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Is there anybody out there with a soul?

Yesterday's Independent had an article with this title by David Whitehouse. It was about how Christianity would react to the discovery of alien life but it contained an elementary theological error. It quotes the director of the Vatican observatory as saying that Jesus could only have come once - to us on Earth. But Christianity holds that the Incarnation was needed to redeem fallen humanity. If the aliens are not fallen there would be no need for the Incarnation. Exactly this theological question was at the centre of C.S. Lewis's science fiction novel, Out of the Silent Planet, and also of the second book in his SF trilogy, Perelandra. Earth was 'silent' because it was in quarantine as a result of the Fall.

I would be less interested in whether aliens have souls (do we?) and more in whether they have any sort of religious belief. If they do, it would suggest that the formation of belief in invisible beings who watch over us and are concerned about what we do is an inevitable accompaniment of advanced intelligence. If they don't, we should have to assume that we are the victims of a collectice delusion.


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