Life on Mars – Curiosity and Religious Spirituality

Curiosity RoverFor my fellow science and space geeks; on the evening of August 5/6 a special event occurs as NASA’s newest rover, Curiosity, attempts to land safely on Mars. It is an extremely heavy rover and the landing is going to be complex. Watch this video and you will be spellbound!

What I want to talk about today is not the astonishing engineering involved nor the budgetary crisis that is affecting NASA at the moment. Both fodder for future blogs but the topic for today is the spiritual effect of finding microbial life on Mars.

There is a lot of speculation in the atheist community, the scientific community, and the religious community on the spiritual impact of such a discovery. In particular this affects biblical literalists. This becomes an issue when dealing with the story of creation. Essentially, there is no mention of god creating life anywhere except on Earth.

Man is given dominion over earth and all its beasts but nothing is mentioned of dominion over Mars and its animals.

I don’t really see this as an issue for those of a faith-based thinking mentality. It will come as no surprise to me that they simply reinterpret the bible to accommodate for new scientific discoveries. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

That is one of the beauties of Faith Based Thinking, its incredible flexibility. It really doesn’t matter what anyone says, what the facts are, it is completely up to the believer to determine what they want to believe. It stands in stark contrast to Critical Thinking.

One good example of this, at least as far as the topic at-hand is concerned, is the planet Mars itself. It is nearby to earth (relatively speaking) and has been the subject of speculation since ancient times. Prior to 1965 there was a great deal of thought, both private and scientific, that Mars was home to life. This was based on the changing colors of the surface, the so-called canals, and in no small part to speculative fiction. In 1965 Mariner 4 visited the red planet and dispelled all these illusions. That is science, look at the evidence at hand and make a reasoned hypothesis. When the evidence changes then move on to new theories.

Faith based thinkers threatened Galileo with torture for his support of Copernicanism and the theory of heliocentrism. But, when indisputable facts arose they were able to nimbly change their biblical interpretations. I think we are all generally critical thinkers. When it comes to certain religious ideas people are extremely reluctant and even violently opposed to facts that might oppose those theories.

Therefore, I’m of the opinion that finding life on Mars will not be a threat to those of Judeo/Christian/Islamic beliefs. I’d like to here from my religious readers, if there are any, about what effect the discovery of life would have on their beliefs. Particularly from Evangelicals or others who support biblical infallibility.

Meanwhile, I won’t be staying up until one in the morning to watch people “watching” the landing. I’ll wait until morning and hope for the best!

What effect do you think finding life on Mars would have on religious beliefs?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire