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The Truth is Out ... There

SCIENCE-FICTION buffs and Roswell conspiracy theorists who've been watching the skies were handed a small victory this summer, when the scientific community announced the discovery of a solar system remarkably similar to ours.

According to reports on CNN, scientists have detected two far-away planets that resemble Jupiter and Mercury, paving the way for rampant speculation that there could be a planet like Earth floating between them.

While no aliens have been contacted yet, Biter wondered how the world's major religions might react to this enlightening scientific revelation. What do they say about life on other planets?

Bruce Wood, public relations coordinator for the Institute for Creation Research, dismissed the possibility, saying, "The mathematical probability of getting an earthlike planet and, on top of that, getting any kind of life out of dead substance is impossible."

ICR, a fundamentalist Christian organization, clings to the literal words of the Bible, which don't imply any life beyond Earth, other than angelic life, according to Wood.

"These poor unfortunates, if they be out there, are going to get burnt to a crisp--I don't know what kind of redemption they could go through, because in my Bible, Jesus came to Earth as a human, not as Romulan or a Klingon or anything else," Wood speculated.

Disgruntled, Biter turned to Catholicism and Judaism, both of whom patted us on the back and consoled us with gentle words.

"The Catholic Church welcomes all scientific discoveries and, if there is life on other planets, wonderful," says Jesuit Catholic priest Fr. Francis Buckley.

Buckley says he has no idea what God decided to do with other solar systems, and although it isn't part of Revelation as he interprets it, he wouldn't attempt to put limits on God or God's creation.

Rabbi Leslie Alexander of San Jose holds a similar belief. "If the world is infinite and God is all knowing, like I believe he is, there is no reason why he couldn't create life on other planets."

San Jose Islam representative Omair Ali pointed Biter in another direction, telling us it is more important to focus on our lives here on Earth and our ultimate spiritual goal.

"God knows best," he said, and some things are just not important for us to know. However, according to Ali, the Koran mentions there are other life forms in all the billions of galaxies out there.

"It's kind of ignorant to think that we are the only ones here," Ali added.

San Jose Baha'i community member Jim Jam agreed. "It would be really selfish of us to say that we are the only people created by God or the only planet with intelligent life."

The teachings of Baha'i state: "Every fixed star has its own planet and its own life forms, which are too numerous to even mention."

Encouraged by the idea of a more complex universe, Biter spoke with San Jose Buddhist representative Michael McCormick.

"From the very beginning, the Buddhist worldview has assumed that there are other world systems and that there is life on those systems. There are uncountable billions and trillions of inhabited world systems," McCormick said.

McCormick added that life forms on other planets don't necessarily need to be carbon-based; he believes there could be "things that we can't even imagine." We're here in a tiny little corner, he says, so who knows what could be out there.

Further intrigued, Biter encountered Shobana Krishna Das, a San Jose representative of Vaisnavism, an Indian religion similar to Hinduism. He said the Vedic literature describes different planetary systems that are inhabited by beings that reside there on account of the level of their consciousness. Through their own conscious development, in the process of reincarnation, they've taken birth in different places in the universe.

Ultimately, a few scientists are just now noticing that the possibility of life outside Earth is not considered to be such a big deal when ancient literature and religious belief have described cosmic phenomena for thousands of years.

Although scientists might not admit their discoveries are further proof of God's creation, Vaisnav leader Bhakti Sudhir Goswami states, "Spiritual life is all about faith; it's not about empirical evidence."

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From the September 5-11, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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