Theology can help guide speculation about aliens, professor says

By | June 8, 2021

By Christine Rousselle

Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2021 / 16:01 pm
Fundamental theological principles provide the framework for any doctrinal questions over the discovery of extraterrestrial beings, a theologian claimed in a lecture on June 5. 
While the Church does not have any specific teachings on extraterrestrial life, theologians can speculate on the existence of these beings and their nature due to the “underlying principles” which influence Church doctrine, said Dr. Christopher Baglow, director of the Science and Religion Initiative at the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life, on Saturday. 
“We have something, in a way, more essential than doctrine to guide us: What St. John Henry Newman identified as the permanent elements in the development of doctrine, the underlying principles which animate doctrines,” he said.  
“According to Newman, these principles are so important that they are the very life of doctrines,” and “an even better test of heresy than doctrine,” Baglow said.
Regarding the possibility of an extraterrestrial incarnation, Baglow cited sacramentality and solidarity for why it could have occurred. 
If rational life existed outside of earth and were to be discovered, it would not be theologically inconsistent to believe that the extraterrestrial rational beings were creatures of God in need of a savior to achieve salvation, he said. Baglow referred to this as “incarnational plurality,” adding that God would not be limited by constraints. 
Baglow delivered the keynote lecture, titled “Extraterrestrial Life and Catholic Theology,” on June 5 at a conference for the Society of Catholic Scientists in Washington, D.C. 
The fourth annual conference of the society was held June 4-6, and focused on “Extraterrestrials, A.I., and Minds Beyond the Human.” It featured lectures and presentations on the theological implications of extraterrestrial life and artificial intelligence. The conference was broadcast online, as international members were not permitted to travel to the United States.