David Mills has written about the theological impulses behind the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. An updated version of David Grinspoon’s Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life reinforces Mills’s point that the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is about more than weird science.
Grinspoon launches from the latest Mars discoveries to an “astro-theology” that grounds SETI in the hope for a cosmic utopia. Grinspoon wonders whether aliens might teach us to live in peace with ourselves, speculating that perhaps “they’ll relate best to Buddhist monks or Native American elders.”
Mills has asked why SETI enthusiasts are so depressed by the idea of being lonel in the cosmos? Grinspoon reveals this fear of being alone, along with a revulsion at the idea of human depravity and the hope for a rescue from it. For Grinspoon and his fellow sky-watchers, the answer to the human plight is a science fiction version of ancient Pelagianism. The aliens can teach us to subdue our selfish warlike instincts.
ET is not the Son of Man, and never will be. But when naturalist scientists start looking to the skies for rescue, there is at least the possibility of a conversation about Who might be there listening.