Another Earth Day...

While today we celebrate our own planetary home with "Earth Day," the Philadelphia Inquirer'sFaye Flam reports from a meeting in England that scientists have discovered the most Earth-like world yet, orbiting a star 21 light-years away.  Previous discoveries (or inferences, since determining the existence and location of these planets is mostly a matter of indirect observation and mathematical dexterity) of extrasolar planets have been either of huge gas giants or of planets far too close to their parent star to sustain life as we know it. 

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Those interested in the religious conundra presented by the possibility of extraterrestrial life might enjoy Arthur C. Clarke's chilling short story "The Star," in which a Jesuit astrophysicist joins a team of scientists visiting the home of an extraterrestrial civilization destroyed by a supernova thousands of years previous. His terrible realization of the way that civilization's death interacted with Christian tradition causes him to note ruefully that "God has no need to justify His actions to man. He who built the universe can destroy it when He chooses. It is arrogance--it is perilously near blasphemy--for us to say what He may or may not do."  Ultimately, he admits he has begun to doubt his own faith.

To read "The Star" online (warning: not for the faint of heart), click here.

Jim Keane, S.J.

 

 

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8 years 7 months ago
Interesting post. It reminds me of a past interview with Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno SJ, in which the question of finding intelligent life on other planets came up .... http://www.astrobio.net/news/article966.html
8 years 7 months ago
I believe it is close to a tenent of our faith that all humanity is related and descended from, "Adam and Eve". I doubt this means from the same "star dust". The trouble with much of this speculation and imagination is that it is not backed up by very much solid theology or philosophy by the (sad- to- say even)Jesuit astrophysicists. Nevertheless, thank you for clueing us in on the recent concerns of Earth Day; this doesn't quite meet the high level of information of most of your posts but perhaps neither does the subject.
8 years 7 months ago
The story chilled my spine for a sec, and I do get the point. However, without fuller information I am not sure the Jesuit would have been as freaked out as he was in the story. I think there are certain metaphysics that might give at least an understandable, if not satisfying, answer to this conundrum, metaphysics that would not even require the slightly fideist ''don't question God or His will'' move.
8 years 7 months ago
Loved this line in the story: "Perhaps if we had not been so far from home and so vulnerable to loneliness, we should not have been so deeply moved." The story of so many missionaries over the centuries! Thanks for a thought-provoking read.

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