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Via Science & Religion Today, we learn of a two-day Royal Society conference in London in which scientific big thinkers speculate on what alien life is likely to be like, if it indeed is ever discovered. A piece in New Scientist catalogues some educated guesses (none of them involving sexy, lanky Na’vi babes, alas). Simon Conway Morris, the Cambridge paleobiologist, supposes that if we ever encounter intelligent life in outer space, it’ll be a lot like us … and that’s not something to look forward to. Excerpt from a news account of his lecture at the conference:
Conway Morris will argue that alien life is most likely to occur on a planet similar to our own, with organisms made from the same biochemicals. The process of evolution will even shape alien life in a similar way, he added.
“My view is that Darwinian evolution is really quite predictable, and when you have a biosphere and evolution takes over, then common themes emerge and the same is true for intelligence.”
A questions for Christians in the room: would intelligent alien life be fallen, in the theological sense? Would aliens need a messiah? Is the fallenness that is part of postlapsarian human nature something that runs through all of creation, or only the human race? As I understand it — and please feel free to correct me, or to add to the discussion from your own tradition — the Orthodox Christian teaching is that through the Fall, all of creation became corrupted, its link with full sharing of the life of the Divine fractured, but not permanently broken. Here’s Romans 8: 21-23:
…that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
So, from a Christian point of view, all of creation awaits redemption, and deliverance from decay (which is to say, liberation from time) — not just humanity. From the Orthodox point of view, original sin is more accurately thought of as an “ancestral curse” — not the imputation of guilt onto future generations, but more along the lines of a genetic defect passed along throughout all generations. This metaphor could be extended even to intelligent life on other planets, if it exists. That is, for whatever mysterious reason, they would likely be just as broken as we are, and just as much in need of redemption. This is a theological way of agreeing with Simon Conway Morris, I suppose.