Extra-Solar Religion & Science

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2 Religion Adapts to Reality

Practice of empathy, reason, and conscience may provide the core for an extra-solar religion and yield a non-aggressive approach to other civilizations, but there may be other aspects of such a religion that may not be so familiar.

When organized religion loses its position as the sole source of knowledge on material reality, it adapts its worldview to each new view of material reality produced by organized science, just as other branches of civilization do. When geological advances showed the Earth to be billions of years old, biblical accounts of creation were declared metaphorical. As Paul of Tarsus remarked, as he helped organize a new religion, as far as reality is concerned, “We see through a glass darkly”.

Our view of reality continually changes, because the description of the structure of the material world changes. As an organization, religion achieves a consensus interpretation of each new approach within its hierarchy and promulgates it as a doctrine.  Similar organizations on other planets probably do the same. I have a terra-centric view that hierarchical structures are to be expected in extra-solar civilizations. It is an efficient way of apportioning information processing tasks among units with similar abilities. It works well providing interpersonal relationships are harmonious.

A change in viewpoint took place on Earth when quantum mechanics banished Newtonian determinism in favor of unpredictable randomness in the interactions between electrons and photons. The future of the universe, including the thoughts of sentient organisms evolving in it, could no longer be forecast in advance. What is particularly shocking for traditional religions is that if a perfect mind created the universe, He, She, or It may not know its course or end condition.

In the West, this development went against the theology of Augustine and Anselm and more recent theologians, and also against the philosophy of Spinoza and others. They suggested that a perfect mind (I use this term as substitute for the many names of gods) must be self-created beyond space and time to be able to create a universe in space and time. He (I use their pronoun) would not be subject to the limitations of space and time. He might therefore view the entire past and future of spacetime deterministically. Augustine, however, was not entirely sure. He worried that the pattern of his words in time, even addressed to a perfect mind, might be incomprehensible in a region lacking time.

John Polkinghorne has suggested that the perfect mind of a creative deity would see randomness as allowing another perfect mind to evolve without influence from the first. It was an abnegation of perfect authority (kenosis) to alleviate the solitude of one perfect mind by making possible the perfect union of two independent perfect minds. A good example of how theology may change after a major change in science.

A new change in science's view of reality is on the horizon and may influence religious thinking in another way, providing a concept of an atemporal eternity as an essential part of reality and restoring its primacy in creation of the universe. A new perspective like this may shape a message from an extraterrestrial intelligence into a form less comprehensible than scientists expect. 7/11/2020  2:07

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