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"Though MANY RELIGIOUS movements have come and gone throughout history, some sort of spirituality seems to be part of human nature. Even atheistic scientists profess to experience what Albert Einstein called a 'cosmic religious feeling' when contemplating the awesome majesty of the universe.

"Would advanced alien beings share this spiritual dimension, even though they might long ago have 'outgrown' established religion? Steven Dick, a science historian at the US Naval Observatory, believes they would. Dick is an expert on the history of speculation about extraterrestrial life, and he suggests that mankind's spirituality would be greatly expanded and enriched by contact with an alien civilization. However, he envisages that our present concept of God would probably require a wholesale transformation. Dick has outlined what he calls a new 'cosmotheology,' in which human spirituality is placed in a full cosmological and astrobiological context. 'As we learn more about our place in the universe,' he has written, 'and as we physically move away from our home planet, our cosmic consciousness will only increase.' ...

"The E.T. debate has only just begun, but a useful staring point is simply to acknowledge that the discovery of extraterrestrial life would not have to be theologically devastating. The revamped design arugment offers a vision of nature distinctly inspiring to the spiritually inclined—certainly more so than that of a cosmos sterile everywhere but on a single planet. ... The more one accepts the formation of life as a natural process (that is, the more deeply embedded one believes it is in the overall cosmic scheme), the more ingenious and contrived (dare one say 'designed'?) the universe appears to be."

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The divine right to be included
October 13, 2003

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