Science, Religion, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Hardcover | September 1, 2013

byDavid Wilkinson

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If the discovery of life elsewhere in the universe is just around the corner, what would be the consequences for religion? Would it represent another major conflict between science and religion, even leading to the death of faith? Some would suggest that the discovery of any suggestion ofextraterrestrial life would have a greater impact than even the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions. It is now over 50 years since the first modern scientific papers were published on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Yet the religious implications of this search and possible discovery have never been systematically addressed in the scientific or theological arena. SETI is nowentering its most important era of scientific development. New observation techniques are leading to the discovery of extra-solar planets daily, and the Kepler mission has already collected over 1000 planetary candidates. This deluge of data is transforming the scientific and popular view of theexistence of extraterrestrial intelligence. Earth-like planets outside of our solar system can now be identified and searched for signs of life.Now is a crucial time to assess the scientific and theological questions behind this search. This book sets out the scientific arguments undergirding SETI, with particular attention to the uncertainties in arguments and the strength of the data already assembled. It assesses not only the discoveryof planets but other areas such as the Fermi paradox, the origin and evolution of intelligent life, and current SETI strategies. In all of this it reflects on how these questions are shaped by history and pop culture and their relationship with religion, especially Christian theology. It is arguedthat theologians need to take seriously SETI and to examine some central doctrines such as creation, incarnation, revelation, and salvation in the light of the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

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If the discovery of life elsewhere in the universe is just around the corner, what would be the consequences for religion? Would it represent another major conflict between science and religion, even leading to the death of faith? Some would suggest that the discovery of any suggestion ofextraterrestrial life would have a greater impac...

David Wilkinson is Principal of St John's College, Durham University. He is also Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion. His background is research in theoretical astrophysics, where he gained a PhD in the study of star formation, the chemical evolution of galaxies and terrestrial mass extinctions. He is a Fellow of the ...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:232 pagesPublished:September 1, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199680205

ISBN - 13:9780199680207

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Table of Contents

1. Cinema, cults and meteorites: Searching for something more2. Speculating about a plurality of worlds: The historical context of science, religion and SETI3. Hubble and Drake: SETI and cosmology4. The Daily Planet5. Genesis 2.0? SETI and biology6. Looking for a needle in a haystack: Current SETI strategies7. Fermi's Paradox8. The 'myths' of SETI and religion9. SETI and the Christian understanding of creation10. SETI and the Christian understanding of redemption11. Be not so positive

Editorial Reviews

"Imagine we woke up one day to news that there is intelligent life beyond Earth. What would this do to our view of our own selves and of our place in the cosmos? What would it mean for our belief in God and our relationship with Him? David Wilkinson draws on his training in Physics andTheology to grapple with these fascinating questions in a thoughtful, informed and highly lucid manner." --Carlos Frenk FRS, Ogden Professor of Fundamental Physics, Durham University