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Jesus and the Star Folk

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2024

Abstract

As science finally eliminates the moon as a living habitat telescopes probe ever further for extraterrestrial vitality. NASA expects, barring terrestrial catastrophes, to probe Mars every two years eventually recovering Martian rocks for laboratory investigation. These, with Martian fragments already found in Antarctica, may soon resolve whether or not life has existed, lives now, or will evolve on that frigid, thin atmosphered planet. The European Space Agency anticipates launching early next century an ‘Interferometry Observatory’ to seek signals of life from relatively earthlike planets. These explorations from both sides of the Atlantic, with advances in astronomical science, the popularity of space fiction, art, and para-religious phenomena make certain that, for the foreseeable future, people will wonder about extra terrestrial life, its possibilities, its traces, its evolutionary potential, and its unnoticed presence even now.

Humans have wondered about star folk for a surprisingly long time. In the golden age of Greece philosophers debated the possibilities of a plurality of worlds including planets with intelligent life. In the 5th century BC Pythagoras thought the moon, visible from earth then as now, was inhabited. So did Epicurus and famously somewhat later the prolific essayist and biographer Plutarch. Parmenides, Plato and Aristotle dismissed pluralism. But some early church Fathers, including Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Jerome, were open to possibilities of stellar life. Aquinas, like Augustine, thought this earth alone was habitable but resolutely affirmed Divine omnipotence. Three years after Thomas’ death the Bishop of Paris (Etienne Tempier) in 1277 fuelled speculation about extraterrestrials by condemning the proposition ‘that the First Cause cannot make many worlds’.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © 1998 Provincial Council of the English Province of the Order of Preachers

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