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God and Aliens!

Recently finished reading a new book 'Science, Religion, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence' by astrophysicist and theologian David Wilkinson. A good book is always hard book to summarise! But several things really stood out for me.

First, the importance of placing the life, death and resurrection of Christ at the heart of how we see the world. The book really removes the clatter when we come difficult issues such as whether intelligent life exists in the rest of universe (and possibly multiverse). And this book has given me a deeper appreciation of that!

Secondly, the degree to which someone likes this book will depend largely on how they are able to tolerate a different reading of Genesis 1 than the one they may hold. Wilkinson unfortunately too readily assumes that Christians have signed up to Darwin, so he leaves many of the difficult questions around that unexplained.

Doing that helps him to focus on ET but it will leave many dissatisfied. So I fear the people who will get most out of this book are those who have read widely on theological nuances. It also means that one should not immediately recommend this book just to anyone!

Thirdly, the book perhaps is 70-30 on science and theology. It would have been good to see a 50-50 balance of material to allow theological issues to be fully fleshed out. Also perhaps more disappointing is that there isn't much quoting from very strong contemporary orthodox theologians. But I suspect that is because they have not dealt with the ET subject.

But I note that even for questions around the "image of God", sin, salvation and so forth, there's no reference to well know strong theologians in this area. For example Nicholas Wolterstorff has an excellent exposition of this issue. Of course Wilkinson comes across very strong, but I would liked to see other voices besides old masters!

Fourthly, the book really throws down a gauntlet to other orthodoxy theologians to come forward and weigh in on the issues! This is too important a topic to leave to Jesuit priests only!

Finally, there are some real gold mines in the book - like his treatment of "God as an alien?". Also his early chapters on the science of discovering where breathtaking! If there's one drawback back on the range of treatment is that Satan is not discussed. The whole "angels" and "demons" controversy is not given air time.

It is not a book that will please everyone, but I found it to be a great and challenging read! And one to be read slowly!

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

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