Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal With It? (Springer Praxis Books) Paperback – 30 Jul 2014
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“This is a valuable and interesting survey of how many of the world’s major religions think about extraterrestrial intelligent life (ETIs). And for those with an interest in, but limited knowledge of, these religions the book also provides a handy introduction into their basic ideas.” (Alan Penny, The Observatory, Vol. 135 (1246), June, 2015)
From the Back Cover
In the twenty-first century, the debate about life on other worlds is quickly changing from the realm of speculation to the domain of hard science. Within a few years, as a consequence of the rapid discovery by astronomers of planets around other stars, astronomers very likely will have discovered clear evidence of life beyond the Earth. Such a discovery of extraterrestrial life will change everything.
Knowing the answer as to whether humanity has company in the universe will trigger one of the greatest intellectual revolutions in history, not the least of which will be a challenge for at least some terrestrial religions. Which religions will handle the discovery of extraterrestrial life with ease and which will struggle to assimilate this new knowledge about our place in the universe? Some religions as currently practiced appear to only be viable on Earth. Other religions could be practiced on distant worlds but nevertheless identify both Earth as a place and humankind as a species of singular spiritual religious importance, while some religions could be practiced equally well anywhere in the universe by any sentient beings.
Weintraub guides readers on an invigorating tour of the world’s most widely practiced religions. It reveals what, if anything, each religion has to say about the possibility that extraterrestrial life exists and how, or if, a particular religion would work on other planets in distant parts of the universe.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Here however I would wonder if the author has not underplayed the vast difference between discovering 'life' and the discovery of an 'intelligent civilization'. There is after all the view held by a number of responsible researchers in the field that while Life in the universe may be extremely prevalent, Intelligent Life may be extremely rare if existent at all.
In any case the heart of the book is in the second section examining consecutively the positions of a variety of religious on this subject. Here I am sure there will be many surprises for most readers. I learned for instance that the Mormons are big fans of extraterrestrial life and the souls which it believes are out there. There are as the author makes clear conflicting views within certain religions. Many Christians would want to deny the possibility of extraterrestrial life as that would somehow undermine the significance of the Christian story. Muslims too seem to want a more earth- exclusive place for religious meaning.
Whether one accepts the basic position on the likelihood of human beings encountering and communicating with Intelligent beings any time soon one still can learn from this work much about traditional religious views of the subject, and how they might require modification should we be communicating soon with other kinds of beings.
PS I found the chapter on my own Religion, Judaism, especially interesting.He gives an outline of the Jewish religion and the methods of interpretation which have been used historically in it. Weintraub opens with a story of the science- fiction writer William Tenn regarding Jews considering some strange looking extraterrestrials who claim to be Jewish as part of their community. His bottom line is that Jews have no firm, close- minded position on the subject. Though it is not a major topic in the very earth- centered and this- worldly religion there are references to Extraterrestrials in Judaism. Hasdai Crescas spoke of an Infinite God's ability to populate many worlds with intelligent creatures. There is much discussion of the eighteen-thousand worlds God visits in surveying the Universe. I found the chapter to be informative respectful and interesting. I learned much from it.
Again I believe all readers will learn much from this very valuable and interesting book.
Astronomers have always said that there are billions of planets in the universe and astronomer Frank Drake proposed a formula to calculate the number of planets with potentially advanced life forms, and his formula suggests that there are about 10,000 planets in Milky Way galaxy alone! About 1800 planets have been discovered so far and more being detected, with the launching of NASA's Kepler mission and European Space Agency (ESA)'s GAIA mission. With future missions like Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to be launched in 2017, and James Webb Space Telescope (planned launching in 2018), the probability of finding aliens is significant and near. In fact some astrobiologists claim that aliens had contact with ancient humans in the past; but this is largely speculative.
Christians believe if aliens have committed sin, then they have to accept Jesus as the savior. Evangelical Christians believe that we are God's favorite children and would not easily accommodate the notion that aliens are also god's favorite creatures. According to Genesis 1:14-19; God withheld the creation of the Sun, Moon and stars until the fourth day. Earth is always depicted as the center stage in God's Creation.
Hinduism and Buddhism are the most accommodating faiths since both religions believe in reincarnation. In principal, one could be reincarnated anywhere in the universe. The ancient Hindu scripture, RgVeda is especially supportive of the idea that aliens exist as illustrated in RgVeda 10.72.1 and 10.129.6. Judaism also provides scriptural support for aliens. In the Book of Judges (5:23), Deborah the prophetess sings about the victory of Barak over Sisera. In her song, she says, "Cursed be Meroz! Cursed, cursed be its inhabitants, says the angel of God!" The Talmud gives two explanations, one of them being that Meroz is a star or planet.
Some of the discussion presented in this book is somewhat imaginative since aliens may have different biology. Many astrobiologists suggest that their biological makeup could be radically different and if they ever find us, their needs are totally different. They could even be advanced computer machines that may have overtaken the living beings that created them. Looking for spirituality in these "life" forms is probably a long shot. Many experts have cautioned, notably cosmologist Stephen Hawing that aliens would not be good for mankind. If aliens invade this planet, most likely they will be looking for a permanent home in the universe since their own planet was destroyed. Such beings would not be eager to share resources of earth with human beings who will be seen as competitors or worse enemies. Professor Weintraub provides a glimpse of how established religions see aliens, and this is perhaps fascinating for readers interested in religion and aliens forms.
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