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New Book Looks At Where Astronomy and Religion Meet

grace wolf-Chase with book

Grace Wolf-Chase

PSI Senior Scientist Grace Wolf-Chase contributed a chapter to a new book that examines the way in which cultural ideas about "the heavens" – and the possible discovery of extraterrestrial life – shape religious ideas and are shaped by them in return. 

“Intersections of Religion and Astronomy” uses an interdisciplinary team of international scholars and scientists to show how religion and cosmology – the science of the origin and development of the universe – interrelate and matter to people. 

In her chapter "Astrobiology, astroethics, and astrotheology in conversation," Wolf-Chase documents the emergence of a new brand of "astrotheology" aimed at making religious sense of the probability of life elsewhere in our universe. 

Astrotheology is a branch of theology that analyzes contemporary space sciences combined with classical religious doctrines such as the Biblical creation. Astroethics is concerned with considering the application of ethical principles to the space sciences, particularly to the search for extraterrestrial life. 

“In my chapter I examine – and raise some questions relating to – these definitions/premises in light of our current state of cosmological/astrobiological knowledge, as well as different views on the value of human and non-human life on our planet. The search for, and possible discovery of, life beyond Earth has implications for our entire planet – human as well as non-human life,” Wolf-Chase said. “Ultimately, I think the major Earth religions will be able to accommodate the discovery of life elsewhere, if that should happen. Near the end of my chapter I point out, ‘If it turns out that humanity is one of countless civilizations in the cosmos, our perspectives on relationship and community will shape whether we see this as diminishing or enhancing the meaning of life on Earth.’” 

“Intersections of Religion and Astronomy” is edited by Aaron Ricker, Christopher J. Corbally and Darry Dinnell, 242 pages, and published by Routledge. It is available at https://tinyurl.com/y65hjk8p.

Jan. 31, 2021
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