As I’m sure I have already mentioned, I’m not a strong user of social media and am not even “on “ Face book, which is apparently akin to not existing, according to my kids and some of my friends in my own ( admittedly mature) age group. But I’m not likely to relent on that any time soon and my affectionate tongue in cheek response when I am quizzed as to why I haven’t joined up, is that I’m privacy obsessed and in the Witness Protection program 🙂
Fortunately, however, I did sign up for Twitter a few years back, drawn to the links and news bites from various participants in the Space program and a strong contention that learning to express your thoughts and opinions in 140 characters is a good exercise for a writer J
Turns out, I made a good decision as I have learned much from Twitter and the various scientists that I follow. Periodically, it will offer up a real gift in the form of a link to an article that provides a new perspective on the subjects that I am passionate about. And one of those rare gems came my way recently. The article, entitled “Religion May Motivate Humanity’s Future Expansion into Space” by Jesse Emspak , appeared on Space. Com’s website and they tweeted out the link. And I couldn’t have been happier!
Wonderful 🙂 Great to know that I am not the only one that thinks about the Faith and Science journey and even more validation for my fundamental belief that Faith and Science can not only be integrated but may one day merge –at least on some issues 🙂
The article tells us that the Mars Society held its national convention in Washington last week and included a panel discussion entitled “Cosmos in Cosmoi- Worldview & Visions for the Future of Humanity as a Multi-Planetary Species”. Four experts discussed the factors that motivate human beings to explore space, including social and religious motivators. What? How could religion motivate us to go to space? Heck- I hadn’t even thought of that! As compelled as I am by the topic, my focus has always been how religion will be affected by space travel and the discovery of life elsewhere. I have to confess that I hadn’t even considered the possibility of faith or religion being a motivator for us to get there. But this article really got me thinking.
First of all, it tells us that “popular notions of the religion-science divide don’t often hold up to scrutiny and the urge to go to remote places can be rooted in a fundamentally religious impulse.” I profoundly agree that the dichotomy of faith and science is not as fundamental as people seem to believe that it is. Although I have talked to science professionals on this topic who seem reluctant to discuss “the religion thing “, I have also met more people on both sides of the so-called “divide” who have found a balance they can live with. I know people who work in science who are also people of faith and vice versa—the Jesuit priests who operate the Vatican Observatory being an obvious example. But is the urge to explore and seek out remote places a fundamental religious impulse? It’s fascinating to consider.
One of the panellists, a noted Science Fiction author, points out during the discussion that there hasn’t been any human spaceflight since the 1970’s and the last manned mission to the Moon. I think that it’s widely accepted fact that the Space Race of the 1960’s was primarily driven by politics and the Americans’ fear that the Russians (who launched the first man made object , the satellite Sputnik, into space in 1957) would get to the Moon first. Since then, there have been a lot of probes and robotic explorers and astronauts in low earth orbit on the Space Station but no humans heading to other worlds. The private space industry has had some success in stimulating interest in humans travelling to space ( think Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson and Elon Musk and Space X ) but , he concludes, the concepts of science –and profit –alone —don’t seem to be enough to drive humanity out into space.
The panel’s conclusion especially resonated with me as it is a principle that I have long held dear. We explore not just for the science or the fame or recognition or even the knowledge. We explore because we are driven by something much larger and it is connected to not just religious dogma but the very foundation of faith—all faiths! We all, at some level and at some point in time and likely since the beginning of time have asked ourselves-“Why am I here? “. And as we look into the starry vastness of the night sky- “What is our place in the Universe? “ The panel concluded that this human need to find answers to the deeper questions of life is one of the most critical –if not the most critical –drivers of human space exploration. In recent months, we’ve been hearing about the thousands of applicants for Mars One—a one way mission to colonize Mars—hardly a welcoming planet at this point in time. Normal every day intelligent folks willing to leave behind everything they know and love to pioneer the next frontier, even knowing that they will die out there. They are not doing it for the money and I would speculate that even the science and knowledge is a secondary factor to that innate human need to know where we fit in the Universe. And the only way to find that out is to go there—see who or what else is out there—and figure out how we fit into the larger scheme of the Universe/God/ the Creator or whoever else you believe is at the helm of this ship called Life. An oversimplification, I know, but perhaps even with all our angst and existential struggles, perhaps it really is that simple.
I’ll close with a metaphor presented by one of the panellists that I feel really drives this point home. Lance Strate, a Communications Professor, points out in the article “The space program is channelling all these resources and labour to send our people to our conception of heaven.” Since many people of faith believe that is where we came from, perhaps our drive to go out into space is about nothing more than trying to find our way home….
Check out this fascinating the article in more detail at http://www.space.com/34201-religion-motivates-humanity-space-settlement.html.
“What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make His way home? “
From the song “One of Us” by Joan Osborne. ( one of my favourite songs which I have found to be a moving and haunting tribute to our connection to God )
Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts. Thank you for being part of the conversation.
In faith and hope,