Faiths di­vided on alien life

The Sunday Independent - - METRO - KWANDOKUHLE NJOLI

RE­LI­GIOUS lead­ers in Dur­ban are mixed in their views on alien life.

It fol­lows a sug­ges­tion from sci­en­tists at Har­vard Univer­sity that a cigar­shaped ob­ject that tum­bled through our so­lar sys­tem in Oc­to­ber last year was a probe sent by an in­tel­li­gent alien life form to spy on us.

The ob­ject was called “’Ou­mua­mua”, which means “a mes­sen­ger that reaches out from the dis­tant past” in Hawai­ian. It was picked up by the Pan-STARRS 1 tele­scope that is based in Hawaii.

Since its dis­cov­ery, sci­en­tists have been at odds as they tried to ex­plain its un­usual fea­tures and ori­gins.

Re­searchers first called it a comet. Then they called it an asteroid. When the ob­ject failed to sat­isfy the cri­te­ria of ei­ther, they la­belled it a first of its kind, a new class of “in­ter­stel­lar ob­jects”.

This week, a pa­per by re­searchers at the Har­vard Smithsonian Cen­tre for Astro­physics raised the pos­si­bil­ity that the elon­gated dark-red ob­ject, which is 10 times as long as it is wide and which trav­elled at speeds of more than 300 000km/h, could be of “ar­ti­fi­cial ori­gin”.

“Ou­mua­mua may be a fully oper­a­tional probe sent in­ten­tion­ally to Earth’s vicin­ity by an alien civil­i­sa­tion,” they wrote in the pa­per, which has been sub­mit­ted to the Astro­phys­i­cal Jour­nal Let­ters.

The the­ory is based on the ob­ject’s “ex­cess ac­cel­er­a­tion”, or its un­ex­pected boost in speed as it trav­elled through and ul­ti­mately out of our so­lar sys­tem in Jan­uary.

Re­li­gious lead­ers also ex­pressed mixed views on the pos­si­bil­ity of other life forms.

Ac­cord­ing to Bishop Ru­bin Phillip from the Angli­can Church in KwaZulu-Natal, God cre­ated all life in the universe, and not just on Earth. As a re­sult, it is his un­der­stand­ing that Chris­tian­ity could be open to the pos­si­bil­ity of life out­side our planet.

“The Bi­ble talks about God creat­ing every liv­ing crea­ture. God cre­ated all life and not just life on Earth alone but in the whole universe.

“If life is dis­cov­ered in the universe this is not a con­tra­dic­tion of our be­liefs, be­cause God cre­ated life and we be­lieve that there is life all over,” said Phillip.

Dr Faisal Suli­man of the South African Mus­lim Net­work said there was noth­ing in the Qur’an that negated the pos­si­bil­ity of other cre­ations in the universe.

“Yes, we be­lieve that we may not be the only cre­ations in the universe. The Qur’an does not say that we are the only cre­ation,” said Suli­man.

Ashwin Trikam­jee, pres­i­dent of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, re­jected the no­tion of alien life.

“Hin­duism be­lieves in karma and that if you have been do­ing good, you come back again. The soul finds it­self in an­other body to live in. There­fore, there is no space for any other life,” said Trikam­jee.

Shembe (Ebuh­leni) spokesper­son Thokozani Mncwabe also dis­missed the idea that there could be life on other plan­ets.

“I do not wish to dwell much on the mat­ter. How­ever, we strongly be­lieve that all liv­ing crea­tures are on Earth and any­thing else is a fa­ble,” ar­gued Mncwabe.

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