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Is There Life on Other Planets?

Is There Life on Other Planets?

The Jewish view on UFOs, aliens and extraterrestrial intelligence

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Question:

Someone told me that according to Judaism, human beings are the only conscious beings in the universe. Is there any basis to this?

Response:

Certainly not!

First of all, the sages discuss the fact that animals also feel pain, based on the biblical prohibition against causing them undue suffering.

Second, there are plenty of accounts in the Torah of the higher angels, who are conscious of a realm of reality far beyond ours.

Third, Maimonides and others write about the heavenly bodies as conscious beings—and not simply in an allegorical sense. If anyone should ask, “How can a ball of helium and hydrogen contain consciousness?” simply ask in return, “And that a warm mass of gray meat has consciousness is reasonable?”

The uniqueness of humankind is not our consciousness, but the way that consciousness is able to enter the realms of good and evil, make decisions and distinguish between them.

Sources in Torah

The Lubavitcher Rebbe pointed out that there is support in Torah for the notion that life exists on other planets. Furthermore, we can know something about that life through deduction from what the Torah tells us. Here is his argument:

In the Book of Judges (5:23), Deborah the prophetess sings about the victory of Barak over Sisera. In her song, she says, “Cursed be Meroz! Cursed, cursed be its inhabitants, says the angel of G‑d!”

Where is Meroz, and who are its inhabitants? The Talmud gives two explanations, one of them being that Meroz is a star or planet. The heavenly bodies had also come to help the Israelites, as Deborah stated just one verse earlier, “From the heavens they fought, the stars from their orbits . . .” This star, however, which was the dominant star of Sisera, apparently did not come to their aid. And so, General Barak penalized Meroz—and its inhabitants.

Are these inhabitants intelligent? Intelligence is defined by Torah to mean the capacity to make decisions with free will. Free will is only possible where there is Torah, whereby the Creator offers His creatures more than one possibility and asks that they make the appropriate choice.

So, if there would be intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, those creatures would have to have Torah. Could they have a different Torah than us? This is not possible, since Torah is truth, and there cannot be two truths.

Could they then have the same Torah as us? This also seems impossible, since the Torah itself describes in detail how the Torah was revealed on this planet, and that account itself has a strong impact on how the Torah is to be fulfilled.

It therefore appears that although it is quite possible there is life on other planets, that life would not be intelligent in a way similar to human life and culture.

But should we be looking?

Dr. Velvl Greene was a biologist who was enlisted by NASA in their project to determine if there is life on Mars. He asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe privately if this was something he should be doing.

The Rebbe replied, “Dr. Greene, look for life on Mars! And if you don’t find it there, look somewhere else in the universe for it. Because for you to sit here and say there is no life outside of planet Earth is to put limitations on the Creator, and that is not something any of His creatures can do!”

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription.
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Discussion (251)
January 14, 2015
Which part is ble-bla-bla:
1. No life imprints for 14 Billion years.
2. Its not about us not being able to contact them - its about older, more advanced life forms not being able to contact us. Earth is a relatively new planet.
3. That there was a beginning, evidenced by an expanding universe, says the universe is finite, more so than it can be infinite. We know of nothing that is infinite.
4. The correct math says the vastness of the universe proves no life: math is based on probability, not possibility. If you saw 10% of marbles as black, how would you bet about the color of the unseen marbles?
5. We have a physical sample of the known universe; the unknown is more like the known than not so.
6. We have no reason to expect life outside the earth: name one?
Joseph
January 13, 2015
bla bla bla
and more bla bla bla- how can anyone presume with such conviction what's going on in the universe! What makes you believe that you are the only one here in this infinite universe? even if there are no evidences, we still have to consider and deem that other planets exist with other creatures being same as ours or different. We are certainly not alone!
Feigele
Boca Raton FL
January 12, 2015
"There is evidence from many governments"
This issue cannot be made as a shrouded secret and cannot be made on 'belief' and wish list preferences. A big issue merits big proof, not I heard he saw something but no one else can prove it. Those who lie make sure their evidence is far away.
Joseph
January 12, 2015
Hello Joseph
We've already been over the same material. It's not IF. There is evidence from many governments now that EBE's are visiting their land, abducting people and animals, doing various experiments on them, exchanging technology for what they want, and more. When you get that clear, then we can discuss more.

zei gezunt,
Eleazar
Eleazar Shlomo ben Yakov Goldman
San Francisco
January 12, 2015
Eleazar Shlomo
If we do find life, it still means the data we have now should be concluded as 'no life.'

The far more interesting thought is not that if we find other life, but that we may become so advanced in the next 500 years and determine we are alone. How would that alter humanity's mind set, sciences and future plans. Its not a hypothetical premise right now, and one of only two probabilities. And none can think about this issue before nominating which universe we are in: a finite or infinite one. Apples & oranges apply.
Joseph
January 12, 2015
"we are so behind that we aren't able to see them"
And they are also not allowed to see us? Are they so advanced that they don't wish to mingle with inferior types like us?

The only fact on the table is, there has not been a single imprint of life outside earth for some 14 Billion years - despite every effort to find something - when we should see daily examples from numerous trajectories of the universe. Secondly, the math says a survey of the known universe is more like the unknown than not so.
Joseph
January 11, 2015
There is life in other planets, but we are so behind that we aren't able to see them, as Deborah said, it is celestial entities and for us to see them, we must get to the level of the Rebbe OBM
Bennyto's way!
Aventura
November 19, 2014
The Fact is…
No matter how vast your knowledge and wisdom are, you will never reach high enough the whole Universe. So, let your mind flow towards the possibility of other human or different creatures existing in an extremely far and high place(s). Scientists are getting closer to find out but not quite there yet, and they prevail over us with their findings. It’s not up to our brains to decide what’s up there or not.
It’s like what happens after life. If there is one being that has gone all the way and come back, let them come forward and tell us about it. I’m not talking about people who have experienced the afterlife just before reaching the bright light that they say they have seen. They too have not reached all the way through the real after life experience, although some pretend having gone through. Scientists have different views on this matter.
Feigele
Boca Raton FL
November 16, 2014
Allright already
Mr Joseph Shellim from Sydney ok, you're the ultimate source of knowledge on this subject.. I won't repeat myself anymore.. Hasta la vista.
Zei gezunt.
Eleazar Shlomo ben Yakov Goldman
San Francisco
November 14, 2014
Reports are not proof.
There are numerous reasons for such reporting, including intentional and unintentional ones, errors and scams. The espionage world did similar stuff. The issue is too important to rely on reporting or the belief advanced aliens can be so easily hidden away, for so long, with so many nations.

All evidences, including science, math and research into space says no life for 15 Billion years - we just don't like to accept this because it means we are thus far alone.
'Those who lie make sure their proof is far away'.
JOSEPH SHELLIM
Sydney
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