Life on Mars and Religion

Does the credibility of our Faith depend on there being no life anywhere other than the planet Earth? See Methane on Mars: does it mean the Curiosity rover has found life? Some of the comments ask this very question, and are fascinating for this reason. I was asked this very question this evening by my singing teacher. My intuitive replay is that what is in the Bible is symbolic of a forgotten or unknown history of our beginnings. The Scriptures of the three monotheistic religions expound the myth of the creation in six days, Adam and Eve, the Fall, etc. Gnosticism has another narrative of Sophia and the emanation called the Demiurge, who would have been parallel with the cruel and bad-tempered Old Testament God Yahweh. I don’t know enough about the Hindu and Buddhist holy books, but I suspect that there are many convergences. The real facts about genesis history are forgotten, or were not passed on otherwise than in the form of symbolic myths. Not very long ago, I wrote a post on Original Sin and similar questions.

If it is proven that there is life on Mars, or there has been in the past, I would imagine that there is nothing to prevent us from speculating that there might be other genesis events on other planets. That doesn’t exclude the possibility of God. There is also the idea of multiverses existing in parallel so that different times can co-exist on the plan of eternity, like different radio frequencies – only one of which can be listened to at a time on a wireless set (now I’m being old-fashioned – perhaps it is the Imperial Home Service). We can’t prove any of this with materialistic science, except – perhaps – quantum physics about which I know just about nothing apart from a few articles, documentaries and fictional films.

If life is discovered somewhere else, perhaps this would debunk Fundamentalist religion, and good riddance! The Bible is obviously a part of Revelation and true in its own way with the right ways of reading it: historical, allegorical, tropological, symbolical, etc. But it isn’t the whole truth. Much of Revelation is also found in Traditions (the plural is deliberate), both inside and outside formal Christian Churches and other ancient world religions.

I don’t think a discovery of life on another planet would debunk Christ and his mission, but I keep an open mind and would welcome comments.

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7 Responses to Life on Mars and Religion

  1. Xryztofer says:

    I haven’t thought through what it would mean either, but at first glance I think it would raise serious questions concerning the Incarnation. From the Johannine point of view, that’s the most significant event in cosmic history: “and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” But if humanity is just one rational species among others, then God taking on a human nature doesn’t seem quite as singularly important in the grand scheme of things.

    • I have no clear answers, but I would imagine that God’s answer for the situation on Earth was Christ and the Redemption “covers” this planet and the human species in particular (though there could be an argument to extend the Redemption to all forms of life). Already, the diversity of species on earth leaves this same problem. Some Christians would simply say that animals and plants are life without souls and cease to exist after death.

      We have this situation on this planet. God may have provided for non-human animals and plants in a special way unknown to us. After all they die like we do, and we believe that death came into the world because of sin. If they die, they participate in sin, regardless of wherever that sin comes from, so God must have redeemed them like he redeemed humans (baptised and non-baptised alike). This might indicate the situation for any life on other planets. Perhaps God sent other “Christs” in other forms or found another way to “correct” the “flaw” in creation and even, as the Gnostics believed, somewhere between the perfect and mysterious God and his “emanations”. One could be very daring about this subject, but it is all pure speculation.

      The key seems to me the fact of the extreme diversity of non-human life on Earth. It is my belief that Genesis isn’t wrong but is wildly incomplete.

  2. Fr. David Marriott SSC says:

    Father, You are on the right track, following in the footsteps of C. S. Lewis, in his ‘science fiction’ or ‘Space Trilogy’, which starts with: ‘Out of the Silent Planet’ One of the stories deals with an alternative creation, another replicates the temptation in the Garden of Eden, allowing us to thereby contemplate the eventuality of the possible news from Mars.

  3. Patricius says:

    Life on Mars is a god-awful small affair…

    • So far, all they have found is the tiny trace of methane gas. That could be from rock-eating bacteria. But, they haven’t found any bacteria or other micro-organisms. In any case, the philosophical and theological problems wouldn’t come in until they find intelligent life with consciousness. Even then, it is the same thing as when considering other species on earth – which, according to fundamentalist Christians, have no souls (or at least spirits, because they are alive). If that is so, any life on other planets would be assimilated to non-human animals and plants. They would need to find creatures that use tools and have the various other characteristics by which we humans set ourselves apart from monkeys, dogs, horses, insects, etc.

  4. I would have to wait until life is found elsewhere before I jump to any conclusions.

    Shameless plug: If anyone wants to read another piece on science vs. religion, please check out this from my blog.

    • I would agree, but be ready for if they do find something. If the Church claims always to be right, if ever it is wrong – then it is Falsus in uno falsus in omnibus. I prefer a Church that isn’t always right, that reserves its judgement in matters of natural science, all that does not pertain directly to faith and religious praxis. Perhaps a discovery, one day, of intelligent alien life would blow Fundamentalism away. I would say “good riddance” because it has ruined the day of many good people like all other ideologies.

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