Will religious beliefs affect unraveling the wonders of space?
The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) is a nonprofit research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church. CARA recently collaborated with GfK Custom Research to conduct a survey showing religious attitudes on space exploration. Among the questions asked were “Do you believe the Earth’s demise is ultimately something we can understand and predict scientifically or something in God’s hands and therefore unpredictable?” and “Do you believe that the destiny of human life is somewhere other than Earth or here on Earth?” Responses from the survey were correlated with other studies and opinions done on people from diverse religions to show the different religious attitudes on space exploration.
In the CARA study, interviews were conducted with 1,927 respondents between May 16 and May 26, 2016. The primary sample included 1,010 self identified Catholics and 917 non-Catholics, of whom 311 were evangelical Christians and 357 belonging to some other Christian affiliation. When asked whether the earth’s demise was something that human beings could understand and predict scientifically or it was something in God’s hands and therefore unpredictable, more than 6 in 10 believed it is unpredictable. When the data was further classified in terms of religious affiliation however, there were notable differences as can be seen below:
When asked whether the destiny of human beings was on the earth or on another planet, there were notable differences seen in people with no religious affiliation and those with a religious affiliation. There were also differences between Catholics and Evangelicals, with 28 percent of Catholics believing that life for humans is destined to be on the earth and 41 percent of Evangelicals agreeing with them:
In 2014, University of Dayton political science assistant professor, Joshua Ambrosius, used data from the General Social Survey and three Pew surveys to compare interest, support and knowledge of space exploration among Catholics, Jews, Evangelicals, Protestants, and those with no religion. His research was titled, “Separation of Church and Space: Religious Influences on Support for Space Exploration Policy.”
The study that Ambrosius conducted found out that Evangelicals were the least knowledgeable, supportive and interested of space exploration. On the other hand, Jews and members of Eastern religions were the most supportive. Evangelicals in 2014 made up a quarter of the U.S population. Ambrosius also discovered that Generation X and Millennials showed less interest and enthusiasm for space exploration than the Baby Boomer generation, leading him to remark, “This finding, if reflective of reality, is a disturbing trend. This again highlights the need for the space community to educate and excite young people to build the long-term constituencies necessary to promote and carry out future space exploration.”
While researching for his book, Religions and Extraterrestrial life, David Weintraub, an astronomy professor at Vanderbilt University, notes that Evangelical and Fundamental Christians are the least likely to accept the idea of extraterrestrials. Buddhists and Hindus have the least difficulty accepting the concept, since Buddhists believer there an uncounted number of inhabited worlds, while Hindus have toyed with the idea humans may have been reincarnated from aliens.
Jewish Rabbinical texts state there are millions of other planets, apparently trying to conclude there is no proof that life does not exist on other planets. The Quran also features verses pointing to the existence of extraterrestrial life. Weintraub also states members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Seventh-day Adventists “certainly believe in extraterrestrials.” Weintraub cites a 1950s era writing by then LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith who said: “We are not the only people that the Lord has created. We have brothers and sisters on other earths. They look like us because they, too, are the children of God and were created in his image, for they are also his offspring.” In the case of the Seventh-day Adventists, the religion’s co-founder, Ellen White, said “God had given her a view of other worlds where the people are ‘noble, majestic and lovely’ because their lives strictly follow God’s word.”
- The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate
- University of Dayton
- Times Free Press
- Amazon –Religions and Extraterrestrial life