We all search for meaning to life, and if-if we would even have a discovery that there is a habitable planet, let alone life on it-I think it would uplift the human spirit. – astronomer Daniel Goldin, quote from the “Nova” Public Broadcasting Service program
Whether you are atheist, Christian, or whatever, it is astounding that we live in an phantasmal and seemingly infinite universe, yet, we are, at least officially, alone. Let me repeat again: alone in an infinite universe; not one single-celled organism that we know of, anywhere. Picture tumbleweeds and a dried up spacescape of photons, rock and gases.
I often wonder what would happen to the Judeo-Christian tradition if life, even in its most simplest form, was discovered in a body of water on another planet or moon. Scientists think that simple-celled organisms could exist on Mars, as evidenced by this 2005 story published by NASA: http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/mars_life_050216.html
One of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers, Opportunity, bolstered the casefor water on Mars when it discovered jarosite and other mineral salts on a rocky outcropping in Merdiani Planum, the intrepid rover’s landing site chosen because scientists believe the area was once covered by salty sea.
Scientists, then, think where there is water, there is life. This presents an interesting picture with regard to opening lines in Genesis, where we find this passage:
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was[a] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. (NIV)
Here, obviously, mention is only made of Earth. In fact, the assumption of the entire Bible, from creation to Revelation, is that the narrative of the Old and New testaments takes place on Earth and only matters on Earth.
So, I ask, what effect might the discovery of life on another planet have on the Judeo-Christian world or other monothiest religions? Would it be catastrophic to the entire belief structure or is the possible existence of life on another planet irrelevant? Would such discoveries fall in line with accepted Biblical thinking about the origin of life and our place in the cosmos?
These are questions in which I don’t have the answer. So, I suppose, just stay tuned and stay informed.