During the Jewish High-Holidays, Rabbi Rob Dobrusin at the Beth Israel Congregation in Michigan gave a sermon incorporating my guide “Extraterrestrial.” The sermon was posted on Twitter, prompting an existential debate.

A member of the congregation who heard the sermon requested me whether or not I imagine that people are made in the image of God. As a scientist, I concurred with this notion so long as we establish God with nature, equally to the view advocated by the rational thinker, Baruch Spinoza.

Harvard historian and professor Erez Manela, wrote to me, “it’s striking how your work is shaping religious sermons but not surprising given how it bleeds into questions of the meaning of life and humanity’s place in the universe.”

Princeton astronomer and professor Neta Bahcall stated to me, “very interesting how this has reached and touched such important and unexpected places. 

The possible existence of intelligent extraterrestrials touches upon the most fundamental aspects of human existence. The natural objects that astronomers study routinely, such as stars, black hole, dark matter or the cosmic microwave background, obey without exception the strict the laws of physics and lack the freedom associated with human consciousness. 

Finding extraterrestrials would feel like discovering cosmic relatives whom we never met, and who can unravel family secrets from our past. The implications of their existence are looming too large to be encapsulated by scientific equations and extend well beyond the halls of academia.

The recently announced Galileo Project aims to employ the standard scientific method in finding out whether technological equipment from extraterrestrial civilizations exists near Earth, as hinted by the recent Unidentified Aerial Phenomena report to Congress or the discovery of the weird interstellar object, `Oumuamua. Finding that we are not the smartest species out there could have broad implications to our most fundamental puzzles:

  1. What is the meaning of our life? If these other actors had been around for a larger fraction of the past 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang, they may have acquired a better perspective about the meaning of life. It is presumptuous of us to grasp this meaning based on less than ten thousand years of our recorded history.
  1. Does God exist? If we mean “someone that can create life or new universes” and their scientific understanding of biology and quantum-gravity is properly forward of ours, then they may possess the skills that our spiritual texts assigned to a divine entity. We are near creating synthetic life in our laboratories solely a century into our trendy scientific improvement.
  1. Is there life after loss of life? If discovered, encountering extraterrestrials would possibly train us the right way to prolong our life expectancy by orders of magnitude with superior applied sciences. If loss of life may be postponed sufficient, then this query loses urgency in affecting our day by day routines.
  1. How ought to people deal with one another? The realization that there’s a way more superior species on the market, will make our genetic variations much less vital and persuade us to deal with one another as equal members of the human species.
  1. What ought to be our objectives? A broader perspective of the realities removed from Earth will reshape our objectives in sustaining longevity inside the full cosmic context.
  1. Unsolved scientific puzzles, equivalent to: What occurred earlier than the Big Bang? What is Dark Matter? What occurs inside a black gap? If extraterrestrial science is much extra superior than ours, we would be taught the solutions to our unsolved questions. Benefitting from the information of others will train us modesty. Just as opening a random web page in a recipe guide doesn’t land on the finest cake potential, Albert Einstein could not have been the smartest scientist since the Big Bang.

We can proceed down this checklist of existential questions with out restrict. For now, fascinated by extraterrestrials is equal to fascinated by a greater model of ourselves. And so allow us to keep hopeful as the Galileo Project searches for indicators of cosmic neighbors on the market. And whereas we’re ready, allow us to improve ourselves so that we are going to deserve their respect once we meet them. If I had been a Rabbi, this is able to have been my sermon.

Avi Loeb is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was the longest-serving chair in the historical past of the astronomy division at Harvard University (2011-2020). He serves as the founding director of Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative, the director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and chairs and the advisory board for the Breakthrough Starshot venture. Loeb is the former chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies and a former member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology at the White House. He is the bestselling writer of “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth,” just lately revealed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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