Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, spoke at a recent Ignatius Forum on his differences with “the scientific mainstream” about the evidence for extraterrestrial life. Perhaps in part because the venue was the Washington National Cathedral, Loeb felt motivated to reflect on the religious as well as the science implications of a search for extraterrestrial life.
As a member of Harvard University’s Galileo Project which seeks to “bring the search for extraterrestrial technological signatures of Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations (ETCs) from accidental or anecdotal observations and legends into the mainstream of transparent, validated and systematic scientific research,” he shared his thoughts with The Hill, which covers the U.S. Congress:
In finding advanced extraterrestrial intelligence, religion might simply reflect advanced science with a twist. Traditional religions described God as the creator of the universe and life within it. They also suggested that humans were made in the image of God. But these notions are not necessarily in contradiction with science. A sufficiently advanced scientific civilization might be able to create synthetic life in its laboratories — in fact, some of our terrestrial laboratories almost reached that threshold. And with a good understanding of how to unify quantum-mechanics and gravity, an advanced scientific civilization could potentially create a baby universe in its laboratories. Therefore, an advanced scientific civilization might be a good approximation to God.Avi Loeb, “Why science and religion come together when discussing extraterrestrial life” at The Hill (November 18, 2021)
Loeb told Cathedral Dean Randy Hollerith that he is not himself a “person of faith.” But one must assume that he means simply that he is not an adherent of a traditional religious belief system. The extraterrestrials he describes are currently as much a belief system as any other; they are not, of course, traditional.
In a proposal that might puncture the dreams of many young space cadets, he recommends sending artificial intelligence (AI) astronauts to explore space because “humans were selected by Darwinian evolution to survive on the surface of Earth and not in space.”
He also hopes that the hunt for ET will unify science and religion:
How can we unify religion and science? By finding AI-astronauts from a scientific civilization that is far more advanced than we are. The Galileo Project aims to search for extraterrestrial equipment near Earth.
The question remains: Did God — in its religious or scientific interpretations — create humans in its image or did humans imagine the concept of God in their mind? The Galileo Project can address the scientific context of this question.Avi Loeb, “Why science and religion come together when discussing extraterrestrial life” at The Hill (November 18, 2021)
So the Galileo Project, which looks for physical evidence of extraterrestrials, aims to answer religious questions as well as science ones. That’s clearly an alternative to refuting or replacing religious belief.
There seems to be something of a sea change going on in science these days. In neuroscience, we see the growth of panpsychism (everything participates in consciousness). And in cosmology, fewer scientists seem to think we can do without any source of intelligence at all. That would account for the growing popularity of the idea that advanced extraterrestrials created or fine-tuned our universe. As noted here earlier:
Nick Bostrom at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute is a key proponent of this view, best known to the public from the film The Matrix (1999). The term red pill is from that film. Elon Musk is certainly a supporter but Royal Astronomer Sir Martin Rees is sympathetic, as is Neil deGrasse Tyson At Vulture, a New York culture magazine, we are offered fifteen reasons why it might be true. An article appeared at Scientific American earlier this year, offering support for the simulation hypothesis because “here we are generating this product called consciousness that we apparently don’t have a use for, that is an experience and hence must serve as an experience. The only logical next step is to surmise that this product serves someone else.” The article was written by a senior editor at Nature Energy. A number of sources are looking for ways to test the hypothesis. (October 3, 2021)
In this specific area of research, speculation has been fueled by, for example, the recent Pentagon UAP (UFO) report, which acknowledged that conventional explanations could not account for all current observations. Overall, it’s a significant attitude change from the usual promissory skepticism.
“What is the most exciting project in your organization?.” They both replied: “It is classified.”Avi Loeb, “Why science and religion come together when discussing extraterrestrial life” at The Hill (November 18, 2021)
Their projects may have nothing to do with extraterrestrials, of course. But the significance is that 1) they were at such a meeting at all and 2) that it was reported in The Hill with no snark and no slams at traditional religious beliefs. That would be much less likely two decades ago. It will be interesting to see where the new approach takes the researchers.
You may also wish to read: Harvard astronomer: Advanced aliens engineered the Big Bang Avi Loeb writes in Scientific American that when we humans are sufficiently advanced, we will create other universes as well. Avi Loeb’s hypothesis is not logically stranger than the many hypotheses that attempt to account for the Big Bang without underlying information/intelligence.
The Pentagon’s UAP (UFO) report signals a sharp attitude change. The brass have committed themselves to going “wherever the data takes us.” No, they didn’t report UFOs. But they reported enough mysteries to stop merely debunking and discrediting… and follow the evidence.