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BOOK REVIEWS 143 Christianity and Extraterrestrials: A Catholic Perspective. By MARIE I. GEORGE. Lincoln, Neb.: iUniverse, 2005. Pp. 291. $21.95 (paper). ISBN 0-59535827 -6. It is a source of amazement to look at the myriad stars in the sky and think that only one planet around one sun harbors intelligent life. But it is not inherently absurd that this be the case. God can certainly order the universe in this way. And indeed, as I have been arguing, Scripture and Church teaching indicate that he has ordered the universe in this way. Ultimately, it is the Faith, and not some a priori conviction that the human race is all that wonderful, that leads me to the conclusion that we are alone. (163) Nevertheless: I maintain that some, but not every form of belief in ETI existence is compatible with Christian belief. The forms of belief in ETI existence which I think are incompatible with Christian belief are: belief in fallen ETis who are not redeemed by Christ and belief in fallen ETis without qualification. The latter belief, however, I see as compatible with Christian belief in the [strict] sense that it does not appear to unambiguously compromise any doctrine essential to Christian faith. (141) In a painstaking new study, Marie George sets out to make good on these two theses: that the existence of extraterrestrial intelligent beings (ETis) is improbable on theological grounds, but that the existence of certain specific forms of ETI is not strictly incompatible with Catholic belief. Thus, if such were to be discovered by us, it would not necessarily challenge any article of Catholic faith. Her perspective, as she emphasizes, is a distinctively Catholic one, standing, as it does: "squarely within the official Church teachings as found in papal encyclicals, Conciliar documents, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In regard to matters not defined by the Church, I use as my guide the traditional teaching found in the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and particularly in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas" (4). For the majority of the great world religions, the discovery that ETis exist would not be of direct theological import. If there are intelligent beings out there, then so be it! They may well have their own prophets, their own Scriptures.... The matter would be otherwise for Christianity whose central affirmation is that God became an earthman and through his life and death redeemed humankind from the "original sin" that had shadowed it from its origins thousands of years ago. Incarnation and Redemption-these twin doctrines point to a special relationship between God and the peoples of earth. 144 BOOK REVIEWS Do they leave room for a similarly close relationship with intelligent races elsewhere in the universe? Would these also be in need of redemption? If they are, would God lean into their history as he did into ours? Or would they be redeemed, if necessary, by Christ's redemptive mission on earth? And if they would, how would they ever know about it? These are distinctively Christian questions. They are not new. There was no room for other worlds in Aristotle's universe, however, the one that did so much to shape the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. The earth was the center of all that was material, the regions of earth, water, air, fire, succeeding one another upwards towards an incorruptible planetary realm where corruptible beings like ourselves could not exist. But critics of Aristotle among the theologians of Aquinas's day and after argued that to hold that it would be impossible for there to be other worlds would be to impose unacceptable limits on the Creator's power. It was thus at least possible for such worlds to exist, although there was no reason to suppose that they actually did. All this changed with Copernicus and Galileo: the earth was now a planet like other planets, the sun was no longer an unchanging substance, the moon with its mountains was a world like earth. Fictional accounts of life on these distant bodies reflected a growing excitement about the new possibilities that were opening up. Christians on the whole were receptive to the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 143-148
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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