Catholic Thought on Extraterrestrial Intelligence

“Worthy are you, Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things; because of your will they came to be and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)

And what better celestial phenomenon to view in the context of Our God’s creation than the recent images produced by the James Webb Space Telescope. This telescope has given us the deepest and most detailed images of the distant universe that we on Earth have ever seen. Some of the galaxies displayed in these images have never been seen before. As the world has contemplated the cosmos these past few days, it calls to mind the reality of God, His creation, and the possibility of extraterrestrial life, a hotly debated topic.

Guest host Brooke Taylor welcomed Dr. Paul Thigpen onto Trending with Timmerie to discuss this topic, its implications for us as Catholics are, and what the right way to approach it might be.

Dr. Thigpen began the discussion by joking that it was quite convenient that the release of his new book Extraterrestrial Intelligence and the Catholic Faith coincided with not only the release of the James Webb Telescope images but also with the congressional hearings on UFOs. Now more than ever, the possibility of extraterrestrial life has never been more accepted, and it was quite timely that all of these arenas seemed to meet at once.

Thigpen was born and raised a Christian but came to the conclusion at the age of twelve that God did not exist. For six years, he remained an atheist until he had a dramatic conversion experience at the end of high school, and he returned to the faith. Since he had been interested in space, aliens, and all things cosmic for some time, he wondered how one might think about the potential of extraterrestrial intelligence in the context of the Christian faith.

Dr. Thigpen understood that many people entertained these skeptic thoughts, either about aliens or about their faith, and they might wonder how one can reconcile the two. So, he wrote this book to clarify that as we discover more about space and UFOs, yes, there is absolutely a way to reconcile otherworldly life with Catholicism, contrary to the arguments of the opponents of the Catholic faith.

Brooke asked Dr. Thigpen how one might answer the question of how God made us in the image and likeness of God if we discover other intelligent life that does not resemble us?

Well, what does it mean to be made in the image of God? Does it mean that God is a bipedal humanoid with two arms and two legs? Does He have a face oriented in the same way and anatomy like us? According to the Church and passages from scripture, the image of God is described as someone with a rational intellect, a free will, and an immortal soul. So according to that definition, it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility to encounter an extraterrestrial with those characteristics.

Many then turn to the idea of the Incarnation and argue about the legitimacy of Jesus’s arrival if He came to save us and not other intelligent life, assuming that they were also subject to original sin, though they would not be descendants of Adam and Eve. But they’re forgetting one thing: God is omnipotent. Who’s to say that He would be unable to become incarnate on another planet? That isn’t to say that there are two Gods or two second persons of the Trinity.

“The Incarnation of the one Son of God, Jesus Christ, is the one Incarnation for us… But He’s God. He could take on more than one created nature. That opens up the possibility,” said Dr. Thigpen.

Our potential, fellow intelligent beings are part of God’s creation and as possessors of souls and free will, they would not be excluded from God’s saving grace or His Redemption. As Brooke clarified, this new frontier of extraterrestrial exploration shouldn’t give way to anxiety or existential crises for Catholics. Quite the opposite, the study of these new phenomena should give us consolation that our faith remains strong and true in spite of the universe changing around us.

Tune in to Trending with Timmerie weekdays at 6pm CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.