(ORDO NEWS) — Professor Avi Loeb, founding director of the Harvard University Black Hole Initiative, director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and former chair of the Harvard University Department of Astronomy, discusses what would happen if humanity discovered traces of alien technology on Earth, in our the solar system, and what consequences such a discovery would have.
The discovery of extraterrestrial equipment will have a profound impact on humanity. The recently announced Galileo project will search for such relics near Earth. How can this change us?
During the Jewish holidays, Rob Dobrusin, Rabbi Emeritus of the Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor, Michigan, emailed me that he had read a sermon on my book Extraterrestrial and published a transcript of it on his blog. I humbled myself when I heard this and thanked him.
But, to my surprise, the correspondence did not end there, as the sermon was posted on Twitter and instantly received 6 retweets and 30 likes. One of the parishioners who heard the sermon was so intrigued that he asked me if I believed that people were created in the image and likeness of God.
As a scientist, I agree with this opinion, if only we identify God with nature, as did the rationalist philosopher Baruch Spinoza.
I had just pressed the submit button when I received another message from a colleague who noted, “The next time we meet for dinner, my wife and I will ask you to read us a sermon.” To which I replied, “I would never lead a congregation whose members agree with me. There is no need for that.”
A few minutes later, a Harvard historian, Professor Erez Manela, wrote to me: “It’s amazing how your work shapes religious sermons, but not surprising considering how it penetrates questions about the meaning of life and humanity’s place in the universe.”
And Princeton astronomer Professor Neta Bahcall wrote in an email: “It’s very interesting how this reached and affected such important and unexpected places.”
It is to be hoped that the evidence for the existence of more intelligent beings will inspire us to ignore our petty differences and cooperate as equal members of the human race.”
The flurry of reports implies that the possible existence of intelligent aliens touches upon the most fundamental aspects of human existence.
Physical objects that astronomers regularly study, such as stars, black holes, dark matter, or the cosmic microwave background, are subject to the strict laws of physics and lack the freedom associated with human consciousness.
Finding aliens would be like discovering cosmic relatives we’ve never met and who may reveal the secrets of our past. The consequences of their existence are too great to be described by scientific equations, and go far beyond the confines of academic halls.
The recently announced Project Galileo aims to use the standard scientific method to find out the presence of extraterrestrial technological equipment near Earth, as hinted at by the UAP report to Congress or the discovery of the strange interstellar object ʻOumuamua.
The discovery that we are not the smartest species on Earth could have wide implications for our most fundamental questions:
What is the sense of life? If these other entities had been with us for most of the past 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang, they might have had a better idea of the situation. It is presumptuous of us to comprehend this meaning based on less than ten thousand years of our recorded history.
Does God exist?
If we mean by this: “someone who can create life or new universes”, and if their scientific understanding of biology and quantum gravity is far ahead of ours, then they may have the abilities that our religious texts attribute to divine power. In fact, we are close to creating synthetic life in our laboratories only a century after we started our recent scientific development.
What happens after death? Aliens can teach us how to increase our lifespan by orders of magnitude with the help of advanced technology. If death can be delayed sufficiently, then this issue will lose its relevance.
How should people treat each other? The realization that there is a much more advanced species will make our genetic differences less significant and convince us to treat each other as equal members of the human race.
What should be our long-term goals? A broader view of the realities that exist far from Earth will change our goals for maintaining longevity through space travel. Our eggs should not be in just one basket.
What happened before the Big Bang?
What is dark matter and dark energy?
What happens inside a black hole? and other scientific mysteries.
If extraterrestrial science is much more advanced than ours, we may find answers to our unanswerable questions. Just as opening a random page in a recipe book doesn’t produce the tastiest cake, humans may not be the smartest creatures since the Big Bang.
We can continue this list of existential questions without end. In the meantime, thinking about aliens may allow us to imagine a better version of ourselves. On the dating scene, sometimes you can find what you are looking for.
We must remain hopeful as Project Galileo looks for signs of space neighbors. And while we wait for new data, let’s improve ourselves in order to earn their respect when we meet.
If I were a rabbi, this would be my sermon.
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