An extraterrestrial being is that funny-looking creature with frail limbs who pops his oversized head out of the Saturn-like dwelling in which he lives and flies, and who makes himself available for mortal gaze when and where he pleases. He is the ultimate bogeyman, instigator of curious debates, one who holds the high seat in enigma's realm.
Some believe he exists, some don't. Now there is a new study that throws some light into the effects of the extra terrestrials on science and religion. This is one topic that's been over-discussed and no new 'findings' will seal the lid on this lively debate.
Scientists and theologians discussed the potential impacts of aliens on society and religion at a meeting of the London Royal Society recently and a report of their findings was published early this month.
Though the discovery of extraterrestrial life may not affect people's faith in their religious beliefs it could make them think if gods took incarnations on alien planets, the researchers said, according to a report in space.com.
According to Ted Peters, who is a theologian at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, if people believed in the existence of aliens, it could make them ask if Jesus Christ has appeared more than once in the universe.
It's been argued for a couple of centuries now whether one incarnation of God as Jesus Christ for the entirety of creation is sufficient, with some thinking that God would do so multiple times as appropriate for the capacity of any individual species to comprehend, Peters told SPACE.com.
In an article published in the Philosophical Transactions journal of the Royal Society, Peters raises several questions regarding the impact the confirmation of alien life will have on religion.
Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that terrestrial religion would collapse under the weight of confirmed knowledge of extra-terrestrial intelligence (ETI). Because our religious traditions formulated their key beliefs within an ancient worldview now out of date, would shocking new knowledge dislodge our pre-modern dogmas?
He poses the question if confirmation of ETI will cause terrestrial religion to collapse, and answers in the negative.
Peters conducted a survey, titled 'The Peters ETI Religious Crisis Survey' to determine the effects of a discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence on religion. More than 1,300 individuals worldwide from multiple religious traditions like Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, evangelicals, Orthodox Christians, Mormons, Jews, Buddhists and non-religious groups participated in the study.
The study found that a vast majority of believers, regardless of which religion they followed, thought their faith systems will not collapse if alien intelligence was confirmed. About one-third of the people thought religions other than theirs would be affected while a vast majority of nonreligious people said aliens would change faith systems as a whole.
It became clear that the vast majority of religious believers, regardless of religion, see no threat to their personal beliefs caused by potential contact with intelligent neighbors on other worlds, says Peters.
However, if alien intelligence, and by extension alien religions, are confirmed, there would be ready converts, Peters said.