Well if this don’t beat all! According to the webpage of the Center of Theological Inquiry (CTI), NASA (the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, a part of the U.S. government), has given a huge grant to the CTI to study the implications of extraterrestrial life for religion. The money will fund a team of scholars, including theologians. I quote the announcement in its entirety:
The Center of Theological Inquiry (CTI) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a grant by the NASA Astrobiology Program to convene an interdisciplinary inquiry into the societal implications of the search for life in the universe.
The project is intended to refresh and expand scholarly and public dialogue on this subject, which is of growing interest due to the discovery of thousands of extrasolar planets and the ongoing search for potentially habitable environments in our solar system and beyond. With this $1.108 million grant, CTI will oversee a resident team of visiting scholars in theology, the humanities, and social sciences that will conduct an interdisciplinary inquiry on the societal implications of astrobiology, the study of the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.
This inquiry will extend over two academic years from 2015 to 2017. It will focus on the societal implications of astrobiology’s current research goals and findings, which will be studied in symposia and video-linked conversations with leading scientists in the field. Applications will be welcomed from collaborative scholars who are examining the concerns raised by astrobiology for the humanities, or pursuing research on societal issues related to the evolution and future of life.
Announcing the NASA grant, CTI’s director William Storrar said, “The aim of this inquiry is to foster theology’s dialogue with astrobiology on its societal implications, enriched by the contribution of scholars in the humanities and social sciences. We are grateful to the NASA Astrobiology Program for making this pioneering conversation possible.”
CTI is an independent academic institution for interdisciplinary research on global concerns with an international visiting scholar program in Princeton, NJ. Further information on CTI’s resident program and application process can be found on the Center’s website at: www.ctinquiry.org. The Request for Proposals on this topic for the 2015-2016 academic year can be found here, with the online application window open from December 15, 2014 to January 31, 2015.
On the page that lists the “research team,” you can also read the bit below. Guess who else is part of the program?
Yep, you got it:
So now we have the U.S. government teaming up with the odious John Templeton Foundation, giving one million dollars of taxpayers’ money for a stupid and meaningless attempt to figure out what will happen if we find life on other planets. I expect they will deal with the Big Questions about whether space aliens could be saved by believing in Jesus, or if they might go to limbo instead of Hell because they never got a chance to hear the Good News. Alternatively, as Michael Ruse has suggested, there might have been an intergalactic Jesus who flew from planet to planet bringing salvation.
Seriously, this is an outrage and a huge waste of money. I also see it as a violation of the First Amendment, for it is an unnecessary entanglement of church and state. But even if it were legal, it’s completely ridiculous. What was NASA thinking? Think how many lives could be saved in Africa or India if that money went to provide food or clean water?
Here are the CTI’s “honorary trustees”: