The radical nature of altruism
If there is life out there, where is everyone? This of course is the question that atomic scientist Enrico Fermi was asking way back in 1950. Boffins have been mulling over the very same question ever since. It is a fascinating topic as space is very big and (depending on one’s particular flavour of theology) the world has been around for a very long time. Could we be the only intelligent life form in the whole galaxy? Or the universe even!
Recently British physicist Brian Cox came up with a new theory. It’s not that we’re the only intelligent species around. There have been others. That’s right, “have been”- past tense. There were other intelligent species but now they’re all dead! According to Professor Cox, it is apparently the fate of all intelligent species to evolve to the point of mutual destruction. Eminent scientist and fellow physicist Stephen Hawking argues that if there is life out there, it may be better for us to find them first. In his own words, “Meeting an advanced civilisation could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well.” So there you go, if there is life out there and they eventually do find us we may very well end up being experimented on (Cowboys & Aliens), enslaved (Stargate), eaten (V) or just exterminated (Daleks).
Or maybe we are just projecting our own fears. Just as Bible believers believe humanity is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), perhaps we are creating aliens in our own image. Just because we are particularly good at eliminating life (at least 60 species extinct so far and counting!) this does not mean ET will be the same. After all, one would hope that growth in civilisation will lead to an increase in intelligence and hopefully wisdom. It does not take a lot of smarts to realise the folly of benefiting at the expense of others.
Maybe we take for granted the radical nature of Christianity’s teaching about self-sacrifice and altruism. Jesus came to serve (Matthew 20:28) and his disciples are reminded to look to the interests of others over self (Philippians 2:3-4).
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Pastor Simon Chen