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Ask Dr. SETI ®

Chapter 3: Philosophy

Belief in God

Dear Dr. SETI:
Do you mind a personal question ? Do you believe in God ?

Please don't answer if you find this offensive. I have some personal questions in my life and is interested to see what more experienced people think. I am 35 and an electronic engineer.

Danie, South Africa

The Doctor Responds:
Offensive? Not at all; I have no qualms whatever about discussing my religious beliefs (although I must emphasize that they are my beliefs alone, and I'd certainly never impose them on another unless asked).

I consider myself a spiritual and religious (though not particularly observant) Jew. I see no conflict between my religious beliefs, scientific training, and SETI interests, for the following reasons:

  1. Any omnipotent creator capable of bringing into existence the world, all known laws of nature, and we ourselves, is certainly capable of creating other inhabited worlds for us to discover.

  2. In fact, if we are created in God's image, why would He stop with us? My wife and I were given the ability to create children. Between us (and with the help of our respective former spouses) we've created seven. We didn't choose to stop at one (although I certainly respect the rights of others to stop at two, one, or none -- that's another subject altogether).

  3. If whatever skills, talents, and abilities we have been given come from a divine source, it seems to me we have an obligation to use them for the greater good. In my case, this would seem to include the search for other worlds, and other life. Some consider the search blasphemous in and of itself. I see it rather as using the gifts God has given me in search of a better understanding of His plan.
All that being said, the God I envision bears little resemblance to the one worshiped by my ancestors, and that's why I'm not particularly observant. The traditional Jewish God is far too vindictive, vain and controlling for my tastes. My personal deity is more teacher, less judge (and that, I know, is blasphemous!) Still, I spend the High Holidays and many a Sabbath in temple.

Remember, these personal views are mine alone, and their content does not necessarily reflect the views of The SETI League or its sponsors. Thanks for asking.

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