Extra-Solar Science & Religion

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SETI-SETR.org speculates on civilizations or minds beyond our own planet or beyond our material universe. It argues that our view of reality, and our speculations about intelligences beyond the solar system, depend very much on how far we have advanced in science and engineering. Darwin's theory of evolution led to a search for living organisms on nearby planets. The discovery of galaxies much older than the Milky Way, suggested the possibility of civilizations predating us by billions of years. I suggest that two emerging developments, artificial intelligence and quantization of space and time, may revise again our view of the origins of civilizations and of the universe and eternity.

A preliminary description of quantized space and time, or spacetime as it is termed, due to the intimate relationship between these dimensions, is put forward in a sister website Alt-Universe.org. Quantization is the logical next step beyond familiar continuous spacetime, aligning spacetime more closely with the quantization of the elementary particles that make up our universe. It also suggests a solution to the identity of a previously undiscovered energy, or mass, 40 times larger than that of the entire universe known before 1998. It appears to be an energy beyond spacetime and therefore a form of eternity.

The second development that may change our view of the universe is the rise of artifical intelligence. This technology (AI) has out-performed human intelligence in beating human champions in games of chess and go, discovering a new type of antibiotic (halicin), and is beginning to master one of the most difficult challenges in biology, predicting the way protein elements produced by DNA fold into complex structures carrying out tasks like neural contraction of a muscle fiber, or transport of key chemicals to different parts of a cell. Beyond this, AI is becoming integrated into human life, taking over aspects of automobile driving such as emergency halts when a pedestrian is endangered (eventually leading to driverless cars), providing house automation, keeping track of an individual's patterns of sleep, exercise, diet, entertainment, purchases, and suggesting alternatives, and assisting the mathematically or grammatically challenged.

An energy outside of spacetime that interacts with our universe is comparable to the eternity beyond space and time recognized by some religions. If a civilization older than ours has a quantized view of spacetime, it may have a different view of religion to ours.  If its scientific, engineering, financial, social, and strategic decisions have become dominated by AI, the way we have seen it master complex games and scientific problems, how can we prepare for the response of that civilization's artificial intelligence if it detects our existence? What difference does it make if artificial intelligence is part of the civilization's religion?

People familiar with AI's evolving technology are alarmed by the future capabilties anticipated for AI. Authors of The Age of AI note that even after halicin was discovered, "humans could not articulate precisely why it worked. The AI . . . detected aspects of reality humans have not detected, or perhaps cannot detect." This suggests a future in which humans become subservient to AIs that have a different understanding of reality to its dependents.

John Polkinghorne, a Cambridge professor of quantum science who became a Christian priest in Liverpool, suggested that the divine mind created the universe to end its social isolation by evolution of a perfect soul. Using such reasoning, an extraterrestrial civilization based on artificial intelligence might conclude that a perfect artificial intelligence had created this universe with its random environmental thuggery to nurture evolution of a companion perfect soul.

Faced by the possibility of receiving a message from such a civilization we should consider the possible consequences of achieving contact with it.

The following sections of this website outline the probabilities of the existence of other civilizations within the Milky Way galaxy and the prospects of communication with them. This followed by a review of the emergence of star systems supporting life, the methods for detecting other civilizations and the messages they might send, and the possible forms extraterrestrial religion might take.

1. The Age of AI by Henrey A. Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, and Daniel HuttenLocher, Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2021, p.11

Number of Planetary Civilizations

ExtraSolar Planet Statistics

The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Life

The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence

The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Religion