I was a real terror in my grade school religion class, always harassing my teachers with odd questions.  They were pretty patient with me, though.  One of the things that I would wonder about was the end of the world.  One of these days, God is going to bring profane history to an end.  The usual picture is that we will remain on this Earth, but subsequent life on Earth will be very different.  My first question was what will happen to human beings not residing on Earth at the time, i.e. assuming long-term space travel becomes feasible sometime before the eschaton.  More seriously, what about other civilizations on other planets (assuming they exist)?  Does the end of the worlds happen everywhere at the same time?  (It’s true, as I didn’t know then, that there’s some ambiguity in what we mean by “the same time” when referring to distant objects.  For our purpose, let’s take “all worlds end at the same time” to mean “judgment day on any two worlds is spacelike connected”.)  If so, then some civilizations are going to have a lot longer than others and get cut off at very different parts of their evolution.  If not, then it is possible that we will someday come into contact with alien versions of the New Jerusalem already established.  Neither alternative seems impossible, but both seem weird.  My religion teacher, Brother Joseph, gave what is probably the best answer to such a question:  “We don’t know.”

Anyway, I’m kind of gratified to realize, looking at it as an adult, that some of my childhood questions weren’t stupid.  Maybe my readers can help me out with this.

4 Responses

  1. In 1999, Professor Allen Tough organized a conference for the Foundation for The Future in order to investigate the possible impact of contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence. The results of that conference are available for free online. Section V contains a fascinating paper (No. 11) entitled “Roman Catholic Views of Extraterrestrial Intelligence”. I don’t think it specifically mentions the end of the world – it’s more about the Incarnation and Salvation – but it’s still vaguely related and interesting. You can find it here:

  2. Alien versions of the New Jerusalem, already established and accessible. Seems very unlikely to me, though I’d be forced to change my estimate if we got out into space and found un-Fallen worlds.

    My own suspicion is that our relationship to time will be significantly different after the Second Coming. …which is really just a slight expansion on “we don’t know,” as I’d be the first to admit.

  3. Something about it seems “off” to me too, but I can’t think of what’s wrong with the idea.

  4. The answer simply would be that there are no other intelligent races in the universe, besides humans. The idea that there are, is the heresy of antipodeanism and is (one of) the thing(s) Bruno was burned at the stake for in the Papal States.

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