Soon We Will Find Life On Other Planets. And Then What?

True believers of the major religions of the world may find that difficult to take, if not impossible. Many claim that their holy books were written by God himself, and since God is perfect, the books are complete. Anything else is false.

The hyper-religious have difficulty with scientific progress. They believe it is not possible to gain new knowledge, because everything was known when the holy books were written. That’s why evolution is unacceptable. God created everything as it is, and it is perfect and never changes.

The hyper-religious
have difficulty
with scientific progress.

Now exoplanets—planets around other suns in our own galaxy—are being discovered by the dozens, thanks to increasingly sensitive telescopes. It will be rather difficult for these people to accept that the holy books are incomplete and imperfect when evidence of life on these planets is found, unless one rejects virtually everything else about modern life. Like cellphones.

Most people have no real understanding of how big our own Milky Way galaxy is, let alone the universe, and True Believers are utterly clueless. It would take light 100,000 years to travel from one side of the Milky Way to the other (although they claim the universe is only 4,000 years old). Our Milky Way galaxy is only one medium sized galaxy among about 100 billion in the universe, some of which would take 1,500,000 years for light to travel across. Each galaxy has stars numbering in billions, even trillions, which are so far away that we can’t discern even one of them individually. The number of stars that have planets appears to be very high, because stars form from diffuse matter that accumulates via gravity to a density great enough to cause fission, leaving considerable matter behind to form planets in the same way.

Incidentally, most of what we know about the universe is new information, not even a century old. What we now know as the Milky Way galaxy was assumed to be the entire universe, until bigger telescopes showed us other galaxies.

Exoplanets are being discovered by the dozens.

Except for our sun, the closest star and its planets in our own galaxy are much too far away to ever reach in a single lifetime, even without returning to Earth. We only know these exoplanets exist because they cause dimming of their star when they pass in front of it. But we’re learning more and more about them.

It is estimated that there are 100 billion planets just in our Milky Way, and we know that at least 30 of the 2,000 we have observed so far have conditions that may support life. With growing numbers being discovered, it seems only a matter of time before we find clear evidence of life on other worlds. We won’t find little green men, let alone humanlike beings. What we will find will be evidence of chemicals only found where there is life. The new telescopes and other devices that will make these discoveries are now coming online, or will be completed within the next few decades. It will be an exciting time.

It seems only a matter of time
before we find clear evidence
of life on other worlds.

What will Religion think about life elsewhere? Well, the rational religious, believers who are able to view the more fantastic religious writings as symbolic, will accept these findings as interesting new information that expands our knowledge. The irrational religious will claim it’s another of Obama’s lies, that we are still the center of the universe, ruled over by a guy with a long white beard who lives in the sky.

It is impossible to maintain such a belief and be rational at the same time, but being rational is not often on the minds of fundamentalists. Religious fundamentalism has failed to keep up with the growth of knowledge, largely because true believers think God wrote the book and refused a second edition. Or, since the book is already perfect, a second edition is not necessary. As a result, fundamentalist religion requires belief in things that we learned long ago are simply not possible, as well as all the many imperfect contradictions in all the holy books.

What will Religion think about life elsewhere?

Will people accept that moral behavior is not determined by an ancient book of absurd and cruel laws claimed to be dictated by a deity? Will they finally give up the unsupportable belief that we somehow live on after we die? Will the total absence of evidence for heaven, hell, angels and all that finally be sufficient to bring people to a more rational understanding of the universe and our sacred duty toward our fellow beings and the planet we live on? While we’re alive?

Not at all.

It will divide the world into those who know and those who believe. “True Believers”—the kind who believe evolution was disproven by the Scopes trial—will withdraw from the modern world, and declare all of science to be false, furthering a trend already in ascendance. It will make believers even more steadfast in asserting that Earth is the center of the universe, and all the numerous other religious fables.

One would hope that
the findings of science
would give us humility
and respect for life.

It may usher in a new and dangerous era, in which the people who already believe it is important to stockpile guns and ammo become increasingly intolerant, radical, violent, and prone to belief in conspiracy theories. And more ignorant. (Think Texas, and Jade Helm 15.) Muslim “true believers”, whom Ayaan Hirsi Ali refers to as “Medina Muslims”, and we clump together as radical Muslim terrorists, believe it is their duty to murder any and all non-Muslims. They regularly do just that. They follow the Q’ran to the letter. That is why murderers keep popping up from reasonable populations of Muslims. That is why Saudi Arabia is currently advertising for an executioner to chop people’s heads and hands off.

How this will turn out is not at all certain. One would hope that the findings of science that disprove the possibility of so many simplistic religious assertions—our uniqueness being one—would be enough to enlarge all of humankind’s understanding of life in the amazing universe, and give us proper humility and respect for life and our place in it, but that doesn’t appear to be happening.

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