In A Brief History of Time Professor Stephen Hawking asks, “…if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?”
Indeed, the more humanity learns about the universe in which we are just a very miniscule part, the less need we seem to have for a higher power. The theory of evolution cogently describes how we as a species came into being, and the Big Bang elegantly enumerates on how the universe itself came into existence. As our scientific understanding expands, purely religious answers for life’s “big questions” seem to contract. But what would it mean for belief–or non-belief–if we discovered the existence of extraterrestrial life?
This question is central to the premise of a new book, Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal with It? by David Weintraub, an astronomy professor at Vanderbilt University. The book examines the stances, if any, of the world’s major religions in regards to the possibility of life beyond our own planet. Wintraub reports that one-fifth to one-third of Americans believe that alien life exists, and with the exponential increase in the discovery of new planets, finding one that would harbor living beings seems more and more likely.
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