual identity crisis that could leave some gasping for faith in God.
Evidently things have changed since 2003. Recent polls show a majority of people believe ET disclosure would not challenge their faith in God, findings supported by a study at the University of California, Berkeley in 2008. A Reuters Ipsos poll of 23,000 adults in 22 countries taken in April, 2010 found similar responses, adding that more than 40 percent of people from India and China believe aliens are already here and are walking among us disguised as humans.
Professor Anthony Tambasco of Georgetown University not only believes the world is ready for ET, but responding to NASA's recent press releases about life potentially existing on Mars, said that if the discovery of life is substantiated, "it will not unravel traditional biblical convictions, but rather provide an opportunity to enlarge or broaden them."
In a related CCN article, Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America said, "Most Muslims would also welcome the discovery of life off of Earth." The Koran refers to Allah as the God of 'worlds,' he said, not just one world.
Rabbi James Ruden of the American Jewish Committee says most Jews also leave open the possibility of life on other planets in their interpretation of Genesis.
But not everybody in the faith community agrees. Many conservative evangelicals in particular take a more suspicious view of aliens, stating that they could be demonic manifestations or play a role in a future great delusion that gives rise to the appearance of Antichrist.
"I have become thoroughly convinced that UFOs are real," popular Christian writer Hal Lindsey wrote. "I believe these beings are not only extraterrestrial but supernatural in origin. To be blunt, I think they are demons."