Scott sent me a good link that ties in to the corpus of information I am assembling on a theology of space travel. The initial article kicking it off is an interview with Douglas Vakoch the Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI.
NCR: You have a background in comparative religions. How does this help you in your work?
It helps when I consider the societal impact of detecting and communicating with intelligent life beyond earth. As you look at where the responses were coming from when people started taking this question seriously in the past 50 years, much of it was from Catholics. After Sputnik in 1957 there was a lot of speculation about the possibility of other beings that can go into space. Early discussions about extraterrestrial intelligence included consideration of their moral status. The Catholic response was to create typologies based on the Genesis story. Are there other worlds where there was no original sin? How do salvation and redemption work and what is their scope?
Vakoch references a strand of tradition that is much richer than I thought. Reflection on other life in the Universe stretches back through Church history, although somewhat obscurely. The blog linking to the article says:
Vakoch is a humanist among the technocrats. His job is to figure out how we might communicate with intelligent aliens out there, if and when they might one day show up. I am not sure just why NCR decided to interview him. He did not have much to say about religion, except to raise the question (he did not suggest an answer) whether these aliens have original sin and are therefore in need of redemption. I am sure that this is indeed a question that would preoccupy Christians. Perhaps NCR was fantasizing about yet another dialogue center within the Vatican bureaucracy, after those for dialogue with non-Catholic Christians (the “separated brethren”), Jews, adherents of non-Judeo-Christian traditions, unbelievers—perhaps a Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Extraterrestrial Brethren (very separated ones indeed).
A comment on the blog leads to my next post…