NASA recently hired two dozen theologians at the Center for Theological Inquiry (CTI) in Princeton, New Jersey, to offer religious guidance to people if contact with aliens were ever to occur.
According to Relevant Magazine, Carl Pilcher, the former head of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, said NASA enlisted the theologians to “consider the implications of applying the tools of late 20th (and early 21st) century science to questions that had been considered in religious traditions for hundreds or thousands of years.”
Rev. Dr. Andrew Davison, a University of Cambridge religious scholar and one of the 24 theologians on the new project, agreed that if humans were ever to make contact with aliens, it would “be useful to have thought through the implications in advance.”
Davison believes that a “large number of people would turn to their religion’s traditions for guidance” if such contact were to occur and that it would present significant ramifications “for the standing and dignity of human life.”
This isn’t the first time NASA and the CTI have worked together. In 2014, the space agency awarded CTI a $1.1 million grant to conduct the Societal Implications of Astrobiology study, through which researchers examined the interest and openness to scientific inquiry among worshippers.
According to CTI director Will Storrar, the 24 theologians hope to see “serious scholarship being published in books and journals” regarding extraterrestrials in discovering the “profound wonder and mystery and implication of finding microbial life on another planet.”
Over the years, more people have begun to believe in the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Earlier this year, a Pew Research study found that two-thirds of Americans believe that aliens exist, with more younger Americans holding to that belief.
The connection between religion and belief in intelligent life on other planets has also grown in recent years. One research study from Scientific American noted that belief in religion or aliens stems from the human impulse to seek deeper meaning in life.