5. Concluding Summary
The contribution of astrophysics and space exploration to Christian theology rests on three principal insights:
* The recognition of the dynamic nature of all cosmic structures in their origin, their ever evolving dynamic development, and their expected final and total disappearance.
* The recognition of the duality between the constancy of all laws of nature and the basic uncertainty and probabilistic character of many phenomena of nature that defy determinism.
* Additionally, there is the recognition of the “combinatorial principle”, according to which smaller parts of natural existence can be combined to ever new and larger phenomena of existence with totally new dimension of their characteristics, from subatomic particles to living organisms. This occurs also in the human thought process in arriving at complex concept or systems of thought. This occurs from time to time and to a degree as indicated by the starting and boundary conditions. Thus, it is not the end but the respective starting point that determines evolution.
* The finding of planets in other solar systems and the resulting expectation of intelligent life at various other places in the vastness of the universe.
Additionally, there is the older scientific insight that has not yet been grasped by Christian theology:
* Natural evolution and, specifically, the method by which it functions, revealing a natural world without compassion, fairness, or justice.
Finally, one has to consider the more recent findings of research:
* In geophysics: The occurrence of vast extinctions of the natural world at random intervals.
* In brain research: The understanding of the human capability for mental visualization, thought, intuition, judgment, and emotion as resulting from the neurophysiology and biochemistry of the brain.
This results in the need for the following corrections of theological thought:
* The concept of the origin of Creation, whether called “X” or “God” or by whatever designation, can be seen only as absolutely abstract, “transcendental”, and still more grandiose than in traditional religions.
* A meaning or plan cannot be deduced from the dynamic evolution of the universe and nature – that continually lets structures of higher complexity probabilistically and combinatorially appear at irregular and often great time intervals in accordance with the given initial and environmental conditions – then periodically and randomly destroys large sections of what was created, and ultimately dissolves everything again.
* An action of the originating force in the evolution of the universe and history can be seen only in the utilization of the natural forces, the laws of nature, and the combinatorial principle but not as arbitrary interventions. An ongoing “intelligent design” cannot be confirmed from evolution or history. When looking not only at what was done, but also at what was left undone or what was not averted, this view would not lead to a coherent understanding of the designing force but to a chaotic, contradictory, and cruel image of the “designer”.
* Thereby, there remains no simple faith in a freely acting God or a God who justly compensates human performance already in this life – who cannot be confirmed by observation either.
* Thereby, there remains no faith either in a God who answers personal appeals – who can also not be confirmed from the general observation of the multitude and vastness of past and present suffering on Earth in spite of all appeals.
* In view of the nature of the human brain and in recognition of the dynamic and ultimately vanishing universe, one cannot expect an “afterlife” or a “next world” for the eternal storage of whatever “souls”; hence, one cannot expect a “final judgment”, or later compensation for the terrestrial life.
* The Christian doctrine of redemption and salvation has to be reviewed accordingly.
What remains is the greatest adoration for the originating force of Creation and the need to follow Christ in his ethical teaching.
The personal responsibility of humans for the fulfillment of life in accordance with Creation, for brotherly dedication to fellow beings, and for the conditions on Earth should move more into the foreground.
There is a need to re-formulate the position and the role of humans and possibly other intelligent cosmic beings relative to the Creator and regarding the direction of their lives in this universe. The following can be said:
* Humans and other intelligent cosmic beings are minimal, marginal phenomena in the vastness of the universe – but with minds that can span the whole world, with emotions that allow for ethical values otherwise absent in nature, and with sensitivity for esthetics.
* Humans and other intelligent cosmic beings are the only phenomena of Creation that participate through observation in the dynamic evolution of the universe.
* Humans and other intelligent cosmic beings are also the only phenomena of Creation that can use their own personal responsibility and their own initiative to interfere with the course of the universe - at least in a narrow perimeter of their own position.
* Therefore, humans and other intelligent cosmic beings are well advised to strive toward their specific potential within Creation in pursuing their mental potential, implementing their ethical values, and appreciating their environment.
* The realistic preconditions for the formation of one’s existence is the securing of one’s basic needs in survival, prospering, propagation, caring for others, and maintaining of one’s humanity in joy of life.
* The formation of greater resources and a power base permits greater effect in the pursuit of higher goals, but equally detracts from those.
* Consequently, the higher “meaning” of existence for humans and other intelligent cosmic beings in their individual life and in building their civilizations is
o Growth through further extension of insight, development of skills, and growth of personality
o Service, caring, and building for the benefit of fellow beings, society and environment in accepting responsibility and with empathy – in the pursuit of the human values
o Cultural pursuits and the enjoyment of the phenomena of Creation
– all this to a degree as appropriate for human nature.
A. M. D. G.