Thursday, June 14, 2012

Aliens Are My Brothers

Some years ago a priest responsible for a welfare center put a sign out in front with the words: "Aliens not welcomed." It was an attempt at humor, welcoming all to the center.
A staff member jokingly asked, "Aren't they also God's children?" Writing in the Window from The Ark column in the Catholic Times, the priest recalls that the incident was the prelude to thoughts on a subject he was not familiar with: other inhabited worlds, other people we call extra-terrestrials. 

One of the students who frequents the center asked the priest in all seriousness: "Father, if I am made from the DNA of an alien, does that mean that my head, as I get older, will develop into the head of an extra-terrestrial?" The priest was stupefied by the question and asked the student why he thought that was possible. It was then that he realized what the student had been seeing in the mass media. Doing his own search on the internet, he was surprised by what he found.

He soon began asking himself what would he do if he met one of these aliens, in the future or in the present? He also came to realize how much interest in aliens there was in our society and that there is a religious movement, the Raelians, who believe they have the DNA of aliens. However, he believes it important to remember that Internet information on extra-terrestrial life is presented without any supporting factual evidence, that no sources are given for the pictures shown, and that the explanatory theories offered are, in his words, "without the least semblance of credibility." Though most people know this, it does not prevent some from believing that extra-terrestrials are here, disguised, living among us.  

The priest mentions the well-known astrophysicist Carl Sagan and the influence of his 1980 television series: Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.  In his science fiction novel Contact the protagonist says: "If this universe was made for just one  type of intelligent creation, it was a great waste." He reminds us that Sagan was agnostic and felt that religion was close to superstition. 

Our response to all this, the priest says, is far from clear, but we can't just ignore it.  There are many young people who refer to the words of Sagan when asking us about extra-terrestrial life.  What should be our answers? he asks. If there are other worlds and other intelligent creatures living there, then aren't they our brothers? It's a question that young people are facing and struggling with. What are we to say to them, when we see their faith being challenged? These are the thoughts that came to the columnist as he looked out the window of his 'Ark' and saw that the rain was still falling.

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