We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Friday, August 10, 2012

Welcome to a Smaller Earth & a Larger Universe

Artist's conception of the Curiosity rover. (AFP / Getty Images)
Even in the midst of the Olympics, it was hard to miss the blare of media headlines (here) that reported the August 6th landing of the latest Mars rover, Curiosity, on Mars.  The main goal of the Curiosity project is to discover evidence of life on the red planet, and it is noteworthy that NASA invested some $2.5 billion in the project.  That is a lot of money to spend on discovering life on Mars!  It suggests that finding life or evidence that there once was life on Mars is significant scientifically.  It would literally open new worlds for the study of biology and further reduce the place of Planet Earth in the universe.  Right now, as far as we know, Earth is the only place where there is life in the known Universe.  Life on Mars would take away that distinction.

Early photo of its surrroundings from Curiousity
The discovery of life on Mars would be a big deal theologically as well.  If it turns out, as seems all but certain, that life has and does exist in other places in the Universe, we will once again need to expand our view of God's creation and role in creation.  We will have to consider the possibility that humanity is in and of itself but an accident of universal evolution, not central to God's plan for the universe.  It is possible that we are only a microscopically tiny part of something going on in the Universe.  That is God is still greater than our grandest imaginings and God's plan dwarfs us into true insignificance.  Once we establish, if we can, that life existed elsewhere in our solar system, then it is virtually certain that complex life and intelligent life is also found elsewhere, probably in a dizzying complexity that will challenge human understanding.

God would be still greater, we would be yet smaller.  And it would be clearer still that our theologies, all of them, are but incredibly inadequate, immeasurably humble attempts to grasp the Ungraspable.  Those who continue to try to build their theologies on certainties and absolutes rather than humility in the face of God's wonderfully not-at-all-absolute reality will find themselves even more isolated from the real universe science is discovering.  It is wiser and truer to God's creation to build our theologies on the solid rock of humility and spirituality.  Our faith as Christians would then be that as apparently insignificant as we are God has not left us without witnesses, Christ being that witness for those us who put our trust in him.  Amen.