NASA has hired 24 theologians to assess how people will react if alien life is ever discovered on other planets and to inquire as to how this would affect religion and the notion of the divine.
This effort is part of the program at the Center for Theological Inquiry (CTI) at Princeton University, according to the Daily Mail.
The CTI describes its mission as convening “leading thinkers in an interdisciplinary research environment where theology makes an impact on global concerns, and we share those discoveries to inform the way people think and act.”
No list containing the names of the 24 theologians has been released as of yet; however, the Rev. Dr. Andrew Davison is reportedly one of the individuals participating in the program. Davison has a DPhil in Biochemistry from Oxford University and a Ph.D. in Theology from Cambridge University and was a fellow at CTI from 2016 to 2017, according to his Cambridge faculty page.
Davison’s forthcoming book, Astrobiology and Christian Doctrine, reportedly states that he believes we are getting closer to discovering extraterrestrial life.
The UFO craze skyrocketed in early 2020 when the Pentagon formally released three Navy videos that contained unidentified aerial phenomenon (UAP). In an attempt at transparency, the Pentagon released a report on June 25, which turned out to be “inconclusive.”
The Pentagon released three unclassified videos taken by Navy pilots of “unidentified aerial phenomena,” a step that comes after years of progress towards government transparency surrounding UFOs https://t.co/rwxWufwkj1 pic.twitter.com/01KrDMSDAW
— Forbes (@Forbes) April 29, 2020
So what does this mean for humans, and more specifically, for evangelical Christianity in the United States? While the idea of alien life might be exciting for some and new for others due to increased acceptance in pop culture and scholarship, it is actually nothing new for Christianity.
The mere existence of alien life seems highly unlikely when one takes into account the Anthropic Principle. Dr. Hugh Ross, an astrophysicist and Christian apologist, describes the Anthropic Principle as a “principle [that] says that the universe appears ‘designed’ for the sake of human life,” which has support “from an unwavering and unmistakable trend line within the data: the more astronomers learn about the universe and the requirements of human existence, the more severe the limitations they find governing the structure and development of the universe to accommodate those requirements.”
This answers the objection that it is narcissistic to think that humans are the only intelligent life in the universe. The Anthropic Principle suggests that the universe was designed for humans, with some scientists claiming that there are over one hundred conditions that had to be precisely right in order for human life to emerge.
What about the confirmed videos of UAPs? How do we explain that? Well, there are a number of ways to explain UAPs. The most important thing to remember is that the “U” stands for “unidentified.” It could be explained by extraterrestrial life if such a thing were to exist, or it could be explained by rival governments (Chinese, Russian, etc.) or it could even be our own government. It is important not to fall into the pitfall of making a hasty generalization or appealing to some possible reveal from the government in the future as determinative of a truth claim now. All we can say for now is that the Anthropic Principle serves as a sufficient answer for humans being the only intelligent life in the universe and any possibility of extraterrestrial life is at best inconclusive.