If There Were Intelligent Alien Life

I hope we discover proof of intelligent alien life in our universe, within my lifetime.

I would love to see how this discovery alters the views and behavior of humanity.

In many ways I hope it would create a new, more helpful context for our local conflicts, because we would realize we are not the center of that universe anymore. We’ve got a bigger game of competition to worry about, rather than squabble about exclusive use of land and resources at home.

But in many ways I also think I would be disappointed that, for many, this would not alter the belief people hold that make humans seems like the centerpiece of the universe, the sole focus of the grand story of creation. I anticipate that they would just adjust their theology to explain how even the new alien life is still an accessory to the preeminent human narrative.

What if we we were able learn that an alien civilization also believed in God or gods, but were not like anything in the collection we have on earth? Would this be evidence against anyone’s sense of having the right one among many? Or would the aliens different belief be regarded as proof that they are lost and in need of the Good News only one tribe of humans alone in the universe has to deliver?

What if we were able to learn that an alien civilization had a particular God and religious narrative that nearly perfectly matched one of those on earth? Would this convince the other earthly religions that they must be on the wrong track? Or would it be regarded as proof that the same ‘deceptions of the devil’ have manifest all over the universe?

What if we were able to learn that a whole network of alien civilizations, far older, far more advanced than our own, no longer hold any belief in God or gods at all and are doing far better because of it? Would we be persuaded that our notion of gods and religion were primitive adaptations that must eventually be discarded? Or would we maintain some sense of superiority and persecution because we choose to faithfully hold on to belief despite the temptations of advancing civilization?

I would be pleased to see how some people accept this new information at face value and allow it to alter their world view. I would be disappointed that the beliefs of many would remain impervious to falsification – or at least some reasonable alteration – no matter what kind of facts were presented.