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  Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal With It? (David Weintraub)

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Author Topic:   Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal With It? (David Weintraub)
cspg
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posted 02-04-2014 01:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal With It?
by David A. Weintraub
In the twenty-first century, the debate about life on other worlds is about to change from the realm of informed speculation to the domain of hard science. Astronomers are putting together some hard facts about the universe and exoplanets that will change our conversations about extraterrestrial life forever.

This book starts with the assumption that millions of other planets exist, that life could exist on many of those planets, and that astronomers will soon determine whether life exists on them. It then asks the simple question: Can we humans handle having firm knowledge that life does exist beyond the Earth?

The teachings and writings of most major religions are examined one at a time to see whether a given religion has a pre-conceived notion about the uniqueness or superiority of earthbound life relative to extraterrestrial life. Do these religions make a claim that life on Earth is unique? Superior? That other beings in the universe need to be converted? How would these beliefs hold up if extrasolar life is actually discovered?

Whether we are alone or have company out there, knowing the answer will trigger one of the greatest intellectual revolutions in history. This re-evaluation will present a challenge for at least some terrestrial religions. Which religions will handle these discoveries with ease and which religions will struggle to assimilate the new knowledge about our place in the universe?

  • Softcover, 200 p.
  • Springer, July 31, 2014
  • ISBN 978-3-319-05055-3

Gonzo
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posted 02-05-2014 02:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gonzo   Click Here to Email Gonzo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Without turning this thread into a religious discussion, which I think would be wrong, inappropriate and utenable, I think this book would an interesting read. From a purely scientific viewpoint, it will be interesting to read the author's points concerning how the existence of extrasolar life would impact the worlds religions.

cspg
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posted 02-06-2014 04:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That's precisely why I posted this book.

Religion is plural, hence the interesting part.

p51
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posted 02-06-2014 12:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't get it.

How each denomination reacts to proof of life on other worlds depends entirely on how the leaders of each faith react and how the individual sects each determine their own policy to deal with it.

Nobody can look into the future to see how that'll play out. It also varies through time, I think anyone would agree that how any group would react to proof of alien life would be quite different, say, in the early 1950s than it would today. It carries then that the reaction in the future would be different than it would today...

Gonzo
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posted 02-07-2014 10:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gonzo   Click Here to Email Gonzo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can see your point as no one can definitively say how each religion would react except the leaders of the religions at the time, at least at the "official" level, or how the followers "should" react. However, knowing what we do about the beliefs in each religion, I think the author (given proper research) could reasonably predict at least the general reaction by the followers of each faith. For example, Catholics would probably react differently than Buddhists. And the impact of those reactions is what would be interesting. I don't think it would be a stretch to predict how a religion would be expected to react. It's the implications of those reactions that would be of interest.

Rocketman!
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posted 02-07-2014 01:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rocketman!   Click Here to Email Rocketman!     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
More interesting, perhaps, would be to learn about the religious and spiritual beliefs (if any) of the alien cultures we, one day, encounter.

moorouge
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posted 02-13-2014 02:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Isn't it a question of who would try to convert who?

An indication of the outcome can be gauged by looking back to our history as a species, from those that discovered the New World to those opening up the African continent. It's a sad fact that almost every war the human race has fought has been religion based.

p51
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posted 02-13-2014 03:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
Isn't it a question of who would try to convert who?
Probably. That's assuming that said alien race has a religion.

Any species capable of getting here would be orders of magnitude more technologically advanced than we are, so I have a feeling we'd be embracing the faith of the 'alien pope overlord tentacled messiah' pretty quickly if they wanted it that way.

"Convert or die" was pretty much the order of things when humans went to other lands, back in the day. Many would say we haven't progressed much beyond that point.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-13-2014 03:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by p51:
Any species capable of getting here would be orders of magnitude more technologically advanced than we are, so I have a feeling we'd be embracing the faith...
Or to quote the late Arthur C. Clarke:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

gliderpilotuk
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posted 02-14-2014 05:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Based on the effect of religion on the world today, the extra-terrestrials can't come too soon!

GACspaceguy
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posted 02-14-2014 05:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Speculations are like cartoons, you can make anything happen.

Gonzo
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posted 02-17-2014 08:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gonzo   Click Here to Email Gonzo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
Isn't it a question of who would try to convert who?
quote:
Originally posted by p51:
Probably. That's assuming that said alien race has a religion.

Any species capable of getting here would be orders of magnitude more technologically advanced than we are, so I have a feeling we'd be embracing the faith of the 'alien pope overlord tentacled messiah' pretty quickly if they wanted it that way.

"Convert or die" was pretty much the order of things when humans went to other lands, back in the day. Many would say we haven't progressed much beyond that point.


So let's look at this logically and honestly.

Any intelligent race will likely have a religion. We may not understand it, but most likely, if they came, our visitors would. You have to remember, religion is simply a tool to help us deal and understand that which we can't. That is, there will always be more to understand. Knowledge is infinite. No one can ever understand everything. So, to deal with that which you cannot understand, you turn to faith. As such, any intelligent race will likely have a religion, human or otherwise.

Now comes the question of who will try to convert who. It has been pointed out that any race advanced enough to make it to our puny little planet will be magnitudes more advanced than us. Logically that would be true and due to that, IF they chose to convert us, it would probably be as stated, convert or die. Or maybe...

However, I don't think that would be the case. I don't think they would forcibly try to convert us. And my reasoning is simple. p51 said that "back in the day" when humans went to other lands, we would forcibly convert the natives. To be more correct (and I'm not picking on them here, just pointing out the facts), it wasn't humans that was doing the converting, it was Christians. I point this out because many religions in the world today do not try to convert people to their faith. Most in fact, do not. Buddhism for one comes to mind. In Buddhism it is strongly advised NOT to change your religion. Jews are the same. When was the last time you ever heard of a Jew trying to convert someone? The same can be said for Hindu's and even Muslims.

All that being said, I think it would be a fair observation to say that if the race is magnitudes more advanced that we are, it would also be fair to say that their religion would also be magnitudes more advanced that ours. And with that statement, it would seem that, as a more advanced concept, respect for others beliefs would rule and the "forced conversion" would therefore not happen.

Then again, as I said, if they did want to convert this puny little planet to their faith, I don't think we would even have a fair chance at resistance! At least not on the "official" front. We may "convert" to appease our new overlords, but in the streets, we would have even more faith in the religions we follow at the time. And we would do so to help us understand, again, that which we cannot at the time.

quote:
Originally posted by moorogue:
It's a sad fact that almost every war the human race has fought has been religion based.
I threw in this to agree. A wise man once said, "If we want wars to stop, religions have to get along."

cspg
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posted 02-17-2014 08:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gonzo:
So let's look at this logically and honestly. Any intelligent race will likely have a religion.
And yet the reverse is NOT true.
quote:
Knowledge is infinite.
Is it?

canyon42
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posted 02-17-2014 08:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for canyon42   Click Here to Email canyon42     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think that the statement that any intelligent species will "likely" have a religion is any more defensible than saying that a much more advanced species will "likely not" have a religion. We have no basis for claiming either of those positions. A more honest answer would be that we simply have no idea.

gliderpilotuk
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posted 02-17-2014 09:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gonzo:
So, to deal with that which you cannot understand, you turn to faith.
Or philosophy. Or Spiritualism. Or you just don't worry about what you don't understand.
quote:
Originally posted by Gonzo:
As such, any intelligent race will likely have a religion, human or otherwise.
There's certainly no necessary logical connection between intelligence and religion.

p51
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posted 02-17-2014 09:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gonzo:
When was the last time you ever heard of a Jew trying to convert someone? The same can be said for Hindu's and even Muslims.
Okay, I'll accept the others cited in this portion of the quote. However, Muslims... seriously? Really, how familiar are you with that faith's track record on that point? I almost spit a mouthful of water at the screen when I read that.

spaced out
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posted 02-17-2014 10:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gonzo:
Without turning this thread into a religious discussion, which I think would be wrong, inappropriate and untenable...

Too late...

Gonzo
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posted 02-17-2014 08:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gonzo   Click Here to Email Gonzo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Interesting discussion. A bit off topic from the original post, but interesting nonetheless.

A couple of points then back to the original post.

First, I do believe that extrasolar intelligence would be more likely to have a religion than not. Religion/faith/spirituality only exists in the minds of intelligent life. It requires intelligence to create and follow them. Animals don't have religious beliefs. So it requires more than just simple self-awareness (because it has been shown that many animals are self-aware). And as far as human religious beliefs go, evidence suggests we have had religious beliefs ever since we climbed out of the trees. So religious beliefs seem to be inherently connected to intelligence. As we have already agreed, any race that can conquer the vastness of space well enough to come here would surely be more advanced than we are. Therefore they likely would also have religious beliefs. I agree that we can't know now. That we can only speculate, but given what we know about intelligence, it would seem likely that they would.

As far as knowledge being infinite, maybe not literally, but is it possible for any race to know EVERYTHING?

Also, most of our worlds religions do not actively try to convert new believers. My point was that it would seem, given thought, that if our visitors had religious beliefs, it would be unlikely for them to force us to convert. They could make us their tenants and force us to do their bidding (by force), but it is unlikely they would try to force us to believe in their religion. That, it has been shown, simply doesn't work and they would know that.

Finally, from what I gather, the book isn't about this nonsense that we can't know the answers to. Rather, the book is an inward look at how our religions would likely react to the forthcoming news of extrasolar intelligent life. This could possibly cut the very core of some of our religions basic beliefs. And that, to me, would be an interesting discussion indeed. It could force us to really look at what we truly believe and why.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-17-2014 09:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gonzo:
As we have already agreed, any race that can conquer the vastness of space well enough to come here would surely be more advanced than we are. Therefore they likely would also have religious beliefs.
You're assuming that in the process of their becoming more advanced they haven't also outgrown their religions, which then leads us to...
quote:
It could force us to really look at what we truly believe and why.
...that by the time an extraterrestrial intelligence arrives, that we too haven't done away with our need or desire for religions.

Mike Dixon
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posted 02-17-2014 09:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike Dixon   Click Here to Email Mike Dixon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In so many aspects of our lives, we think in terms of boundaries. With regard to (seemingly endless) space, I have difficulty coming to grips with the concept without asking "where's the edge" and if it exists, "what's on the other side".

Hopefully by the time "they" arrive, we'll have some answers.

All times are CT (US)

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